Doctor Who S3.11 review

Utopia by name, utopia by nature. The following review would be horrifically fawning and full of hyperbole if it weren't so damned accurate

Nnnnng. Nnnngfungg. Gerfungggnnnggg.

Know what that is? That, my friends, is the sound of flabbergastedness. Kerblowee. After Blink being brilliant it was hard to see what could be pulled out of the bag to make the upcoming Saxon story interesting. Yawn, he’ll be the Master, and try and be prime minister, and ruin us all. Or something like that.

I’m certainly feeling rather wrongfooted now, with the story starting off at the end of the universe and humans looking for utopia. (Before we carry on, let’s just focus on that: the last of humanity, still clinging on for existence, still looking for utopia. That’s awesome! Even if the futurekind are obviously just The Tribe after they got their P45s. That’s just the backdrop to the main story. I actually feel slightly spoilt.)

But this episode, T Davies at his best, was all about the people. Throwing Jack back into the Tardis proves that three isn’t a crowd (apart from in the opening titles; they really need either two or four names for those rhythms to work, without a major 3/4 reworking). Barrowman certainly brought a boundless energy back into the mix that I didn’t ever realise was missing. It wasn’t like this with Eccleston. Then again, David Tennant seems to be pulling his acting finger out and doing ‘some’ again, now he’s got such a range of people to act off.

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First off there is Barrowman; their tense discussion about why Jack was left behind was the least phoned-in performance Tennant’s made all series. Derek Jacobi’s Yana was a great doddery little old man, but the change put in place by the appearance of the fob-watch – how on Earth do you act that much using just your eyes? – was so exciting I watched it whilst quite literally chewing my own leg hair off.

More importantly, the Master came back for all of five minutes so far, and having an intellectual equal to the Doctor is already reaping dividends. Especially as it’s the end of the series and there are rumours swirling about who’s staying and going, then you can’t watch it safe in the knowledge that everyone will survive. (Was that part of the BBC Press Office’s plan? They can’t be that clever, can they? Good lord, the Master must moonlight there.)

More importantly, now John Simms is free from his last time-travelling vehicle, can he hope out of the Ford Capri and into the Tardis? In just a couple of minutes he’s bought absolute acres of dark fun and pantomime malice to the screen. He’d be a great dark but still kid-friendly replacement to Tennant. Especially now the fob-watches provide a useful way for everyone to bodyhop.

Anyway, Who has finally provided a reason to watch it on first-run Saturday, so I might even do next week’s review in decent time. But no promises. On the basis of this week, it may just break me completely.