Doctor Who
Series 3 - Volume 4

Starring: David Tennant
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: PG
Available 20 August 2007

Captain Jack is back! As the Captain storms back into the Doctor’s life, the TARDIS is thrown out of control, to the very end of the universe. There, they find the savage Futurekind ruling the wilderness, while a lonely old professor struggles in vain to save the last of the human race...


Utopia doesn’t get off to an especially promising start. John Barrowman returns (for the first of three episodes) as Captain Jack Harkness, but the Doctor (David Tennant) is initially cold towards him, for reasons that are not immediately made clear. The depiction of the far future is as dreary and dismal as it was in The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit and 42 - i.e. not very futuristic at all. Humanity and technology seem to have made very little progress over the intervening years. We must suppose that much technological know-how has been lost over the aeons, and the Doctor explains that humans have evolved into non-corporeal beings (and downloads!) before reverting to their classic “indomitable” form.

Only during the second half of the episode does Utopia spring its trap - and it’s one that is particularly rewarding to long-term Doctor Who fans. Those (myself included) who had got caught up in the Mister Saxon / Master No. Six idea were expecting the Master to return, but not until the following episode, The Sound of Drums. We certainly weren’t expecting him to show up in Utopia or to be played by Derek Jacobi!

The casting of Jacobi is a masterstroke, if you’ll excuse the pun. He has played both the Doctor (sort of) and the Master before, in the Big Finish Doctor Who Unbound audio drama Deadline and the animated webcast Scream of the Shalka respectively, and is equally suited to either role. In a costume that is strongly reminiscent of the garb worn by the First and Eighth Doctors, the Professor (a nickname the companion Ace used to apply to the Seventh Doctor) is initially a very Doctorish character. His dottiness and partial recognition of objects and terms such as the TARDIS and regeneration could so easily have led to the revelation that he is a future incarnation of the Doctor, who has somehow forgotten who he is. But no... Halfway through the episode, we realise he can hear the sound of drums... 35 minutes in, he reveals a fob watch, identical to the one the Doctor used in Human Nature / The Family of Blood when he transformed himself into a human... Just less than 37 minutes in, we hear the laughter of Anthony Ainley’s Master and a quote from Roger Delgado... 40 minutes in, the Professor announces: “I... am... the... Master!”

The episode has structural similarities to The Keeper of Traken, in that it reintroduces the Master following a lengthy absence from our screens, played by a new actor (Geoffrey Beevers and Derek Jacobi respectively), then almost immediately regenerates him into a different, longer-serving actor (Anthony Ainley and John Simm respectively) and ends on a cliffhanger that leads into the next story, the series finale...

Masterful stuff.

Harold Saxon has become Prime Minister and his reign of terror begins, but this is only the start of his ambitions. As he announces mankind’s first contact with an alien species, the Toclafane, an audacious plan spanning the whole of time and space begins to close around the planet Earth...

The three episodes on this DVD have been described as a three-part story, but I’m not so sure. Though Utopia ends on a cliffhanger, there is no recap of it at the beginning of The Sound of Drums, which is set in a completely different time and place, present-day Earth. The final two episodes also have a different director (Colin Teague) to Utopia (Graeme Harper - though Harper ultimately filled in on some of the directing of Last of the Time Lords when Teague was injured).

I have to say, I prefer the brief glimpse we saw of Jacobi’s sinister Master to Simm’s more eccentric performance. The production team is evidently (perhaps overly) keen on driving home the idea of the Master as “an evil Doctor”, giving him many of the same comedic character traits, and comparable props and toys (a bag of jelly babies and a laser screwdriver). However, his exchanges with the Doctor are truly electrifying - for instance, when the Doctor picks up the phone, the Master is immediately serious, indicating how much he fears his former friend and craves his attention and respect.

Writer Russell T Davies throws in a couple of references to previous Masters. The villain’s comments on the Teletubbies echo the Clangers scene from The Sea Devils, while his announcement, “Peoples of the Earth, please attend carefully...” paraphrases a line from Logopolis.

The flashback to the days of Gallifrey is a mixed blessing. It’s certainly pleasing to see the planet’s surface, which matches descriptions and depictions in stories ranging from The Sensorites to Gridlock, and to see the Time Lords in their big silly collars again. However, New Adventures readers may be disappointed to see the junior Master, when several Virgin Books novels have asserted that Time Lords are “born”, fully grown, of genetic looms. One can always assume that the visuals that accompany the Doctor’s recollection are imagined by Jack or Martha (Freema Agyeman), inspired by the Doctor’s words, rather than a literal depiction of events.

The Doctor’s suggested explanation of the Master’s madness sits a little oddly alongside previous explanations offered in the Missing Adventures novel The Dark Path and the Big Finish audio drama Master. However, the Doctor does indicate that he is only theorising, so it’s possible that the events referred to in all three origin stories contributed to the Master’s insanity. This would actually exonerate the Time Lords to an extent, since it otherwise seems rather irresponsible of them to expose their youngsters to a vortex that could drive them mad.

Though it falls a little short of the dramatic highs generated by previous Episode 12s, The Sound of Drums takes some beating.

Earth has been conquered by the Toclafane and the Master rules supreme, with the Doctor and Captain Jack helpless prisoners. The human race has been reduced to slavery, as the mighty warships of a new Time Lord empire rise from the ashes. Only Martha Jones can save the world...

Martha comes across as very strong in the final two episodes of the series. Drawing a clear distinction from the characterisation of the devoted Rose, she vocally defies the Doctor in order to protect her family in The Sound of Drums and truly comes into her own during Last of the Time Lords, in which she dominates the proceedings and ultimately saves the day.

However, this comes at the expense of the character of Captain Jack, who is sorely underused here, and the Doctor, who is reduced to a rather silly Gollum-type creature by way of demonstrating how a being might mutate if he were permitted to live for millennia without dying or regenerating (thus leading into a later revelation about Jack).

The Lord of the Rings allusions don’t stop with Gollum, though. Earlier on, the Master refers to the Doctor’s aged form as “Gandalf”. The villain also wears a rather significant ring. And, like The Return of the King, the ending drags on for far too long, with even more goodbyes than The Family of Blood. I know - I counted...

The Family of Blood:
1. The Doctor says goodbye to Joan.
2. The Doctor and Martha say goodbye to Tim in 1913.
3. The Doctor and Martha wave to Tim in 2007.

Last of the Time Lords:
1. Martha tells Professor Docherty (Ellie Haddington) that she doesn’t blame her.
2. The Doctor and Martha say goodbye to Jack.
3. Jack spins around for another goodbye.
4. Martha phones Thomas Milligan (Tom Ellis).
5. Martha says goodbye to the Doctor.
6. Martha immediately comes back into the TARDIS to say goodbye again.

This episode should perhaps have been entitled Last Word of the Time Lords! Even if you factor in the dispatching of the various villains in The Family of Blood, Last of the Time Lords still has more “endings”...

The Family of Blood:
1. The Doctor dispatches Father of Mine.
2. The Doctor dispatches Mother of Mine.
3. The Doctor dispatches Daughter of Mine.
4. The Doctor dispatches Son of Mine.
5. The Doctor says goodbye to Joan.
6. The Doctor and Martha say goodbye to Tim in 1913.
7. The Doctor and Martha wave to Tim in 2007.

Last of the Time Lords:
1. The Master’s funeral pyre.
2. Martha tells Professor Docherty that she doesn’t blame her.
3. The Doctor and Martha say goodbye to Jack.
4. Jack spins around for another goodbye.
5. Martha phones Thomas Milligan.
6. Martha says goodbye to the Doctor.
7. Martha immediately comes back into the TARDIS to say goodbye again.
8. Back to the Master’s funeral pyre.

There’s also an abundance of Christian symbolism. Following on from some Biblical quotations and archaisms in The Sound of Drums, such as “thought it good”, “it came to pass” and “was no more”, the Master is clearly established as the Devil to the Doctor’s Christ. After the Doctor is apparently subdued, his disciple, Martha, spreads the word of his good deeds. Humanity’s faith in the Doctor restores (dare I say, transfigures?) him. In the end, the Master is defeated, not by a weapon, but by the Doctor’s forgiveness of him.

Last of the Time Lords is a bit of a disappointment after such an effective build-up, but there’s still plenty to enjoy.

Richard McGinlay

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