Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Utopia (Doctor Who)

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Covid-19
Directed by  Graeme Harper
Script editor  Simon Winstone
Incidental music composer  Murray Gold
Written by  Russell T Davies
Produced by  Phil Collinson
Executive producer(s)  Russell T Davies Julie Gardner

"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. 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.

Contents

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

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, cannibalistic 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 a reaction in Professor Yana. He begins to hear the drumbeat in his head louder and louder, and he 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

"Utopia" explains the Face of Boe's cryptic message of "you are not alone" (y-a-n-a, the source of the Master's human name in this episode) 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,

This episode features the return of former companion Jack Harkness, who was left behind by the Doctor during "The Parting of the Ways" and ended up the main protagonist of the spin-off Torchwood before learning of the Doctor's presence in the series 1 finale "End of Days". 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 reappears in the episodes "The Sound of Drums", "The Last of the Time Lords", "The Doctor's Daughter", "The Stolen Earth", and "Journey's End".

The episode marks the return of the renegade Time lord known as the Master, who last appeared during the 1996 television movie. It also references the events of "The End of the World", "Boom Town", "The Parting of the Ways", "The Christmas Invasion" and Torchwood episode "End of Days". 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.

Derek Jacobi plays the fifth version of the Master whom the Doctor has encountered on screen, and John Simm is the sixth. At least one television pundit speculated whether "Mister Saxon" was an intentional anagram of "Master No. Six" or was perhaps "a big red herring". However, when asked, Russell T Davies stated that it was not deliberate. 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

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.

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

This is Derek Jacobi's third involvement in Doctor Who. The first was in the September 2003 audio drama Deadline, 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. 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 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 Davis, 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.

Music

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.

Broadcast and reception

"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. This made it the fourth most-watched programme on BBC One for the week. It received an Appreciation Index of 87.

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". 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. 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.

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, Den of Geek's Jeff Szpirglas, and was chosen by Mark Harrison as the best cliffhanger of the Tenth Doctor's era in another Den of Geek article. 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". Stephen Brook of The Guardian called it "perhaps the best moment of the entire series" in his review of the third series.

References

Utopia (Doctor Who) Wikipedia


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