Saturday, July 04, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 3x11: "Utopia"

Written by Russell T Davies
Directed by Graeme Harper

The Master (to The Doctor): “End of the universe! Have fun! Bye-bye.”

After a trip of the mundane and spooky last week, things in relation to the finale blow up big time as there are not one, but two people The Doctor finds himself reunited with and trust me for all those people (myself included) who are of the betting kind, raise your hand and say “D’oh” for not placing bets.

Keeping with the Torchwood timeline of the episode “End Of Days”, Jack ran out of his office during a meaningful exchange with Gwen and soon found a familiar police box and ran to it like a dog in heat. Hey it’s Jack and crude jokes can go hand in hand with this guy.

However from The Doctor and Martha’s perspective, they’ve just stopped in Cardiff to refuel and exit so when the TARDIS acts up yet again, they are too busy wondering about where the heck they’re going to land next rather than notice Captain Jack hanging on to the machine for dear life. Even for Jack that was a bit too over the top but hey, he isn’t the reserved kind.

Landing in the Year One Trillion however this episode’s title is a slight misnomer. When “Utopia” is your title, you hope to God, your location is idyllic so when we see a lad named Padro running for his life by a band of savages that look like cross behind Mad Max and Apocalypto, you soon realise that this isn’t the very place to be.

Of course then choosing to ignore someone who once proved themselves as a worthy ally is also a poor choice but The Doctor didn’t think that one through when he chose to scarper at the sight of Captain Jack.

Now that he and Martha are stuck on Malcassairo for the time being, finding an unconscious Jack and tending to him meant that introductions had to be made. On fine form Jack is his usually flirty self, instantly recognises The Doctor, which makes sense seeing as Russell T Davies has mentioned before that Jack is more than aware of Time Lords regenerating.

Then in true Jack style he take a shine to the lovely Martha and seeing as this girl’s taste in men is pretty healthy, she doesn’t exactly knock him back either. I wonder what Ianto would say? Well someone had to ask and it might as well be me.

With the first of many Rose mentions to come in this episode (again something that I hugely anticipated), Martha feels a bit put out as The Doctor reassures Jack that Miss Tyler is alive in a parallel world but spotting those savages known as Future kind gaining on Padro soon put those thoughts away.

You just know the next scenario now – there’s danger and The Doctor, Martha and Jack instantly run to it and manage to get Padro near to security where showing them your teeth gets you out of harms way in soon enough time. There are so many references in this episode to past events that I feel like my head is gonna blow from the amount of delight. Then again this show brings out all the geeky stuff and I love it for that.

If I say the main plot of this episode involving the last few humans on Malcassairo trying to get off into a rocket for their own utopia is a tad dull, I doubt there would be many viewers out there who would hold it against me because in all fairness it becomes extremely trivial soon enough when we meet our second character of the piece.

High within the safety of security there’s a lovely old man who calls himself The Professor and he’s played excellently by Sir Derek Jacobi. This noble man is working hard and studiously with his assistant Chantho on trying to get these poor people to safety, so when he hears there’s a man in his presence that’s a doctor on everything, naturally he decides to get some assistance.

Soon enough The Doctor, Martha and Captain Jack meet with The Professor and Chantho and in very little time, there’s a mixture of admiration and fun between him and The Doctor. Ten is very sympathetic to Yana’s plight and wants to genuinely help and with both Martha and Jack determined to also contribution, it seems that The Professor’s ploy of using a footprint could work.

In fact thanks to the very genius of The Doctor, it absolutely works and The Professor’s admiration for him seems to sky rocket in the process. It also helps that Martha speaks most high of the man she’s been travelling with for the past few months so with the very hope of the human race heading for their utopia, there’s only one more other oversight that needs dispatching of and that includes a chamber with stet radiation.

With other people trying to stop it and managing to die in the process, only one person can actually stand it. Yeah, of course it has to be Captain Jack and once again Martha’s reaction upon discovering his immortality isn’t the most needed but it’s the most realistic of the bunch. It’s interesting that with all the things she’s seen, there will always be other things she’ll be shocked over.

That’s the thing with Martha, love or loathe her if you were in her position; I bet you’d react to situations and certain revelations in just the same manner as her. For instance, The Doctor has had to be pestered in order to reveal stuff and even then, there’s been stuff he’s held back on.

He never told Martha that Rose was both blonde, on the list of the dead and trapped in a parallel world nor did he mention her consuming the time vortex or properly elaborate on the concept of regeneration. So naturally Martha is taken aback with a lot of this information but the funny thing is when she isn’t cheering a working girl on, her unrequited love for The Doctor is paralleled with the benevolent Chantho’s feelings for The Professor.

Martha raises the subject with the alien female and while Chantho seemed a little affronted when Martha questioned the way she tends to start and finish her conversations, she obviously empathised with the alien. Chantho’s a lovely guest character and more importantly pivotal to the last ten minutes of the episode too when her relationship with The Professor takes a less than pleasant turn.

As for The Doctor and Captain Jack issues, they get resolved fair enough. The Doctor admits that not only he knew about Jack’s immortality but chose to bail because of it. The Doctor doesn’t seem to trust Jack as much as his previous incarnation would’ve done and Jack’s resentment over this is fairly justified as well.

It’s great that the two of them were able to talk things out and even address their own feelings in regards to Rose, which Martha had to overhear but when it comes to threats, Jack seriously has nothing on The Professor.

Remember when I said he was a sweet benevolent man? Yeah well those guys tend to have dark sides and the first moments of when Yana’s were apparent where the headaches that sounded like drums kept a popping. Every time someone asked if he was alright, he got nasty over it, although tellingly when The Doctor asked, Yana was open into admitting he’s had them since birth.

The biggest clue however over Yana not being mortal where when the headaches kicked in more frequently during moments when The Doctor and Jack were catching up and Martha explained what the TARDIS was and what her and The Doctor really did when not trapped on Malcassairo.

All season long, we’ve had hint after hint in regards to the pros and cons of humanity as well as The Face Of Boe telling The Doctor point blank that he was not alone. This episode also dealt with humanity being under threat of being wiped out by savages and when Martha spotted a watch just like the one from the chameleon arch in “Human Nature” and “The Family Of Blood”, it didn’t take a genius to figure out who The Professor really was.

Sent to earth as a boy, wearing clothing from 1913 and suddenly getting very aggressive when his watch responded to both the TARDIS and The Doctor’s hand, a venomous Professor soon revealed himself to Chantho as The Master.

Now I bet there were more than 57 people positively punching the air when this particular revelation came because after getting a suitably lame ending in the 1996 Doctor Who movie, the very thorn in The Doctor’s backside was back and boy was The Master on pure nasty form.

Logically it makes perfect sense to bring The Master back now. Regardless of the hints all along of The Doctor not being the last of his kind, there’s also the fact that after the Daleks and Cybermen, The Master is the next big threat to The Doctor. In fact, he’s the mirror of The Doctor which adds to his appeal all the more.

Derek Jacobi went from timid, funny, sweet, stressed and just downright nasty within the space of an episode and The Master’s callous treatment and murder of poor Chantho only ensured that the trivial plot of utopia was taken even less seriously.

Of course The Doctor’s reaction to their being another Time Lord out there wasn’t so great. At first he dismissed Martha’s excellent deducing in regards to the watch and when he came around to the idea, he dismissed Jack’s idea of hoping Yana could be of actual help. For this one, he was right on the nose. If one other Time Lord had to survive that war, it could only be The Master.

And of course, The Master’s memory wipe and mortality wasn’t voluntary which added to his anger and murder of Chantho and even had him sending the Future kind after The Doctor, Martha and Jack too. Then again before she died, Chantho managed to shoot The Master and determined to get a hotter body, he quickly regenerated into the lovely looking John Simm.

Fresh from his stint on the excellent Life On Mars, Simm is on tremendous form as the newly regenerated Master not only taunts The Doctor but he makes off with the TARDIS, leaving The Doctor, Martha and Captain Jack stranded. He’s also smart not to tell The Doctor what he’s planning too. That has to be some kind of in-joke. Again I think I’ve gotten rampantly giddy.

As much as I loved the reintroduction of both the Daleks and the Cybermen, The Master’s just packed a bigger emotional punch. Not only did The Doctor have to deal with the fact he’s just discovered another Time Lord and one of his biggest enemies but he’s now stranded on a dangerous planet as his bitter nemesis took his time machine off him.

Also in “Utopia”

Although he’s only destined for three episodes, John Barrowman is now in the Opening Credits after David Tennant and Freema Agyeman. Fair play to him!

The Doctor (re their surroundings): “I don’t know.”
Martha: “Say that again, that’s rare.”

If Jack was rejected by the TARDIS in one sense, does that mean the force field surrounding the machine didn’t protect him when he hitched a ride?

The Doctor: “Oh don’t start.”
Captain Jack: “I was just saying hello.”
Martha: “I don’t mind.”

The Professor: “Good, good.”
The Doctor: “Good apparently.”

Padro was reunited with his mother and sister and Chantho is the last of her kind on Malcassairo. Thanks to The Master, that race is now extinct.

Captain Jack (re Chantho’s loss): “You’re supposed to say sorry.”
The Doctor: “Oh yes, sorry.”

The Doctor: “Professor, you’re a genius.”
The Professor: “Says the man who got it to work.”

Jack had a Vortex Manipulator which got him out of the Gamestation but left him in 1869. He also mentioned that he spied on a younger Rose. We even got a flashback of her from “The Parting Of The Ways”.

Martha (re Captain Jack): “Is he still alive?”
The Doctor: “Oh yeah.”

The Professor (re the watch): “Why would I? It’s broken.”
Martha: “How do you know it’s broken if you’ve never opened it?”

Things that ticked The Professor included the mentions of Daleks, the Time War, regenerations, Time Lords to name a few.

The Professor (to Chantho): “Put it this way, my dear as one door closes, another must open.”

Chantho: “Chan, then who are you, tho?”
The Master: “I am The Master.”

I have to point this out now so I don’t do it again, but it’s freaking great that two shows I’ve been obsessed with and am now reviewing side by side – Buffy and Doctor Who have/had main baddies called The Master.

The Master: “If The Doctor can be young and strong then so can I. The Master reborn.”

The Master: “Use my name.”
The Doctor: “Master, I’m sorry.”
The Master: “Tough.”

Chronology: Well it’s the year One Hundred Trillion on Malcassairo and its a few minutes after Torchwood’s “End Of Days”. I wonder if Gwen and company even bothered to look for Jack outside of Torchwood.

That was an absolute blinder. I was fully convinced even with the return of Captain Jack, “Utopia” would follow a tradition and be a bottle saving episode but no, it’s actually the start of a three part finale and there’s no way after such an excellent build up, should we be disappointed. The speculation of a regeneration scene and the much welcomed return of The Master both came to light as the episode successfully flitted between sheer funny and deathly intense at the same time. With the casting of John Simm as the deadly Time Lord and an entire planet for The Master to vent his maniacal schemes on, it’s gonna be very interesting to seen how The Doctor, Martha and Captain Jack will be able to stop the charismatic psychopath.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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