The Doctor: End of the universe and here you are. Indomitable, that’s the word! Indomitable! Ha.
Production Code: 3.11.
Doctor Who Season: S29 (Ep11).
Story Number: 187a.
Please watch the episode before reading this review – as the plot is discussed…
This episode Utopia is an intricate crafted piece, a pivotal cog in the sprawling machinery of this new Doctor Who and its satellite shows Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s not just finely tuned clockwork, it has a lot of heart too though, a hidden essence, and there’s a real emotional shock that’s conveyed in its third and final act.
It has a lot to do, but does it apparently effortlessly. The first fifteen minutes manage the feat of scooping Captain Jack back into Doctor Who, in a way that makes sense for viewers that have seen neither Torchwood nor any previous season of Doctor Who.
If you’ve been watching Doctor Who though, this is the 2007 season and the last time we saw Jack was in the season broadcast in 2005. The joining narrative for him – from The Parting of the Ways to this episode – was Torchwood Season 1, which was broadcast October 2006 to New Year’s Day of 2007. (This ep actually fills in the plot-gap between that 2005 Cap’n Jack episode and the first episode of Torchwood.)
Talking seasons of Doctor Who – we knew there was a Mr Saxon who was going to play a big role in the finale thanks to the mid-season trailer and various previews from DWM and the Radio Times. If you were a Doctor Who fan then it seemed pretty clear (I seemed to grasp this through gradual osmosis more that anything else) that Saxon was the Master.
In that sense, that element – Mr Saxon – of the end of the season was as much of a pleasant non-surprise as the Cybermen of 2006’s finale or the Dalek fleet of 2005. It was a clever plan of RTD’s: to build each of the first 3 seasons of Nu-Who around a returning Classic “Big Bad”. This episode Utopia though: before watching it just seemed it would an interim one-ep story before the Master-starring finale.
The planet that Jack has propelled them to, is a chilling Hard Science Fiction creation – the year 100 Trillion. This isn’t just night – all the stars of all the galaxies have faded away. The end of the universe.
It’s also a tribute to Classic Doctor Who in oh-so many ways.
The quarry-like planet, like the planet of Survival it’s made jazzier with some simple-for-the-times FX, plus the animalistic Futurekind: very Season 26.
(What happened to this “Classic Doctor Who planet”? Why did it all end? “Time. Just time”.)
The “indomitable” humans, in what seems a nod to a similar speech from The Ark in Space.
Professor Yana, dressed like the Hartnell incarnation of the Doctor. I had thought a twist for this story, (before broadcast) could be “the two Doctors” – except the current Doctor and a future Doctor (this was before The Next Doctor of course).
Though a Time Lord can recognise another Time Lord so it seems Yana is just a kindly human echo of the Doctor. We grow fond of this new friend for the Doctor. Jacobi plays him wonderfully and in a Doctorish way but with a gentleness that’s endearing, and he even has his own “companion” Chantho.
After an illuminating scene between the Doctor and Jack, which explains why the Doctor is wary of him, there’s the final 10 minutes, the third and final act.
So far it’s been merely an atmospheric and intriguing 35 minutes, but everything so far allows for the exhilarating final scenes. Actually, other eps of the season-so-far have been building to these moments too: Gridlock with the Face of Boe’s mysterious prophecy; Human Nature with its fobwatch.
The fobwatch. It’s goosebumps-time as the smaller cogs slot into place of this finely tuned story-machine. If you’re a long-time fan it’s not just the previous two acts or those previous two episodes, but the whole gravity of a dozen seasons of Classic Doctor Who. It’s the Doctor’s number-one foe, and he’s back.
Doctor Who director-legend Graeme Harper has these 10 minutes – a symphony of images and sound – perfectly orchestrated, (plus Murray Gold unfolds a new variant of “All the Strange Strange Creatures” which is just fantastic).
The countdown to the Utopia rocket. Martha’s panic. The Doctor’s fear. The running down corridors. Boe’s message.
Y… A… N… A.
“Did you never think, in all those years standing beside me, to ask about that watch? Never? Did you never think, not ever, that you could set me free?”
That Yana was so nice makes for a contrast to – with more acting brilliance from Jacobi – the glowingly evil reveal of…
“I… am… the Master”. The words dripping out like venom.
So much happens in this episode, and so much in the final 10 minutes. We say goodbye to Master No. Five, and Master No. Six takes control of the TARDIS.
Like Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, there’s still a surprise to be had beyond the Radio Times-trailed finale Big Bad – yes I didn’t expect Yana to be the Master. One more astonishing surprise is this “to be continued”: it’s Nu-Who’s first three-parter. For this viewer the unknown elements of this episode really made it a superlative Doctor Who episode, real event television. The best Nu-Who episode.
Like the Daleks and Cybermen, another of the show’s icons returned in spectacular style.
It’s as if the extra Doctor-Hand (another link to another Nu-Who story, this ep is full of ’em) gives the Classic Master some of the vitality of Nu-Who as he regenerates. The new model is young and vigorous like the Tenth Doctor.
If this “dead” planet is effectively Classic Doctor Who, then this is the Master making the transition to the new – reborn – show!
Rating for this episode of the three-parter: 5/5