Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords
|Production Code||Series Three Episode Eleven|
|Dates||June 16 2007|
With David Tennant,
Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman
Written by Russell T Davies Directed by Graeme Harper
Executive Producers: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner.
|Synopsis: Captain Jack Harkness reunites with the Doctor and the TARDIS is thrown out of control to the end of the universe. There they meet Professor Yana, who is working on a means to save the remnants of humanity while a race known as the "Futurekind" attempt to thwart his plans.|
Oh she's blonde! What a surprise! by Steve Cassidy 25/6/07
There are two reasons why Utopia works extremely well..
One is John Barrowman. The other is Derek Jacobi..
I'll say that again DEREK JACOBI!!
As you have probably noticed in my reviews, I have written substantially about RTD stuntcasting. There have been many a decision in NuWho that has had one eye on the Radio Times covers. A current "name" will be interviewed more in TV Quick rather then an RSC thesp, and someone who has done their time on soaps (Tracy Ann Oberman, Michelle Collins) brings in more viewers then an unknown. But we now have the most talented lauded actor of his generation appear in our little programme. A man with more laurels to his name then I've had hot dinners. A man responsible for singlehandedly wearing out my VHS of 'I, Claudius' . Without doubt the best actor ever having appeared in Who. Take a bow Sir Derek.
But he's always been a fan of the show and has wanted to appear in it for years. But to get him to sign on the dotted line there has to be a pretty special role for him to play. If you are going to bring back the Doctors oldest and greatest enemy then you need someone special to play him. I don't think it is a spoiler in this review to reveal it is 'The Master'. And as with all good comebacks the episode revolves around him and his return. The fob watch ploy developed in Human Nature is brought out here. Somehow, the Master has disguised himself as human and has his real identity kept hidden in this watch. The arrival of the Doctor and the TARDIS (which strangely enough arrives here by accident in a very silly scene involving John Barrowman) starts to trigger a recursion in Proffessor Yana played by Sir Derek. This is where he proves his acting metal as you can see his struggle behind his watering eyes as he starts to remember his past. The snippets of Anthony Ainley's Master and the classic Delgado "YOU WILL OBEY ME!" echoing around his head would be fanwank in any other adventure. But here, combined with Murray Gold's stirring music, it is really exciting stuff and gives series 3 one of its few unforgettable classic moments.
Take away Derek Jacobi (and possibly the return of Captain Jack) and you have an average adventure that is somewhat remeniscent of Blake's 7. The planet at the end of the universe is pretty trite stuff but there is good world building here. The surviving humans are being harried day and night (but mainly at night as it's more spooky) by the 'futurekind'. A kind of feral race of savages who hunt down any human found in their territory. The costumes, make-up and false fangs of the 'futurekind' create the kind of darkness that has been missing from NuWho in many of the adventures. Old lag director Graham Harper gives them as much menace as possible. In fact, Harper gives this adventure real oomph. Barely a scene is wasted and there is real momentum in the story (theres a lovely shot of Tennant and Barrowman just pounding up the corridor). It's an adventure pure and simple; a character piece constructed to introduce an old enemy with a bang.
Talking of bangs, Captain Jack Harkness returns. Easily one of my favourite companions, he was sorely needed in series two to break up the Doc 10/Rose Tyler "I wub you" dynamic. His air of decadence and anti-romance would have been a tonic the previous year. But, no, he's been down in Cardiff with the Torchwood crew - and, according to this adventure, waiting 140 years for the Doctor to appear. No wonder he ran so hard to catch up with the TARDIS. There was always going to be a lot of fun to be had with him catching up with the Doctor who abandoned him in The Parting of the Ways and the script doesn't disapoint. Barrowman playing a man betrayed and coping with the fact that he cannot die is beautifully done. Barrowman has learned how to underplay and the looks he gives the Doctor as he is forcing the circuits in the reactor room speak more then any words. Tennant and Barroman have a terrific chemistry together. And Captain Jack is also back to his old self, flirting with both sexes and giving the adventure a joie de voie that he seems to have lost in Torchwood. He fits so well into Who.
Tennant is good, not quite holding his own with Jacobi (but who could?) but still doing good work. I rather like Martha Jones. Here she does well. Her medical background is used but the poor thing is the recipient of more "Rose nostalgia". They are handicapping the Martha Jones character just as much at the end of the season as they did at the beginning. In fact, if there is a flaw with Utopia it is that it has a lot of continuity. Apart from the obvious one - bringing back an old nemesis - there were lots of nods to the distant and not so distant past. My heart sank as I heard the comment at the beginning about the Slitheen. But one of the things about this adventure is that it keeps on track, it doesn't come to a grinding halt to get a jokes about "Eastenders" out. Russell restrains himself and for once it really works.
But what this adventure will be remembered for is the return of the Master and for the few minutes he is on screen and in the guise of Derek Jacobi you truly believed he has returned. Jacobi has the stature and gravitas to pull off the Master. When he hisses his lines and turns on his assistant you believe his menace. The death of his insectoid assistant Chantho at his hands is one of the most memorable shots of the season. Jacobi, for the little time we see of him in the role, makes a great Master. And then he regenerates...
We begin the new series' first three parter here and it is a cracker. A rollrecoaster ride that hides surprise after after surprise and this is an adventure that has surprising rewatchability.
Easily one of the highlights of season 3.
A Review by Mike Packham 30/10/07
I found this story excellent in many ways. I wasn't very keen on the Tennant incarnation of the Time Lord throughout his first season, he seemed a little lightweight and far too geeky for my tastes. Although - horror of horrors and sacred though she is - I have never been a Rose Tyler fan or a Billie Piper fan, to be honest, so her going was a good thing for me. The series in my mind could finally move forward and establish itself away from the celebrity casting and it could truly be tested on its merits for storytelling and characterisation.
I digress, however, so back to Utopia. Brilliant. Captain Jack is much better this time round, more serious and the undoubted Captain Scarlet of the Whoniverse: cracking jokes, good looking, flirty... I loved his attitude this time round. Obviously, he has been lightened slightly from his Torchwood incarnation, but that is to be expected for the Saturday teatime audience. He slots in better with David Tennant's Doctor; the two are on the surface a similar age and the actors looked to have a much better time together than say the Eccleston/Barrowman combination. Still, I suppose this is due to Eccleston's more serious acting nature and methody ways. We also have Martha Jones, who is also very good in this and not as sidelined as you might expect with the now potent Tennant/Barrowman combo.
I suppose the futurekind were the generic baddies in this story but I was a little underwhelmed by them. I know the story needed something to add urgency to it and force many of the issues that would lead to the story's great revelation, but weird-looking humans with vampire-like teeth and mad eyes really don't seem like a super evolution of the human being millions of years into the future to me.
So we come to the human race, ready to shoot off to Utopia with Prof Yana leading the way with his undoubted genius. I loved Derek Jacobi in this and what a great Doctor he would have been in the Hartnell mould eh? (Or should that be hmmm!) He was strutting about like the dithering old professor he had become with age, but he still had the weight and seriousness an actor like Jacobi brings effortlessly to all his roles. I know the intention of the story was for Yana's relationship with his companion to echo the Doctor's with Martha and even Rose. It's quite sweet in the way that the insect lady loves her man, and there you can see the hint of darkness in Yana as he is quite dismissive of his assistant and treats her a tad like a doormat and a means to an end, as perhaps the Doctor does with all his companions of the past.
Still, the story rolls on and Tennant really continues to impress with his darker and more serious Doctor. Who is a million miles from the foolish, boyish joker of his first season, a character development that has been going on throughout this season with the loss of the beloved Rose (yuk). Still, his loss is our gain as we get some very intense stuff from Tennant here, especially in his discourse with Captain Jack and Martha, as he screams at her after the revelation about Yana's watch. He also has a gentleness with Jack, although trying to shake him off at the start of the story he comes to terms with him and his immortality and they become firm friends once more.
Just to wander from the point for a moment, I thought all the revelations surrounding Captain Jack were perfect and well built up through time by Russell Davies. He really has created a great arc of a character there, I loved the neatness of the tying of all those lose ends at the end of this series in relation to Jack and who he is. Great.
It is also well revealed that the Face of Bo's warning in the earlier story comes as a revelation of truth and also lets the viewer know how he knew that the Doctor was in fact not alone.
So we come to the end of Utopia and the human survivors are freed into space with the help of the Doctor and the great knowledge of Yana, but the greatest shock is to come. To be honest, I didn't realise that Yana was in fact the Master until I saw the watch and it was a complete surprise to me when finally Yana opened the watch and released his true self. The Master had returned and had had the same great idea the Doctor had had in < ahref=humannature.htm>Human Nature, but for different reasons: his own self-preservation, which has always been the Master's raison d'etre. The change in Jacobi from the kindly and quiet Yana into the Master is a joy to behold; what a transference of thought patterns that you can almost see behind the eyes of the actor. Of course, you would expect no less from a master actor (no pun intended) like Jacobi. He turns into the Master and we finally understand the Doctor's slight worried look when he spoke to Yana earlier about the sound of drums and the Doctor's panic and heat at Martha when she reveals the watch's existence to him.
The Master then disposes of his insectoid love in seconds, without a thought for all the years they have shared (although I do think that Yana himself might liked to be rid of the insect a little himself in his own life, so to speak, so cold and fleeting he was with her and disgusted at her own juice-drinking revelation earlier on in the episode). The insect is not quite dead though and manages to get a blast into the Master before he heads into the Doctor's TARDIS. The Doctor manages to get in and gets a quick glimpse of the evil that is sliding into his beloved home. He bangs on the door and fuses the TARDIS circuits somehow with the sonic screwdriver. But before that the Master does the unthinkable: he regenerates into a wonderfully manic John Simm. This is great stuff and perfectly done by the "Life on Mars" actor, he has just the right amount of perfect relish and insane genius we have come to expect from the Master. "Say my name" is one of the great lines of this episode as the Doctor shudders the words out of himself. Great acting all round and a brilliant ending as the TARDIS fades leaving our Doctor and his friends in Utopia. Lucky Captain Jack was a time agent eh? Still, no spoilers for the next story.
I loved this story, it unfolded perfectly and was a taste of what was to come in the season finale episodes. Jacobi was great, a superb monster and a superb goodie all wrapped into one. Martha didn't have much to do, but was fine in the context of the story and she was of course given the key to the whole Master/Yana connection with the finding of the professor's watch. Captain Jack was great, all desperate for answers at the start and all good companion again by the finish (more revelations to come, Captain). The futurekind were a weak but necessary threat to push the urgency of the story and of course to play second fiddle to the Master's triumphant return. Finally, it's hat off to Tennant and humble pie to be eaten. I didn't like him in his first year as the Doctor, but now he has come on in leaps and bounds and given us a multi-layered and much darker Doctor than his first season would have suggested. I can't wait for season four to see if his character retains this dark edge that has given him such a backbone of strength - something he sorely missed in his first year.