As we enter the final few hurdles of this marathon, that is the 50 for 50, there are many classic stories I feel I should have included in my personal list. On reflection, as always in life, different aspects of different stories appeal to me on different days. But some stories are classics to me no matter when I review them. My ‘proper’ #3 is my all time favourite ‘classic’ adventure, The Seeds of Doom, all neck-twisting, bone-crunching all out Avengerdom…since first seeing it, it felt right to me and has stuck in my consciousness as the top story for me, certainly ‘classic’ wise anyway. It may not typical Doctor Who, but for me, at the pinnacle of Hinchcliffe mania, the series was at it’s peak. But today, I’m writing about the story at my #2 place, another story that sits in a special place, from first viewing to now, it works….the holy trinity of Utopia, The Sound of Drums, and Last of the Time Lords.
I tended not to read the dirtsheets of fandom so much back then, and tried to keep away from too much prior info regarding the new stories….Coming on the heels of a superbly constructed set of episodes, Utopia has the chance to take a breather it feels at first, before the typical doubleheader to finish things off. How clever I thought at the time, that we didn’t know it was the first of a trilogy, that would reintroduce the Doctor’s greatest (human) enemy, a character that we probably thought would never be seen again in Doctor Who. The thoroughly pleasant Professor Yana, superbly played by Derek Jacobi, is introduced so subtly, that it’s hard to imagine him being the evil jackanapes we all know and love. Of all Russell T. Davies’ episodes, this is his greatest moment, so cleverly layered….If I’m honest, it’s very hard to find the words to describe my feelings at the end of Utopia…simply one word….goosebumps.
Jacobi’s portrayal of Yana, then regaining his hidden memory to become the Master once more, is spellbinding. How I would have loved to have seen more of this portrayal, imagine him sparring with Eccleston…sadly not to be, but that’s why Utopia works so cleverly, such a small, scant amount of him, leaving you wanting more…much more. And then, his face had changed, a recognizable face to many at the time, John Simm, star of the wonderful Life On Mars, perfect casting…Not to everyone’s taste, it seems, but Simm certainly plays the part as a maniacal despot…Delgado would have been proud. To the TARDIS crew, when they escape Malcassairo, and head to present day to find a new Prime Minister ruling our fair and pleasant land….he looks a bit like, no it couldn’t be, could it?! The Master’s greatest masterplan, and as in the past, clearly this plan has taken him some time to concoct….minutes for the Doctor, Jack and Martha, months, maybe years for the new look Master. Again, superbly laid out and thought through.
The following two episodes don’t quite live up to the strengths of Utopia….though, many moments are up there in my fave overall moments. ‘Here come the drums, here come the drums’, as the Toclafane decimate tens of thousands of people, as Martha looks down from on high…… the withered ancient Doctor’s gasps, leading into the closing credits…..Martha’s rallying speech to the desperate, homeless people….the Master lying in the Doctor’s arms, refusing to regenerate, simply to get a reaction from the Doctor, which it does….Martha, after all she went through, realizing that her feelings for the last of the Time Lords, was not reciprocated, she turns and leaves the TARDIS…..stirling stuff. And beautiful music from Murray Gold, one of his best compositions, throughout it adds to the way these episodes work, without it they would feel rather less special.
A classic from whatever era, be it old or new. — Andy
Only two weeks to go!