Utopia (Doctor Who)
"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 Master (John Simm), an alien villain of the show's original run who previously appeared in the 1996 television movie Doctor Who.
|187a – "Utopia"|
|Doctor Who episode|
The Master regenerates.
|Directed by||Graeme Harper|
|Written by||Russell T Davies|
|Script editor||Simon Winstone|
|Produced by||Phil Collinson|
|Executive producer(s)||Russell T Davies|
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Length||1st of 3-part story, 45 minutes|
|First broadcast||16 June 2007|
Set close to the end of the universe 100 trillion years in the future, the episode involves Professor Yana (Derek Jacobi) attempting to send the last of humanity in a rocket to a place called "Utopia".
Jack Harkness, the Doctor's former companion, is stranded on Earth and has based himself in 21st-century Cardiff to wait for the Doctor, knowing the Doctor would eventually land there to refuel with the Cardiff Rift. The Doctor lands the TARDIS in Cardiff to refuel. 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. Jack dies on the journey but revives seconds later as he cannot stay dead. As they explore the planet Malcassairo, the Doctor, Jack, and the Doctor's companion Martha encounter Padra, a lone human running for his life from cannibalistic humanoids called the Futurekind.
The Doctor, Jack, and Martha help Padra reach a missile silo where a rocket intends to transport the last of the human race to "Utopia". 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 will not launch, and the Doctor helps him repair it and give it power. During the repairs, the Professor repeatedly hears a rhythmic drumbeat he has heard for as long as he can remember. When the rocket is ready to launch, the refugees board it. One of the Futurekind shorts the system out, filling the room with the rocket couplings with deadly radiation. Jack is enlisted to fix the couplings.
While Jack is inside working, the Doctor admits he abandoned Jack purposely because of the immortality Rose granted to Jack. Jack readies the rocket for launch. Martha unintentionally draws attention to the Professor's fob watch, similar to the one which changed the Doctor from a Time Lord into a human. She rushes to tell the Doctor about the watch as the Professor hears voices coming from it.
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 lets the Futurekind inside the silo. Chantho confronts the Professor. He responds that his name is the Master. Chantho and the Master both fatally injure each other. An injured Master stumbles into the TARDIS and regenerates into a younger form. The Master begins to dematerialise the TARDIS, stranding the Doctor, Jack, and Martha with the Futurekind.
"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" (2005) 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",[Note 1] "Boom Town",[Note 2] "The Parting of the Ways",[Note 3] "The Christmas Invasion"[Note 4] and Torchwood episode "End of Days".[Note 5] 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 (1976), and subsequently appearing in The Keeper of Traken). In The Keeper of Traken (1981), 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 1996 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 (1974); although Romana regenerated in the first episode of Destiny of the Daleks (1979), this process was depicted off screen.
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 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. In 2017, Jacobi reprised his role from "Utopia" in the audio drama series The War 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. He also had a small role in Torchwood story Exit Wounds and played the lead villain Corakinus in Class.
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 receptionEdit
"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.
- Yana recalls that he was found as a child "on the coast of the Silver Devastation", a place from where the Face of Boe was said to have come in the 2005 episode "The End of the World".
- Martha inquires about the earthquake in Cardiff a couple of years ago, and the Doctor claims he had a bit of trouble with the Slitheen. This refers to the events of the 2005 episode "Boom Town". He also states that he was a different man back then; the episode took place during the Ninth Doctor's tenure.
- The Doctor informs Jack he knew Rose had brought him back to life ever since he left Satellite 5 in "The Parting of the Ways". The Doctor was shown to be aware of this in the Children in Need special. Also referencing that episode, the Doctor speaks about Rose's actions as "the last act of the Time War". Also, Jack mentions using a Vortex Manipulator to travel back from the year 200,100 (as featured in "The Parting of the Ways"), arriving in 1869. This places his arrival in Cardiff within months prior to the events of series one episode "The Unquiet Dead".
- Jack tells Martha and the Doctor that he learned of their arrival with a "Doctor Detector" indicating the severed hand. This was first seen in "The Christmas Invasion", when the hand was cut off by the Sycorax leader, and was a recurring background item on the Torchwood Three Hub set, its latest appearance being in "End of Days" when Jack sees it bubbling before hearing the TARDIS. This episode confirms that the hand is indeed the Doctor's.
- Jack Harkness was last seen at the end of the Torchwood episode "End of Days", looking off-screen while the familiar sound of the TARDIS is heard in the background. While refuelling, the Doctor notes that the Rift has been active recently; this was due to Abaddon escaping through the Rift in the same episode.
- "Doctor Who UK airdate announced". News. Dreamwatch. 27 February 2007. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007.
- "Doctor Who - Fact File - "Utopia"". Retrieved 17 June 2007.
- ""Utopia" Podcast". 16 June 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2007.[dead link]
- "Of a Thursday". Digital Spy. 1 April 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2007.
- Radio Times 30 June–6 July 2007: Doctor Who Watch
- Doctor Who Magazine issue 384: Return of the Master
- Davies, Russell T (4 March 2009). "Production Notes". Doctor Who Magazine. No. 406. Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini Comics. p. 4.
And I certainly feel the Series Three climax was two stories, no matter what the DWM season poll says. I'm sorry! I just do! I could rattle off the reasons, but we're into the mystical land of canon here, where the baseline of the argument simply comes down to "because I think so!"
- "A New Doctor, A New Dimension?". Big Finish Productions. Archived from the original on 26 May 2005. Retrieved 11 June 2007.
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- "Doctor Who - Memory Lane". Big Finish.
- "Future Boy". News. BBC Doctor Who website. 7 June 2007. Archived from the original on 19 August 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- Freema Agyeman, Trevor Laird, Gugu Mbatha-Raw. "The Sound of Drums commentary". BBC's Doctor Who microsite (Podcast). Retrieved 25 June 2007.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- "Weekly Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
- Fickett, Travis (25 September 2007). "Doctor Who: "Utopia" Review". IGN. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- Edwards, Richard (16 June 2007). "Doctor Who 3.11 "Utopia"". SFX. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
- Wright, Mark (17 June 2007). "Doctor Who 3.11: Utopia". The Stage. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers of all time!". io9. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- Szpirglas, Jeff (2 June 2011). "10 classic Doctor Who cliffhangers". Den of Geek. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- Harrison, Mark (24 June 2010). "Doctor Who: 10 cliffhanger screamers". Den of Geek. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- Jeffery, Morgan; Allen, Chris (3 June 2011). "'Doctor Who's best ever cliffhangers: Friday Fever". Digital Spy. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- Brook, Stephen (2 July 2007). "Doctor Who: it's season finale time!". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2012.