Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Graeme Harper
It’s fitting that series three’s final story begins at the end of time and space. Forget the ridiculous number of years the TARDIS jumps ahead; forget that the only difference to humans in this far flung future is a “Mad Max” makeover. This is part one of an epic three-parter that, along with the previous week’s stellar episode will see “Doctor Who” take its place amongst the grander examples of tv scifi. I must digress for a moment and take you back to April, 2005. One of the outstanding features of the new Who, for me, was the series’ conveying of a great sense of cosmic wonder. There is a line of dialogue uttered by the Doctor upon first meeting Rose Tyler. He ponders actually being able to feel the Earth moving through the ocean of time and space. Along with the beautiful music, I remember tearing up, feeling that FINALLY, here was a science fiction series that may understand why so many of us love the genre.
It is that sense of cosmic adventure and timeless wonder one can only experience in science fiction. “Utopia”, along with so many other things, continues to deliver such experiences.
As is typical of Davies’ shepherding of this show’s former series, “Utopia” begins to draw together plot elements from previous episodes, thus validating the existence of some of the better AND weaker plotlines of this third year. That in itself is a major achievement. In the grand storytelling technique of foreshadowing, suddenly the viewer has to *gasp* actually remember former plot strands and arcs. Wonderful, heady stuff.
Again, I will not spoil the episode for the few unfortunate souls yet to experience it. Indeed, there are twists and doublecrosses here that deserve to be seen untainted. The crux of the matter is thus: The Doctor and team(now joined by Captain Jack Harkness)arrive at the end of the universe where humanity has been reduced to a paltry band, some reverting to cannibalistic savages. The enigmatic, almost vaguely familiar Professor Yana is working on a rocket that will transport the few survivors to a remote location, Utopia, where life will, supposedly be free of worry and care. Yana(in a “dream come true” turn by revered acting veteran Sir Derek Jacobi)is a kindly old man, yet seems tormented and increasingly erratic, especially when his vintage fobwatch begins talking to him(!!!). It is probably not spoiling much by now to reveal The Master returns at the conclusion of this episode. His return brings about a heartbreaking performance by Jacobi which is then completely turned around by the maniacal comic performance of John Simm. The episode ends with our gang trapped at the end of the universe and a crazed, reborn Timelord on the loose.
Along the way we get more answers about Captain Jack than were delivered in the whole of the first muddled and wanting series of “Torchwood” and we learn why the Doctor left Jack behind in the first place. One can only hope it is this more jovial and bouncy Jack that eventually returns to the dank sociopath-inhabited, borderline mental deficient staffed confines of Torchwood CSI:Cardiff(But I shall save my “Torchwood” rant for another day!).
“Utopia” sets the stage for a confrontation that, I have my suspicions, will change this series forever. It is epic storytelling of a kind that can only be found in science fiction. Further it is the kind of rollicking, fun(do you remember that word Ronald D. Moore?)adventure story it seems only “Doctor Who” can produce these days. There is a clearly visible tongue planted firmly in its cheek, while providing enough continuing narrative/character arc and a perpetuation of the show’s mythos for fans to chew on and digest. Whether you’re looking for an entertaining romp or the beginning of an epic battle between good and evil, you will definitely find it in “Utopia”.