Last of the Time Lords
Last of the Time Lords was the thirteenth and final episode of the third series of Doctor Who. It marked the departure of Jack Harkness and Martha Jones as companions and the apparent death of the Master. It also indicated that Time Lords can stop themselves from regenerating if they so desire, and left viewers with a clear hint about the Face of Boe’s real identity.
One year after the Master’s takeover and decimation of Earth, the Earth (Sol 3) is closed from space traffic as it is entering extinction. On a beach on the coast of England, Tom Milligan directs Martha’s boat in. She returns to the UK for the first time since the Toclafane invasion, having traveled the world. She tells Tom she has to talk to a Professor Alison Docherty and asks him why he is allowed to travel. He says it is because he is a doctor. Martha is happy she is traveling with a doctor. Tom tells Martha that she has become a legend around the world as the one person who can kill the Master, and asks her if this is true. She does not answer him.
The Master enters the deck of the Valiant, singing and dancing to Scissor Sisters’ “I Can’t Decide”. He kisses Lucy, who shows signs of physical abuse, before taunting the aged Tenth Doctor by dancing around the room with him. He says there is one day until launch.
The Doctor refuses to speak. He only responds when the Master mentions that Martha has apparently returned to England. He tells the Master to leave her alone. The Master tries to force him to talk more, but knows that the “Toclafane” broke the Doctor’s hearts when he realized what they are. The Doctor says he has just one thing to say, and the Master knows what it is, but the Master walks away. Francine is forced to be a waitress for the Master. Clive and Tish are also working on the Valiant. Tish’s job is to feed Jack, who is chained to the engines. Tish gives Jack a hand signal to explain her plan, and Jack winks in acknowledgment.
Martha and Tom walk up a hill and see an enormous statue of the Master at the top of it; Martha comments that the Master has even carved himself into Mount Rushmore. Looking out at the miles of countryside in front of them, they see thousands of spaceships being built. Martha explains that thousands more are being built across the world, Russia being turned into a big shipyard, and that the Master is preparing for war with the rest of the universe. Suddenly, two Toclafane arrive and demand an explanation for Tom’s travelling. He presents identification that he is allowed to travel and the Toclafane taunt him and move on. Tom asks Martha how the spheres didn’t notice her, and she reveals that she is still wearing her TARDIS key perception filter, and that is how she has managed to travel the world.
Tish continues to spread her hand signal of three fingers, indicating that they will rebel at 3:00 pm. As the Master picks a girl to give him a massage and insults Lucy, Jack manages to break free of his chains, Clive pours water over all the technology and equipment, and Francine throws the Master’s laser screwdriver to the Doctor. He points it at the Master and says once more that he only has one thing to say and the Master knows what it is. The Doctor tries to use the screwdriver against the Master, but it refuses to function for him. The Master, who was never worried, simply laughs at the Doctor. Jack is shot dead (again) by the Master’s guards. The Master explains that the screwdriver has isomorphic controls and it only works for him, before taking it back and punching the Doctor to the floor. He demonstrates by torturing Francine and forcing her to apologize. She does so and the Master warns everyone that siding with the Doctor is not recommended. The Master continues to insult the Doctor and decides to take his revenge.
Martha and Tom arrive at Professor Docherty’s workplace. She is trying to fix a television so they can watch a transmission from the Master. They are successful, and the Master speaks to the world. He comments that he has heard that tales of Martha have given them hope, but asks them how much hope does the Doctor have, and on camera ages the Doctor a further 900 years. On the television, the Doctor appears to be dead, and the transmission ends with a word of warning to Martha to surrender. On the Valiant, a tiny, disfigured creature emerges from the Doctor’s clothes: a thousand-year aged Doctor. Martha is undisturbed, saying she knows the Doctor is still alive.
Martha tells Professor Docherty that she came to see her so that they can catch themselves a sphere: she has a CD containing the data of a Toclafane struck down by lightning in South Africa. Professor Docherty manages to produce enough electricity to simulate the conditions. Tom attracts attention by pulling out a gun and firing a few rounds into the air. A Toclafane comes flying towards them, and Professor Docherty activates the field to disable it. They prepare to find out what is inside.
Upon examining the sphere thus captured, they make a horrifying discovery: the Toclafane contain the conscious remains of the humans from the year 100 trillion. The Toclafane claims there was no Utopia, only more darkness, and with everything dying around them the humans cannibalized and regressed themselves, becoming the child-like Toclafane. The Master brought them back in time using the TARDIS, which could only travel between the years of Utopia and our present. The contradiction of the Toclafane killing their own ancestors is made possible by the paradox machine built by the Master. Martha is horrified when the Toclafane quotes young Creet, whom she met on Malcassairo, telling her that the Toclafane have shared memories of the last of humanity. When questioned as to why it wishes to kill its own ancestors, the Toclafane responds, “Because it’s fun”, and laughs maniacally. Tom is sickened and horrified by this and shoots it dead.
When Docherty asks if the rumors about Martha are true, Martha reveals a gun developed by Torchwood and UNIT, purportedly able to kill a Time Lord and prevent the ensuing regeneration. Martha has retrieved three of the four chemicals needed for the gun from their hiding places around the world, and has returned to London to find the fourth. After Martha and Thomas depart for a shelter in Bexley to hide, Docherty (who is desperate for information regarding her missing son) reveals their whereabouts to the Master.
The Master comes to Earth’s surface to capture Martha, killing Milligan, destroying the special gun and taking her back to the Valiant. He intends to execute her before the Doctor and her family, at the moment his fleet is launched.
But as the clock counts down, Martha starts to laugh out loud, prompting the Master to angrily demand to know what she finds so funny. Martha now reveals the real reason she traveled the globe: it wasn’t for a fictional anti-regeneration gun, as the Doctor himself points out that he would have never asked Martha to kill, nor was it to fight back; but merely to talk. She told everyone about the Doctor; specifically, she told everyone to think of the Doctor at the same time the Master plans to launch his fleet. Docherty’s betrayal was planned — engineered by Martha so that she would be brought on board the Valiant to rejoin the Doctor. Combined with the Master’s Archangel Network, which the Doctor has had an entire year to tune to the frequency of, this has the effect of charging the Doctor with the combined psychic energy of the people of Earth. This enables the Doctor to restore his youthful physiognomy and end the Master’s control. The combined psychic energy gives the Doctor great power and he is not only able to restore himself with it, but it shields him and temporarily grants him telekinesis with which he removes the Master’s laser screwdriver from his hand. As the Master cowers against a wall, the Doctor says the words the Master was terrified to hear: “I forgive you”.
With the Master out of the picture, Jack rounds up some soldiers to destroy the paradox machine, but is delayed by the Toclafane. The Master, using Jack’s vortex manipulator, teleports himself and the Doctor to Earth, threatening to detonate his fleet and take the Earth with it. The Doctor knows that the Master would never kill himself, and manages to teleport both himself and the Master back to the Valiant just as Jack destroys the paradox machine; this causes all time to reverse. Time reverses to the moment of the Paradox machine’s activation, just after the US President was killed and just before the Toclafane arrived. All those on the Valiant will remember the events of the previous year due to being at “the eye of the storm,” but nobody else will know of the Master’s reign of terror in “the year that never was.” The Master tries to run but ends up running straight into Jack who recaptures him.
The Master, now defenseless, is handcuffed and stands before the Doctor. The Doctor announces that, since the Master is a Time Lord, he is the Doctor’s responsibility and will be imprisoned on board the TARDIS. Francine Jones is talked out of shooting the Master, but Lucy Saxon, with a glazed expression, seizes a gun herself and shoots him. Rather than be a prisoner for the rest of his lives, the Master lets himself die, refusing to regenerate despite the Doctor’s desperate pleas. Just before dying in his opponent’s arms, the Master muses on the constant drumming in his head, wondering if it will finally stop, and with a smile says, “I win,” leaving the heartbroken Doctor in uncontrollable tears for his lost adversary, now once again left as the last of the Time Lords.
The Doctor cremates the Master’s body on a pyre. He takes a burning torch and ignites the pyre, quickly swallowing up the Master’s remains. After watching his old enemy and former friend burn up in front of him, he strides away from the funeral ceremony with a bitter look in his eyes.
In Cardiff, Jack decides to remain behind to look after his team, “defending the Earth”. The Doctor disables Jack’s vortex manipulator to keep him from jumping through time unsupervised. When Jack protests, the Doctor rebuffs him by saying, “I can’t have you walking around with a time travelling teleport. You could go anywhere, twice. The second time to apologize.” The Doctor then tells Jack there’s nothing that can be done about his immortality: it seems likely he’ll never be able to die — though he isn’t sure about ageing. Thinking about what he might look like millions of years from now, Jack confesses his vanity and recalls how, as the first person from the Boeshane Peninsula to join the Time Agency, his good looks earned him the nickname “the Face of Boe.” Martha and the Doctor, realizing the Face of Boe’s true identity, are surprised and delighted.
With the TARDIS repaired, the Doctor is ready to move on. Martha, however, has decided to stay so she can look after her family and finally qualify as a medical doctor. She gives the Doctor her phone number so they can keep in touch and says she will see him again, but when someone is in love and it’s unrequited, they have to get out: “This is me getting out.” Martha promises that she’s going to call him again, and when she does, he’d better come running. As she heads out of the TARDIS, she parts with the words, “I’ll see you again, mister.” The Doctor smiles fondly at her and watches Martha take her leave.
While the TARDIS takes off, events flash back to the Doctor cremating the Master. Nothing appears to be different. However, after he leaves, the Master’s signet ring drops out of the flames and lands on the ground, flaked with ashes, as though it were guided out of the fire by some unknown force. A female hand wearing red nail polish takes the Master’s emerald ring from the burnt-out pyre, while the latter’s malevolent laughter echoes in the background.
The Doctor, now in possession of his severed hand, sets the TARDIS controls — until the room is suddenly shaken with great force (because he did not have the TARDIS shields up), a foghorn bellows very loudly, and the bow of a ship smashes through the console room wall. The Doctor jumps out of the way and stumbles over his cockpit chair to the floor. As he recovers from the collision, he exclaims, “What… What?!?”, looking up in disbelief at a puncture in his TARDIS, where a large vessel has broken through the TARDIS hull from the outside. Several panels in the console room have been ripped loose, along with an oxygen supply cable that has dislodged from the ceiling, swinging freely and gushing out a jet of air. Covered in rubble, the Doctor slowly recovers from the crash as the sound of the ship’s clanging bell echoes through the room. He sees bits of his TARDIS strewn about the console floor, along with something new that doesn’t belong in his ship at all. Picking up a lifebelt, he finds “Titanic” written on it, to which he can only respond flatly, “What.”