“Utopia” is one of my favourite episodes of series three (and of the whole of Doctor Who in general to be honest) and it’s a great lead in to the series finale.
“Utopia” does for Martha what “School Reunion” did for Rose, showing what the fate of the Doctor’s companions can be; left behind somewhere and no longer being mentioned to the new people the Doctor travels with.
It also has Derek Jacobi as both the Professor and the Master and absolutely killing it as both. The contrast from a well-meaning and brilliant scientist to someone who has just realised all that’s been hidden from them, the power and knowledge they really hold is excellent. Though he only portrayed the Master for a few minutes, they were great and were a nice stepping off point for John Simm’s more eccentric take on the character.
What I really love about “Utopia” though is how it’s the return of Captain Jack Harkness and both the character and the viewer gets some answers about what happened to him. I watched Torchwood so knew about his newfound immortality and with being a viewer could put together that it had something to do with Rose and the heart of the TARDIS, but Jack wouldn’t know any of that – just that he’d been left on a satellite full of dead bodies in the year 200,100.
The dynamic between the Doctor and Jack is interesting from the outset. It’s clear that the Doctor doesn’t want to see him and he’s standoffish until the mention of Rose. There’s resentment from Jack for being left behind and there’s annoyance from the Doctor for having to face up to his past when all he ever wants to do is keep moving forward.
Their conversation when Jack’s in a chamber full of radiation is so good – it’s honestly one of my favourite moments in Doctor Who. Having this door between the two of them with the Doctor standing at the window, gives them the opportunity to talk without being in each other’s personal space while simultaneously not being able to avoid any questions because they’re both right there waiting for a response. You get your reasoning behind the Doctor leaving Jack behind and seeing what a prejudiced Doctor is like, calling Jack “wrong” and it being painful to look at him because of his Time Lord senses. It’s such a different side to the usually tolerant and open Doctor that it’s jarring and really drives home how different Jack is to the rest of humanity. At this point Jack has lived for almost 140 years as an immortal and it’s clear that the thought of never being able to stay dead is taking its toll on him.
This scene is great as they get a chance to be honest with each other and while the Doctor still has issues with Jack being a “fixed point of time” having hashed it out a bit, they can start to work together better and without snapping at each other as much. The Doctor is practically immortal, so I do like the idea that they can meet Jack at any point in their life and have a friend that is pretty much a near constant – the Doctor could always do with someone like that.