Captain Jack is back! As the Captain storms back into the
Doctors 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...
WARNING: CONTAINS BIG SPOILERS!
Utopia doesnt 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 its 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
werent expecting him to show up in Utopia or
to be played by Derek Jacobi!
The casting of Jacobi is a masterstroke, if youll 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 Ainleys 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...
Saxon has become Prime Minister and his reign of terror begins,
but this is only the start of his ambitions. As he announces
mankinds 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 Im 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 Jacobis
sinister Master to Simms 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 villains 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.
Its certainly pleasing to see the planets surface,
which matches descriptions and depictions in stories ranging
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 Doctors recollection are imagined
by Jack or Martha (Freema Agyeman), inspired by the Doctors
words, rather than a literal depiction of events.
The Doctors suggested explanation of the Masters
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 its possible that the events referred to in all three
origin stories contributed to the Masters 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
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
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 dont stop with
Gollum, though. Earlier on, the Master refers to the Doctors
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 doesnt 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
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 Masters funeral pyre.
2. Martha tells Professor Docherty that she doesnt blame
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
8. Back to the Masters funeral pyre.
Theres 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 Doctors Christ.
After the Doctor is apparently subdued, his disciple, Martha,
spreads the word of his good deeds. Humanitys faith
in the Doctor restores (dare I say, transfigures?) him. In
the end, the Master is defeated, not by a weapon, but by the
Doctors forgiveness of him.
Last of the Time Lords is a bit of a disappointment
after such an effective build-up, but theres still plenty