When this piece was commissioned, I decided not to cover one that I’ve already reviewed in some place or another (taking out anything from Planet Of The Dead onwards and frankly, it’s better that I don’t talk about most of Series Fnarg.2 for fear of angry fingers destroying the keyboard) so I looked to the past, among the murky waters of the Russell T. Davies era. And what better episode to cover than one that I know so well I don’t need to watch it?
With a hop, skip and a full-on sprint towards the TARDIS, Captain Jack runs back into the Doctor’s life as the TARDIS takes him, the Doctor and Martha to the far, far future, to a planet called Malcassairo. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Utopia…
I’m going to start with the negatives so that I can sum up all that was positive about this episode near the end. First of all, I don’t like Martha’s portrayal in this episode, forced to be the exposition lady so Professor Yana can be conveniently in earshot. And sticking her as a gossip-buddy with Chantho proves what I’ve always said – stick two women together and they will gossip until the end of time.
The character of Chantho herself was annoying as hell, making her eventual fate rather satisfying and the Master’s confession of what he really thought of her was a sentiment no doubt shared by many other viewers. (For the record: “And you, with your ‘chan’ and your ‘thos’ driving me insane!”) Of course, mileages may vary even within this site, with Our Benevolent Overlord describing her back in the day as “…quite lovely, and I hadn’t felt so fond of an alien since the female Eldrad in The Hand Of Fear“.
The Futurekind were all kinds of pointless existing as they did to chase the heroes and glare at them occasionally. The traveller that they meet, Padra Shafe Kane, had much the same problem without the glaring. In fact, I’ve worked out he had two purposes: 1) to introduce us to the Futurekind by showing us what they do and 2) knowing where to go to find other humans. Rusty must’ve realised this, because as soon as he gets in the Silo, he’s reunited with his mother and is never seen again.
For fear of the angry words covering my keyboard in Anger Slime á la Ghostbusters II, I shall move on to the reasons I love this episode. If you want an example of an episode doing everything right then I’d point you in the direction of The Big Bang, but this one is my favourite because I love it despite its flaws. I love it for the thrilling return of Captain Jack. I love it for the interactions of Tennant and Barrowman. But most of all, I love it for the return of the Master, in the form of Derek Jacobi no less!
On the subject of the Master, I would’ve gladly seen more of Derek Jacobi’s Master. I realise some of the more physical aspects of the Simm Master would probably have been beyond him (a Jacobi CGI image leaping 30 feet into the air, for example, would’ve looked ridiculous and farcical) but he was the Master for all of 10 minutes and it would’ve been a pleasure to see more of him. He plays the dual role so well that you could seriously believe they got a different actor in to play Professor Yana! (Oh, um, spoiler alert! Sorry.)
By a marvellous quirk of fate, I chose Utopia without being aware that it aired last night on BBC Three and is now available on the iPlayer, so if you’ve not seen it before or just can’t be bothered to get the DVD out, then you know where to go! And why wouldn’t you? It’s up there with the best of its era, if not the best. I hope that of all the episodes of Who, this one will still be around in the year 100 Trillion.