Utopia (Doctor Who)

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187a – "Utopia"
Doctor Who episode
Master Regenerates.jpg
The Master regenerates.
Cast
Others
Production
Writer Russell T Davies
Director Graeme Harper
Script editor Simon Winstone
Producer Phil Collinson
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Incidental music composer Murray Gold
Production code 3.11
Series Series 3
Length 1st of 3-part story, 45 minutes
Originally broadcast 16 June 2007
Chronology
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Blink" "The Sound of Drums"

"Utopia" is the eleventh episode of the third series of the revived British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was broadcast on BBC One on 16 June 2007.[1] It is the first of three episodes that form a linked narrative, followed by "The Sound of Drums" and "Last of the Time Lords". The episode serves to re-introduce the Doctor's long time nemesis, the Master.

In this episode, former companion Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) jumps on the TARDIS, taking the Doctor (David Tennant) and Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) to the planet of Malcassairo in the year 100 trillion, where a professor is working to send the last remnants of the human race to a place called "Utopia". The vicious Futurekind threaten to scuttle the rocket, but a greater threat hides in the shadows: the Doctor's greatest nemesis is about to rise again.

Plot[edit]

The TARDIS lands in Cardiff to refuel from the Cardiff Rift. The Doctor states that this will only take twenty seconds, noting that the Rift has been active recently. The Doctor sees Captain Jack Harkness racing towards the TARDIS and dematerialises. Jack grabs on to the outer shell, causing the TARDIS to fly to the end of the universe trying to shake him off. Upon arrival, a panicked Martha notes that Jack is dead. Several seconds later he revives and introduces himself to Martha. He tells them that he wanted to find the Doctor, so he returned to Earth using a vortex manipulator but was stranded in the 19th century. Jack decided to base himself at the Cardiff Rift and waited, knowing the Doctor would eventually land there to refuel. As they explore the planet they find an abandoned city and the Doctor notes that they are nearing the heat death of the universe. They encounter a lone human running for his life from the Futurekind, cannabalistic humanoids that are attempting to eat him. He is attempting to reach a nearby missile silo to get transport to "Utopia", the last hope of the human race.

The Doctor, Jack, and Martha help the man reach the silo. While there they meet the elderly Professor Yana and his insectoid assistant Chantho. The Professor asks the Doctor to look at their rocket engine to determine why it won't launch, and the Doctor helps him repair it. During the repairs, the Professor repeatedly hears a rhythmic drumbeat in his head that causes him to become distracted. He explains that he has heard the drums for as long as he can remember, but he does not know what they mean. When the rocket is ready to launch, the survivors all file inside and the Doctor uses his TARDIS to help power up the engines. One of the Futurekind reveals herself and destroys some control panels, causing an overload that shorts the system out. A man attempting to remove the engine clamps is killed, and Captain Jack is enlisted to enter the highly irradiated room to finish the job.

While Jack is inside working, the Doctor admits he abandoned him purposely on Satellite 5 (in The Parting of the Ways) because of Jack's immortality, which disturbed him. They discuss the Doctor's newest regeneration, and the words trigger Professor Yana. He begins to hear the drumbeat in his head louder and louder, and has to sit down to recover. Jack finishes his work and the rocket is ready to launch. The Professor reveals that it can only be triggered from the silo, meaning that he and Chantho were planning on staying behind. The launch sequence begins, and Martha goes to check on Professor Yana. She is terrified to see that he possesses a fob watch identical to the one the Doctor possessed in "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood". She unintentionally draws the Professor's attention to it, overriding its perception filter. She rushes to tell the Doctor about it as the Professor is suddenly overcome by voices coming from the watch.

The Doctor initiates the launch sequence of the rocket at the same time that the Professor opens the fob watch. A frantic Doctor runs back to the control room, but the Professor locks down the silo and opens the outer gates. The Futurekind swarm into the base and rush toward the Doctor, Jack, and Martha. Chantho confronts the Professor and asks what he is doing, and he replies by telling her that his name is The Master. He attacks Chantho with a live electric cable, but she manages to shoot him before she dies. An injured Master stumbles into the TARDIS. The Doctor reaches the control as the Master deadlocks the doors. Dying from Chantho's shot, the Master declares he will be young and strong like the Doctor and proceeds to regenerate. The newly regenerated Master taunts the Doctor over the intercom in a voice that Martha recognises. The Master begins to dematerialize the TARDIS, and the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to lock the TARDIS coordinates between there and the last place it visited. The episode ends on a cliffhanger as the TARDIS disappears, stranding the Doctor, Martha, and Jack with the Futurekind about to break the door down.

Continuity[edit]

"Utopia" explains the Face of Boe's cryptic message of "you are not alone" in the episode "Gridlock". It referred to the Master, another Time Lord. The concept of using a fob watch to disguise a Time Lord as a human was introduced in the two-parter "Human Nature" / "The Family of Blood" earlier this series, when the Doctor hides as a human, John Smith. It becomes crucial in the climax of this episode, used as a plot device to reveal the Master's identity,

Jack Harkness uses the Doctor's severed hand from "The Christmas Invasion" as a "Doctor detector". The hand is encased in a jar that bubbles when the Doctor is near. The hand will reappear in the episodes "The Sound of Drums", "The Last of the Time Lords", "The Doctor's Daughter", "The Stolen Earth", and "Journey's End".

This episode features the return of former companion Jack Harkness, who was left behind by the Doctor during "The Parting of the Ways" and the Master, who last appeared during the 1996 television movie and makes his first appearance in the revived series here. It also references the events of "The End of the World",[Note 1] "Boom Town",[Note 2] "The Parting of the Ways",[Note 3] "The Christmas Invasion"[Note 4] and Torchwood episode "End of Days".[Note 5] As well, it contains clips from "The Parting of the Ways", "The Christmas Invasion", "Human Nature" and "Gridlock" and audio clips of previous Masters when the Professor's watch is beckoning him to open it, including Anthony Ainley's laugh and a line Roger Delgado spoke in The Dæmons.[2][3]

Derek Jacobi plays the fifth version of the Master whom the Doctor has encountered on screen, and John Simm is the sixth.[2] At least one television pundit speculated whether "Mister Saxon" was an intentional anagram of "Master No. Six" or was perhaps "a big red herring".[4] However, when asked, Russell T Davies stated that it was not deliberate.[5][6] Jacobi also played the Master in the alternate Ninth Doctor story "Scream of the Shalka".

The episode marks the first time the Master has been shown undergoing regeneration; previous serials have shown two natural incarnations of the Master (the incarnation played by Roger Delgado opposite Jon Pertwee's Doctor, and the final incarnation first seen in The Deadly Assassin, and subsequently appearing in The Keeper of Traken). In The Keeper of Traken, as a way of extending his life beyond the end of his final natural incarnation, the Master appropriates someone else's body; he does this again in the TV movie. In the following episode, "The Sound of Drums", the Master states that the Time Lords resurrected him to serve as a soldier in the Time War, presumably giving him a new body with a new set of regenerations (which had previously been alluded to in The Five Doctors). This is the second episode to show a Time Lord other than the Doctor regenerating on screen (and the first of the revived series), the first being the regeneration of K'anpo in Planet of the Spiders; although Romana regenerated in the first episode of Destiny of the Daleks, this process was depicted off screen.

The Master continually hears the sound of drums throughout this episode; this continues through "The Sound of Drums", "Last of the Time Lords" and becomes a plot point in The End of Time.

Production[edit]

This episode was announced as the first of a three-part story in Totally Doctor Who, broadcast the day before. Prior to this, only the following two instalments had been linked. Later reference material, including Doctor Who Magazine's season poll, treated the three episodes as a single three-part story. Russell T Davies has said that he regards "Utopia" as a separate story, but notes that the determination is arbitrary.[7]

This is the first episode in the revived series to credit three principal cast members within the title sequence, with the addition of John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack Harkness.

Casting[edit]

This is Derek Jacobi's third involvement in Doctor Who. The first was in the September 2003 audio drama Deadline,[8] where he played a screenwriter who believes himself to be the Doctor. The second was several months later, in the webcast Scream of the Shalka, where he played an android version of the Master.[9] Other actors returning to the franchise in this episode are Neil Reidman had previously played Tom Braudy in the Eighth Doctor audio drama Memory Lane[10] and Robert Forknall, who plays Lord Byron in the Eighth Doctor audio drama The Company of Friends.

Chipo Chung, who played Chantho, would later go on to play the Fortuneteller in "Turn Left". Paul Marc Davies, who played the Futurekind chieftain, also returned to the Doctor Who universe, going on to play the role of The Trickster in The Sarah Jane Adventures stories Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane, The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith and The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith.

John Bell was a nine-year-old who won a Blue Peter competition to appear in this episode.[11]

Music[edit]

Music originally composed for Torchwood can be heard in the background of this episode: a variation of the Torchwood theme plays when Jack runs towards the TARDIS and a motif plays when Jack lies dead, having ridden on the TARDIS through the Vortex. The drumming motif is suggestive of the fifth and subsequent bars of the Doctor Who theme tune as composed by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire.[12]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

"Utopia" was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC One on 16 June 2007. Overnight rating showed that it was watched by 7.3 million viewers, which rose to 7.84 million when time-shifted viewers were taken into account.[2] This made it the fourth most-watched programme on BBC One for the week.[13] It received an Appreciation Index of 87.[2]

IGN's Travis Fickett gave the episode a rating of 8.4 out of 10, calling it "one hell of a way to kick off the finale episodes of the season", particularly praising how various elements planted in previous episodes came into importance. However, he was critical of the beginning of the episode, writing that Jack's entrance was "a bit silly" and "the remnants of civilization look like Mad Max rejects being chased by space vampires".[14] Richard Edwards of SFX gave "Utopia" four out of five stars, feeling that it was "minimally plotted" as it was part of a larger story but praising Jack's backstory and the return of the Master.[15] The Stage reviewer Mark Wright was mixed towards "Utopia", disliking the first 20 minutes on the planet but enjoying the introduction of Jacobi as Yana, particularly the reveal of his true nature. He wondered what casual fans would make of it.[16]

The episode has been noted by various reviewers and writers for its cliffhanger. It was listed among the best cliffhangers of the series by Charlie Jane Anders of io9,[17] Den of Geek's Jeff Szpirglas,[18] and was chosen by Mark Harrison as the best cliffhanger of the Tenth Doctor's era in another Den of Geek article.[19] It was also chosen among the five best of the revived series by Morgan Jeffery and Chris Allen of Digital Spy; Jeffery referred to it as a "stunning accumulator cliffhanger" while Allen called it a "superb cliffhanger" that "lifts 'Utopia' from a fairly average episode into something altogether different".[20] Stephen Brook of The Guardian called it "perhaps the best moment of the entire series" in his review of the third series.[21]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Yana recalls that he was found as a child "on the coast of the Silver Devastation", a place from where the Face of Boe was said to have come in the 2005 episode "The End of the World".
  2. ^ Martha inquires about the earthquake in Cardiff a couple of years ago, and the Doctor claims he had a bit of trouble with the Slitheen. This refers to the events of the 2005 episode "Boom Town". He also states that he was a different man back then; the episode took place during the Ninth Doctor's tenure.
  3. ^ The Doctor informs Jack he knew Rose had brought him back to life ever since he left Satellite 5 in "The Parting of the Ways". The Doctor was shown to be aware of this in the Children in Need special. Also referencing that episode, the Doctor speaks about Rose's actions as "the last act of the Time War". Also, Jack mentions using a Vortex Manipulator to travel back from the year 200,100 (as featured in "The Parting of the Ways"), arriving in 1869. This places his arrival in Cardiff within months prior to the events of series one episode "The Unquiet Dead".
  4. ^ Jack tells Martha and the Doctor that he learned of their arrival with a "Doctor Detector" indicating the severed hand. This was first seen in "The Christmas Invasion", when the hand was cut off by the Sycorax leader, and was a recurring background item on the Torchwood Three Hub set, its latest appearance being in "End of Days" when Jack sees it bubbling before hearing the TARDIS. This episode confirms that the hand is indeed the Doctor's.
  5. ^ Jack Harkness was last seen at the end of the Torchwood episode "End of Days", looking off-screen while the familiar sound of the TARDIS is heard in the background. While refuelling, the Doctor notes that the Rift has been active recently; this was due to Abaddon escaping through the Rift in the same episode.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Doctor Who UK airdate announced". News (Dreamwatch). 27 February 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Doctor Who - Fact File - "Utopia"". Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  3. ^ ""Utopia" Podcast". 2007-06-16. Retrieved 2007-07-09. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Of a Thursday". Digital Spy. 2007-04-01. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  5. ^ Radio Times 30 June–6 July 2007: Doctor Who Watch
  6. ^ Doctor Who Magazine issue 384: Return of the Master
  7. ^ Davies, Russell T (4 March 2009). "Production Notes". Doctor Who Magazine (Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini Comics) (406): p 4. "And I certainly feel the Series Three climax was two stories, no matter what the DWM season poll says. I'm sorry! I just do! I could rattle off the reasons, but we're into the mystical land of canon here, where the baseline of the argument simply comes down to "because I think so!"" 
  8. ^ "A New Doctor, A New Dimension?". Big Finish Productions. Archived from the original on 26 May 2005. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  9. ^ "Jacobi confirmed for Dr Who role". BBC News (BBC). 25 January 2007. 
  10. ^ "Doctor Who - Memory Lane". Big Finish. 
  11. ^ "Future Boy". News (BBC Doctor Who website). 7 June 2007. Archived from the original on 19 August 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  12. ^ Freema Agyeman, Trevor Laird, Gugu Mbatha-Raw. "The Sound of Drums commentary". BBC's Doctor Who microsite (Podcast). Retrieved 25 June 2007. 
  13. ^ "Weekly Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  14. ^ Fickett, Travis (25 September 2007). "Doctor Who: "Utopia" Review". IGN. Retrieved 23 March 2012. 
  15. ^ Edwards, Richard (16 June 2007). "Doctor Who 3.11 "Utopia"". SFX. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  16. ^ Wright, Mark (17 June 2007). "Doctor Who 3.11: Utopia". The Stage. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  17. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers of all time!". io9. Retrieved 23 March 2012. 
  18. ^ Szpirglas, Jeff (2 June 2011). "10 classic Doctor Who cliffhangers". Den of Geek. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  19. ^ Harrison, Mark (24 June 2010). "Doctor Who: 10 cliffhanger screamers". Den of Geek. Retrieved 23 March 2012. 
  20. ^ Jeffery, Morgan; Allen, Chris (3 June 2011). "'Doctor Who's best ever cliffhangers: Friday Fever". Digital Spy. Retrieved 23 March 2012. 
  21. ^ Brook, Stephen (2 July 2007). "Doctor Who: it's season finale time!". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 

External links[edit]

Reviews[edit]