Doctor Who: Utopia

Jack: "How long have you known?"
Doctor: "Ever since I ran away from you."

A lot of this episode was just terrific. I loved seeing the Doctor and Jack together again; they're both such wonderful characters, larger than life, and the dialogue just sparkled. Jack was overjoyed to be with his beloved Doctor again, while the Doctor felt so much discomfort around Jack that he almost couldn't look him in the eye. (And yet, the Doctor seemed to be threatened or put out by the way Jack constantly hit on everyone – male, female, alien. Why? Was he jealous?)

Apparently, Jack is now "wrong." He's the opposite of a time lord, a "fixed point in time and space," something that was never meant to happen. We also finally learned how Jack ended up on Earth in the past; he used his wristband to go back to the 21st to wait for the Doctor, overshot and arrived in 1869, and had to live through quite a few years waiting. Jack has adjusted to what he is; he admitted to the Doctor that he wasn't sure he even wanted to die. Hey, he's young, healthy and handsome, and he has a purpose in life. Could be worse.

It was also fun to see Martha identifying with Jack. She loves the Doctor and has been rejected by him, just like Jack, and now she can picture herself abandoned somewhere, like a stray dog. Martha was also freaked by the Doctor being able to grow another hand. (A nice way to remind the audience of regeneration, right before the Master did it.)

The Master part of the plot was actually pretty good, too. The professor was so likeable, so self-sacrificing, and he even had his own alien Martha to love him from afar. The watch was a great surprise, although the constant bits of Derek Jacobi reacting to all those details about the Doctor pretty much gave it away.

The end of the universe, a hundred trillion years in the future. Again, the big numbers just don't work for me. At least this time the Doctor mentioned humans evolving into clouds of gas and into downloads before reverting back to their traditional form, but still. Plus, there were cannibals. That never works unless it's done really well, and this was not done well. (I mean, come on. They check teeth all the time and just didn't notice the undercover cannibal, even though he was compelled to snarl every few minutes?) The ship on its way to Utopia felt like they would arrive to find the exact opposite. And how could any life actually still exist if it was the end of the universe?

The worst futuristic booboo was the English captions on the computer screens, and YANA as "You are not alone." A hundred trillion years from now, I can guarantee no one will be speaking colloquial English. Couldn't explain this away as a TARDIS translation. Lazy writing, people.

Bits and pieces:

-- John Barrowman got a cast credit after David Tennant and Freema Agyeman.

-- The TARDIS flew to the end of the universe to get rid of Jack. Nice explanation. Can you tell me how the hand made it all the way through the vortex with Jack without the glass getting broken?

-- Chan. Chantho's makeup/prosthetic was much cooler than that terrible Dalek hybrid, even though there was still a dangling tentacle theme. Adding the beginning and ending of her name around everything she said was a cute idea, but ultimately really annoying. Tho.

-- Jack told the Doctor that he stopped by during the nineties now and then to watch Rose growing up. That was sweet.

-- The Professor was a sweetheart, while the Master was nothing like him. That made me wonder about the Doctor and John Smith.

-- Jack died twice in this episode. The vortex sucked the life out of him, and later, he was electrocuted. And yet, the heat and stet radiation didn't kill him; he stayed conscious and even more oddly, didn't evaporate. Consistency, people. Make your rules and stick to them. Fans can be very unforgiving.

Paul Kelly says...

It was nice to see Brother Cadfael in this week's episode. I'm a big fan of Derek Jacobi, so I was always going to enjoy this story. His character, Professor Yana started out a likeable, albeit bumbling, old man, who seemed more than happy to forfeit his own life for the benefit of the refugees. So it came as a bit of a shock when he turned out to be The Master. I have to say, I by far preferred Jacobi's interpretation to John Simm's. I was pretty cheesed-off when he regenerated, actually.

I love that Jack was only conscious for five seconds before trying to pull Martha. That must be a new record. Ten minutes later, he was eyeing up some guy in the refugee camp, and two minutes after that, he was putting the moves on Chantho. (That's man, woman and alien, all in twenty minutes.) But how on earth did Jack manage to hang onto the side of the TARDIS? Didn't Sally Sparrow try something similar in "Blink", only to have the TARDIS disappear on her?

And finally, we got our Face of Boe pay-off -- Yana was an acronym for “you are not alone”. There was a nice “Human Nature”/”Family of Blood” tie in too, with the re-emergence of the Time Lord pocket watch (complete with Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley voice-over). This wasn't Jacobi's first foray into the Whoniverse, either -- he also played the Master in 2003's flash-animation adventure "Scream of the Shalka". So there was continuity galore this week.

What would have happened had the Doctor listened to his instincts in the first place and left immediately? Would The Master have ever opened the watch? Or was it just a matter of time? (feeble pun unintended).

Quotes:

Doctor: "Must have been clinging to the outside of the TARDIS, all the way through the vortex. Well, that's very him."

Jack: "Doctor."
Doctor: "Captain."
Jack: "Good to see you."
Doctor: "And you. Same as ever. Although, have you had work done?"
Jack: "You can talk."

Jack: "So there I was, stranded in the year 200100, ankle-deep in Dalek dust, and he goes off without me. But I had this. I used to be a time agent. It's called a vortex manipulator. He's not the only one who can time travel."
Doctor: "Oh, excuse me. That is not time travel. It's like, I've got a sports car, you've got a space hopper."
Martha: "Oh ho ho, boys and their toys!"

Martha: "Is that what happens, though, seriously? Do you just get bored with us one day and disappear?"
Jack: "Not if you're blonde."

Doctor: "Stop it."
Jack: "Can't I say hello to anyone?"
Chantho: "Chan, I do not protest, tho."
Jack: "Maybe later, Blue."

Prof: "Might I ask, what species are you?"
Doctor: "Time Lord. Last of. Heard of them? Legend or anything? Not even a myth? Blimey. End of the universe is a bit humbling."

Prof: "Every human knows of Utopia. Where have you been?"
Doctor: "Bit of a hermit."
Prof: "A hermit with friends?"
Doctor: "Hermits United. We meet up every ten years, swap stories about caves. It's good fun."

Jack: "Was someone kissing me?"

Doctor: "When did you realize?"
Jack: "Earth. 1892. Got in a fight on Ellis Island, a man shot me through the heart. And then I woke up. Thought it was kind of strange. But then it never stopped. Fell off a cliff, trampled by horses, World War I, World War II, poison, starvation, a stray javelin..."
Doctor: "Ooh."

Doctor: "You might be out there somewhere."
Jack: "I could go meet myself."
Doctor: "Well, it's the only man you're ever gonna be happy with."
Jack: "This new regeneration, it's kinda cheeky."
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

9 comments:

shawnlunn2002 said...

Because it can never be said enough, I just adore the Master as a villain and this episode and the next two are favourites for me.

Why does he work - Good actors, fantastic stories (The Deadly Assassin is a classic) and oh, he's the Doctor's shadow self. Like Buffy/Faith in a way.

Both Derek Jacbi and John Simm (who I adored on Life On Mars) were great choices for the role of the Master.

I loved the build and transformation from kindly Yana to cold hearted Master. Everything worked beautifully in that regard.

Martha and Jack should bond. The Doctor needs to treat the both of them a lot better. Love the Doctor/Jack scene where the latter revealed more about being unkillable.

Luscious score music too and having the fob watch trick again still wowed me. Pure love for this episode.

Mark Greig said...

After a Torchwood induced hiatus Captain Jack is finally back (Yay!). Not only that but so is The Master (cue maniacal laughter). After two tiresome finales of Daleks and Cybermen it’s refreshing to see the return of the Doctor’s own personal Moriarty. This was the moment I was waiting for since the show came back and I have to say it didn’t disappoint. Brilliant performances from Jacobi and Simm.

Despite the old favourites making a comeback for the most part this was a rather average episode and didn’t really get going until Yana took out that watch and everything went into overdrive. The Futurekind were a lame almost embarrassing bunch of Mad Max wannabes. Even 100 trillion years in the future bad guys still revert back into the same old clich├ęs.

BTW, thanks for following me on Twitter, Billie.

Billie Doux said...

Shawn and Mark: I hope you two aren't going to hate me, because I didn't care much for the next two installments of this three-parter. Fair warning. :) Feel free to post extensive comments on why you disagree, if you do.

Mark, you're very welcome, and thanks so much for following me. I'm actually new to Twitter; Anthony got us started and has been handling it until now. But I've been having a blast playing with it this weekend. I even managed to put up a unique background.

Mark Greig said...

I’ve had mixed feelings with this three-parter since it first aired. I love the Master and was glad to see him back but ‘Utopia’ is average with a magnificent third act. ‘Sound of Drums’ is brilliant but let down by too much inappropriate comedy. And as for ‘Last of the Time Lords’ I think I’ll save my negatives for when your review is up. I’ve got a load of problems with that one.

shawnlunn2002 said...

Billie, I'm following you on Twitter as well. It does get good after a while (Twitter that is).

As for your not liking the next 2 episodes, oh well. I'll be commenting though even if I disagree, I have a feeling there might be a few very good reasons why they don't float your boat.

Do you like the Master as a villain though? Old series wise, I recently saw The Deadly Assassin and it's excellent if you ever want to check an old Who storyline.

Billie Doux said...

I've seen so little of the original Who that I don't have an opinion about the Master. I get the feeling he could be a very cool villain. (I saw three Tom Baker adventures and a smattering of the other Doctors. Definitely liked Tom Baker the best.)

Ben said...

I love crossovers and I had been waiting for this episode for agesss as I knew Jack would be back. Everything involving Jack was brilliant; I especially love his and the Doctor's scene. However, a bit of an inconsistancy from Torchwood. Did he hear the TARDIS materalize then run out to it via an exit we haven't seen (and won't now)?
Then there is the Master. Wow!! While this episode isn't that interesting otherwise, everything to do with him is superb. John Simm I rate very highly as an actor, especially after the brilliant Life On Mars, and Derek Jacobi was eceedingly good also. Best cliffhanger ever. Not that hard to give a decent pay off too. Pity they kind of wrecked it in the next ep. However, something has just occured to me. Where was the Master's TARDIS? We have to assume he fled to the end of the universe in something. Why did he not go back for it later? Unless it died, or he stole a Dalek ship that also died.

Michael Colvin said...

I haven't seen any of the Original Who, so the concept of The Master to me was brilliant. Just brilliant.

This felt like a grand episode. The last 15 minutes were simply wonderful. Excited to see parts II and III.

Kenneth Serenyi said...

Martha is supposed to be "almost a Doctor", right? Yet she seems totally oblivious to the Professor when he was obviously in a lot of pain on several occasions. When Martha finally does notice, she seems to have no idea what to do. Major fail.