In PART ONE, the narrator (Timothy Dalton) says that in the last days of humanity, everyone had bad dreams about the Master (John Simm), but only Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) remembered them, and he began a search for the Doctor (David Tennant). The Master, in prison, is resurrected by a cult, but the ceremony is sabotaged by his wife, Lucy Saxon (Alexandra Moen), who is in prison for killing him. The ensuing explosion destroys the prison, killing everyone inside, and the Master is reborn with great strength and constant, ravenous hunger.
On the Planet of the Ood, the Doctor receives warning of the Master’s resurrection and the imminent End of Time. He leaves for Earth and finds Wilfred, to whom he explains that he will hear four knocks before his death. The Doctor finds the Master in the wastelands outside London. He discovers that the sound of drums that he thought was only a symptom of the Master’s madness is real and has been implanted in his mind. The Master is captured by armed troops and placed in the custody of billionaire Joshua Naismith (David Harewood). Naismith has obtained a broken immortality gate and wants the Master to fix it.
The Doctor returns to Wilfred, who tells him who Naismith is. Wilfred is preparing to go with the Doctor, but a mysterious woman (Claire Bloom) warns him to arm himself to protect the Doctor. At Naismith’s mansion, they meet two Vinvocci aliens disguised as humans, who claim the gate is a harmless medical device from their home world.
The Doctor is too late to stop the Master from activating the gate, which has been programmed to replace all human DNA with his own, making everyone just like him, except for Wilfred, who is protected by the gate’s control room, and his granddaughter Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), who is protected by the Time-Lord DNA she has picked up from the Doctor. She begins to remember the Doctor, which will kill her. The Doctor is taunted by the Master. Elsewhere, the Narrator is revealed as the Lord President of the Time Lords, who declares that Gallifrey will return.
In PART TWO, the Doctor and Wilfred flee the Master’s doppelgangers on Earth and escape in the Vinvocci spacecraft, the Doctor flying madly like Han Solo and Wilfred firing the guns like Luke Skywalker. (The episode seems to have turned left into totally Bonkers. Donna is saved by the Doctor’s programme, which makes her forget him again. In Gallifrey, the Lord President implants the sound of drums in the Master’s head as a child, long ago. In the present, the billions of Master doppelgangers amplify that sound. The Lord President orders a Gallifreyan diamond to be launched to Earth so the Master can use it to bring the Time Lords and Gallifrey out of the Time Lock they were buried in and come to Earth. The Doctor jumps from the Vinvocci ship into Naismith’s mansion with Wilfred’s gun (Yes, he does), as the Lord President and his entourage revert the human race to their original form.
The Doctor warns the Master that Gallifrey must not be allowed to return because the horrors of the Time War had driven the Gallifreyans insane. They will ascend to a state of pure consciousness and end Time itself. But the Master couldn’t care less. Should the Doctor shoot the Master or the Lord President, which he believes is the only way to return Gallifrey to the Time Lock? The Doctor sees the same woman Wilfred saw. He fires the gun at the diamond, destroying the link. As Gallifrey is pulled back, it is revealed that the Lord President is Rassilon, who tries to kill the Doctor. The Doctor is ironically saved by the Master to get revenge on the Time Lords. The Master, the Time Lords and Gallifrey all disappear.
The Doctor hears four knocks. It is Wilfred knocking, as he is trapped in the gate control room and is about to be killed by a flood of radiation. The Doctor sacrifices himself to free Wilfred by absorbing the radiation. Soon he will regenerate. He drops Wilfred off at home, visits past companions, then regenerates to Matt Smith in the TARDIS, causing an explosion. The TARDIS plummets toward Earth.
This was the last script written by Russel T. Davies and he clearly pulled out all the stops. The mysterious woman, a dissident Time Lord, is meant to be the Doctor’s mother—not Romana or the Rani, as speculated. The Master was inspired by Voldemort. Patrick Stewart was offered Timothy Dalton’s part, and Timothy Dalton was at one time a possible Doctor. As Rassilon, he is riveting. You can’t take your eyes off him. John Simm based his Master on the Joker in the Dark Night movies. When the Ood sing the Doctor to his rest, they are singing Vale Decem, which means Farewell Ten. The Master will return four years later as the Mistress.
At one point the Doctor visits Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) in an alien bar on the planet Zog, which was inspired by the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars. The song played was the one sung by Talulah in the Daleks in Manhattan episode. The Doctor introduces Jack to a sailor who is Alonso (Russell Tovey) from the Voyage of the Damned episode. The story was well-received, but the quiet moments are remembered by fans more than the big action scenes. After two hours of insane shouting and derring-do, the end is touching and sweet. One of my favorite moments is when the Doctor, just before regenerating, says, “I don’t want to go.” It was filmed many times until they got the sad resignation just right. In the last three episodes of the season, the Doctor has gone through anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.