I remember around Christmas time I wrote a post on here about hope as a Doctor Who fan. I didn't like the second season at all, but still had a lot of hope that the third would pull through and give me/us something good. People didn't like my post, so I decided not to write here again for a while.
Some time later, season three is finished. I'm glad I stuck around and glad I kept a bit of hope, because season three has been far and away the best season of New Who so far. I've loved Martha Jones, I've liked the Doctor again.... it's been pretty darned good. The Saxon/Master thread running through the season has been so well executed that the childish simplicity of 'Bad Wolf' or 'Torchwood' being repeated ad nauseum seems like a distant memory.
But like all good things, season three had to come to an end.
In my opinion, it came to end at the end of Utopia - an average sort of episode with an amazingly good last 10-15 minutes. Derek Jacobi embodied The Master perfectly in the little time he had, and John Simm showed a certain amount of promise there too.
Unfortunately, the last two episodes saw a return to Season Two form.
I'm not angry about them, or really all that disappointed. Obviously I would've liked to have had a climax that was worthy of stories like Human Nature/Family of Blood, Blink or the Dalek two-parter, but it doesn't sting nearly as much as last year, because I have this entire season to fall back on and gush over.
I got the impression from the episodes themselves and the two episodes of Confidential that he appeared in, that John Simm did not enjoy being The Master. And I can understand that entirely. If someone said to me "you can be The Master!", I would jump at the chance. But my heart would sink to new lows as soon as I read the shooting scripts for Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords.
Simm had great potential, and he occassionally shines as much as Jacobi did, but when he's having such horrible and meaningless dialogue forced into his mouth, there's not much he could do. The Master should be evil - not naughty. We got a character who was essentially 'Naughty Tenth Doctor', complete with mugging and bad comedy.
There was so much wrong with these two episodes that it's pointless talking about it here... everyone else has compiled their lists. I especially lost heart in the first part when Izzy from Neighbours gave us her critique on caribbean culture while the spinny sphere things killed everyone that we knew would never stay dead. The second episode was shaping up to be a wee bit better until the horrible absurdity of Archangel Doctor, announcing himself with his Second Season Catchphrase - "I'm sorry, so sorry!"
The Master slash-fic death scene and the Luke/Vader funeral pyre were also awful.
Having said all that... I did really like the way Martha left the TARDIS. I will miss her a lot. She may well be my favourite companion ever, after Sarah Jane Smith and Romana II. She was strong, assertive, clever and grew in her short time with the Doctor. She was everything Rose was not. Saying goodbye to Martha at the end was the emotional heart for me, because I felt nothing for The Master/Doctor, which was terribly overplayed.
I did like the cackling hand taking the Master's ring though. I understand why people didn't, but I enjoyed it because it reminded me so much of stories like The Deadly Assassin. He'll be back, and I look forward to him being done properly when he returns. RTD always claimed he didn't know how to bring the Master back, and I think he even said once that he didn't like the character very much. This shone through in his execution of the last two episodes. I wish he had left it alone until a new production team takes over a few years down the line, who DO have the belief in the character to do him justice.
So yes.... very good season that made me very happy, capped off by two episodes that wavered between average and very bad, but didn't ruin the good vibes of the last 14-15 weeks.