The Doctor once again brings the TARDIS to Cardiff to recharge the timeship’s engines with energy from the interdimensional rift that runs through the city. When he spots Captain Jack running toward the TARDIS at full speed, the Doctor tries to dematerialize the TARDIS – but Jack, eager to seek the Doctor’s help with his newfound immortality, leaps onto the time machine and clings to it as it tries to escape him. The TARDIS makes a rough landing on the eve of what could be the last night of humanity: the universe is collapsing, the stars and galaxies are dying, and the last remnants of humankind huddle in a rickety launch silo, awaiting their orders to board a rocket that will take them to a planet called Utopia. Trying to help ready the rocket, but making little headway, is the enigmatic Professor Yana, who seems to have a strange reaction to the Doctor and the TARDIS. A race called the Futurekind closes in on the last human settlement to feed, and Yana reveals that the rocket really won’t work at all. As the Doctor and Jack try to help, Martha notices that Professor Yana has a pocketwatch similar to one which once hid the Doctor’s personality and genetic information – a device of Time Lord design. But when the Doctor realizes that he isn’t the last Time Lord in the universe, he faces the horrifying revelation that only one other member of his race could’ve had the drive to survive the Time War…
written by Russell T. Davies
directed by Graeme Harper
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Sir Derek Jacobi (Professor Yana), Chipo Chung (Chantho), Rene Zagger (Padra), Neil Reidman (Lieutenant Atillo), Paul Marc Davies (Chieftan), Robert Forknall (Guard), John Bell (Creet), Deborah MacLaren (Kistane), Abigail Canton (Wiry Woman) and John Simm (The Master)
Notes: Both this colony and the isolated human colony seen in Frontios (1984) are said to be the last human colonies in existence in the universe, though the implication is that Utopia is set much, much further in the future, during the twilight of the universe itself. During Professor Yana’s moments of mental distress, sound clips of Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley as past incarnations of the Master can be heard; ironically, Sir Derek Jacobi played the part of the Master in a one-off animated Doctor Who story, Scream Of The Shalka, as well as starring in a well-received Doctor Who: Unbound audio story, Deadline. Presumably, Jack’s chase after the TARDIS takes place immediately on the heels of his disappearance in the Torchwood episode End Of Days (and the Doctor remarks that the Cardiff rift has seen recent activity, possibly from the opening of the rift in that episode), although End Of Days strongly implies that the TARDIS materialized inside the Torchwood hub. (Maybe the scattered papers found by the rest of Jack’s team were an indication of how fast he ran outside…)
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: A mish-mash of individual ideas that each could’ve served as the springboard for an interesting story, Utopia suffers a bit from idea overload – the end of the universe, the end of humanity, Jack’s reunion with the Doctor, the return of the Master – and it all seems a bit crammed in. Some of these strands are resolved satisfactorily; others seem to get an “oops, almost forgot to finish telling that part of the story” wrap-up. Even those threads that are tied off here are carried over into the following two episodes, forming a trilogy.
The clear winner here, though, is the return of the Master. Cleverly using an element that was seeded into Human Nature / The Family Of Blood, we get possibly the scariest incarnation of the Doctor’s arch enemy to walk a soundstage since the late, great Roger Delgado. Sir Derek Jacobi is essentially playing two parts here, and he essays them both magnificently. When Yana transforms himself into the Master, it’s the contrast that makes Jacobi’s performance so scary, and John Simm, while he claims the part for himself later, just isn’t scary in the same way. I almost wish Jacobi could’ve stayed for another episode; his Master is far more formidable.
As adversaries go, the Futurekind aren’t up to much (particularly not the one who keeps showing her teeth for the camera’s benefit in the launch silo) – a potpourri mix of post-apocalyptic SF “devolution” tropes with a heavy dose of Mad Max. Another not-so-subtle element is the “you are not alone” / “YANA” refrain toward the end of the episode, something which made even some of Babylon 5’s most unsubtle flashback sequences seem unobtrustive. Chantho is a far more interestingly developed alien creature than the Futurekind, though the implication that she has deliberately kept the Master from reclaiming his own identity is left a bit disappointingly unresolved.
And as much as I hate to slam the show’s music, which I’ve enjoyed (I happily paid to import the soundtrack CD from the first two seasons from the UK before it was available Stateside), I think by this point in the season it was almost blazingly obvious that only one or two pieces of action music had been composed for the entire year, and they had been tracked over everything from the 1910s setting of Human Nature to the futuristic setting of 42 to Utopia. I was much more impressed by the brassy cue toward the end, following the Master’s regeneration – it tied in nicely with the “sound of drums” idea, and so naturally we don’t hear it again in either of the following stories.
There’s a lot of story in Utopia, both interesting (the Master and Jack) and uninteresting (the Futurekind); ultimately the episode seems to rocket through them (pun intended) without tying anything off.