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This diary entry is written by LunaSakura. ( View all entries )
 
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Doctor Who - Utopia review (spoilers)Category: (general)
Saturday, 16 June 2007
11:17:02 PM (GMT)
I did say in my last entry that I might wind up reviewing Doctor Who in future,
so...If you're looking for a quick read or a review without spoilers, turn back now.
If you're looking for an honest review or just want to read something vaguely
interesting regardless of length, by all means read on.

-------------------------------------------------------
Tonight's episode, Utopia, focused around the last surviving humans at the end of the
universe and their trials to reach 'Utopia' - a place which scientists created, which
supposedly would allow the human race to surpass the end of time itself. The Doctor
and Martha arrive due to one of the TARDIS's many sudden malfunctions, and in turn
attempt to help Proffessor Yana and his assistant to power the rocket which will take
the humans to Utopia. However, old faces are waiting for them, both friend and
foe.....

Utopia is a decent episode, but sadly there is a sense that it isn't an episode in
it's own right, which according to the progression of the revival it should. It feels
like it is part one of three - no bad thing in the end, especially as this was the
format of the original or 'classic' Who, but this sense of the episode just being a
prelude unfortunately drags down what is at heart a decent episode. However, it must
be said that while this 'preceding' quality feels out of place, it is essential for
the two-part finale which is shaping up to be something quite special.

The episode sees the long talked about return of John Barrowman as Cpt Jack Harkness,
last seen in Doctor Who at the tail-end of Eccleston's series and in the spin-off
series Torchwood. When Jack was introduced into the series, he brought a sense of
tongue-in-cheek humour and a general clean-cut, all-American attitude to the show
when it could've potentially bottomed-out through the gradually building intensity of
the plots. Instead, Captain Jack gave us a character who was both likeable and
someone we could roll our eyes at just because of his general smugness, someone who
buoyed the show in a different way to Rose and the support characters. Then, Jack was
killed off, brought back to life and abandoned - or so we thought (even if only until
it was generally accepted Jack would indeed be back). 

Now, a full series on, we have a new Doctor, a new companion, and now the return of
Jack. Skipping through the opening sequence to where Jack really gets going, during
the opening minutes of the program, we are introduced to the character again after he
dropped off the back of the TARDIS and is, in no short terms, dead. Martha runs over
to help him as soon as she notices Jack's situation, pulling out a stethoscope out of
her pocket (the less said about this, the better - it doesn't make sense). As always,
Jack flirts with Martha as soon as he wakes up, heralding the fact that Davis has
decided to keep Jack's character exactly the same. Some might complain about this but
Barrowman is still able to meet Jack's swagger as well as when he first played the
role, which prevents faulting on the actors behalf; however, some may still argue
that the character should have changed. They may yet be right, but as of this initial
reacquaintance, Jack Harkness has yet to grate as a character. This may change as the
remaining episodes play out, however.

Something that was most definitely a point of interest was the interaction between
David Tennant's Doctor and Jack. Both characters held some form of resentment towards
the other at the start of the episode leading to a somewhat tense few minutes of
initial interaction between the two, lightened by Jack and Martha's bitchy banter
about both the Doctor and Rose. We later learn in the episode just why there was
resentment between them; for Jack, it was being left behind but for the Doctor,
almost everything about Jack causes him to feel on edge. In a skillfully played
scene, the Doctor confesses that Jack's immortality (granted to him by Rose, as he
was resurrected) goes against all of his Time Lord senses, to the point where it is
hard for the Doctor to even look at Jack. We also learn this is why the Doctor
abandoned Jack, and why the TARDIS played up at the start of the episode (Jack clung
onto the TARDIS, so the TARDIS went to the end of the universe in a bid to rid itself
of him; a nice point of the TARDIS being sentient in some regard). The scene also
showcases what could be regarded as a sense of malevolence from the Doctor. This gave
the scene an edge which kept the proceedings interesting indeed, and could in fact be
a hint of what lied ahead in the story, but I prefer to think of it as a
representation of just how potent the Doctor's emotions are in regards to Jack. I
feel Tennant should be praised for bringing this subtle, slightly unnerving edge in
what could have been just another of Davis's many explanation scenes.

Tennant's performance in this episode was decent yet unremarkable. As always, he
brings energy and confidence to the role but for such an apparently crucial episode
he doesn't stand out - it is just another performance. That said, he does have his
moments, such as the fore-mentioned scene between the Doctor and Jack and the end of
the episode where he pleads with the Master to stay and talk. Unfortunately, that's
all there is to say for Tennant's performance - reliably good, with a few stand-out
moments, but not the most memorable of episodes for the Doctor.

Freema Agyeman was understandably under-used in this episode as there were bigger
things afoot, but when on camera she brings Martha to life with her usual grace and
skill. The scene in which Martha and Chantho bond with one another is one of the
episodes' lighter moments, but doesn't feel as superfluous as it potentially could
have, thanks to the decent acting of both Agyeman and Chipo Chung, who plays Chantho
beneath many layers prosthetics. Thankfully, the romantic affections of Martha for
the Doctor didn't appear in the episode, 
(however I'm sure it will soon enough) which often spoils Agyeman's performance as
she is far better at playing a foil to the Doctor, rather than a love-sick aid.

Along with Chantho, the other 'local' the Doctor and company interact most with is
Professor Yana, played by Derek Jacobi. The professor is seemingly quite harmless,
bumbling along quite happily and is over-joyed to meet the Doctor as he feels the
Doctor will be able to over-come the problems he is facing with the rocket. Later,
after opening the pocket-watch, he becomes dark, cruel, and evil leading to the
stealing of the TARDIS and his regeneration into a younger, healthier version of
himself - at last becoming the Master. Jacobi plays the innocent Yana with great
skill, in fact, he is faultless in this guise. However, the moment he realises his
identity and becomes the Master, I feel that he over-steps the mark of instead of
being dark, he comes across as quite 'hammy' and over-acted. Sadly, this ruined the
character of Professor Yana for me and I'm certain this can also be applied for many
others beside.

John Simm takes over from Jacobi as the post-regeneration Master. Although on screen
for a matter of minutes, Simm's performance left me thoroughly anticipating the
finale. He plays the Master with such a darkly maniacal energy, with an equally dark
and energetic sense of humour, that even though he is the grand-arch-villain for this
series, I couldn't help but like the character aesthetically. I look forward to
seeing his performance in the remaining episodes, and potentially beyond if Davis
sees fit.

The cover-villains for the episode are 'the future-kind', a mix of savages, bikers
and piercing-lovers. Supposedly what the human race finally evolves into, they're
suitably menacing with heavy clothing, shimmering piercings, jagged teeth and bodies
covered in tattoos. Whilst a side-attraction for the Master, the future-kind are
effective and had the potential to be great villains in their own right, if only they
weren't used to spice up the story and given chance to shine in their own right.

As for the story of the episode, it is typical Davis affair. Running? Check. Bad
one-liners, especially for the Doctor? Check. Attempts to create a bond between the
audience and soon dead characters? Check.

Okay, this wasn't as bad as some of Davis' stories but it was by no means the best.
As I stated at the start of the review, the episode feels like a prelude for the
finale, the first of three, whilst it could have been more given the time to be its'
own episode. Davis succeeded in places, such as creating a well-placed story, getting
everything done as needed and leaving the ending on a well formed cliff-hanger, but
in general it was...well....dull. Yes, this was the explanation for the beginning of
the end, but it should have been more. One minor criticism for Davis would be to not
leave everything so obvious. Whilst sitting writing this review I have ideas about
what will have happened during the opening of the finale, and would bet money on this
ideas being right, although not a large sum of money (not that I have that much
anyway). Yes, the kids need to be clued in, but leave something guessable for the
adults please.

In terms of soundtrack, there is again nothing overly memorable. Murray Gold succeeds
in creating an excellent score but his music is far from exciting in any sense of the
word.

Overall, the sum of the episode depends on how you look at it. On its own, the
episode is one of the weakest of the current series with a few saving graces.
However, as an explanation and an appetiser for the final two episodes of the series,
it serves its' purpose fully with a few points of interest of its own.

--Luna, 16/17 June 07 (it went passed midnight whilst I was writing this)


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