Utopia

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  • #28240
    Craig @craig
    Emperor

    This is a cracker. Captain Jack is back in the Doctor’s life, and the TARDIS is thrown to the end of the universe itself. The last remnants of humanity struggle to reach “Utopia”. Yana is important. I don’t just mean the man, I mean the letters of his name.

    #28257
    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    As we’re skipping a lot of episodes, I’ll briefly run through the episodes between Gridlock and Utopia. Gridlock (which I’ve stated I genuinely love) was a good high point, and then I think it struggled for a while.

    I thought Daleks in Manhatten/Evolution of the Daleks, The Lazarus Experiment and 42 were OK (there was no fear her here) with some strong ideas, but the execution and some variable performances here and there made them a bit unfulfilling. The main strands picked up continuing references to Mr. Saxon, reminders of the Time War and the Doctors status of last of his kind and, unfortunately, Marthas ongoing state of rejection.

    Then we had what I’m going to refer to as the triumvirate of awesomeness. Human Nature/Family of Blood is just a great execution of a previously good idea, with a host of stand-out performances. Blink is just clever TV full stop. More reminders and expansion of Time Lord lore.

    So to Utopia, and I think the strands really started to come together. Actually probably a bit sooner than we anticipated as the previous two series had a definite two part ender. This does blur the line.

    I like Jacks reintroduction here in the intro and his breakneck run towards the TARDIS, to hang on to the exterior as it enters the Time vortex. To the year one hundred trillion, which looks a bit gloomy.

    And it’s Derek Jacobi (always a pleasure, Sir) who dresses a little bit retro for a man of the future. I don’t know how many of you have watched Scream of the Shalka, but he played a character called the Master in it, you know. Here he’s showing his versatility. Obviously more compassionate, and a little bit bumbling as he realises someone has arrived on the planet.

    The big ‘ol reunion in Team Tardis is quite entertaining. Martha gets her “you leave us behind” revelation from Jack, gets to show a bit of tiredness at the Rose-love (unlike some earlier episodes, well done). And Jack and Martha get the wrong end of the stick about companions (or do they?).

    Martha: Is that what happens though, seriously? You just get bored of us one day and disappear.
    Jack: Not if you’re blonde.
    Martha: Oh she was blonde! Oh, what a surprise.

    Because in Who history, you’re statistically less likely to have fun in the TARDIS if you’re blonde. Jo? Romana II (at a real stretch). Maybe that was why Rose was special. He was waiting for the first full on treated blonde to come along? 😀

    The Futurekind look appropriately nasty with much licking of lips and sharpened teeth as they consider a human hunt. The resulting dash to safety is chase-y enough, with Tennant and Barrowman obviously having a competition to see who can get their coat flapping in the most heroic way.

    I love some aspects of the set design. The camp looks run down and dirty, the Professors lab a cornucopia of the odd. Jacobi is on fine form here. Yana is charming and a bit odd. The intro between Doctor and Professor is pretty fun. Love the line about “A hermit with friends?” “Hermits United, we meet every ten years. Swap stories about caves. It’s good fun – for a hermit”.

    So the good Professor has a dream. To convey his people to sanctuary – Utopia. As a former young reader of Doctor Who weekly, some aspects of this story are starting to resonate.

    I’ll just say that although I had some reservations about Jack in “full-on” mode, the exchange between him and the Doctor while he’s in the “plot device death room” is really nicely played. A mixture of humour, pathos and playfulness. Intercut with us realising there is something very wrong with Professor Yana.

    Ahhh – Martha and her analytical skills. She uses them to good effect here and guides the audience towards the revelation of the watch.

    Lovely build up for the reveal – the confused voices of Jacobi & Delgado, the Ainsley chuckle. Pandoras Box in watch form. I think Jacobi firmly earns his money here. His transformation from Yana to the Master, from warmth to cold, from bumbling to controlled is done with a face and a turn. And those eyes.

    As I’ve come to like Chanta quite a lot, her death is pretty powerful. As is Tennants performance as he begs entry to his time machine. It really is a shame to see Jacobi depart at this point as he regenerates into John Simm, but Simms immediate portrayal is OK – hasn’t the Doctor always been a bit wiggy after regeneration?

    It’s quite a ride this episode. Add it to the triumvirate at the top to form the quadrumvirate of awesomeness for the back end of series 3.

    #28258
    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    I missed this during the original broadcast so when I first saw it I already knew that Jacobi was the master. It’s still a great cliff-hanger and probably the best of the SOD U LOTT three parter. It’s a shame he only got to play the role in one episode and didn’t get play it properly until the last 10 minutes. I think he could have been up there with Roger Delgado and Peter Pratt as one of the best Masters. Captain Jack’s return makes me wonder why they didn’t have him as a companion longer.
    If your wondering what I thought of the episodes in between Gridlock and this, the Dalek two parter was pants, I must be the only person who like Lazarus Experiment, 42 was okay, Human Nature/Family of Blood is the only AG story I have in my top 20 (that’s very high praise indeed), Blink is very good the first time you see it but I don’t think it holds up on repeat viewings and is a little overrated.

    #28262
    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    I mentioned Doctor Who weekly and this story had a couple of resonances. I know I’ve been banging on about similarities since Smith and Jones, but I do find it quite interesting that Series 3 wore its influences on its sleeve probably more than any other series.

    I mentioned the call-outs to 2000AD, you have the Shakespeare-fest, you have a remix of a couple of classic Dalek story strands (human/dalek factors, etc) which lead on to summoning the ghost of Quatermass Experiments monster in the abbey for Lazarus Experiment. You have the deliberate real-time structure of Jack Bauers 24 remixed as 42. You have Paul Cornell revisiting his New Adventure novel, and Steve Moffat using elements of his Sally Sparrow short story “What I did on my Christmas Holidays by Sally Sparrow”

    With Utopia, there appears to be an echo of a Fourth Doctor comic strip from Doctor Who Weekly, which we know Russell liked. The writer was Steve Parkhouse and the art by Dave Gibbons.

    The End of the Line sees the Fourth Doctor materialise at some future point of Earth seeking a pleasant time. He lands in a subway system and narrowly avoids being splattered by a train before meeting his welcoming committee. Unfortunately they are mutated feral cannibals who inhabit this underground and they hunt him down. There is no respite overground as it’s a radioactive, polluted nightmare. The inevitable happens.

    Utopia - End of the Line

    Thankfully, he’s saved by Angel, and taken to the refuge of the last of the humans. He meets an old man who goes by the name of The Engineer, who has a dream to seek sanctuary, but is having a problem diverting one of the automated trains to a new track to lead them to salvation.

    Utopia - End of the Line

    Well, the Doctor is a dab hand at this sort of thing, and while under attack from the mutant cannibals, he manages to divert the system and send them on their way, at personal risk. Narrowly avoiding being eaten, he manages to make it back to the TARDIS.

    He can’t leave. He wants to know if they made it to their Utopia.

    Utopia - End of the Line

    I think Utopia really does have echoes of this, especially when you consider the eventual fate of those who “escape” in Utopia (to be revealed later). It was the first Doctor Who story I think with such a downbeat ending. Sometimes, the destination possibly isn’t worth it, strive as you might. It’s collected in this graphic novel collection.

    And before anybody asks – yes, I am bored by all the World-Cup coverage. 😀

    #28263
    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    @phaseshift I remember reading the Sally Sparrow short story in a Doctor Who annual (would have been around 2005 because it was for the first series). When I saw blink I immediately recalled the story. Do you ever get a sense of childlike glee when somebody makes a reference that only you understand, but it doesn’t matter that nobody else gets it because at least you do. That’s how I felt at that moment.

    End of the Line sounds like a good story, will give it a read sometime.

    I pay no attention ton the World Cup coverage whatsoever, I hate Football.

    #28264
    wolfweed @wolfweed

    Doesn’t seem like there’s a decent restaurant at the end of (life in) the universe…
    ‘Chan I am happy drinking my own internal milk tho.’

    Capt. Jack explains that he was left ‘…Ankle deep in Dalek dust…’

    The young boy Creet is there because he won a Blue Peter competition. He’s a good wee actor!

    I myself (as a human) am occassionally available in gas form but (so far) not yet by download.

    The indomitability of these refugees recalls that bit in ‘Ark in Space’…

    Big thumbs up for the Batman stylee corridor running…

    Interesting that the Dr says that if a Time Lord were to absorb the Time Vortex, they’d become a vengeful God.

    Utopia was written as a sort of continuity-fest or Fan-‘Porn’. RTD was concerned that this would kill the ratings but he needn’t have worried.
    It’s nice that we can consider it as a story in it’s own right. In that context it’s a real belter, with an interesting tale at it’s heart (even though it is largely a crib of ‘End of the Line’ as @phaseshift has said).

    #28265
    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    @thekrynoidman

    Yes I definitely get that feeling, and I think RTD (& probably SM) know that streak well. Largely, it doesn’t matter if you know the material or not to the story they tell, but it seems like a little bit of a reward.

    @wolfweed pointed out last week the mood patches were from another spin-off book called Only Human (for the ninth Doctor) and I’ll add that 42s sentient sun had a couple of antecedents in Who spin-off books (the Eighth Doctor novel Beltempest comes to mind).

    I just really find it interesting following those strands of where ideas come from. When I watch Series 3, it’s so full of them that I can’t help thinking that Russell thought he’d have a bit of fun now he had a successful product. In particular, I think he wanted to reference a lot of spin-off comics, novels, short stories and influences because they helped keep Doctor Who alive during the Gap. Don’t know for sure, but it’s a nice thought and I hope it’s true. I think knowing people love to spot references will mean sites like this spread the word and the original material may get a bit more interest.

    Just on your point on Jacobi though, I think you’ll see I fully agree. In fact I wrote a tribute to Roger Delgado last year in which I think if Jacobi had continued, he could have nailed the character for a new generation. I think he would have been epic against Capaldi.

    #28266
    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    @wolfweed

    Utopia was written as a sort of continuity-fest or Fan-’Porn’. RTD was concerned that this would kill the ratings but he needn’t have worried.

    That line about “nobody knows nothing” in TV and film comes to mind, doesn’t it? I think he played it very well – by this time the new show had its own mythology and it could afford to be self-referential and expand the horizon to include something like the Master.

    #28267
    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    @phaseshift That was a lovely tribute to the man, although to be honest he’s not quite my favourite Master, that would be Peter Pratt, although Delgado is a very, very, close second.

    #28268
    Arbutus @arbutus

    I really liked this episode, much more than the two that follow. The Doctor’s interactions with Captain Jack ring true and natural, particularly the scene in, as @phaseshift calls it, the “plot device death room” (I like that!). Really well played. I don’t think I ever liked Jack Harkness again as much as I liked him here.

    And I don’t really need to add to the chorus of love for Derek Jacobi in this. He gets every note perfectly. I love his enthusiastic greeting of the Doctor, his wistful, lonely professor, the ominous janglings of memory, and the ice that appears in his eyes at the end. I think that a big difference between him and Sims in their interpretation is that, while Sims is a Master for the Tenth Doctor (and they did bounce well off of one another, I think), Jacobi could have been a Master for any Doctor. He is the heart of the Master, the underlying Platonic ideal behind all of the different incarnations. The coldness at the Master’s heart.

    There is so much that is generally good about this episode, the visual depiction of this horrific “end of the line for humanity” reality. Dialogue, supporting characters, the slow march of inevitability as we watch Yana become the Master. A really enjoyable episode.

    #28273
    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    @thekrynoidman

    That was a lovely tribute to the man, although to be honest he’s not quite my favourite Master, that would be Peter Pratt, although Delgado is a very, very, close second.

    Many, thanks but – you’re dead to me……. 😉

    No, I love Delgado first, but I think Pratt did a fantastic voice performance behind that mask. I was at a convention in the late 80s in which Terrance Dicks talked about Deadly Assassin (because he worked so closely with Robert Holmes).

    He said the original pitch had the Doctor going back, facing a Time Lord conspiracy, and the Doctor not knowing which one of the normal looking Time Lords was the Master. So it became a “whodunnit/whoisit” affair. Philip Hinchcliffe was concerned it wasn’t “monstrous” enough, so the concept of the decaying Master was born, and the “whodunnit” became the story of his accomplice.

    Rumour, and Wikipedia, still records the fact that Pratt was recruited for his voice behind the mask, but Dicks said he was always on the cards because of his looks and physical performance. It would have been great to see the original play out, I think.

    #28275
    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Ah, the end of the universe. It looks remarkably like a Welsh quarry. 🙂 Poor old Martha, can’t even get away from Rose at the end of the bloody universe.

    Good, RTD’s read his SF. Without a sun they should all be frozen. Atmospheric shell with heat shield – or possibly central heating.

    The little lad playing Creet – John Bell, the Blue Peter contest winner – is still getting parts. He’s playing Bain son of Bard in the last two Hobbit films.

    The Futurekind, it’s rumoured, were recruited from such terrifyingly tough extras that no acting was required in the chase scenes. There was no way the regular cast wanted that bunch to actually catch them. 😉

    I have to say that I do find RTD’s perpetual pessimism bloody depressing when seen weekly. Spaced out amongst other writers’ episodes, it gets balanced by the ‘everybody lives!’ stories. In one continuous lump you realise just how many downbeat endings there are – and how many of the Doctor’s successes/errors get twisted by later stories into giant disasters.

    This story was the reason for my violent allergy to spoilers. I got spoiled (on a board with a no-spoilers policy) about Derek Jacobi being the Master and then changing into John Simm. It meant I spent Jacobi’s entire, excellent performance looking for the ‘tells’. Which are there; he’s that good. But it’s a different experience from letting an actor lead you neatly up the garden path.

    Seriously, that spacesuit should start getting its own fan club. Or at least a credit. How many episodes has it appeared in?

    I think Series 3 was the series where everyone knew what they were doing. The series was a success, David Tennant had been a hit. They knew what worked and they could do some of the older ‘gap’ stories; the ones that didn’t have the opportunity to be made into episodes.

    But why does Martha know that voice?

    #28278
    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    @bluesqueakpip

    The Futurekind, it’s rumoured, were recruited from such terrifyingly tough extras that no acting was required in the chase scenes. There was no way the regular cast wanted that bunch to actually catch them.

    Brilliant. That’ll get the running (in a heroic, coat flapping kind of way)!

    I have to say that I do find RTD’s perpetual pessimism bloody depressing when seen weekly.

    That actually surprises me. I think there is a streak of black humour (and high incidental death count) which runs through his episodes, but largely I’ve found a kind of humanitarian stream in the endings that balances them to this point. I’d say this (and the follow ups from memory) are his darker days.

    Most seem to have an optimistic tone at the end (although transfering one problem to the other seems to muddy the issue).

    #28285
    Anonymous @

    In the first episode of Torchwood, there was a shot of a hand in a jar. I suggested to my friends that it was The Doctor’s hand, recovered by TW and taken by Jack during the clean-up operation in the aftermath of ‘Doomsday’.

    Oh, how they laughed. Oh, how they cried (with laughter). Oh, how they ridiculed me (accompanied by much laughter). Yes, there was much laughter in those days, mostly at my expense 🙁

    So when it was revealed that it was The Doctor’s hand, did I become unbearably smug and arrogant? Oh, hell yeah! It was my first (and last) accurate ‘bonkers theory’.

    Dame Barrowman (as he’s now known as amongst my circle of friends) has his name on the opening credits. RTD has said, half joking (I think) that he wanted to re-do the opening titles to include a CG Jack clinging to the TARDIS.

    Loved the little scene of Chan Tho ‘swearing’. Poor Chan Tho 🙁

    That’s a very big rocket!

    As others have said, the scene between The Doctor and Jack was beautifully performed (agree with @arbutus , this was the last time I really liked Jack as well).

    What can be said about Derek Jacobi that hasn’t already been said? Perfect as both Yana and The Master. I think I’ve said in a previous post that as much as I like John Simm, I’d have preferred it if they kept DJ as The Master in the next two episodes and EoT.

    @bluesqueakpip But why does Martha know that voice?

    Martha’s obviously a fan of ‘Life on Mars’ 🙂

    Right, time to watch City of Death pt2.

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