DOCTOR WHO The Master Encounters - UTOPIA - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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DOCTOR WHO The Master Encounters - UTOPIA

Christopher Morley looks back at the surprising appearance of Sir Derek Jacobi as the Master, and considers if the casting of the next Master will reveal a very different surprise.

Utopia is perhaps notable for the own goal of casting something approaching acting royalty as the Master & then giving him nowhere near enough time in the role- Sir Derek Jacobi can rightly feel affronted if the snub means anything to him! At least he gets to be gloriously evil in what time he has, following in the footsteps of Roger Delgado, Peter Pratt, Geoffrey Beevers, Anthony Ainley & Eric Roberts, though it feels almost criminally short nonetheless. Credit to him for making such a cameo so memorable!

While we're on the subject of returns, Captain Jack Harkness makes a comeback too. And quite a comeback it is...

With ' Sexy' having recharged thanks to an injection of rift energy, he's in for quite a ride! He, in the company of the Tenth Doctor & Martha Jones, is set to head off to the very end of the universe in the year 100 Trillion. If that weren't bad enough there's a desperate struggle between what remains of the human race & the Futurekind ( a regressive devolution of humanity) to sort out on Malcassairo- but it would appear help is at hand.

The elderly Professor Yana & his Malmooth assistant Chantho have been working on the Utopia Project, a means of getting the few remaining humans off the planet & taking them to Utopia. You'd think it might be quite nice there- but you'd be wrong. However it really isn't! The whole plan, though, does lead to the later creation of the Toclafane in The Sound Of Drums/Last Of The Time Lords. The creatures inside those deadly shells are the living remains of the survivors of the most inhospitable planet in the universe, having regressed & cannibalised themselves ( the metal shells designed as protection against the awful conditions). Yana certainly isn't who he claims to be...

He does at least get a meeting of minds with the Doctor before quite a moment of revelation...

After breaking free of a disguise so good he fooled even himself before opening his fob watch ( Ten having also used one to become John Smith in Human Nature. Interestingly enough, though, its technically the Seventh Doctor who uses such means first. Human Nature was adapted by Paul Cornell from his own earlier contribution to the New Adventures novel range). Mind you, could you resist after hearing a past self speak so eloquently- Roger Delgado's voice appearing from beyond the grave thanks to a well chosen audio sample from The Daemons- as well as your true current self basically ordering you to release your evil once more?

Ten should've known from the minute he heard the man's name. Having been told ' you are not alone' by the Face of Boe ( Gridlock) he'll have cursed his own arrogance in believing himself to be the last of the Time Lords. His greatest equal & enemy is now back in the game, & he's got a plan! Allowing the Futurekind to get at the humans is just the start of it, & the Toclafane are presumably a work in progress. We're also faced with the possibility that it was the Jacobi Master who fought in the Time War before fleeing & assuming the ' Yana' alias- if so, surely this period of his pre- 'Harold Saxon' life is ripe for novelization? So much for being found with nothing but an antique watch on the coast of the Silver Devastation...

Chantho is quite understandably shocked at the change in her old colleague as he berates her for not getting him to open the watch & unleash his ' true majesty' a lot earlier. Panicked by his rapid descent back into evil, she shoots him. Amazingly given his age he's remarkably agile in the process of pinching the Doctor's TARDIS in an effort to escape even after she's fired at him! Having wangled his way in with the intent of leaving the Doctor & chums to die at the end of the universe his latest change of body begins. He's shown to be able to influence the appearances of his incarnations, getting his wish to be ' young & strong' as ' Yana' dies. Emerging is a man who looks to be of similar age to the Doctor.

Escaping the chaos, he'll go on to become Prime Minister of Great Britain in this new younger form...

Whether he'll get the same degree of influence over his regenerations in future isn't yet clear, though with speculation rife regarding his potential return to menace the Twelfth Doctor in series 8 the question of his next body is well worth a good old ponder.

A popular theory has it that he'll return as Lord President of Gallifrey after he apparently willingly sacrificed himself to go back into the Time War alongside Rassilon in The End Of Time. The two prime candidates for the Presidential Master seem to be Charles Dance & Steve John Shepherd. Even Sylvester McCoy claims to know just who the new Master is- saying only that ' he'll be very scary'. Cryptic! But the casting of Keeley Hawes as the villain of the piece in the episode currently known as Time Heist ( Mrs Delphox) also offers a potentially game-changing pause for thought. What if it's she who's being lined up to take on the Masterly mantle?

'Delphox' might easily be an alias for this new lady Master until she finds just the right moment to drop the bombshell that she's actually the newest ( and most radically different) incarnation of the man who's also been known as Colonel Masters, Reverend Magister , Sir Giles Estram ( The King's Demons) & Kalid ( Time-Flight) at various points in his personal time-line. Changing from a ' he' into a ' she' could be just the kind of big twist Steven Moffatt always teases before a new series hits the nation's televisions! It would also represent both the breaking of new ground & a huge gamble. But perhaps its just the tonic if the head writer's serious about taking the programme onto new ground- after all did Neil Gaiman not legitimise the idea in a way by introducing the Corsair ( The Doctor's Wife) into the line-up of the Time Lords?

While little of his/her back-story has been expanded upon save for what the Eleventh Doctor tells us, giving the same treatment to a more established member of the Gallifreyan race just might win people around to the idea of switching between male & female genders in the regenerative process. If it proves a hit, the Hawes Master could stay. If not, she can easily be killed off & revert back to a male form. So not as risky a gambit as it might sound in theory. Plus it doesn't appear to be any more or less controversial than the idea of a lady Doctor in the not too distant future!

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