"That's him. He's Prime Minister. The Master is Prime Minister of Great Britain... the Master. ... And his
— The Doctor
The Doctor, Martha and Jack return to 21st century Earth, using Jack's (quickly fixed) time travel watch. The Master has been on Earth for 18 months, limited by the Doctor's last-ditch block of the TARDIS controls. As for the reason he'd been living as a human: he was resurrected by the Time Lords to fight in the Time War, saw what was required of him, and ran the fuck away
to the end of the universe.
It turns out the Master is actually Mr Saxon, who has been elected prime minister, and first order of business is killing his cabinet. Using his satellite network, he's blocked his own Time Lord energy from alerting the Doctor, globally replacing it with the sound of drums that he's heard ever since he was a child. (This will be very important a few series later.)
This incarnation of the Master turns out to be just as manic as Ten, combined with a real love for mocking people, dancing to catchy pop music and snogging his very hot — and very hypnotised — wife, Lucy. The Doctor phones him up, leading to one very special
The Master: Doctor?
The Doctor: Master.
The Master: [sigh] I like it when you use my name.
The Doctor: You chose it. Psychiatrist's field-day.
[About half a minute of exposition later]
The Doctor: I've been alone ever since. But not any more. Don't you see? All we've got is each other.
The Master: ... Are you asking me out on a date?
Anyway, Saxon labels the three as fugitives and they end up on the run. Also, the TARDIS, which had been restricted by the Doctor to only travel between now and the end of time, has now been turned into a paradox machine.
Jack and Martha share a moment when they realise they're both crushing on a Doctor who's Oblivious to Love
. The Doctor also talks about an event that Gallifreyan children go through before they can enter the academy: they have to look into the Untempered Schism, which shows all of time. Apparently this made the Master go mad
Eventually the three sneak on board the Valiant
, holding TARDIS keys with perception filters. Here, the Master alleges to be encountering first contact with a race of aliens called the Toclafane. The Toclafane assassinate the US President (who, with the help of UNIT, has attempted to take command of this first contact away from the Master), and then at the Master's command, literally
decimate Earth's population. To some pretty catchy pop music.
The Doctor is heavily aged by the Lazarus technology
, using the hand from the Sycorax fight
that Jack used the last episode
. Martha teleports herself to earth, still holding a perception filter, stating that she will return.
Tropes featured prominently in this episode include:
- Airborne Aircraft Carrier: The Valiant, a homage to Cloudbase.
- Big Brother Is Watching: Saxon uses all the tools of the modern security state to his advantage.
- Big Stupid Doodoo Head: The Doctor fuses out a security camera the Master is using to watch him.
Master: "Ooh you... public menace!"
- Board to Death / You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Master uses two speakerphones with hidden nozzles to lethally gas all of his cabinet ministers, while he himself comes prepared by wearing a gas mask.
- Call Back: Jelly baby? Also, the Master enjoying the Teletubbies calls back to a previous Master watching The Clangers.
- Using a Weak Willed subordinate to carry out his plans was a favourite tactic of The Seventies Master. Likewise the flash of satin we see inside the Master's coat (though that's more a reflection of John Pertwee's extravagant dress sense).
- Nice chips.
- Martha's television is from Magpie Electricals.
- Continuity Nod: The Master did the four-drum-beat with his fingers once before, although it didn't mean anything until this episode.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Pretty much the entire episode is the Doctor getting his ass handed to him.
- Ironically that the next episode reveals that it was all part of the Doctor's Batman Gambit.
- Dead Man Writing / Video Will: A message from Vivian Rook, the journalist killed by the Toclafane.
"If I haven't returned to my desk by 2200 this file will be emailed to Torchwood. Which means if you're watching this then I'm... Anyway, the Saxon files are attached."
- Death Trap: The Master has finally become Genre Savvy — he knows full well the Doctor will escape the Cliffhanger and the Incredibly Obvious Bomb, but uses these deadly distractions to put pressure on the Doctor and his companions until they fall into the real trap.
- Distressed Dude: The Doctor and Jack.
- Eagleland: US President Winters.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The Master wasn't fond of his Cabinet's behavior betraying their parties for his. Then again, he likely didn't want them backstabbing him.
- Faux Affably Evil
- Foe Romance Subtext: The phone conversation between The Master and the Doctor. "Are you asking me out on a date?" The way The Master sighs when he says "I love it when you say my name..."
- For the Evulz: The Toclafane view this as an excuse to decimate the Earth. Bonus points for proper use of the word "decimate".
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The Master keeps pulling In-Universe versions on the Doctor, giving media interviews that make it clear he knows the Doctor is watching.
PM Saxon: Tomorrow we take our place in the universe. Every man, woman and child. Every teacher and chemist and lorry driver and farmer. I dunno, every (looks directly at camera) ...medical student?
- Genre Blind: Saxon's Cabinet really should have run away and never looked back from the moment he started calling them traitors.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The entirety of the Doctor and the Master's phone call could be described as sounding like phone sex between two bitter ex-lovers.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: The Doctor's story about how the Master went insane after looking into the Untempered Schism as a child.
- The Doctor admits that he was one of the children that "ran away" and that in some ways, he never really stopped.
- Hope Spot: When the Doctor and company found the TARDIS on the Valiant, and then they went inside. They discovered that it was cannibalised to make a "Paradox Machine".
- I Always Wanted to Say That: When the Time Lords meet face-to-face. "We meet at last, Doctor! Oho, I love saying that!"
- I Have Your Wife: The Master has Martha's entire family...except her brother, who she manages to warn in time. He was going to show up in the next episode, but the actor wasn't available. Just imagine being Leo and finding everyone in your family except you has suddenly lived through a year of torture.
- Incredibly Obvious Bomb: Seriously, the bomb on the back of Martha's TV looks like something Wile E. Coyote would use to catch the Roadrunner.
- Well, the Master does love his children's programmes...
- In Love with Your Carnage: The Master is very impressed when he realises how the Doctor ended the Time War.
"What did it feel like, though? Two almighty civilisations, burning...(breathy) ooh, tell me, how did that feel?"
"You must have been like God."
- Insult Backfire: The Master, upon being accused of insanity, just gives a thumbs up.
- Jerkass: Guess who?
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: See Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.
- Large Ham / Chewing the Scenery: John Simm makes a determined effort to act everyone else off the screen.
- Last of His Kind: As the President walks away the Master says "The last President of America". (The Master means "of The United States", but he's not from around here in the first place.)
- Mind Control: The Master is sending a subconscious signal broadcast over a satellite phone network. It doesn't contain complex brainwashing instructions (which would be rejected) but a simple message like "Believe in me" or "Vote for Saxon", enough to swing a crucial majority behind Saxon, and later to cow most forms of resistance.
- Mythology Gag: No, the Master is not the Doctor's brother.
- New Era Speech
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Word of God is that due to the Doctor preventing "The Golden Age" of Harriet Jones, this created an irregularity in the course of history that wasn't supposed to happen. As a Time Lord, the Master naturally noticed and readily exploited this to become Prime Minister.
- Bet having a Prime Minister that only shot at hostile invading aliens on Christmas Day doesn't seem so bad now, eh?!
- No Hugging, No Kissing: Definitely averted with the Master shamelessly embracing and snogging Mrs Saxon. The Doctor seems amazed that the Master has a wife at all, even for political reasons. If only he knew...
- Oblivious to Love: Really, Doctor? Really?
Doctor: It's like when you fancy someone, and they don't even know you exist. [He rushes off to do something, leaving Martha stewing in frustration.]
Jack: (To Martha) You too, huh?
- Oh Crap: The Doctor spends most of the episode doing this.
- Orange/Blue Contrast: In the warehouse scene. The Doctor's face is 50-50 blue-orange as he starts his Gallifrey monologue.
- Overly-Long Gag: The Toclafane kill a journalist who was close to unmasking Saxon's cover. He closes the door on her screams. Several seconds later, he opens it: She is still screaming. He winces and closes the door. After some more time, he opens it again and she is still screaming.
Freema: (on the commentary) That's so naughty...oh, he's ENJOYING it!
- Pre-emptive Declaration: Why is Mr Saxon wearing a gas mask in a meeting with the cabinet?
Master: Because of the gas.
Cabinet member: What gas?
Master: This gas.
- Prime Minister Evil
- Psychopathic Man Child: Not just the Master, but also the Toclafane with their little girl voices and the pleasure they take from slaughtering people in painful ways.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The Master would like to remind everyone of the imminent arrival of the percussion instruments heralding violent engagement. At high volume levels.
- Race Against the Clock: Invoked and lampshaded by the Master.
The Master: Three minutes to align the black-hole converters. Counting down! I never could resist a ticking clock.
- Race Lift: This episode is notable as the first Doctor Who TV story to show a black Time Lord. (The Doctor Who Magazine comics previously had a lengthy story arc about a black regeneration of the Master, and Big Finish Doctor Who featured a black regeneration of Rassilon.) The concept wouldn't be discussed until "Death of the Doctor", though, in which the Doctor confirms that he can be "anything".
- Real Person Cameo: Sharon Osborne. Ann Widdecombe. And more.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Invoked (though obviously not justified) by the Master before gassing his Cabinet:
As soon as you saw the vote swinging my way, you abandoned your parties and you jumped on the Saxon bandwagon! So this is your reward... [Dons gas mask.]
- Say My Name: He likes it when you do.
- Scenery Porn: Gallifrey is given a big CGI scene.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: We see a flash of red satin inside the Master's coat.
- Shout-Out: The Toclafane saying "Master is our friend!" when they find themselves dealing with President Winters instead of the Master.
- Significant Anagram: Mister Saxon = Master No. Six
- Strawman Political: Winters.
- Sound-Only Death: Played for laughs - see Overly-Long Gag.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The Master dances to pop music as the Toclafane descend to exterminate 1/10th of the world's population.
- Take That: Some elements of the Master's fictitious backstory parodies the actual life of politician, writer, compulsive CV-padder and perjurer Jeffrey Archer.
- Take That Kiss: The Master blows one of these at the Doctor.
- Teleportation Sickness: Using the vortex manipulator doesn't look like fun.
- Terrible Ticking
- Too Dumb to Live: Winters turns into a blubbering, outclassed idiot when the Toclafane show up. What follows is, well, you know.
- Villain Ball: Clutched with a glee not seen on the series since the last days of Ainley, and if you think he's hamming it up here, check the next episode.
- We Come In Peace
- Wham Line: "Every, I dunno, medical student?" That's when Martha notices the Incredibly Obvious Bomb behind her TV.
- Wicked Cultured: Decimation, as properly defined.
- The X of Y
- You Keep Using That Word: Averted, the word "decimate" is indeed properly used to mean "reduce by one-tenth."
- Also a Stealth Pun—the earth's population is reduced by one-tenth; likewise, the cast is reduced by one Tenth.
- You Watch Too Much X:
- You're Insane!