Three Act Tragedy
And so it came to pass that Series 3 ended with a trilogy. And Jack looked upon the trilogy. And Jack saw that it was… umm… er…
Good stuff; the Master’s return at the end is the least of it. We have to put up with some of the obligatory “gee, aren’t humans just neat?!” stuff from the Doctor, but it passes soon enough. Yana is a touching, melancholic figure. Chantho is one of my favourite characters in all Who. The scene where the Doctor and Jack finally discuss Jack’s immortality is beautifully scripted and acted. The desolated conglomeration is beautiful.
The whole set up is pregnant with intricate, sombre, uncomfortable implications. At the end of everything, with even the galaxies disappearing… amidst a wasteland, haunted by a dead city and one lone survivor (who still clings to her obsolete cultural norms)… amidst all these things, there are two groups of humans… the unreasoningly fierce and cruel “futurekind”, with their gnashing sharp teeth, their flaming torches and their mindless desire to destroy… and the refugees who huddle together for warmth; who value family and friendship; who have created structure and purpose out of bits of scrap, food and dreams of impossible deliverance… and the Futurekind want to smash these aspirations for no real reason, while the refugees keep building even as they near the point of maximum entropy.
This is ‘Gridlock’ part II… but it’s less comfortable than ‘Gridlock’. More bleak. More gloomy. More fully liberal. Hence, more reactionary.
The faith of the refugees is in a better world, like the faith of the gridlockers… but they refugees have given it a name that has political rather than religious associations. ‘Utopia’ is usually thought of now as representing some age-old impossible dream of social perfection and total human equality. In the mainstream discourse, to be Utopian is to share the putative mistakes and delusions of the founders of the 20th century totalitarians. Lenin wanted to make a paradise; that’s why he ended up making Hell on Earth. (This isn’t my view, by the way. It is as simplistic and ahistorical as it is popular.)
‘Utopia’ is one of those stories that I love despite the fact that it’s highly open to a reactionary reading (like ‘Frontios’ for example, with which it shares some ideas).
In ‘Utopia’, the supposed dual nature of humanity is externalised in the form of two seperate tribes (who fight for no reason, as tribes always do in this view of the world), one of which is ‘civilised’ and one of which is ‘barbarous’ for no real reason. There is no reconciling this ‘clash of civilisations’. The nice people, who are associated in the text with science, technology, modernity, family life, democracy (via the concept of Utopia itself), must fight and/or escape the barbarians (with their medieval ways)… or be destroyed.
In the end, they simply have to leave the Futurekind behind (to die) as they blast off in search of Utopia. At least this story holds out some hope that Utopia (i.e.…