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9 February 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 770: Utopia

Dear diary,

A couple of days ago, I mentioned planning a holiday around the end of the series, and making sure I didn’t miss this episode by being away. It seemed like the most exciting thing in the entire world at the time. Not only was it the return of Captain Jack - who, of course, we’d spent thirteen episodes with the previous year in Torchwood, but hadn’t been part of the main series for a couple of years - but there were very strong rumours that the Master was going to show up in this one. Oh, that was the kind of spoiler that I love. You see, everywhere online fans were speculating about the return of the Master, and how likely it was that John Simm was playing him, and that he might make a surprise cameo in this episode… 

…and yet, as far as I was concerned, it wasn’t actually confirmed to be the case. not yet, anyway. Oh, sure, there were lots of things pointing towards it (though some of them felt ridiculous - someone had worked out that ‘Mister Saxon’ was an anagram of ‘Master No. Six’, and Simm would be the sixth actor to play the character, for example, but only if you didn’t count Gordon Tipple’s brief appearance, or you amalgamated the two versions of ‘decaying Master’ from the 70s into one, despite their being played by two different people. You see what I mean? It sounded silly!) But certainly I had managed to avoid any speculation about Jacobi also playing the Master, and regenerating on screen!

Oh, it was the most exciting thing in the world settling down to watch this episode, and slowly piecing it together in time with the professor as the adventure went on. I can distinctly remember watching all these words overwhelming the character and assuming that he was going to reveal that he knew another man who claimed to be a time traveller with a TARDIS, and here he comes now! I can’t remember when it dawned on me that Jacobi was the Master, though. I think the realisation kicked in the second that he produced the watch - even before he turns it over, you just know what it means.

And you know what, I can admit right now that this episode gets a slightly higher score simply because watching it brings back all those emotions of seeing it the first time around. Was the Master coming back? Even if he was, would he be putting in an appearance during this week’s episode? Where is all of this leading? Does the Professor know something? Some*one*? Even now, it’s watching that story unfold that really works for me. It’s watching Jacobi’s performance (just like bringing in Eccleston to fill the role of the Doctor before Tennant could take over and do it his way, it was such brilliant casting to get someone like Jacobi in to play the part of the Master here - he really steals the scene at every turn) that I enjoy the most about Utopia, because the story itself I can sort of take-or-leave. It’s all window-dressing for the real tale, and set up for the finale to come.

Jacobi isn’t the only one who lights up the screen here, though. I know I spent an entire entry the other day praising David Tennant’s performance, but I need to signal him out once more here. That scene, where he watches Jack through the window of the radiation chamber… oh, there’s something chilling about the Doctor here. There’s a look he gives Jack, and you can see the character’s darker side just for a flash. At the time, I recall it being something of a mystery as to why the Doctor had rushed off and left Jack behind at the end of Parting of the Ways - for ages, I speculated that he simply didn’t realise that Rose had brought him back (and that him telling her he had ‘plenty to do’ in rebuilding Earth’s Empire during the 2005 Children in Need episode was him trying to spare her the knowledge that he’d died, since she’d forgotten all the events of her ‘Bad Wolf’ moment), but I still like the idea that he simply ran away from the man, because he knew what had happened, and it made his skin crawl. Still, it’s great to have the character back, and I’m glad that he works so well with the Tenth Doctor - they gel so effortlessly in a way that he didn’t quite with the previous incarnation, and I can’t help but love him a little bit. 

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