The Sound of Drums
The Sound of Drums was the twelfth episode of the third series of Doctor Who. It marked the first full appearance of John Simm as the Master, disguised as Harold Saxon, revealing the significance of that name across the series. It also introduced a fictitious version of the United States President. At the end of this episode of the two-part story, the Doctor would appeared profoundly defeated, with catastrophic consequences for his companions and the residents of planet Earth.
The Tenth Doctor, Martha Jones, and Jack Harkness are trapped by the Futurekind. The Doctor fixes Jack’s vortex manipulator to get them to 21st century Earth; the trip, however, is not comfortable, with the Doctor complaining that time travel without a capsule is “a killer”. He also explains that when he used his sonic screwdriver on the TARDIS as the Master stole it, he fused the coordinates so that it would only go to the last place and time it had been – 21st century Earth. They know he will be approximately where they are.
When they arrive, they discover “Vote Saxon” posters everywhere. Martha explains to the Doctor that Harold Saxon is a politician, and that they must have just missed the General Election.
Meanwhile, Saxon is on the news with his wife Lucy, having just come from Buckingham Palace after winning the election and being confirmed as Great Britain’s new Prime Minister. Martha tells the Doctor that she recognized the voice inside the TARDIS: it was that of Harold Saxon. The Doctor realizes with horror that not only is the Master now Prime Minister, but he is married as well!
In 10 Downing Street, the Master is on his way to his first Cabinet meeting. He meets Tish Jones, who now works at 10 Downing Street. After speaking to Tish, he walks into the Cabinet Room. He tosses dossiers into the air, but his enthusiastic attitude fails to elicit a chuckle or a smile from any of the Cabinet ministers. The Master quickly changes his attitude and insults the Cabinet, calling them traitors for abandoning their political parties and jumping on his political bandwagon as soon as they saw the vote swinging his way. As their “reward”, he quickly sits down and puts on a gas mask. One minister, MP Albert Dumfries, asks the Master why he is wearing a mask, and the Master replies that he’s wearing it because of the gas (a process made difficult to explain because the mask muffles his voice). Before anyone can figure out what he means, toxic gas is sprayed into the room from the two desk phones’ speakers. Albert manages to splutter out, “You’re insane!” to the Master (who replies with a double thumbs up) before he drops dead on the table, following the other ministers.
Martha returns home with Jack and the Doctor and they quickly set up a computer search about ‘Harold Saxon’ which shows he was the former Minister of Defense who entered the public eye when he shot down the Racnoss Webstar the on Christmas Eve. Martha points out that he has a complete biography, his education and achievements are all known to the public.
At Downing Street, Lucy Saxon is speaking to Tish when a woman named Vivien Rook arrives from the Sunday Mirror, saying she is here to interview Lucy about being the Prime Minister’s wife, and asks Tish to leave. After Tish leaves, Rook confronts Lucy about her husband’s fictitious life story: he only appeared shortly after the Sycorax invasion and the subsequent downfall of Harriet Jones, but all of his background prior to that has been forged, and curiously, no one is bothering to question the forgery. Lucy refuses to believe this, and says that she made her choice for better or worse, revealing the Master’s presence in the room. The Master admits that “Harold Saxon” doesn’t exist, at which point he conjures four robotic balls the size of footballs. He tells one to kill Vivien as he and Lucy leave. As they rush in on Rook and slice her to death with tiny knife blades, Lucy angrily remarks that Harry told her that “Archangel” was 100 percent; the Master demurs, admitting it was more like 98-99 percent. Lucy then fearfully remarks other people may be asking questions about them and that their time is running out. The Master embraces his wife and promises her that tomorrow, the world will end.
At Martha’s flat, the Doctor explains that the Master couldn’t have arrived more than eighteen months earlier so doesn’t understand how he has the entire country supporting him in such a short time. Martha and Jack admit they thought he was a nice guy, and they had even planned to vote for him. The Doctor asks what exactly Harold Saxon stood for, but Martha struggles for an answer stating he just had a voice she felt she could trust. During this, Martha begins tapping her fingers in a four-beat rhythm which the Doctor picks up on. Suddenly a Saxon Broadcast comes on the television. In the broadcast, the Master mentions several previous alien attacks, namely the destruction of Big Ben, the Sycorax invasion, the Army of Ghosts and metal men, and the Christmas Star that came to kill. He then says he has been contacted by a new species, called the Toclafane. The Doctor is aghast upon hearing the name, knowing it’s false. The Master then claims that tomorrow morning, “We will take our place in the universe. Every man, woman, and child. Every teacher and chemist and lorry driver and farmer. I don’t know — every medical student?” The Doctor, knowing the Master is talking to them, looks behind the television and finds a bomb; he, Martha and Jack run out on to the street just before the flat explodes.
The Doctor, Martha and Jack climb into a car and Martha calls her mum against the Doctor’s advice. Francine asks her to come to her house, claiming she has plans of getting back together with Clive. Martha realizes something is wrong, as she knows her mother can barely stand to be in the same room as her ex-husband under normal circumstances. Francine hands the phone to Clive, and Martha asks him to just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ when she asks if anyone is there with him not knowing Miss Dexter, a government official working for the Master, is listening to the conversation. Clive, after considering for a second, tells Martha to run. Miss Baxter orders the police to arrest the entire Jones family. Martha phones Tish at Downing Street, just as Tish is dragged away by two guards. Martha, the Doctor, and Jack arrive at Francine’s house as Francine and Clive are being forcibly dragged by a SWAT team to a jail transporter van. As they screech to a stop, Francine shouts a warning to Martha, and Miss Dexter orders the SWAT team to ready their rifles. With no choice but to make a run for it the Doctor, Martha and Jack quickly put their car in reverse and drive off as the SWAT team opens fire, bullets shattering the back windshield and the sides of the car. As they drive off, the police officers shove Francine and Clive into the back of the van and lock the back doors.
As the three of them abandon the car, Martha phones Leo, who is in Brighton with his partner and child visiting a friend. As Martha warns her brother to hide, the Master interrupts the phone call. The Doctor takes the phone and talks to his old enemy: the Master is horrified to learn that Gallifrey is lost, and mercilessly berates the Doctor when he learns how the Time War ended and the Doctor’s part
in it. The Master says that the Time Lords resurrected him as the perfect warrior to fight in the war, but he ran away in fear, explaining that he used a chameleon arch to turn himself into a human and fled to the end of the universe so he couldn’t be found. He informs the Doctor that he, Martha, and Jack have now been deemed as armed and extremely dangerous terrorists and that Jack’s friends have been sent on a wild goose chase to the Himalayas. The Master then suggests that they start by turning to the right. The Doctor turns, sees a surveillance camera there, and realizes that the Master is watching him through it. He promptly shorts it out with his sonic screwdriver (with the same effect as shooting the camera). They decide to take the Master’s advice, and take off running.
That evening, one of the Toclafane appears before the Master asking if “the machine” is ready. The Master informs it that it will reach a critical mass at 8:02 AM, two minutes after the “first contact.” The Toclafane reminds him of the darkness that is coming from which the Toclafane must run, but the Master merely reminds the creature of their deadline.
As the TARDIS crew hide in an abandoned warehouse, the Doctor gives Martha and Jack some insight on the Master’s origins. After denying Martha’s suggestion that he and the Master were brothers, he explains that at the age of eight, initiates were taken by the Time Lords to look into the time vortex. Some were inspired; some ran away; and some were driven mad. While the Doctor ran and has never stopped running, he believes the Master went mad. Jack then receives a posthumous message from Vivien Rook to Torchwood Three about the Archangel Network. The Doctor is initially disgusted about Jack’s involvement with Torchwood after everything Torchwood did, but Jack insists that not only was the old Torchwood regime destroyed at Canary Wharf, but that under his command Torchwood no longer perceives the Doctor as a threat. The Doctor discovers that the Master has been using the Archangel Network of communication satellites to hypnotize people to vote for him. This also kept the Doctor from detecting him earlier — Time Lords have an ability to sense when another one of their own is around, as well as recognize another Time Lord after they have regenerated. The Doctor produces three keys equipped with perception filters allowing himself, Martha, and Jack to be seen, but not detected, if they put them on.
The United States president, Arthur Colman Winters, arrives in Air Force One in London. He tells the Master that UNIT has control over the operation, citing a United Nations protocol. Winters insists on moving first contact to the neutral ground of the UNIT aircraft carrier Valiant and conducting the meeting with the Toclafane himself. The Master brings along Francine, Tish and Clive, and the Doctor and friends follow using Jack’s vortex manipulator. On board, they find the TARDIS, its cloister bell ringing, and the interior glowing an ominous red. It has been changed by the Master into a paradox machine, set to go off at 8:02 AM, two minutes after first contact. The trio head for the room in which the first contact is being held. The Doctor has a plan: if he manages to put the TARDIS key around the Master’s neck, then everyone will see the Master for who he truly is.
When the first contact begins, the Toclafane complain that the president is not their “Master”. The Master reveals himself to the entire world and tells the Toclafane to kill the president; Winters is promptly incinerated on sight. The Doctor is captured by the guards — the Master had ignored the perception filter and knew he and the others were there all along — before (temporarily) killing Jack with his laser screwdriver, equipped with LazLab’s Genetic Manipulation technology. With access to DNA from the Doctor’s hand, it allows the Master to artificially (and visibly) age the Doctor by 100 years adapted from Richard Lazarus’s de-ageing technology. The Master brings in the Jones family to witness this attack.
With the paradox machine ready, the Master tells the people of Earth to witness the end of the world. The paradox machine activates, creating a massive rift above the Valiant from which six billion Toclafane descend as the Master and Lucy dance to the Rogue Traders’ “Voodoo Child”. He orders them to kill one tenth of the Earth’s population. When asked, he refuses to reveal the true identity of the Toclafane, saying it would break the Doctor’s hearts. Whilst the Master is distracted, Martha glances at the Doctor, Jack and her family. She teleports to Earth using the manipulator (given to her by Jack as he came back to life again), promising to return, as she watches the Toclafane descend and start laying waste to Earth. The Master and his wife look down on the planet, calling it his “new dominion”, with the aged Doctor between them, forced to confront his failure to stop the Master.