The struggle in terms of the strange

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. Sheโ€™s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Kit Power
    September 25, 2013 @ 12:15 am

    "He just nicks the TARDIS and runs off," It was highlighted for me by others that RTD's Master was The Doctor through a mirror darkly, but I'd missed this most obvious of parallels. So thank you.


  2. Carey
    September 25, 2013 @ 12:39 am

    I love the way this entry ends on a cliff hanger that rivals the cliffhanger of the story it comments upon.

    One of the many reasons I love Utopia is that it is another homage to something Davies loves: comics. And in this case, Kirby and Lee's Fantastic Four. It is incredibly easy to simply change the names of the characters in Utopia and make them Fantastic Four characters, and then simply imagine the grandeur of Kirby's art depicting these events:

    Reed Richards and his lovely fiance Sue Storm decide to take a joy ride in Mr Fantastic's Time Machine ( don't fret, Ture Believers: Johnny Storm is off fighting Paste Pot Pete in tales to Admonish #628!!) but Ben Grimm, aka the Thing, worried about being left out, clings to the side of the Time Craft causing it to malfunction and deposit our heroes at The End Of The Universe!!!! There, they are harried by the Hairies, brutal, thuggish monstrosities that are in fact the end form of humanity itself; but find refuge in The Silo!!! There, the last enclaves of the best of humanity hope to escape The End Of The Universe, aided by the kindly Professor! Who is, in fact, an amnesiac Doctor Doom (who lost his memories back in Adolescent Stories #374)…

    Well, you get the picture: even Chantho resembles a Kirby Kreation (and am I alone in thinking the end of the universe will consist of Kirby Krackle?)

    I do wonder what Kirby would have made of Doctor Who: he was a fan of The Prisoner, and even went as far as drawing a proposed Marvel adaptation ( ).

    In an ideal universe, of course, Kirby technology would have been matched in the real world and jack would be alive today, drawing in his prime, and collaborating with Grant Morrison.

    But a Kirby drawn Doctor Who… it would have looked strange, and wonderful. And, I think, resembled Utopia.


  3. Scott
    September 25, 2013 @ 12:43 am

    Kirby drawing Doctor Who is one thing, but holy hell, a Kirby / Morrison collaboration? That would have been something worth seeing…


  4. David Anderson
    September 25, 2013 @ 1:08 am

    Watching this for the first time, it struck me that it's all a bit Earthshock: if you know what's coming it turns a lot of the story into the Doctor and Jack pointlessly running up and down corridors, coats flapping, while we wait for the Master to appear.
    (For once we've got a Davies sequence where there's not enough emotional flagging. Structurally, Yana has no ability to reflect upon the fact that he's about to become the Master. Chantho isn't quite up to the job.) Likewise, would someone seeing this for the first time get the Harold Saxon reveal?

    Also, has the Master been linked with the sound of drums before this? I don't think that on any of his previous appearances, Delgado or Ainley were playing him as if he had an intolerable earworm.


  5. Alex Antonijevic
    September 25, 2013 @ 1:33 am

    Man, the last 15 minutes of this episode and the cliffhanger completely blind-sided me the first time I watched it. I only vaguely knew about The Master, since my experience with the classic series was still minimal at this point, and I was suckered into the 2 part finale format, so I figured this episode was just the return of Jack and a story about the furthest future of mankind.

    Seeing the Master take the TARDIS and the credits roll, I think that may have been one of the longest weeks ever. The only times a cliffhanger got me that invested for a week was The Stolen Earth and The Pandorica Opens. I think Utopia still has them both beaten, for me.


  6. dm
    September 25, 2013 @ 2:04 am

    If Yana is the first Doctor, then what does that make his younger, funnier successor in oversized clothes who comes into the world screaming?


  7. Prole Hole
    September 25, 2013 @ 2:37 am

    It's first mentioned in Utopia, it doesn't exist as a thing in the original series. As an attempt to explain the Master and give him a motivation that goes beyond "generic nut-job" it's not bad and it's a lot better than some of the fanwank theories (see, if you must, Divided Loyalties for one especially egrarious example), but it suffers a little from "X-Files Syndrome". There's been so many Master stories before this, with little-to-no motivation (he's at his best when fighting for his own survival but even that's inconsistent) and much mythology around exactly who he is and what his relationship to the Doctor is that any attempt to explain it at this point just isn't going to be able to tick all the boxes (in the same way that by season 9 there's no way the X-Files was going to be able to convincingly pull together all the disparate strands of mythology that had been set up). Points for effort though, and if we just take the Master from the new series forward then it works (especially with the reveal in The End Of Time where the drums come from), but it doesn't really jibe with the original series.


  8. prandeamus
    September 25, 2013 @ 4:07 am

    And his later epiphany:

    There are some corners of the whoniverse that have bred terrific themes. Themes we believe cause unsubtle acting. They must be fours.


  9. prandeamus
    September 25, 2013 @ 4:09 am

    I'd like to see a butterfly fit into a chrysalis case after it's – what? – Oh, there's no particular reason. I just hate butterflies.


  10. Monicker
    September 25, 2013 @ 4:13 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  11. Monicker
    September 25, 2013 @ 4:21 am

    There's a few attempts at motivation for him from Malcolm Hulke, perhaps more obviously in the books than on screen, which work well for me. The line in Colony in Space about how he thinks your choice is to "rule or serve", and that that's a basic law of life, isn't a bad way of rationalising his nature to some extent. Fits in with his title too.

    I think the drum noise thing was also a sort of homage to Caligula in 'I Claudius', if I remember rightly, which renders the casting of Derek Jacobi in this episode nicely ironical at least, if nothing else.


  12. David Thiel
    September 25, 2013 @ 4:33 am

    Agreed that this is astonishingly bleak stuff, especially once we learn the secret of the Toclafane. Though I took to be less "humanity is inevitably evil" than "no matter how hopeful and noble humanity is, the end of the universe is simply too much for it." I wonder what Lucy Saxon was like before the Master took her to Utopia.

    I actually do find the brief appearance of the Jacobi Master frightening, particularly his "I. Am. The Master." moment. I wish we'd gotten more of him.

    While I have some reservations about the Simm Master, I do like that the production team has realized that the character ought to be the dark double of the current Doctor, not the Pertwee Doctor.

    This was one of the most amazing cliffhangers ever: the Doctor and friends stranded at the end of the universe, the TARDIS stolen, and cannibals about to break through the door. I was disappointed that "The Sound of Drums" didn't pick up from this moment.


  13. David Thiel
    September 25, 2013 @ 4:43 am

    I like the idea of the drums, even if it doesn't jibe with the performances of Delgado and Ainley. It's provides him not only with a motivation, but with a reason for the batshit insanity of his schemes. Suddenly, dressing up as Kalid makes…well, more sense.

    Plus, the notion that what drives the Master to madness is the "Doctor Who" theme itself… As much as folks here like to unearth metaphors that were surely never intended by anyone associated with the production, here's an instance in which they clearly "meant to do that."


  14. Wm Keith
    September 25, 2013 @ 4:43 am

    It's rather tinniphobic, isn't it? And it turns "The Master" into just another Davros, a person turned mad and bad by an industrial accident. What's The Doctor's excuse for his own disregard for societal norms? (Well, the current reason seems to be that he had his biodata corrupted by The Great Intelligence)


  15. Spacewarp
    September 25, 2013 @ 4:47 am

    We were watching this in an unusually large household, with a couple of friends and their daughters over. So there was 4 adults and 4 children. I was the only real Who fan who knew what was coming, but when Jacobi uttered those words the whole room cheered. One of those fantastic and unforgettable moments that only Doctor Who can give you.


  16. jane
    September 25, 2013 @ 4:56 am

    Me, I find this one not bleak but uplifting. Knowing that it all amounts to nothing in the end, the only course of action is to go back and see it all from a different angle. Death isn't utopia, it's a mirror. So Martha goes back to her family. She finds meaning not in how it all turns out, but in her present relationships. And seeing the ultimate horror of death, her family does likewise, and reconcile themselves to each other.

    This, in turn, sets up the Master's final act. The ultimate pessimism at the end up the Universe can't stop the Doctor, but the Master himself can deny the Doctor the one thing that redeems it — he lets himself die, denying the Doctor the opportunity for relationship. In this sense, Lucy did the Master a favor, for it gives him the only taste of victory he's likely to enjoy.

    To jump forward in time, this basic message is reiterated in Journey's End (family drives the TARDIS) and End of Time (Farewell Tour). It's the Homecoming, going back to enjoy reunion with the people we shared our time with. They, it seems, are the whole point of the show. And this, in turn, can only come out of Rose, who brings the genre conventions of the soap opera to the show, conventions which are ultimately rooted in relationship.


  17. Ross
    September 25, 2013 @ 5:10 am

    And of course, this is where the season has been taking us: a vampire disguised as a little old lady, then monsters that aren't The Monster This Week menacing people who aren't the victims but the survivors, followed by Daleks that become human (and humans that become Dalek, and then become human), followed by a man who becomes the ridiculous spider-monster hidden in our DNA, followed by a killer body-possessing star that turns out to just be defending itself, followed by the Doctor turning human not, as it seemed, out of cowardice, but to protect his enemies from the monster inside himself, followed by statues that aren't statues that darkly mirror the Doctor by making people fall out of the world, followed by this episode where it seems for all the world that the Futurekind are going to be the bad guys and the human survivors and Yana i particular are going to be the good guys.

    I think this is probably the most thematically coherent of the RTD seasons; there's not a single story that doesn't trade on the idea of either something nasty lurking within something seemingly innocuous, something innocuous lurking within something seemingly nasty, or both.


  18. Robert Lloyd
    September 25, 2013 @ 5:42 am

    Hey – did I somehow miss the article(s) on "Human Nature/The Family of Blood"?


  19. Lewis Christian
    September 25, 2013 @ 6:13 am

    I always viewed the drums as a "timey wimey" thing.

    In the classic series, the Master, throughout his life, never had the drums. Then, come the Time War, the Time Lords retroactively put drums into his head that have been there all his life. The biggest retcon.

    However, there are many ways to look at it.

    Maybe he's only had the drums since the Time War/fobwatch incident. Maybe he always had the drums but they were very faint for Delgado/Ainley and thus only became more prominent post-Time War (which was when the Time Lords found him in "The End of Time").


  20. landru
    September 25, 2013 @ 6:14 am

    Another perspective apart from narrative collapse could be it's mass appeal in the presence of Jacobi playing the Master. Whether or not he always wanted to be on the show, as he stated somewhere, it is quite "get" for Doctor Who. And, perhaps, elevates the show into something more than a kids show.

    From the moment we see Jana as the befuddled genius to his apotheosis, we are watching a great actor taking the role very, very seriously. It's magnetic. Every time he's on the screen some part of me wants him not to remember and then … wow, that face. Jekyll and Hyde. Utopia is about the Master … Jacobi's master. I think your essay is very valid on its own for this reason.


  21. Lewis Christian
    September 25, 2013 @ 6:15 am

    "If Yana is the first Doctor, then what does that make his younger, funnier successor in oversized clothes who comes into the world screaming?"

    Wonder if Capaldi will get an older Master to face… y'know, a Pertwee-esque one.


  22. David Thiel
    September 25, 2013 @ 6:26 am

    Tinniphobic? Fear of tin? Kidding, but is "tinniphobic" really a thing?

    As motivations go it's not the strongest, but it's an improvement over past incarnations, which seemed driven by nothing other than a vague desire for universal domination and/or screwing with the Doctor. And, of course, it eventually turns out that it's no "accident."


  23. Bennett
    September 25, 2013 @ 6:27 am

    Being reminded of how Davies played with the apparent inevitability of the Master's revival in the third series has made me wonder whether his return can still be considered inevitable (that is, say, over the next five-to-ten years. Whether he'll return at all is moot unless the show actually dies, and Doctor Who has already shown that it can hold back death.)

    Is the Master due for a return? Will the Eleventh Doctor's era be lacking if it finishes (as it seems set to) without a Master story? Is the Master even feasible as a recurring villain in the modern series?

    I'm interested in what the commenters here think.

    (My own thoughts are no, no and no, but then I may be biased as the Master was not part of the show I fell in love with.)


  24. David Thiel
    September 25, 2013 @ 6:38 am

    For a time, I thought that "timey-wimey" was the theme of the season, starting with the Doctor introducing himself to Martha before she'd officially met him. Then there was the entire Saxon plot percolating underneath, none of which would even had happened had the Doctor not introduced the fobwatch (while one might assume that the Chameleon Arch is standard Time Lord tech, it's stated to be the same watch) and traveled to Malcassairo.


  25. Wm Keith
    September 25, 2013 @ 6:59 am

    Go to sleep, Eruditorum…go to sleep…everybody.


  26. Theonlyspiral
    September 25, 2013 @ 7:07 am

    Yes, during Capaldi's run. I think a properly cast actor would be an excellent foil for him. Watching him on Thick of It, he really shines when he has someone with a similar level of skill.

    No. Just as Eccelston, McGann, Troughton and Hartnell never got a Master story, there is no such thing as "Must Haves" other than a Dalek story.

    Yes. There is literally no reason a recurring dark opposite of the Doctor cannot work.


  27. Theonlyspiral
    September 25, 2013 @ 7:09 am

    Also: What show did you fall in love with?


  28. David Thiel
    September 25, 2013 @ 7:26 am

    Agreed with all of Theonlyspiral's answers. (Though I'll point out that the only story McGann got was a Master story!) I think it's too late for the Master in Eleven's run. (Besides, I'd rather see them wrap up the Silence.) And yeah, there's no reason that the Master can't work, he just needs to be something more than evil because he's evil.


  29. Travis Butler
    September 25, 2013 @ 7:27 am

    Honestly, I think it's a pretty crap motivation, and feels very manufactured; something drummed up (pun intentional) to solve a problem that didn't really exist.

    For me, all the motivation needed can be found in the original interactions between the Delgado and Pertwee incarnations; they did a very respectable job of portraying two people who were enemies, but who still respected each other's skills and abilities, and even had a sneaking bit of friendship in there. This is a potent enough trope that when executed well, it's all you need.


  30. Theonlyspiral
    September 25, 2013 @ 7:32 am

    I…I don't know how I forgot that. He's my Doctor…I…wow. Poor form me.


  31. Ununnilium
    September 25, 2013 @ 7:37 am

    I think it works well, because the answer to why the Master is the way he is isn't "he has drums in his head"; it's "he comes from a society that makes children stare into sanity-snapping holes in spacetime". And it's great, because this is the same reason the Doctor is the way he is.


  32. Ununnilium
    September 25, 2013 @ 7:39 am


  33. Ununnilium
    September 25, 2013 @ 7:41 am

    (This comes out especially well when we look at John Smith and Professor Yana.)


  34. Bennett
    September 25, 2013 @ 7:56 am

    The only reason I can't imagine the Master returning in a recurring capacity is because I think he becomes 'too big, too noisy' when drawn into the narrative logic of the new series – it makes it difficult not to write him out at the end of a story. Not to mention writing him back in these days takes more than "So, you escaped from…", giving every Master story an awful lot of extra leg work to do.

    But this only applies to the series as it stands now. And a change is coming…

    Also: What show did you fall in love with?
    Doctor Who :-).


  35. Chris Andersen
    September 25, 2013 @ 8:09 am

    I am reminded of "The End of The World", the second episode of the new series. The Doctor takes Rose billions of years into the future to witness the destruction of Earth. At the end of the episode, he returns her to modern London. At first she has problems absorbing the implications of what she saw and what she is seeing. How can the Earth be both destroyed and a living and thriving planet?

    It is only when she catches the familiar smell of chips that it all snaps into place. Life is not a cycle that goes from the beginning to the end. It is what you are doing now and what you are experiencing now. The end of the world/the end of the universe is out there, just as our deaths are inevitably out there. But they can wait while we take time to enjoy the chips.


  36. Travis Butler
    September 25, 2013 @ 8:17 am

    It was bleak, and terribly depressing. I'm not a particular fan of 'bleak' to begin with, so this episode was a constant battle between appreciating its skill, and hating its nihilism.

    And yes, it was an amazing cliffhanger, and I wish they had come up with a more satisfying resolution; 'Go to your room!' worked because it was terribly clever, but this resolution was just 'ooh, I'm a Time Lord and I can spit in the face of the storyline.'

    I also loved Jacobi's Master, and wish we'd had more of him; he had the quality that I thought Simm's Master lacked. Simm's Master just didn't work for me, because I think they had the wrong tack; the Master doesn't need to be the Doctor's mirror, he needs to play well off of the Doctor.

    I mentioned the Delgado Master earlier; and maybe I'm eliding Ainley's worst moments, but even he – when playing up to form (Logopolis, Five Doctors, Planet of Fire, Survival) – had a certain… gravitas? Polish? Culture (in the Russian sense of nekulturny)? However crazy his plans, he came across as highly educated and intelligent, urbane – purposeful. And that played well off of the Doctor, no matter the incarnation.

    Whereas Simm's Master felt like a bad copy of the Joker – nihilist, random, manic and unpredictable. Which might have made him a better 'mirror' for Tennant's Doctor, but made him harder to respect as a character.


  37. Assad K
    September 25, 2013 @ 8:33 am

    I would probably have preferred to see Jacobi's menacing Master continue rather than John Simms one (who was just a little too.. well, something. Self aware? Trendy? He reminded me quite a lot of the Sheriff of Nottingham). And yes, was there quite so much running in corridors until Waters of Mars? The episode does end a bit hopefully, of course, as humanity takes off for Utopia, till we learn more a couple of episodes later – which brings up its own issues, but I guess those will be discussed later.


  38. Adam Riggio
    September 25, 2013 @ 8:35 am

    At this point, I think the only way for the Master to return is that he no longer becomes a straight villain. The dynamics of the Master worked as a recurring villain with ridiculous OTT complicated schemes in the Pertwee era, because it just energized the camp that kept the show running. His character was problematic during the Davison/C.Baker era because the writers typically saw him as no more complex than Snidely Whiplash, and quite a few of them (I'm looking at you, Pip and Jane!) thought Doctor Who was a show of no more substance than Wacky Races.

    He has gravitas in Utopia because that's how Jacobi plays him for the five minutes he gets as the Master here. Jacobi's few minutes takes the brutality and callousness of the Master seriously. Then Simm takes him into an OTT mirror of Tennant's Doctor. By the time of his second appearance, Davies does have to go through some convoluted infodumps of technobabble to bring the character back within the story. Doctor Who is a show that its creators take seriously now, so they can't bring the character back fully to the camp sci-fi Snidely Whiplash territory of the 1980s, when you can have the Master explain away escaping death with a couple of sneers.

    Most importantly, The End of Time is his redemptive moment. The Snidely Whiplash Master would have remained fixed on destroying the Doctor, because so many writers in the 1980s wrote him like an idiot snarling villain on an inconsequential kiddie show. But Davies and Simm's Master recognizes the real enemy.

    After whatever convoluted infodumps Moffat uses to bring a new Master back from the time lock, I think he'd work better as an ambiguous character. Now that he knows his fight with the Doctor was just the inconsequential envy a discerning viewer understands it to be, he can concentrate on taking over the universe properly. He's a much more powerful threat to the Doctor once his primary motive is no longer fighting the Doctor. A truly threatening Master doesn't want to defeat the Doctor, but strives to be bigger than the Doctor.

    For example, what if the Master sets himself up as a benevolent dictator? That's the kind of plan that could not only succeed, but could also achieve what I thought should have been the arc of season 19 from Castrovalva to Time-Flight. He could be the villain that seduces a companion away from the Doctor.


  39. Theonlyspiral
    September 25, 2013 @ 8:38 am

    So pre-master Doctor Who?


  40. Bennett
    September 25, 2013 @ 9:46 am

    Theonlyspiral – "So pre-master Doctor Who?"

    Yep. I was fortunate enough to be able to watch the majority of Doctor Who in the correct order, starting with An Unearthly Child (albeit some forty years too late).

    And as much as I love the show as a whole, and recognise that change is a vital part of it, there'll always be a part of me that has trouble accepting that the Doctor needs a 'Moriarty', or that he's a "Time Lord" from "Gallifrey", or that the TARDIS is actually blue.


  41. Nyq Only
    September 25, 2013 @ 10:04 am

    The younger funnier one is the Christopher Eccelstone Master. Which isn't to say John Simm plays him like CE (he takes his cues more from Tennant) but rather that Simm is a reasonable substitute: both northerners, both associated with griity Jimmy McGovern TV, both signal "serious acting coming up"


  42. J Mairs
    September 25, 2013 @ 10:24 am

    I agree with Adam.

    After The End of Time, I was discussing with a friend how I'd kill off the Thirteenth and Final Doctor (before I regenerated him, of course)

    After regenerating 12 into 13 presumably at Christmas as seems to be become a tradition, I'd then employ a time skip to several months/years later where we do a "Fall out the World" story line, ala Rose, only for the audience to find that the world we fall into is one where the Doctor is traveling with the Master. The significance of this is obvious to the audience, but the companion is of course oblivious.

    But ultimately, the tension between the Doctor and the Master is that, faced with the Doctor's imminent death and the Master's potential for redemption coming off of EofT, the Doctor is becoming more like the Master, and the Master is becoming more like the Doctor.


  43. encyclops
    September 25, 2013 @ 10:24 am

    I love Utopia, and appreciate that you've discussed some of its virtues beyond merely the Big Reveal, which admittedly is a huge part of its appeal.

    Like a few other commenters, I have to say I found Jacobi's Master intensely unnerving, perhaps partly because we've been warming to him as Professor Yana the whole time, but probably mainly because — nothing against John Simm, but he's following Derek fucking Jacobi. And like a few other commenters, I find Simm at best tied for least unnerving Master we've had.

    What he does is certainly sinister enough, and highly capable compared to his previous incarnations/stolen-carnations, but how he is is just a little too familiar for my taste, a little too ha-ha funny villain. It's hard to feel primal loathing for someone who likes the Scissor Sisters, even if it is a cut from that weaker second album.

    The brilliant thing about him — and maybe this gets too much into the next story — is that he's perfectly cast and suited for the Harold Saxon plot. He looks and acts just as you'd expect an evil Prime Minister to look and act. Still not unnerving, since some might say "evil Prime Minister" is usually redundant, but spot-on and just what a Master story in New Who ought to be. So I like him — I just don't find him uncommonly scary.


  44. encyclops
    September 25, 2013 @ 10:27 am

    …I should add, though, that I didn't like Simm at all until the penny dropped on the Saxon plot. My initial reaction to him at the end of "Utopia" was something like, "oh…oh god. Oh no. Really? REALLY? Shit." Since that's pretty much exactly how I reacted to David Tennant when he woke up at the end of "The Christmas Invasion," there's clearly something to this "mirror of his Doctor" thing.


  45. encyclops
    September 25, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    YES to both of you. It's all got to end somehow, as far as we know, right?


  46. inkdestroyedmybrush
    September 25, 2013 @ 10:33 am

    This reading of the story misses the mark for me when it comes to Utopia, a story that i really detest. If there are themes to play with here, how about the utter abandonment of logic? The Doctor knows that the universe is ending and somehow thinking the ship flying off into the void will somehow have a happy ending? The sub-goth 80's punkers that stepped right off of the set of Earthshock or Mad Max 3 somehow being scary? Incorrect use of the word "blogging" by the Doctor (which will not age well, it already hasn't)? this, upon repeated viewings, makes no sense whatsoever except that the characters are running around, waiting to set up a cliffhanger ending, one that isn't even resolved properly. So maybe we waste Derek Jacobi, who is just excellent with what little he is given, before it is all given over the Simm until we give him some meat in the last 10 minutes. Given how little sense the last two episodes have in them, including the christ-like Dobby/Doctor, the world magically wishing the series back (er… i mean the Doctor), I would say that this is part one of three.

    This three parter is embarrassing. And while I love this show, this is, for me, the nadir between 2005-2013, because this is, thematically, where it goes off the rails and becomes something that i don't want.


  47. jane
    September 25, 2013 @ 10:49 am

    "For me, all the motivation needed can be found in the original interactions between the Delgado and Pertwee incarnations; they did a very respectable job of portraying two people who were enemies, but who still respected each other's skills and abilities, and even had a sneaking bit of friendship in there. This is a potent enough trope that when executed well, it's all you need."

    It's a great setup, and a fine trope, but it doesn't actually give the Master motivation. Why are so many of his plans just plain bonkers? Why is he so opposed to the Doctor? Why does he want so much control? Sorry, without a proper motive, his actions just make him nothing but a trope, a stereotypical mustache-twirler. The drum reveal, on the other hand, makes sense of his absurdity. The sound drives him crazy, keeping him from thinking straight. He's opposed to the Doctor because the Doctor doesn't hear the drums, and can't empathize with him despite empathizing with so many other people. He seeks control because control of his own head has been taken from him.


  48. Theonlyspiral
    September 25, 2013 @ 10:50 am

    My pet story for the Doctor's "Last" Regeneration was that (Into his 13th form) was that the Master would come in, and try and steal the Doctor's last life, ending up killing him by accident. When the regeneration energy finished, both Time Lords had regenerated but they were "Quantum Locked". They could not leave the same Time as the other without dying. They had basically one life, and the Master and Doctor would have to search for a way to be separate. The Doctor would have gained a darkness and an edge to him that we've rarely seen before. He would still oppose evil, stand against power mad conspirators…but he would be almost manic from a love and passion for the universe and being willing to do almost anything to defend it. The Master…would have grown sane. And would be desperate to redeem herself. They would be constantly chumming around and then pulling each other back from the edge.

    Of course my Ideal casting was Idris Elba (As the Doctor) and Ruth Wilson (As the Master). So it could never happen. But what a world it could have been…


  49. jane
    September 25, 2013 @ 10:51 am

    Wakey wakey! Wake up, and let the cloak of life cling to your bones.


  50. David Anderson
    September 25, 2013 @ 11:27 am

    'I can't get this earworm out of my head' isn't really a motivation either.
    As a McCoy-era fan I see the Master as in Survival as the best take of the character. And the take on the character is that he is really a bit pathetic and thinks he's a lot more clever than he actually is, and he is therefore the perfect personification of the capitalist competition mentality. (When the Davies-era tries to do it straight, as in Planet of the Ood, one thinks that's a cardboard cutout masquerading as a realistic character.) Whereas Ainsley's Master in Survival isn't pretending to be a realistic character and so is free to be a symbol. Mercury is not only god of thieves but of merchants – so symbolically mercantile ideology ought to be represented by an anti-Doctor.
    I think this is a sufficiently Holmesian conception to be faithful to the character's original creation: most of Holmes' villains are pathetic and trying to be more clever than they actually are, and so doing a lot of damage along the way.


  51. Seeing_I
    September 25, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    I would never kill off the last Doctor, I would strand him or her on some new, unexplored and quite wonderful planet, without the TARDIS, and he'd set off walking into the sunset to see what's out there.

    What would anyone think of David Tennant playing the next Master? With all the Lazarus genetic shenanigans we saw, plus him being absorbed into the TARDIS at one point, it would be easily explainable. And evil David Tennant is quite chilling.


  52. Adam Riggio
    September 25, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

    "And evil David Tennant is quite chilling."

    True, Waters of Mars was brilliant about that. Another story for which I'm looking forward to the Sandifer perspective.


  53. encyclops
    September 25, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

    The one and only thing I like about the "sound of drums" idea is that it provides some explanation for why the Master's plans always go awry. I couldn't successfully plan a pajama party with a constant migraine, let alone plot to take over the universe.

    To me it's motivation enough that the Master is a sadist with almost unparalleled power. We can probably assume that he's already indulged most of his more carnally rooted sadistic impulses during his previous incarnations and now he has to dominate entire societies or planets in order to get off. His motivations are no more inscrutable than the Doctor's because the two of them literally engage in opposite activities. Where the Master tries to create tyranny (destructive order, you might say), the Doctor struggles to depose it (constructive chaos); where the Master tries to create destructive chaos, the Doctor struggles to restore constructive order, or at least this is how I recall their activities (perhaps a story-by-story analysis might reveal that this is too simplistic, or even just wrong?). And this is what the Doctor does even in the Master's absence.

    Why does the Doctor do this? What's his motivation? Do we see it as unnecessary for him to have one just because he usually seems like a nice person doing the things nice people would normally do? Or do we think maybe he's atoning for something — maybe something Hartnell did, or Hurt? Does it just get the Doctor off (so to speak) to feel like a saint or a white knight? Why DID he adopt the name of the Doctor, and what does it mean to him that he would reject any part of himself that didn't earn it?

    In some ways, I feel like this is the more interesting question. We know a lot of humans who are a lot like the Master already, and we've seen the kinds of vendettas they carry out against the people who thwart their sadistic ambitions. There are, unfortunately, a lot fewer people like the Doctor, and because we regard altruism as natural and sadism as unnnatural, we only question "why?" in the latter case.


  54. encyclops
    September 25, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

    What would anyone think of David Tennant playing the next Master?

    My answer to this kind of question is always going to be "I want it to be someone who hasn't been on the show before, and preferably someone I've never seen in anything else."

    Often unrealistic, but I'm much more excited by unknown quantities than known ones. ๐Ÿ™‚


  55. encyclops
    September 25, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

    But once he’s unleashed and near-trivially dispatched, by a comedy insect at that

    Actually, it's just occurred to me: both the Jacobi and Simm incarnations are killed (temporarily, in the latter case, but yeah) in exactly the same way: they're shot dead by women who adored them and whom they thought they'd dominated completely. Satisfying on all sorts of levels, I think. I wouldn't call it trivial at all.


  56. ferret
    September 25, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

    I remember it slightly differently: when Jacobi's Master takes the data chip with Utopia's location on it, shakes his head and mockingly laughs "Utopia!" – you know he's just planned his next trip.


  57. ferret
    September 25, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

    Jacobi really does compress a lot of Master-traits in his few short scenes, with his supreme overconfidence getting a nice quick showing here in his assumption of Chanthos irrelevance: he actually laughs in Chanthos face then double-takes at the gun she's holding. Great little moment.


  58. Ben
    September 25, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

    It's interesting how the Toclafane and Futurekind mirror the Tesh and Sevateem from Face of Evil. Again one race is savage, the other entirely removed from nature. The difference is that in the earlier story both were apparently redeemable, and hell, one of them produced Leela. Much more pessimistic take this time round.

    (BTW, I hope I get to post this time. I had some eloquent things to say about Blink, but was stopped cold by the device manager.)


  59. Ben
    September 25, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

    I had noticed, of course, the physical resemblance between the Doctor and the Master: Simm is fuller in the face and dressed a little neater, but they're the same basic type. But that parallel? I'd missed it too.


  60. Alan
    September 25, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

    Agreed. My biggest gripe about Simms' interpretation is that it feels like they've abandoned Moriarty for the Joker. And I really find the Joker tiresome at this point.


  61. Alan
    September 25, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

    One of my favorite NuWho episodes, marred only by the normally unflappable Martha holding the Idiot Ball with both hands. She knows exactly what that watch is. She knows Yana is a Time Lord unwittingly transformed into a human. And when Yana says that it's broken and is not meant to be opened (perhaps because the kindly Yana on some level knows that he does not want to become the person he once was), she all but dares him to open it anyway ("How do you know it's broken if you've never opened it?") And then, she runs off to the Doctor, leaving Yana alone to think about what she's said. The entire story would have played out differently if she'd had the presence of mind to say "Professor, can I borrow this for a minute? I think the Doctor might need to examine it." The whole sequence leading up to Yana opening the watch felt very contrived to me and reflected poorly on Martha.


  62. Ross
    September 25, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

    I dunno, given that Martha has been pining for the Doctor all season, I can very easily imagine that her actions pretty much all make sense if her goal is to be able to say "LOOK I MAKED YOU A TIME LORD FRIEND BECAUSE I LOVE YOU!"


  63. Nicholas Tosoni
    September 25, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

    "Utopia" is, in many ways, also a remake of the earlier Fourth Doctor Adventure "End of the Line," which was featured in "Doctor Who Magazine" and Marvel USA's "Doctor Who" comics.


  64. Alan
    September 25, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

    That thought just makes me sadder.


  65. Adam Riggio
    September 25, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

    I think Matt Smith turned out pretty well for an unknown quantity who had never played a lead role on a television show before.


  66. Iain Coleman
    September 25, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

    Idris Elba would be a shit Doctor, but an excellent Master. Always assuming they could afford him…


  67. sleepyscholar
    September 25, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

    Adam: Matt Smith had a lead role in Party Animals before being the Doctor. That may not have been shown much outside the UK, but it was a fairly well-received television show, and a lead role.


  68. David Anderson
    September 26, 2013 @ 12:50 am

    To be fair, at the moment Martha's sample of time lords consists of the Doctor and the sense that the Doctor would like the rest of the time lords back. The Doctor probably hasn't been saying, most time lords were stuffed shirts whom the universe isn't missing, and chances are that if there is a survivor it's one that the universe is far better off without.


  69. prandeamus
    September 26, 2013 @ 1:27 am

    Or, perhaps, serious over-acting…


  70. Froborr
    September 26, 2013 @ 2:20 am

    I dunno that it's all that bleak. It all comes down to death, yeah? It's inevitable, we carry its seed within us from the moment we're born, and when you get past the hype it's actually pretty rubbish. The Master? Utopia? Same thing, really. Your options are to take that as an invitation to nihilism and savagery (the Futurekind), pretend it isn't true and run off seeking something eternal (just as bad in the long run, since it leads to becoming the Toclafane), or accept it and move on with your life (hello there, Martha).

    The whole season's been about how rubbish death is, and how you need to accept you can't do a damn thing about it.

    Smith and Jones? Vampire tries to cheat the death closing in on her by sacrificing others in her stead, fails.
    Shakespeare Code? The Immortal Bard turns out to be just another pop culture idol, certain to fade away eventually just like all the others.
    Lazarus Experiment should be obvious.
    Human Nature/Family of Blood: Will they thank the one who taught them it was glorious?
    A Blink is, of course, the span of time in which a life passes.
    And now this, and the following story, in which the deaths of worlds and universes and species are shown as following the same rules.

    And as I said, it's Martha who shows the way out. Inspired by, of all people, the Master, she realizes you don't try to cheat or escape death, as the Toclafane (and Time Lords!) do. You don't give up on life and spread death, as the Futurekind and, ultimately, Lucy Saxon do. You embrace life, cherish what little of it there is, go out and LIVE it–once again Davies is returning to arguably his core theme, dating all the way back to the contrasts between Rose and whatsisface, the companion that lasted less than an episode, that authentic experience is an inherent good, and that which attempts to deny or exploit that experience is evil.

    This has been your early-Thursday-morning I-forgot-about-the-Wednesday-post incoherence.


  71. John Binns
    September 26, 2013 @ 2:50 am

    The sound of drums surely isn't just an irritating noise like tinnitus, but the sound of the vortex, which stands for something more profoundly and deliriously anti-rational – the same thing that transports us into and out of the Doctor's world in every TV episode.


  72. Monicker
    September 26, 2013 @ 6:07 am

    There are a few other potentially interesting possibilities offered up by various stories or books over the years. Someone's already mentioned the example of Survival. As I recall, the book goes into some depth on Rona Munro's idea, which is that the Master is jealous or resentful of the Doctor, that he's desperate to prove himself to him in some way, and that this is one way of doing so. I think there's a passage where the Doctor reflects that maybe he could or should have let the Master win chess once. That's perhaps something which can be thought of as similar to the way that, in The Mind of Evil, the Master's greatest fear is apparently a giant image of a cackling Doctor, looking down at him and laughing in contempt.

    This could also be a facet of the rivalry that exists between them. Others have theorised before that some of their encounters, especially in the Pertwee era, may also be partly or largely about one-upmanship, with each effectively playing a game to prove their superiority to one another. The Master chooses Earth and its people mainly because that's where the Doctor is at the time, and due to the way he cares about them so much, so the stakes are of a nature which are also quite important, to the Doctor at least.

    There's also a scene in the Sea Devils book where the Master tries to persuade the Sea Devils that humanity is too dangerous and unreliable to be reconciled with, citing various species which have previously been rendered extinct by them. It's possible that this is simply a tactical argument, but perhaps it might also signify that he does genuinely regard the human race as an overly destructive force, and considers the Sea Devils to not only have a superior claim to Earth but to be morally better beings as well, hence another reason for him to feel little or no guilt about any human deaths he might cause. Alternatively of course, he's just acting for self-preservation as he sees them as a means of getting rid of the human authorities who might try to prevent him getting back to his TARDIS. It's notable though that the same book is also careful to have the Master accuse the Doctor of having murdered them when escaping their base, one which the Doctor accepts without any verbal protestations. We could still also see this as being part of their extended duel, with the Master taking pride in implying to the Doctor that he's managed to force the kind of tactic or action from the latter that he would normally condemn the former for.


  73. Adam Riggio
    September 26, 2013 @ 6:36 am

    I knew of Party Animals, but hadn't gotten the chance to check it out on this side of the ocean. From what I heard about it, I thought Matt had a breakout supporting role that kept stealing the show from the leads, rather than an actual lead.

    So that's another piece of TV on the list.


  74. Ununnilium
    September 26, 2013 @ 6:50 am

    To be fair, while the Joker was overplayed when these episodes came out, it wasn't nearly as bad as it would get after The Dark Knight.


  75. Ununnilium
    September 26, 2013 @ 6:53 am

    Yeah, that seemed perfectly reasonable to me – "Ooooh! One of the Doctor's people survived while disguised as a human! Oh man he's gonna be SO HAPPY."


  76. Alan
    September 26, 2013 @ 8:25 am

    I suppose in Martha's defense, she, unlike the audience, cannot hear the frankly terrifying background music that starts playing the second Yana pulls out the watch. No other music cue before or since has fairly screamed out "Oh shit! This is bad!"


  77. Alan
    September 26, 2013 @ 8:28 am

    Speaking of the bleak ending for humanity, I'd actually had a fanwanky idea of how it's actually much more positive, and indeed alchemical. At the end of time itself, humanity has finally duplicated Rassilon's technique for ascending to become beings of pure thought so as to survive the Great Crunch and emerge in the next universe. The Toclafane are so corrupt and degenerate because they are all that is left when the last remnants of humanity abandon all of their base urges and weaknesses to become both pure and divine.


  78. Ross
    September 26, 2013 @ 8:30 am

    Also, Martha did not go into it knowing, as the audience did, that if the Doctor were to meet exactly one other surviving time lord, the odds of it being The Master were approximately five million percent.


  79. encyclops
    September 26, 2013 @ 8:54 am

    the Master is jealous or resentful of the Doctor, that he's desperate to prove himself to him in some way

    Personally I find it less interesting, as a rule, for the forces of the universe, great and small, to center on the Doctor. My favorite conception of the Doctor is as a gifted dilettante, gadding about the universe but with a conscience that just won't let him walk away. I love the sequence in "Closing Time" where he's trying to persuade himself not to notice the signs that Craig's world has Cybermen in it, and he can't leave well enough alone. There are of course plenty of stories that present a different view (typically of the Seventh or Tenth Doctors) but this is what MY Doctor is like. ๐Ÿ™‚

    So I'm personally going to find boring the idea that the Master is obsessed with the Doctor and goes out of his way to destroy him and the things he loves. Obviously, again, there's plenty of support in some stories for this idea, notably "Castrovalva" (one of my favorites, but still) and his behavior in "The Last of the Time Lords" (not one of my favorites), but it's not my favorite.

    I watched "Terror of the Autons" somewhat recently, and I was very interested in reviewing how the Master is introduced. As I recall it sounds very much like the Doctor doesn't know him, or at least doesn't remember him by name or description (or perhaps pretends not to know him in front of the Time Lord). Obviously we're now supposed to take it that they've known each other since childhood.

    it might also signify that he does genuinely regard the human race as an overly destructive force

    This is more interesting to me than the rivalry. It also fits with my notion that the Doctor and the Master are not entirely Holmes and Moriarty, but potentially Professor X and Magneto as well.


  80. Monicker
    September 26, 2013 @ 9:38 am

    I'd actually agree about how you see the Doctor. I should perhaps also have made more clear that I wasn't intending to imply that everything the Master did was supposed to be because of an obsession with the Doctor, as he's quite capable of being callous, cruel, interested in power or wealth and so on, even when the latter's not around. Just that that was possibly one of the things that motivated him in respect to the Doctor, at least as others have suggested.

    The idea of the Doctor and Master having known each other since childhood was certainly developed in Pertwee's time, although it may not have been established as early as Terror. There are references to them having been at school together in The Sea Devils, and even a claim in The Time Monster that they used to spoil each other's time experiments there too.


  81. encyclops
    September 26, 2013 @ 9:46 am

    Oh, thanks! It's been a while since I've watched "The Sea Devils" or "The Time Monster" (though I'm not embarrassed to say I really want to, and soon), so I didn't remember those references. I do like the idea that they knew each other back in the day, and I do agree that if he didn't have some specific thing about the Doctor from the outset, he definitely has one now in addition to any other obsessions he's got.


  82. David Thiel
    September 26, 2013 @ 11:58 am

    FWIW, I just watched the scene from "Terror of the Autons," and the Time Lord delivering the warning says "An old acquaintance has arrived on this planet..the Master." To which the Doctor replies, "That jackanapes! All he ever does is cause trouble." There's some discussion about the Master having scored higher marks than the Doctor. So, the Doctor has at least heard of him, and you could read between the lines and assume that they were contemporaries. But there's nothing about why he might target the Doctor aside from general jackanapery.

    I suppose that the Master doesn't really need much of a motivation, it's enough that he wants to leverage his knowledge and Time Lord abilities into power of a galactic/universal scale. Still, I like the idea of the drums, as it does help to explain why his schemes tend to be not that well thought out.

    "Personally I find it less interesting, as a rule, for the forces of the universe, great and small, to center on the Doctor."

    That's starting to develop in the Davies era, but once Moffat takes command it engulfs the series. If it's not directly about the Doctor, it's about Amy and River, who are themselves intrinsically tied into schemes centered on the Doctor.


  83. Henry R. Kujawa
    September 26, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

    I think "Inkdestroyedmybrush" said it for me.

    My cable got shut off after this season, and the sad thing is, I haven't really missed the show since. And that's after about 2-1/2 years worth of episodes which I thought were "the best thing on television right now".

    What I find shocking about this post and all the replies (which i actually read thru most of, first time in ages), is how not one person even mentioned the interview where Barry Letts EXPLAINED who The Master REALLY WAS…

    Go back to the 1966 STAR TREK episode "The Enemy Within". It's all explained there.


  84. encyclops
    September 26, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

    Thanks 2: Electric Boogaloo. You're right, that does imply acquaintance of some sort. I think what I must have remembered is that there's no trace in the words or the delivery of intimacy — no sense that there's anything special between these two. It's more or less how you'd talk about an old classmate who used to put tacks on the teacher's chair. We might put that down to Pertwee's stiff upper lip, or we might assume that the Master's type of "trouble" hasn't been anything too serious yet, or both. Here he's an irritant; later in the series he's a mortal threat. Interesting.

    And yes, the Doctor-centric universe just gets worse in the Moffat era, but I appreciate how the Eleventh Doctor at least gives the impression he would rather this not be the case, as opposed to the Tenth, who glories in it. I wonder how Capaldi's going to spin it?


  85. encyclops
    September 26, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

    I've just finished my rewatch of season 4, and it was much better than I'd remembered. I might even have to recant and join Team Donna, or at least decide that I'm Team Whichever Companion I'm Watching Right Now. So I hope you get a chance to catch up someday.


  86. Wm Keith
    September 27, 2013 @ 12:19 am

    None of these theories take into account the other strange sound which haunts The Master. Drums, yes. But what about the whistles? Why don't more people realise that The Master is in league with The Clangers (aka The Ambassadors) and that his every machination is part of a larger scheme to plant Noggin the Nog on Rassilon's throne?


  87. Bennett
    September 27, 2013 @ 12:31 am

    "Ross – Also, Martha did not go into it knowing, as the audience did, that if the Doctor were to meet exactly one other surviving time lord, the odds of it being The Master were approximately five million percent."

    The Doctor seems aware of this too. From the way he reacted, it was pretty clear that he wasn't expecting Drax.


  88. David Anderson
    September 27, 2013 @ 3:07 am

    Now you have me imagining the story where the Master teams up with Nogbad the Bad. (They betray each other half way through of course.)


  89. Seeing_I
    September 27, 2013 @ 3:30 am

    @ Henry R. Kujawa: I think no one's mentioned it because nothing ever came of it. Delgado died tragically and the idea was dropped when the Master returned. Frankly I find the "evil twin" idea kind of rubbish and a bit too mystical for Doctor Who. However, the concept of the Master and the Doctor being mirrors of one another survives in RTD's version, and he even managed to incorporate the ultimate notion of the Master sacrificing himself to save the Doctor's life as well.


  90. Alan
    September 27, 2013 @ 5:30 am

    Now that we know Time Lords can do cross-gender regenerations, wouldn't it have been hilarious if Derek Jacobi had actually been playing the Rani?


  91. Ross
    September 27, 2013 @ 5:32 am

    @Alan: No it would not. Any joy to be had in the defiance of expectations would be instantly negated by the disappointment of the Rani being back.


  92. peterbaker13
    September 27, 2013 @ 9:10 am

    "and Bernie Ahem is reelected as Taoiseach of Ireland."

    Psst… I think you mean Bertie Ahern. Unless that was some esoteric joke that flew straight over my head.


  93. Henry R. Kujawa
    September 27, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

    The idea was that at some point– and a ggod friend of mine in Wales believes it was during the Troughton-to-Pertwee regeneration– The Doctor was split into 2 people. Just like Jim Kirk in that episode I mentioned. This goes a long way to explain their various behaviors, among other things, that neither seems to want to really do what it takes to kill the other, and how the villain is MORE charming and likeable than the hero.

    The whole business of The Doctor (in the story, totally out of left field) obsesses over the idea that his "arrogance" got to him and he needed to learn "humility" (see PLANET OF THE SPIDERS) also suddenly makes sense in this context. If the split did occur just before his exile to Earth, it could have been something done deliberately BY The Time Lordfs, to bring him down a notch, teach him humility, and also mold him into a more "proper" sort of Time Lord.

    In this light, John Death's "Lupton" was obviously filling in for The Master, right down to the scene where he describes what led him to the path he's on, which cold easily be a description of The Time Lords, rather than some "business" environment.

    The fact that they cast an actor known for playing VILLAINS to take over also adds an extra level, when you consider Tom Baker was supposed to be a re-integrated Doctor AND Master in one.

    Sadly, once Philip Hinchcliffe got involved, ALL that went out the window… more and more so as the years went by.

    But I see no reason to dismiss it in such a fashio or attitude, compared to some of the long-winded philosophical stuff so often discussed here (as absurd length).

    Anyway, they're not mirrors– they're two halves of one person, NEITHER of which is a complete being.

    It makes more sense to me than what they came up with for the Tennant story.


  94. liminal fruitbat
    September 28, 2013 @ 8:34 am

    The problem with this theme is that it pretty much writes off much of medical science and we get the Tales of Beedle the fucking Bard all over again…


  95. BerserkRL
    September 28, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

    But between the Letts plan and the revival came the Valeyard, which already did a version of Doctor's-evil-side, making it harder to treat the Master the same way.


  96. Katherine Sas
    August 21, 2014 @ 10:57 am

    Love this episode. Of course the reveal would be that Utopia doesn't exist – It means "no place." That's why most Utopias are revealed to be secretly dystopias – as we get here.

    While, yes, this is bleak, it's not entirely pessimistic. What it acknowledges is that paradise isn't possible in this world as we know it – because, as you say, of the problem of evil. This is a fallen world in which everything human will inevitably corrupt. For all Davies' atheism, his stories are often strikingly orthodox. Like you say, any story of utopia inevitably becomes a story about dystopia – about the fall. The snake in the garden. Original sin.

    But I think there is a note of hope in there. That is in constant change and reworking. The process of cyclical alchemical transformation, in the terms of this blog. Solve et coagula, material social progress. Where there's life, there's hope. Just as these humans evolved into clouds of gas and arrived back at their basic shape, how do we know that the Futurekind and the Toclafane are the absolute endpoint of humanity? We don't know that. We only have the word of the Master and the Toclafane. As the Doctor said in the 50th – "Never say nothing." Or, "there's always a way out." Being bleak, the story doesn't offer up an viable alternatives, but that doesn't mean there aren't any.


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