Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

Utopia: recollected in tranquillity

I posted my review of 'Utopia' precisely one minute after it had ended. I've since seen it again, and read a wide range of comments, and formed a calmer appraisal. I think my response was front-loaded by the last fifteen minutes: the pacing was so well handled that I got that flooding with excitement that you get sometimes when everything comes together. But I'm not withdrawing my assessment that it was a really fine piece of television. Below is quite long and contains spoilers.

Life after the death of stars is a challenging setting, and I don't think the art direction met the challenge. Instead they fell back on Mad Max and Terminator. There wasn't much sense of being far, far into the dying future. Niall mentions Stephen Baxter as the main man for post-galactic humanity. I wished it had been more like The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson, which is dark and scary. Either would have been better than this.

I know I'm not the only one who is a bit 'give it a rest already' about Rose Tyler, although I liked Billy Piper on the day. The sentimental dwelling on Rose doesn't really compensate for the reduced and subordinate role that Martha seems to have acquired. It reminds me of the veneration of the Virgin Mary accompanied by the disparagement of real women.

I had forgotten how much of the conversation through the Red Window between Jack and the Doctor dwelled on Rose. Apart from that though, the conversation seemed enigmatic and tantalising. Was the Doctor asking Jack if he wanted him to kill him? It sounded like that to me. I think possibly this was slightly badly written, perhaps at the limits of RTD's ability to convey meaning, but the two actors crafted it into something with half-glimpsed transgressive meaning. Pats on backs all round.

What did it mean that everyone was saying 'sorry' all the time? Shallow writer's trick or poignant subtext?

I thought Derek Jacobi gave a wonderful performance, and having rewatched it I haven't changed my mind. When he started to cry, anticipating the loss of his humanity, I almost cried too. The Jekyll-to-Hyde transformation is a real actor's workshop showcase scene, and I thought it couldn't be faulted.

John Simm's performance I think has divided opinion quite strongly. He chose to play The Master in a manic style, and I understand that grated on some. I thought the concept and the pacing by this time were so strong that they carried the scene through on a rush of adrenaline. Also, it pushed my buttons. I believe, though I may be wrong, that in the long run the manic edge will combine with the Blue-Velvet-style menace to give a fuller characterisation.
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