The Sound of Drums

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187b – "The Sound of Drums"
Doctor Who episode
Sound of Drums.jpg
A rift opens above the Valiant to allow the Toclafane to descend.
Directed by Colin Teague
Written by Russell T Davies
Script editor Simon Winstone
Produced by Phil Collinson
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Incidental music composer Murray Gold
Production code 3.12
Series Series 3
Length 2nd of 3-part story, 45 minutes
Originally broadcast 23 June 2007
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Utopia" "Last of the Time Lords"
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

"The Sound of Drums" is the twelfth episode of the third series of the revived British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was broadcast on BBC One on 23 June 2007.[1] It is the second of three episodes that form a linked narrative, following "Utopia" and followed by "Last of the Time Lords".

The Master—in the form of Harold Saxon, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom—arrives in the 21st century, and the world enters a period of terror when the Master announces an encounter with an unknown alien race he calls the "Toclafane".


Picking up immediately after the end of "Utopia", the Doctor along with Jack and Martha escape the Futurekind by using Jack's vortex manipulator to return to present-day London. They quickly learn that the Master has taken on the persona of Harold Saxon, and is the newly elected Prime Minister. The Master has created a phone network called Archangel which subliminally influences the population to vote for him. The three narrowly avoid a bomb placed in Martha's flat and learn that Martha's family has been arrested. The Master contacts them to gloat about his seeming victory, mentioning that he was resurrected by the Time Lords to fight in the Time War. The Master fled to the end of the universe and made himself human when defeat seemed inevitable. The Master reveals that the three are now England's most wanted criminals and has stripped them of any help, including sending Torchwood on a wild goose chase to the Himalayas. The Master asks the Doctor where Gallifrey is, and the Doctor responds that Gallifrey is gone and burned.

Hiding in an abandoned building, the Doctor uses parts of Martha's laptop and his TARDIS keys to create perception filters so they can move about unnoticed. He explains some of the Master's past and tells them how, as a child, the Master looked into the time vortex and was driven mad. They see a TV report that the Master is planning to reveal Earth's first contact the next day with an alien race known as the Toclafane. U.S. President Winters arrives in the UK and places the operation in the hands of UNIT, taking over the meeting from Mr. Saxon and moving it to the flying aircraft carrier Valiant. The Master accepts the changes and boards the Valiant with his wife. The Doctor, Martha, and Jack teleport aboard with the vortex manipulator and discover that the TARDIS has been converted by the Master into a Paradox Machine that is building up power to be activated at the appointed time of first contact.

The Doctor tells Martha and Jack to try to get their perception filters around the Master to reveal who he really is to humanity. They enter the bridge unnoticed, and the first four Toclafane appear on the bridge and demand to see the Master. Mr. Saxon reveals himself as the Master and orders the Toclafane to kill President Winters, who is promptly disintegrated on the spot. The Master also reveals that he can see around the perception filters, and uses his laser screwdriver to kill Jack and age the Doctor 100 years by suspending his ability to regenerate. The Master uses genetic manipulation technology and DNA he took from the Doctor's severed hand to torment the Doctor. Jack, having been revived, gives Martha his vortex manipulator and tells Martha to get off the Valiant.

The Master brings Martha's family onto the bridge as the Paradox Machine activates. He taunts the aged Doctor about the nature of the Toclafane and his impending victory. The Paradox Machine activates and a massive rift opens above the Valiant, allowing six billion Toclafane to descend upon Earth. The Master orders the Toclafane to kill one-tenth of the Earth's population and the Valiant echoes with the screams and pleas of humans as they are slaughtered worldwide. Martha tends to the aged Doctor, and he whispers into her ear. Unable to save the Doctor, Jack, or her family she promises she will return and uses the vortex manipulator to teleport away. Martha arrives on Earth and flees into the distance as the Toclafane wreak havoc on humanity. The Master gloats about the fall of the human race and the Doctor is forced to look upon his new dominion, devastated by his failure to stop the Master...


The first televised black Time Lord appears during this Gallifrey flashback. Black Time Lords previously appeared in the spin-off novel The Shadows of Avalon by Paul Cornell, published in 2000, as well as in the Big Finish Productions audio plays, in which Lord President Rassilon was played by actor Don Warrington whose likeness is used for the character in official artwork.

Whilst the boy Master wears a black-and-white outfit like those worn by the first Time Lords seen on screen, in The War Games in 1969,[2] the adult Time Lords are depicted dressed in the ceremonial robes first seen in The Deadly Assassin in 1976. Created by then BBC staff designer James Acheson prior to his film career, the huge stiff collars of these outfits remained the distinctive look for officials of the Doctor's race. The collars used were the originals, on loan from the Doctor Who Exhibition in Blackpool.[3]

The Seal of Rassilon—the equally well-established Gallifreyan symbol employed by Acheson (originally in the non-Time Lord-related Revenge of the Cybermen)—appears here for the first time since its prominent use in the television movie.

When talking to the world's press cameras toward the end of the episode, the Master begins his speech "Peoples of the Earth, please attend carefully." This paraphrases part of a speech he gave in episode four of Logopolis (1981), which began "Peoples of the Universe, please attend carefully."[2]

The Master refers to his wife, Lucy Saxon, as his faithful "companion", a title regularly assumed by the travelling partners of the Doctor.

The Master is shown enjoying an episode of Teletubbies, continuing a fascination with children's television first seen in The Sea Devils (1972), when he was shown watching Clangers. He wryly analyses both series' characters, remarking how amazing it would be if they were real.[4]

When confronting Lucy about her husband's fictitious life history, Vivien Rook refers to the fall of Harriet Jones, who first appeared as an MP in "Aliens of London" before being elected Prime Minister by the time of "The Christmas Invasion". Although that episode hinted at her downfall due to the Doctor's intervention (due to her having a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons), this episode confirms it, mentioned as being at the same point that the Master appeared.

In his first cabinet session, the Master refers to the reconstruction of the Cabinet Rooms and Downing Street, which were destroyed at the climax of "World War Three".

Martha's television is branded Magpie Electricals—this company originally rented and sold televisions manufactured by other companies in the 1950s, as seen in "The Idiot's Lantern".

The Master reveals that he was responsible for Tish getting the job working for Professor Lazarus—whose work he was funding—in "The Lazarus Experiment", hoping to trap the Doctor and Martha. In that episode a circular symbol can be seen throughout the main building featured, the same symbol is visible as being part of the Master's ring in this episode, a hint that he is connected to the Lazarus project. He has since incorporated the genetic manipulation technology into his new laser screwdriver.

The Doctor has previously been prematurely aged in The Leisure Hive (1980).[2]

This is the first episode in which it is explicitly established that the TARDIS' anachronistic nature goes largely unnoticed in part due to its "perception filter". This was previously hinted by Torchwood episode "Everything Changes", where it was explained that this property of the TARDIS had been welded to a pavement slab. The second use of the term was in "Human Nature" where the Doctor noted that his TARDIS could place one on his fob watch.

U.S. President Winters states that UNIT protocols for alien first contact were established in 1968; this was the year UNIT was introduced to the series in The Invasion (1968).

Winters, the President of the United States, refers to himself as "President-elect".

The Doctor makes reference to having to end the Time War. This is echoed in "The Satan Pit" when the Beast calls the Doctor the "killer of his own kind", suggesting explicitly the Doctor's involvement with the destruction of all the Time Lords in the last great Time War. This is also alluded to in "Journey's End" to a lesser extent, and The End of Time. In "The Day of the Doctor" it's later revealed that the Tenth Doctor had a hand in it as well as his past War Doctor incarnation and his future eleventh incarnation, but that things didn't end as he had previously believed.

The Master, as Saxon, offers Lucy Saxon a Jelly Baby whilst inside the Valiant. These were a favourite sweet of the Fourth Doctor and the Master offers them to his wife in a similar way.

"Vote Saxon" posters would also appear at various points throughout Series 3 and at least once in the Torchwood episode "Captain Jack Harkness".

Outside references[edit]

Writing in the episode's BBC Fact File, Peter Ware observes that the Master's introduction of the Jones family as having come "all the way from prison" is similar to the style used in the TV show This Is Your Life.[2]

Production and publicity[edit]

Vote Saxon poster as seen in the episode.

This episode, along with "Utopia" and "Last of the Time Lords", are treated in several sources as a three-part story, the first such story in the revived series of Doctor Who. However, Russell T Davies has said that he regards "Utopia" as a separate story, but notes that the determination is arbitrary.[5]

Some of the car action sequences in this episode were filmed by Freema Agyeman herself rather than a stunt double, and took place at Harbour View Road, Penarth.[6] David Tennant's makeup in which he is aged 100 years was inspired by the First Doctor, William Hartnell.[citation needed]

The episode was advertised on BBC television with a spoof party political broadcast, featuring testimonials from British celebrities Sharon Osbourne, McFly and Ann Widdecombe showing their support for Mr Saxon, a version of which is seen in the episode itself.[7] Also during the broadcast, drums can be heard. There is also a different trailer that showed still shots of the Doctor, Martha Jones and Captain Jack over the top of which Mr Saxon's speech, in which he says, "what this country really needs, right now, is a doctor", can be heard and at the end there is a small clip of him showing his trademark smile, who has intent to kill the Doctor public.[8] The celebrity appearances in the episode itself differ from those in the trailer, most noticeably that of Ann Widdecombe, who appears alone in the trailer but alongside Mr Saxon in the episode. The BBC had created two fictional websites in connection with these episodes, and / The latter site, at one time, did replicate the video and web pages seen by the characters in "The Sound of Drums".

Cast notes[edit]

Lachele Carl previously appeared as the American news anchor in "Aliens of London", "World War Three", and "The Christmas Invasion". The spin-off website "Who is Doctor Who?" states her name as "Mal Loup". This is mangled French for "Bad Wolf". This newscaster's name has subsequently been specified in the end credits as "Trinity Wells".

Zoe Thorne previously voiced the Gelth in "The Unquiet Dead".* Olivia Hill played a TV Reporter in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Invasion of the Bane" (2007). William Hughes, who plays the young Master, played the even younger Casanova in the eponymous BBC serial written by Russell T. Davies, in which David Tennant plays the adult Casanova.


The drumming motif used several times in the story bears similarities to the underbeat of the Doctor Who theme tune.[9] "Voodoo Child" by Rogue Traders is played diegetically within this episode. The song, from the album Here Come the Drums, has the phrases "the sound of drums" and "here come the drums" in its lyrics.


  1. ^ "Doctor Who UK airdate announced". News. Dreamwatch. 27 February 2007. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Doctor Who - Fact File - "The Sound of Drums"". Retrieved 2007-06-20. 
  3. ^ Doctor Who Magazine Issue #384, page 15
  4. ^ BBC Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide
  5. ^ Davies, Russell T (4 March 2009). "Production Notes". Doctor Who Magazine. No. 406. Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini Comics. p. 4. And I certainly feel the Series Three climax was two stories, no matter what the DWM season poll says. I'm sorry! I just do! I could rattle off the reasons, but we're into the mystical land of canon here, where the baseline of the argument simply comes down to "because I think so!" 
  6. ^ "Walesarts, Harbour View Road and Arcot Street, Penarth". BBC. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  7. ^ "Celebrity Trailer". Retrieved 2007-06-20. 
  8. ^ "Doctor Who official website". Archived from the original on 2 July 2007. 
  9. ^ Freema Agyeman, Trevor Laird, Gugu Mbatha-Raw. "The Sound of Drums commentary". BBC's Doctor Who microsite (Podcast). Retrieved 25 June 2007. 

External links[edit]