The return of the Master to Doctor Who â€“ the television event of the week that dances all over former Cambodian dictator Pol Potâ€™s attempts at appearing in the Royal Variety Show â€“ was puzzlingly met with mixed reactions from long term fans.
Outpost Gallifrey reports that Utopia achieved an audience of 7.3 million viewers, which is 36.9% share of the total available audience. For the fifteen minutes when the show went up against Pol Pot and his breakdancing, singing minions in Scotlandâ€™s Not Got Talent (Nor Northern Ireland, To Be Sure), the Masterâ€™s return single-handedly made the Khmer Rouge look like a Sunday school outing, trouncing it 7.7 million to 6.4 million.
Of course, it wasnâ€™t just the Master who returned so emphatically in Utopia – stand up please, Captain Jack Harkness, a character who hasnâ€™t been seen on television since 2005 (dunno who that bloke in Torchwood is, but it wasnâ€™t this Jackâ€¦). As Torchwood.TV reported, John Barrowman featured prominently in Doctor Who Confidential, with the following teasers:
Like the main show itself there were no direct references to Torchwood the series; but keep watching, because over the next couple of episodes the Doctor’s going to find out a lot more about what Jack’s been up to – and he ain’t a happy bunny!
On the reviews front, weâ€™ll start with SFX who seem all to happy to see the Masterâ€™s return:
Itâ€™s a sequence of events destined to be played back and discussed for years.
The instant Yana (You Are Not Alone – geddit?) looks inside the watch, Jacobi is transformed; the face is the same, but the eyes overflow with evil, adding extra gravitas to his triumphant “I. Am. The. Master!”
More bafflingly, however, The Stage and David J Howe are (independently) getting their knickers in a twist about how the general viewing public is going to react to Utopia, and the return of “a long forgotten enemy”… That would be the same general viewing public who wouldnâ€™t take to Doctor Who upon its return, would itâ€¦?
From The Stage:
â€¦How do I review Utopia, an episode that contains some sublimely cack-handed sequences of the variety that used to get the series sniggered at with alarming regularity? There are quarries, cringe-worthy savage future humans, and a grey depiction of the far future with overly serious men striding around corridors.
It had the hallmarks of that silly brand of TV sci-fi that sketch shows have been ripping the piss out of for years. Weâ€™ve zapped forward to the year 100-trillion and suddenly find ourselves in aliens-from-the-planet-Zog territory.
No it didnâ€™t, and no we werenâ€™t. Regressive future species are a sci-fi staple. But thereâ€™s moreâ€¦ on the subject of the Master:
Is the pay-off brilliant for that pesky regular audience of real people?
What? Why wouldnâ€™t it be? If theyâ€™ve watched Gridlock and Human Nature (and a lot did) what would be the problem?
David J Howe is singing from the same sheet, meanwhile:
Now, all avid fans know who the Master is. We know the history and everything. But new viewers don’t. He’s just a bad guy. Another Time Lord admittedly, but that’s about all we know. Put it like this, if it wasn’t the Master, and was someone called Askwith, would it have made any difference. Nope.
No, of course not, if wouldnâ€™t have made any difference because:
a) Heâ€™s got an unassuming name and
b) isnâ€™t the Master.
On the other hand, the Master â€“ being a Time Lord (and we all know how many times the Doctor has mentioned being the last of the Time Lords – Utopia itself allowing him the chance to point it out) was previously thought dead, and judging by the terrible way he dispatched Chantho is pretty nasty.
Thatâ€™s all that any new viewer needs to know â€“ heâ€™s a rogue Time Lord with a line in arch plots to usurp power and use it to his own ends. Heâ€™s an archetype, and heâ€™s the last instantly recognisable emblem from classic Doctor Who.