Ed (ed_zeppelin) wrote in doctorwho_forum,
Ed
ed_zeppelin
doctorwho_forum

Utopia

Okay then...

Doctor Who comes sliding out of probably the biggest winning streak in the new series's history to date with an episode that has only the bare bones of a story. Like a slightly more assured version of The Long Game, Utopia is an episode there to set up another story, and consequently fails to establish its own identity. At least there was no attempt to wrap up the story as a complete unit in 45 minutes, but I can't help but feel that for an episode so important to the series there should have been more to it.

The worst thing about the episode is that, after massively improving all season long, Tennant slides back into Timmy Mallett / Mr Gumby / village idiot / worst Doctor ever mode. Gone is the restrained elegance of Human Nature and back is the squeaky voice and the weird slurred speech: he even references Tom Baker's “indomitable” speech from The Ark In Space, the difference being that for all his over-earnestness in delivering the line Tom at least sounded sincere. It's getting to the point where I hope Freema Agyeman does leave – not because I dislike her, but because the tenth Doctor dies on his arse as a character whenever he's in the company of people with any degree of self-assurance. He needs to be constantly breaking in new companions. Meanwhile, somewhere in the background a rocket needs to take off, or something, and the sonic screwdriver and Jack's superpowers are always on hand to magic away the dramatic tension.

But you know...I have a feeling that the discussion around this episode isn't going to focus on that. Utopia isn't about plot, it's about the Master. Even if it hadn't been known for months beforehand it still would have been massively obvious who it was from fairly early in the episode (although casual viewers are probably wondering who the hell the Master is as the credits roll), but I must concede that the second half of the episode is pretty exciting. Jacobi is excellent (too early to judge Simm yet) and RTD certainly knows how to push the audience's buttons in a limited way; the voices of Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley are just the icing on the cake. But the episode relies for its effect on the big revelation – like Earthshock, I really can't see how this is going to fare in the long term.

Utopia is not great by any means. It's simplistic, shallow and so concerned with setting up the following two-parter that it barely qualifies as an episode itself. But I suppose that by the very, very limited confines of its remit, it works. Just.

***

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