Story 187


Series 3 – Episodes 11, 12 & 13

“If the Doctor can be young and strong, then so can I. The Master… reborn!” – the Master

When the Tardis pauses to refuel in Cardiff, Captain Jack runs up and clings to the police box as it hurtles to the edge of the universe in the year 100 trillion. On a desolate planet, the last vestiges of humanity are seeking utopia in a spaceship built by the kindly Professor Yana. As the Doctor, Martha and Jack assist, it transpires that Yana is the Master hiding in human form. He regenerates and escapes in the Tardis. Back on Earth in the present day, the Master has established himself as the UK prime minister Harold Saxon. He’s laying plans for trillions of spherical Toclafane to occupy the planet and decimate the human race. He captures Martha’s family and reduces the Doctor to a wizened imp. It is left to Martha to walk the Earth for a whole year and spread the legend of the Doctor, in the hope that it will restore him to full strength with a vast telepathic pulse.

First UK transmissions
Saturday 16 June 2007
Saturday 23 June 2007
Saturday 30 June 2007

More like this

January–March 2007. Main locations: Old NEG glass site in Cardiff. Argoed quarry in Llansannor. Wenvoe quarry. Millennium Square in Cardiff Bay. Hensol Castle. Cwrt-y-Vil Road and Esplanade in Penarth. Greyfriars Place, the Friary, University Place and old British Rail warehouse in Cardiff. Forte’s Café and beach at Barry Island. Studio: Upper Boat Studios, Treforest, Pontypridd.

The Doctor – David Tennant
Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman
Captain Jack Harkness – John Barrowman
Professor Yana/The Master – Derek Jacobi
The Master/Harold Saxon – John Simm
Chantho – Chipo Chung
Francine Jones – Adjoa Andoh
Tish Jones – Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Clive Jones – Trevor Laird
Leo Jones – Reggie Yates
Lucy Saxon – Alexandra Moen
Padra – Rene Zagger
Lieutenant Atillo – Neil Reidman
Chieftain – Paul Marc Davies
Guard – Robert Forknall
Creet – John Bell
Kistane – Deborah MacLaren
Wiry woman – Abigail Canton
President – Colin Stinton
Vivien Rook – Nichola McAuliffe
Albert Dumfries – Nicholas Gecks
Themselves – Sharon Osbourne, McFly, Ann Widdecombe
BBC Newsreader – Olivia Hill
US Newsreader – Lachele Carl
Chinese Newsreader – Daniel Ming
Sinister woman – Elize du Toit
Sphere Voices – Zoe Thorne, Gerard Logan, Johnnie Lyne-Pirkis
The Master (aged eight) – William Hughes (uncredited)
Thomas Milligan – Tom Ellis
Professor Docherty – Ellie Haddington
Lad – Tom Golding
Woman – Natasha Alexander

Writer – Russell T Davies
Director – Graeme Harper (11), Colin Teague (12 & 13)
Designer – Edward Thomas
Incidental music – Murray Gold
Producer – Phil Collinson
Executive producers – Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner

RT review by Patrick Mulkern (published in October 2022)

Captain Jack? Seemed a good idea at the time of his conception in 2005. But he was overexposed in the overwrought spin-off Torchwood and was, to my eyes, soon surpassed by the similar (in many aspects) River Song. Returning in 2007, Jack looks needy, so desperate to be included in the daddy show, he clings to the police box as it tries to shake him off in the space/time continuum. This clinginess-made-graphic is another example of Russell T Davies’s perspicacity, a striking image that gets the episode off to a terrific start.

A wannabe hero engulfed in his own eternal tragedy, Jack needs answers and it’s satisfying for the captain and the viewer when the Time Lord eventually supplies them. Jack made an interesting contrast to Christopher Eccleston’s butch-brickie Doctor but stands oddly for the first time alongside David Tennant. Both have the bearing of fey geeks striving to be alpha males. It doesn’t quite stick but is amusing to observe – which is pretty much all Martha can do (the excellent Freema Agyeman), more an onlooker than participant.

A successful aspect in this period is the fluidity of the leads, who may be fronting the programme one week, fade then return weeks or years later. Companions and allies come and go; even the Time Lord’s grip slackens in the “Doctor-lite” episodes.

The juice of Utopia is that it wrongfoots us by giving us Derek Jacobi as an old-school Doctor for 30 minutes or so. The acting knight is, of course, wonderful as the fuddy-duddy old professor, dressed like an Edwardian gentleman, absent-minded, quick to tears, committed to building a spacecraft that will save a civilisation, and flanked by his own devoted assistant/companion Chantho. He is utterly Doctorly.

At the time I had more than an inkling that the Master was coming back, but the dawning realisation to the viewer, to the Doctor and to the professor himself (that Yana is an old foe in hiding) is expertly teased and handled by Davies, by director Graeme Harper and by Jacobi. Even once you know what’s coming, watching this sequence again always delivers a frisson.

In a staggering feat of transformation, Jacobi expertly sheds his meticulously created, benign persona and assumes a black-eyed mantle of cruelty. Jacobi savours his few moments of darkness, as the Master dispatches his bug-headed sidekick, who’s been weirdly endearing-but-irritating with her “Chan” and her “tho” parenthesising every utterance. Many must have longed for more of Jacobi’s Master and, inevitably, he would be revived by that Who-hoover, Big Finish.

The last 15 minutes of Utopia – that revelation and Jacobi’s regeneration into a snappy, bonkers John Simm, stealing the Doctor’s Tardis and stranding our heroes – remain some of the most exhilarating Doctor Who we’ve ever seen. Odd, then, that the preceding chunk of Utopia fails to grab. The plight of the last outpost of humankind at both the end of the universe and the end of time has no impact. The feral Futurekind with their jagged teeth and crazed expressions are absurd, reminding me of risible savages from Lost in Space decades earlier. Despite CGI augmentation, a lot of the night shoot cannot conceal that the exterior is a quarry.

But this episode is masking itself, pretending to be low-key, of small import, and at the time was promoted in Radio Times and elsewhere as existing in isolation, when in fact it was a cunningly disguised first act of the 2007 season finale. And now it will always be parcelled with the two episodes that follow.


The Sound of Drums / Last of The Time Lords

Oh, that winning smile. Those cold, calculating eyes. The reptilian demeanour. The cavalier swagger. The black humour. Oh, and did I mention, the winning smile…? Harold Saxon certainly wins my vote as the next prime minister. And John Simm wins my approval as the latest Master. I mean it. Or is it… hang on… what’s that drumming sound in my head..?

Pretty much every Doctor gets the Master he or she deserves. I don’t have to spell it out – go figure: Jon Pertwee was never going to be paired with a rotting cadaver nor Tom Baker with an uber-arch Missy. Simm is a perfect counterpoint to Tennant: both cocky, commanding, quicksilver. Leading men at the top, so well matched that they almost cancel each other out. They can’t share the screen for long.

It’s telling that their first exchanges are voice only. There’s an erotic charge when the Master hears the Doctor on the phone. Again when he’s in the Doctor’s arms, dying, refusing to regenerate. It’s a tender embrace, brotherly, almost lovers. Much of the remaining time they’re together, the Doctor has to be diminished, first into a very old man (excellent prosthetics) and eventually into a shrivelled goblin, as ridiculous as it is disturbing.

Simm’s Master is fresh, modern, a villain for our times, a politician with a fabricated past, gulling the population, gassing his own Cabinet, and smooching his duplicitous trophy wife. Posing in plain sight, hatching a diabolical scheme over 18 months and donning a mask to gas his opponents all mirror the actions of Roger Delgado’s Master in The Mind of Evil 36 years earlier. His “please attend carefully” broadcast deliberately echoes Anthony Ainley’s Master’s speech in Logopolis (1981).

Russell T Davies’s “masterstroke” in reviving this old foe and explaining his actions is to make him insane. Davies eschewed the term “evil”, hence there are few trad baddies during his tenure. The Doctor’s goal is not to kill the Master or to let any of his allies do so but to save his old friend. This is inevitable but plays out subtly throughout the finale so that even the Master is surprised.

The Doctor as a Christ-like saviour risen from near death as the chorus of humankind rises up as one to speak and think his name – the power of prayer – is a shade too biblical for my taste. But the faith he places in Martha as she embarks on her mission wandering the Earth for a year, like a disciple spreading his Gospel is wonderful.

Companion seems too small a term to encompass the role Martha plays, every sacrifice she’s made for this man, who, as she says herself, doesn’t really see her. Agyeman is superb at the commitment, resolve and heartache. It’s typical of Martha that she achieves everything demanded of her and, even at the end, calls on the people she befriended in the year that was erased, and then decides to end her pursuit of the Doctor (“This is me getting out”) to stay and comfort her traumatised family.

The Joneses are important but sidelined: the promising, wasted Tish, the ineffectual father, redundant brother (who patently is not in Brighton; why not just change the script to say he’s in Penarth?). Adjoa Andoh is glorious as mum Francine, so deluded, pro-Saxon and anti-Doctor. I love the moment when the scales fall and she’s bundled into a cage in a van.

Seen again after 15 years, this is a hugely enjoyable run of episodes, with many of the Russell T Davies hallmarks: lots of cheek (having noxious Ann Widdecombe support Saxon), the Valiant sky platform stolen from Captain scarlet’s Skybase), strong characters from perspicacious journo Vivien Rook to medic turned insurgent Tom, furlongs of urgent running around in long coats but also one of this period’s highlights, a quiet chat-with-chips.

This chat is myth-building as the fugitive heroes hunker down in a dank warehouse over a bag of chips, and at last Martha and Jack coax the Doctor into opening up about his past. Cue a beautiful sequence, showing Gallifrey as we imagined it but had never seen it before, the majestic, glass-domed Citadel of the Time Lords finally realised on screen. A solemn Time Lord in the collared garb and the Master aged eight, looking a bit like Damien from The Omen, being initiated and set on course for madness. (That young boy was played by William Hughes, who aged 20 died in 2018.) This and many other sequences are majestically scored by Murray Gold, who deserves a medal. Little wonder that he and his music were honoured with three Doctor Who Proms in the coming years.

Radio Times Archive

The magazine gave the final three episodes major coverage in 2007.


Later in the year, Radio Times covered the return of Peter Davison to Doctor Who for Children in Need.