Where does one start with a story like The Sound of Drums? As a build up to a now-traditional massive end of season finale, it ticks all of the boxes, putting the Doctor is dire peril, overrunning the Earth with an alien threat and no plausible way out of it.
All of this is of course down to the Master, who in the guise of the Blair-esque Harold Saxon has been manipulating events for some time, hidden from the Doctor behind a pulse sent out by the Archangel network of satellites. As the newly elected Prime Minister, Saxon has taken Martha’s family hostage, sent Jack’s Torchwood team off to the Himalayas and generally made things very difficult for the Doctor.
David Tennant is the star of Doctor Who, but The Sound of Drums belongs to John Simm as the new Master. With a performance that riffs Jack Nicholson’s Joker, Simon Pegg and the previous incarnations of the character, what we have in Master No Six is a bonkers, psychotic match for the Doctor’s own intellect, a Master who seems worthy of the title, who has hoodwinked the British public into accepting him as leader while pulling the wool over the eyes of mankind and plunging it headlong into Armageddon.
That’s what I call an evil plot. What’s more, there’s obviously more to it, with the Master refusing to reveal the true nature of the probe droid-like Toclafane.
Highlights of The Sound of Drums include the telephone conversation between the Master and the Doctor, Nicola McAuliffe’s Torchwood agent being savagely dealt with in Saxon’s Number 10 lounge, the discovery of a bomb behind Martha’s television (shades of Terror of the Autons) and the jaw-dropping conclusion which saw the Doctor aged 1000 years (I know the script said 100 but he is a Time Lord; the First Doctor was nearly 700 at his youngest and looked younger. 100 extra years on the Doctor should have made him look perhaps 70 at most…) as the Toclafane descended from a tear in the fabric of space above the Earth. This tear was created by the Master, presumably using the cannibalized TARDIS console onto which the old rogue has built a Paradox Machine.
The nature of this Paradox Machine suggests something terrible. It looks messy for starters, while its name suggests the ability to do something that the Doctor has been unable to do – change time itself. The only logical outcome for this would be for the Master to attempt to restore the Time Lords, or create a new Time Lord order – both of these outcomes of course could only be in his own image…
I have to say it was particularly satisfying to see Martha’s mother Francine (Adjoa Andoh) finally realize what a stupid cow she has been as her attempted betrayal of Martha lead to Martha’s father Clive spilling the beans and the pair of them carted off at Saxon’s pleasure. It was nice to see Tish back as well, although she sadly had very little to do – although my earlier theory that Saxon had put her in place at Lazarus’ experiment was proved correct.
With the Master and the Doctor taking up most of the screen time, Freema Agyeman remained ever watchable, with Martha making good her escape and declaring that she would be coming back. Martha is set to somehow rescue the Doctor and Jack this week after escaping from the cloud base into a field via Jacks vortex manipulator. With Captain Scarlet – I mean Harkness – on board the Cloudbase as an indestructible prisoner, I can see a couple of opportunities for escape – but will it be too late?
And just who are the Toclafane?