Doctor Who – Utopia

OK. Settle down, strap yourselves in, get a nice drink of something. Here it is – my slightly overdue[1] account of the last three episodes of the 2007 series of Doctor Who. This post covers the first of those, which is more of a separate story, though it could be considered a prelude to the closing two-parter. Or all three could be considered to be a three-parter. Or…. Or maybe I should stop waffling and get on with it[2]

The Tardis has materialised over the Rift in Cardiff Bay to refuel. Mentioning that the Rift seems to have been active, which indeed it has, the Doctor starts to dematerialise, but as he does so, a familiar figure runs towards the Tardis and leaps on to it at the last moment. Yes, it’s our old friend Captain Jack Harkness, who disappeared at the end of the last series of Torchwood. Now we’ll find out where he went…

But something is wrong with the Tardis – it blasts uncontrollably into the distant future, further than the Doctor, or any Time Lord has ever been. Eventually it stops and materialises on a desolate planet, where we see humans being hunted by wild people who don’t look completely human. And in a laboratory, an elderly professor and his insect/human hybrid assistant are working on something…

After making it quite clear that this is not a good place to be, and that they should leave immediately, the Doctor and Martha pop out of the Tardis to have a look. The first thing they see is the apparently dead Jack, who promptly does his quick revival thing. He and the Doctor exchange slightly wary greetings

Doctor (looking at Jack’s face): Have you had work done?
Jack: You should talk!

Jack quickly fills in the Doctor on what happened to him after Rose brought him back to life. His time bracelet took him back to 1869, and he got back to the early 21st century the long way round. Which presumably means that when we first met him in 1941, there was another him around somewhere, quite apart from the him who was there towards the end of Torchwood’s first series. It’s a good job all those Jacks didn’t meet. All that ego in one place would probably have caused the end of civilisation as we know it, quite apart from any of those nasty temporal paradox thingies. Oh yes, and Jack’s brought along that hand in a jar that he’s been keeping in the Hub all this time. And yes, as if there was any doubt, it is the hand that the Doctor lost and regenerated in The Christmas Invasion.

So, our three heroes head off to have a look around. The slightly unfriendly locals chase them to a compound where the last remaining humans live. They find that there’s a huge space ship in a bunker, and in charge of it is Professor Yana, a brilliant scientist making miracles from incredibly limited resources. He and the Doctor hit it off immediately. There is something Doctorish about Yana – the brilliance, the warmth, the general goodness. Though unlike the Doctor, Yana is bothered by noises in his head. The sound of drums, getting ever closer…

Yana explains that the wild people outside the compound – he calls them the Futurekind are what all the surviving humans will become if they can’t reach Utopia. What’s Utopia? Well, he’s not really sure, but he’s been picking up a signal telling anyone and everyone to come there. As there don’t seem to be any other options, the plan is to get the big ship working and take all the survivors towards the source of the signal. Things are a bit broken, but with help from the Doctor, the power comes on, and everyone boards the ship. While that’s going on, the Tardis has been brought inside. When Yana sees it, he reacts oddly – as if he’s seen it before, even though he has no memory of it.

The Futurekind sabotage the power, which gives Jack a chance to be useful. As fixing things involves being in a chamber flooded with lethal radiation, his tendency to not die comes in handy. While he’s doing that, the Doctor explains a few things. What Rose did in restoring Jack to life was against all kinds of laws of time. Jack really is immortal, and distinctly unnatural, which is why the Tardis tried to get away from him.

Back in Yana’s lab, the professor mentions vaguely that there had been time travel “back in the old days”, and pulls out his pocket watch. A watch of very familiar design. Identical, in fact, to the one the Doctor used in Human Nature/The Family of Blood. Unmistakably Time Lord technology, which means that Yana has to be a Time Lord in the same kind of deep cover that the Doctor was in. Cover so deep that even he doesn’t know who he really is.

As he looks at the watch, we get a flashback to the Doctor’s last meeting with the Face of Boe.

You Are Not Alone. Y A N A. Yana!

As the ship launches, Yana opens the watch, and finally remembers who he really is. He opens the gates of the compound, letting the Futurekind in. And informs his assistant that he isn’t actually Professor Yana at all.

I AM THE MASTER

OK, it was the worst-kept secret in television history, but it was still a glorious moment. Having shot his assistant, he’s just about to set off and do some bad things when she just manages to shoot him back. Mortally injured, he gets into the Tardis and regenerates into a new, younger form, who looks remarkably like Sam Tyler. He disappears in the Tardis, leaving the Doctor, Jack and Martha to face the rather unpleasant Futurekind…

For an episode that really only existed to introduce the Master and provide the set-up for the conclusion to the series, this worked pretty well. The return of the Doctor’s most deadly enemy is made more dramatic by the way he was hiding in plain sight in the form of someone the Doctor genuinely liked. And by his refusal to listen to the Doctor’s pleas for him to stay – “things are different now, we’re the only ones left”.

Good stuff, with a lovely performance form Derek Jacobi as Yana.

[1] Nice understatement :grin:
[2] Yes, that would make a change, wouldn’t it?