Lets be clear, in Utopia the apparent main plot, about the last of humankind trying to escape a dying planet on a rocket was really an irrelevance. This episode was about one thing, and one thing only – bringing back the Master.
The rumours had already let slip key facts, that John Simm was going to be the Master, and that Derek Jacobi was playing a character who could be a Timelord – possibly the Master, however tonight was when all the pieces were put together. Rolled into the mix was the return of Captain Jack who quite literally jumped onto the TARDIS for the ride.
Having picked up Captain Jack the TARDIS is sent hurtling into the future where they find a group of humans barricaded in a rocket silo, hunted by ‘Futurekind’ the de-evolution of humans to savages. Inside the silo kindly Professor Yana is struggling to build working rocket to take the humans to Utopia, a legendary place believed to be a colony of humans.
The Doctor and Professor Yana quickly build a rapport, as the Doctor helps the professor fix the problems with the rocket. The professor drifts away into his thoughts at times, and says he hears the sound of drums, but has done since childhood. He does not know his origin, aside from being found as an orphan on the home planet of the Face of Boe – the creature who told the Doctor he was not alone back in Gridlock.
The Doctor asks to have the TARDIS retrieved and brought into the silo, which the humans do, but this produces a strange reaction in the professor. It seems some how familiar – he starts hearing voices (voices that would certainly be familiar to fans of Doctor Who…) but is still confused as to what is happening. Then Martha sees that he has a pocket watch – a watch that is identical to the watch used by The Doctor to become human to hide from the Family of Blood. She tells Professor Yana enough to get him to examine the watch, and then Yana starts hearing another voice insisting that he open the watch. Martha runs to tell the Doctor, and whilst she is telling him of the watch, Yana gives in to the voices and opens the watch. Gone is the kindly personality, and the Master is released. As the effects of the Chameleon Arch are reversed the Doctor senses that he is no longer alone – another Timelord now exists.
As the Doctor races back to the professor’s lab, the reawakened Master tries to block his way by shutting down the doors, and letting in the Futurekind. Confused as to what is happening, the professor’s assistant pulls a gun on the Master, but is murdered by the Master by electrocution. The Doctor reaches the lab in time to see the Master shot by his former assistant with her dying breath, and stagger into the TARDIS and lock the door.
Inside the TARDIS the Master regenerates, and taunts the Doctor over the intercom. The Doctor begs him, telling him that they are the last of their race and to put their old battles behind them – Martha says that she recognises his new voice. However despite the best efforts of the Doctor to stop him, the Master takes off in the TARDIS leaving the Doctor and his companions stranded at the end of the universe.
All in all it was a fantastic ending. Despite the spoilers, the production team had managed to keep enough secret that even though you knew the Master was returning, the kindly Professor Yana threw you off the scent, and the rest of the action kicked along enough that you didn’t get a chance to think back until the pocket watch is revealed. You were also thrown off somewhat by the return of Captain Jack and the need to resolve issues left over from The Parting of the Ways.
In terms of the return of the Master, there are some unresolved questions. One of the memories that Professor Yana hears from the pocket watch before he opens it is of the final battle between the Master and the Eighth Doctor, at the conclusion of which the Master is sucked into the core of the TARDIS, having survived the death of his Timelord body at the hands of the Daleks using a creature that has allowed him to possess a human body. How did he escape the TARDIS? Perhaps during the events of The Parting of the Ways – but that still doesn’t quite explain how he has returned as a Timelord with a renewed power to regenerate (the goal he was seeking over many of his previous appearances) and with access to a Chameleon Arch. Perhaps all will be explained in what now transpires to be parts two and three of the final three part story, The Sound of Drums, and The Last of the Timelords.