1. Martha. Iain credited me with calling Martha’s leaving, but I think that’s a bit of a stretch, since I didn’t guess either the circumstances or the reason, and I’m pretty sure I was wrong about what the follow-up will be, too. Despite that, it worked for me. I particularly liked (a) that it wasn’t due to any one factor — it wasn’t “because I spent four years training to be a doctor”, it wasn’t “because I have to look after my family”, it wasn’t “because I need to get out”, it was all of the above; and (b) that she has enough sense of her own value to be able to tell the Doctor all those reasons, to his face, in so many words. I originally thought that this turn of events would be followed by the Doctor realising what he’s lost, but now I’m not sure that’s the case; I think he does realise what he’s lost, but also on some level realises what he did to Martha and realises that there’s no way he can invite her back permanently. Essentially, Martha’s arc was that she fell down, emotionally, and spent the season getting back up again; in fact my one reservation is that in retrospect, it looks like they decided the Doctor was going to have this kind of rebound, and then came up with a companion who could plausibly leave without collapsing in on herself — who had enough to go back to. Which would explain why the aspects of her character that enabled that choice — her presence of mind, self-awareness, self-reliance — never seemed to be in the foreground; Martha as means to an end, rather than as a character in her own right. Still, I’m sure that phone will ring at some point and that we’ll see her again.
2. … and then there was the rest of the episode. Somewhat bizarrely, I find myself in the position of liking the finale more than almost anyone else I’ve spoken to or seen a writeup from. Martha got to be awesome (I don’t think the Doctor telling her what to do diminishes her awesomenosity; she still had to go out and do it), within the limitations of the budget the dystopian Earth was quite claustrophobic and dark (some good dialogue helped with that), the Toclaphane being the humans from “Utopia” was perfect, and I didn’t even mind Incredibly Aged Doctor. Floating Telepathic Jesus Doctor, on the other hand … well, even in concept it’s ridiculous, not least because two literal gods out of three season finales just looks lazy, and the execution only made things worse. And, of course, the total bollocks overdrive was only just getting going: suddenly, the paradox machine that could blow up the solar system if you tampered with it can be taken out by a machine gun. I could, perhaps, even forgive that reset if it wasn’t for the fact that everyone who remembers what happened has been shuffled off-screen (except the Doctor, of course, but I doubt he’s going to be dwelling on it much).
3. In spite of this, I find myself looking favourably on season three as a whole. For the first time, I’ve found myself watching out of interest and enjoyment, rather than out of some peverse desire to be able to call my Who-loving friends wrongheads from an informed position. “Smith and Jones” was a good start; the next four episodes (“The Shakespeare Code” through “Evolution of the Daleks”) were mediocre to dire; the next two (“The Lazarus Experiment” and “42”) were competent, entertaining runarounds and the run from “Human Nature” to the end of the season was, until the final fumble, either good or very good. Actually, I’m inclined to go so far as to say that “The Last of the Time Lords”, flawed as it is, was the best season finale Who has managed since it came back; if nothing else, it’s moved the Doctor on to a new and interesting place, since I can easily imagine a season 4 without a permanent companion — a few episodes with Martha, a few with Jack, perhaps someone else towards the end of the season, but essentially a season with the Doctor alone, perhaps undergoing some self-examination, perhaps trying to overcompensate for his alone-ness with some vast, hubristic scheme, such as bringing the time lords. And if nothing else, there’ll be another Steven Moffatt two-parter.