Sunday, June 17, 2007

Utopia (Spoilers)

Some may have expected Utopia to be a fairly lightweight episode, particularly given that it would be bringing Captain Jack Harkness, the indestructible libidinous time traveller back on board the Tardis ready to go into the two part finale. No. The best kept secret this year is that the finale is not two parts, but three.

Stopping off to refuel the Tardis on Cardiff's rift the Doctor is horrified to see his old friend Jack Harkness running towards the Tardis (and away from Torchwood) and throws the dematerialisation lever. Never one to take no for an answer Jack clings to the Tardis as it plummets through the vortex riding the Doctor's type 40 right to the end of the universe and a barren, post apocalyptic world where humans live in a refugee camp and are tormented and hunted by savage, tattooed feral people called the Futurekind.

The humans in the base are waiting to board an enormous rocket intended to take them to 'Utopia', a legendary haven for the human race at the end of time. The only slight problem is that the rocket won't work and the smartest man around, Professor Yana, is having trouble admitting this to his expectant charges.

Good thing the Tardis turned up. Though he isn't too familiar with the technology the Doctor's happy to pitch in and help and in no time the rocket is ready to go.

It's at this point that Martha accidentally brings something very significant to the Professor's attention. A silver fob watch with strange markings that means nothing to Yana but which Martha recognises as identical to the device the Doctor used to rewrite his Time Lord DNA and make him human in Human Nature.

If we're honest the Futurekind, the rocket and Utopia are all irrelevant. Just a backdrop to bring the Doctor and Jack back together and to finally reveal just what the Face of Boe meant by You Are Not Alone (Yana). It's possible that Utopia may yet play a part in the story but the base under siege elements and the last exodus of humanity into space angle have all been used before and are used here for that reason. They are familiar and require little explanation or back story. Just as the future soldiers using machine guns and what appear to be 20th century military trucks show us that knowledge (and technology) is lost and gained and lost again. When there's no more power for your electric egg whisk you'll use a fork to scramble eggs.

The Professor in his Edwardian outfit and with his excitable, irascible manner is intended to remind us of the Doctor. A kindly scientist trying to save the last humans with his young companion and willing to sacrifice himself to save the many. Sir Derek Jacobi plays the character very much as his interpretation of the Doctor, until the moment he opens the watch. His eyes burn with cold evil as he hisses his name, before murdering the alien who has been his companion for seventeen years. The Master is back.

The Doctor reacts badly to seeing Jack on the Tardis scanner but later explains to Jack that he is an anomaly, and that the Doctor's Time Lord instinct is to fix that anomaly. This is the reason the Doctor left Jack on Satellite Nine all that time ago, why he never went back for him and why he ran when he saw him headed for the Tardis. Jack doesn't seem to bear a grudge and is happier in these forty five minutes than he was in thirteen episodes of Torchwood, he's also strangely more 'Jack' than he was in his own spin off and John Barrowman lights the screen up in every scene. The rapport between Barrowman and Tennant is electric whether they are sniping at each other or having a heart to heart through the reactor room door. It's a pleasure to have Captain Jack back in Doctor Who.

David Tennant has been stunning throughout his second year as the Doctor. He always seems to find something new to show us about the Tenth Doctor and in this episode it is fear and desperation. We've seen him scared before, when possessed by the Sun particles in 42, but here he's terrified. The moment Martha tells him about the watch it seems clear he knows exactly what's going on. Suddenly it seems like he may have known all along, his dismissal of the Face of Boe's secret, his reaction to Martha's news, his apology to the Master, when he is locked out of his own Tardis. 'It's just the two of us now...' What have you done, Doctor?

John Simm's post regenerative Master is full of energy and humour. His portrayal looks likely to be a dark reflection of Tennant's Doctor and the sparks should really fly when these two come face to face...

...assuming that the Doctor can extricate Martha, Jack and himself from the Futurekind overrun Silo and find some way back to the twentieth century without his Tardis, that is. Utopia ends with what is certainly the strongest cliffhanger of Russell T Davies' Doctor Who, and is one of the best ever.

With such a strong run of episodes by Paul Cornell and Steven Moffat it was going to be a challenge to maintain that quality as we went into the series climax. Davies has once again proved that he is the king of Doctor Who and should be venerated above all other writers. This is a 'Golden Age'.

1 comment:

  1. Hear hear, and all that jazz. :) Utopia's definitely one of my favourite New Who tales, next to The Satan Pit...