I watched in vain waiting for “The Sound of Drums” to explain how Derek Jacobi’s Master was able to regenerate into John Simm’s version, at the end of the previous episode, when, in both “The Deadly Assassin” and “The Keeper of Traken”, the Master states that he has passed through all twelve regenerations! Geoffrey Beevers, in the thirteenth and final incarnation of the rogue Time Lord, steals the body of Anthony Ainley’s Tremas, in the latter of the two Tom Baker stories, but I presume that action didn’t come complete with a new set of regenerations? I suppose, as the Master starts out in the Paul McGann TV movie as a shapeless morphant creature, in an attempt to ape “The X-Files”, before taking over the body of ambulance driver Bruce, played by Eric Roberts, the 1996 film only serves to muddy the waters where the Master is concerned. Russell T Davies has obviously decided to ignore the evolution of the character opting to utilise merely its bare essence. It’s a misnomer that you necessarily need an actor who looks, or even acts, like the original, as presumably was the case in casting Ainley. The Doctors have usually been chosen in physical contrast to their immediate predecessors so why not the Master? If nothing else, that has been the case in “Utopia”! All the Doctors retained dignity, up to and including the eighth incarnation, as indeed has the Master until the arrival of John Simm!!
It’s telling that the single best moment, this season, is when Derek Jacobi proclaims “I am the Master” and is almost-immediately followed by the single worst when John Simm waves “Bye, bye” as if he were a five-year-old! This immature portrayal carries over into “The Sound of Drums”, noticeably when, gas-masked, he gives a double thumbs up at his ruthless execution of the cabinet!! It’s like the child who, realising his photo is about to be taken, compulsively raises a thumb to the air!!! I’m surprised the Doctor didn’t say to the Master, when they finally confront one another, “What you need is a jolly good smacked bottom!” For those who don’t know, it’s how the first Doctor tells off his granddaughter during “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”!! And, the point of reintroducing the jelly babies? (Time) Lord knows, other than making “Doctor Who” is a bit like Chinese Takeaway… using very few ingredients but in every possible combination!!!
Russell’s taste in music leaves a lot to be desired, too. There’s nothing wrong with Simm tapping out the rhythm of the theme tune, which incidentally is the same as Beethoven’s most famous Symphony, the Fifth, but what was the point of Rogue Trader’s “Voodoo Child” on the soundtrack except to add to the cacophony? For a politician, Ann Widdecombe was amusing but unnecessary whereas Sharon Osbourne and McFly nothing more than a complete waste of space. Especially awful was the close up of the one in the baseball cap, about which my feelings are the same as those of Richard Dawkins! To end on a positive note, I did enjoy Russell’s equally anti-American/anti-British jibes, at our real respective political leaders (although, one of those spin Doctors is regenerating this week!!), as well as the lovely Alexandra Moen’s perfectly-pitched portrayal of the premiere’s spouse, Lucy, seemingly much sweeter than her real-life counterpart!!!