Sir Derek Jacobi’s portrayal of, initially, Professor Yana and, latterly, the Master in the latest episode of “Doctor Who”, “Utopia”, was quite simply exemplary. I don’t think it an exaggeration to say that his is the finest performance the series has seen since its return a little over two years ago. I’ve already read accusations of hamminess levelled at the moment Sir Derek is revealed to be the Doctor’s arch enemy but, for me, he executed the transition from good to evil with consummate ease. Just for one episode, Jacobi gave back dignity to “Doctor Who”! Which is more than can be said for successor John Simm!! Post regeneration, the Master had undergone a complete character transplant, which I know is often the case with Gallifreyans, and started to act like a total buffoon in order to fit in perfectly with the RTD vision of the “Doctor Who” universe!!! I suppose I don’t blame Simm. He can only work with what Russell writes. But, he was out-acted by the boy who won the “Blue Peter” competition! And, in a way, the “Life on Mars” actor undermined the good work the Knight of the Realm had put in hitherto. Just as David Tennant undercut much that transpired in “The Parting of the Ways”, with his first few words at the end of that episode, and as Catherine Tate’s supposedly humorous appearance at the end of “Doomsday” detracted from Rose’s emotional departure, so, too, did John Simm diminish what had gone before.
There were some very strange time anomalies in “Utopia”! The Doctor had never seen equipment of this type before even though the Professor was using regular jack plugs! Then, there was the 21st Century lorry that delivered the retrieved TARDIS!! But, best of all, was the black phone the Doctor used which is already out-of-date even by today’s standards!!! It was supposed to be the furthest forward the TARDIS had ever been. Are these artefacts included so the general populace can relate to the story? If so, science fiction really isn’t for them. The rest of us might like to enjoy some material which doesn’t anachronistically reference life as it is in the present day but actually employs the imagination to wonder what it might really be like in the far-flung future! And, what of Futurekind itself? This sabre-toothed clan looked like bikers or wasters you see hanging around city centres with nothing better to do than marvel over each other’s multiple piercings and tattoos! “Utopia”, if nothing else, certainly helped to demonise them!! Aside from their appearance, I thought they were one plot idea too many. It is a tradition, in the programme, to feature outlanders of one sort-or-another but their inclusion only added clutter to what little narrative drive the episode had already. The one little spark of imagination in the yarn came in the concept and design of Chantho, and in her portrayal by Chipo Chung. I warmed to her and, like Captain Jack, wasn’t put off by her speech impediment! Imagine Sir Derek as the Doctor with her as his companion!! It would work for me for a season!!!