“Utopia” – Review: Redux

Professor Yana “That is not my name! ‘The Professor’ was an invention. So perfect a disguise that I forgot who I am.”
Chantho: “Chan- Then who are you -tho?”
The Master: “I am… the Master.”

Utopia

Following a week off for Eurovision, two weeks with John Smith instead of the Tenth Doctor and then the Doctor-lite episode last week it has been, despite the fact that those three episodes were generally brilliant, a period of about a month when we have been deprived of a fix of our favourite Time Lord. So, what happens when he returns?  Well, as well as David Tennant back on fine form we get Jack back as well, we get the return of the Master, we get a regeneration scene and we get a cliffhanger that was a complete surprise all wrapped up in forty-five minutes of brilliant television aimed fairly and squarely at fans of the show. Okay, I exaggerate… it was only “brilliant” for about half an hour because the first 15 minutes was strictly “sci-fi-by-numbers” but the lull before the storm was all part of the fun.

Starting off in Cardiff to fuel up, the TARDIS crew picked up a hitch-hiker in the form of Captain Jack, last seen at the end of Torchwood being all sullen and mysterious.  Thankfully, he’’s back to his flirtatious best as the TARDIS flies to the farthest, future reaches of the universe, where petrol fuelled trucks, chain link fences and automatic weapons are still (oddly) prevalent.  All in a quarry too, just like the good old, bad old days.  There they find themselves running through corridors, meeting a lonely scientist and trying to help launch a rocket that will deliver the human fugitives to the legendary and eponymous Utopia.  So far, so treadmill. Although we did get the rather wonderful Chantho (played by Chipo Chung), a humanoid insect with a lovely idiosyncrasy of having to begin every sentence with the word “Chan” and end every one with the word “Tho”. Chan this sounds like it could be the genesis of a rather brutal drinking game tho.

However, how bloody fantastic was that final thirty minutes? On the first run through of episodes I tried to remain largely spoiler-free but even I had heard that John Simm would be playing the Master in his return for the last two episodes. However, I was oblivious to the fact that Utopia would be a key part of proceedings and equally ignorant of the fact that Sir Derek Jacobi’s role would be in any way integral.  As soon as Professor Yana’’s headache’s became apparent and the sound of drums was both heard and mentioned, my interest was piqued.  Suddenly there was so much more happening…. Another fob watch appeared, the mystery of the Face of Boe’’s message was unveiled and the Master was revealed.  An excited ripple of pleasure swept through the collective fan consciousness.

The genius of plot devices hidden in plain sight and a script awash with great dialogue might have been enough on its own but then you can to the mix, Sir Derek Jacobi proving, as if proof were needed, what a class act he is: I may never forget him turning round without a word and becoming pure evil moments after the watch was opened.  The rest of the cast picked up the gauntlet with aplomb, David Tennant and Freema Agyeman continued to blossom in their roles and John Barrowman was clearly loving every second back on the big show too.  The final dusting of sugar on the cherry on the icing on the cake was the regeneration and appearance of John Simm as the Master’’s new incarnation.  Fresh from Life on Mars, Simm cavorted round the stolen TARDIS like a man possessed, it’s great that the character has returned and I doubt that there has ever been a more anticipated pair of episodes than The Sound of Drums and The Last of the Time Lords that follow. We have Doctor Who’s only ever three-parter to enjoy over the next 48 hours. Dust off your DVD’s and watch along.

Highlight: “I. Am. The. Master”

Lowlight: Futurekind

Talking Point: Too many to list

Demon’s Run Rating: 19 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 16th June 2007

Marathon Status: Enjoying the best run of stories. Ever!

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