The final season for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor comes to a close with a story featuring not one but two incarnations of the Master, the original Mondasian Cybermen (who I always called “Mondas Cybermen”, so I guess I’ll have to get used to that…), regeneration teases, companion exits and even a cameo from an older Doctor (sort of…) Sounds over-stuffed, right? Surprisingly, with the exception of a few little annoying bits, it’s actually a really good story from start to finish. Let’s take a closer look!
The Doctor decides to test how good Missy has become by sending her on a trial run with Bill and Nardole. However, when things go wrong, the Doctor takes over. With Bill trapped in a different time zone, can the Doctor make it to her before it is too late, and who are all those people getting cured?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
That brief time when everything wasn’t going to crap…
The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) – The Doctor thinks Missy has gotten good enough to give her a go with his companions, only for Bill to end up with a hole in her chest… and, somehow, that’s just the start of a bad day for the Doctor…
Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) – Still ever cheerful and bright, Bill is not confident with the idea of Missy being in charge… she’s not wrong!
Nardole (Matt Lucas) – Nardole is similarly unhappy with the idea of the person they were supposed to be guarding in the vault being allowed to roam free, and is similarly right, although it’s not this Missy / Master that’s at fault…
Missy (Michelle Gomez) – After many years locked in a vault to think about what she’s done across her many lives, Missy is beginning to come around to the idea of hanging out with her old nemesis instead of fighting him. Sadly her past comes back to haunt her… literally!
The Master (John Simm) – Now free from his electro-skeleton powers and having regained his sanity (and his goatee!) The Master is once again taking great delight in the misery of others, particularly The Doctor, and those close to him…
The Cybermen (Nicholas Briggs) – These Cybermen are converted Mondasians, though ones that fled Mondas before it got bad enough to use the Cyber-conversion method… though the ship they were prepping for escape ended up in a desperate situation so bad they had to Cyber-convert themselves anyway…
Two Masters and an original Cyberman from the Tenth Planet… Not something I’d ever thought I’d see!
The trio of Time Lords are the stars here. The Doctor is desperate, heart(s)broken and depressed at his failures, played beautifully by Peter Capaldi. Missy is her usual over-the-top self to start with, but her interactions with her past self were excellent, and as for John Simm’s Master… top stuff! From his old-Master-like appearance and disguise, to his old-Master-like suave but evil personality, crossed with just a hint of past insanity. I literally laughed out loud when he said to the now cyber-converted Bill “Do you have a spare bra, by the way? I’m going to need one soon, apparently!”.
Highlight of the story has to be Missy stabbing her past self so she can stand by The Doctor, only for her past self to shoot her dead (well, dead until The Master returns down the line, obviously…) They both start laughing at how “Master-like” that situation was, with Simm saying “So this is how we die… shooting ourselves in the back.” Followed by more laughing as The Master goes down in a lift and Missy lays back with a smile on her face. Perfect scene.
Ignoring the final resolution that I’ll get to in the next section, Bill’s arc across the two episodes was certainly well realised and heartbreaking at times. She gets a hole blasted in her chest, left in the Mondas-based city so far from the Doctor that time is far slower for her (the large colony ship is near a black hole, messes with time, you see!) and then eventually, ten years later, gets fully converted into a Mondasian Cyberman. She then spends episode two occasionally convinced she’s just her normal self, only to be reminded by other people’s reactions and the odd glance in a mirror that she is far from what she was before. It really is a shame we got a cop-out ending…
The Doctor not wanting to regenerate is interesting here. The scene where he is fighting off Cybermen before getting cut down with laser fire and then exploded, he holds back the energy and says he’s lived long enough and it was time to let go, before a rather sad remark about wanting to see stars before he dies. It was a great, dramatic moment, and given how he failed Bill and is past his natural Time Lord life cycle, it makes sense that he feels he’d lived enough. Once again this is undone a tad by the end, but at least that was always going to be undone!
Nardole’s ending was a nice, “you have a new life now, see you later!” ending for a change. Well, by dialogue he’s probably in trouble in a few years time, but whatever… It was a nice goodbye scene between himself and The Doctor.
The whole of “World Enough and Time” is a great lesson is slow build and haunting atmosphere that was only allowed in this two-part setting. I love the use of the original Cybermen and how, through quick dialogue in the opening moments of the following episode, it doesn’t contradict the other depictions of the Cybermen’s creation. I like how they’re (seemingly) responsible for killing the 12th Doctor as well, which is a good prize for them given they’re the number 2 foe for the Doctor behind The Daleks, who have directly or indirectly caused the Doctor to regenerate a few times, and The Master would be the number 3 and he’s again directly or indirectly caused a couple of regenerations himself.
Although David Bradley doesn’t look a lick like William Hartnell, I do like the idea of the 12th Doctor’s last adventure being a team up with his very first self, so that was a good cliffhanger, and I’m interested in where it’s going.
“Oh this isn’t very fun, I may as well be taunting a fridge!” God Simm’s Master was great…
While Bill’s ending, where instead of being stuck in the form of a Cyberman she is rescued by the sentient space-oil girl from Episode 1 “The Pilot”, who we now find out had planted her tears on her to keep a lookout for her (and seemingly failed on that front, given all Bill went through before this…) and can reconstitute Bill into a sentient space-oil girl as well. While the girl and the oil/tears were all shown in Episode 1 (meaning this technically isn’t a dues ex machina) this was still too easy a get out, not to mention exiting companion looks like she’s dead but then goes to explore the universe with a hot girl forever instead is the EXACT same ending Clara got only last series! Ah well, at least I was happy for Bill this time, she was a great companion and I was happy to see her get a happy ending, rather than Clara who had become dull and stale by that point. I still would have preferred a bit of originality in companion exit…
As mentioned earlier, The Doctor’s great death scene was sadly overshadowed when he spring back to life only to hold back the regeneration energy again, though this time stating that he’s tired of changing and that he doesn’t want to be someone else, doing the 10th Doctor “I don’t want to change” thing rather than any sense of regret or not wanting to live at all. I get that they have one more Christmas special to do so I wasn’t expecting a regeneration or obviously any permanent death, but that did kind of cancel out a great moment beforehand by being a bit more energetic and silly, rather than sad.
I have to question The Doctor, who in the last series went to such great lengths to help Clara, seemed so convinced and accepted the conversion of Bill… not to mention he very nearly killed Missy when she nearly got him to kill Clara inside a Dalek in the last series, yet here he is later seen pleading with The Master, who just spent 10 years over seeing Bill’s conversion to a Cyberman, to stand by him and help him. Did The Doctor just not care about Bill much in the end, or…?
Why were the still-quite-human Mondasian Cybermen making hydraulic stompy sounds? God that was annoying. Fair enough the nearly-entirely machine Cybermen, if you must, having those cartoon sound effects, but not the original ones! Also, why can they now fly with jetpacks? And why did they burst through the multiple ceilings instead of following the large hole Nardole’s spaceship created in the first place?
I also have to roll my eyes at another Steven Moffat attempt at making light of fandom. The whole first five minutes of the first episode are based around Missy pretending to be The Doctor, but referring to herself as “Doctor Who”, as in a joke at the whole “he’s called The Doctor, not Doctor Who!” line many fans have shouted about when someone who doesn’t follow the show says it. It never bothered me, I don’t know anything about many shows people like, so I would make similar mistakes, but what I don’t like is several characters going on about Doctor Who in Doctor Who, it just takes me out of the story and makes me think of a smug writer patting himself on the back for being so clever. It’s like an episode of Eastenders where they refer to themselves as Eastenders over and over for five minutes, it would take you complete out of the moment and remind you you’re watching a show. (note: I don’t watch Eastenders, but I assume they don’t do that…)
Why does Peter Capaldi look so much like Jeremy Irons when he’s regenerating?
Well, ignoring the return of the original Modasian Cybermen last seen in First Doctor TV serial “The Tenth Planet”, and the John Simm Master last seen in the Tenth Doctor story “The End of Time” (both final stories for their respective Doctors, funnily enough!), there were a fair few amusing hints and references.
This isn’t the first time The Doctor has seen the creation of the Cybermen. In the classic audio drama “Spare Parts”, the Fifth Doctor sees their genesis on the planet Mondas itself. Similarly the Sixth Doctor sees the Voord of Marinus turn into Cybermen in the comic story “The World Shapers”, and the 10th Doctor sees the creation of Cybermen in an alternate timeline in “Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel”. All these conflicting origins (minus the 10th Doctor one, obviously) are actually explained in the opening of “The Doctor Falls”, where The Doctor says that Cybermen are created all over the place, mentioning Mondas and Marinus specifically, as well as Telos (from 2nd Doctor classic “The Tomb of the Cybermen”) and Planet 14 (which was mentioned by Cybermen in the 2nd Doctor story “The Invasion”, though is often retconned into being the name of Marinus after it is altered by the Voord/Cybermen, given it is never mentioned again)
Interestingly, Missy’s first appearance in “Dark Water / Death in Heaven” sees her control an army of Cybermen, and given that the John Simm Master is apparently about to regenerate into her back at the floor where the Cybermen are coming from, could well tie into her first appearance nicely. She even goes on and on about The Doctor being her boyfriend and friend, which could be seen as a subconscious memory of these events, specifically The Master’s resentment at Missy’s friendship with The Doctor.
When The Doctor begins to wake from nearly being completely dead, he sees a bunch of old companions (from the revived series only, sadly) calling out to him in a similar manor as to how the Fifth Doctor regenerated. When he holds it back he begins to ramble, he says the Fourth Doctor’s first ever words “”Sontarans! Perverting the course of human history!” (which itself was framed like the Fourth Doctor quoting his predecessor), the Tenth Doctor’s last ever words “I don’t want to go.” as well as the 11th Doctor’s pre-regeneration line of “I’ll always remember when The Doctor was me”.
Obviously we also get the cliffhanger of The Doctor meeting his very first self, though this time played by David Bradley, who says he’s “the original, you might say”, which he said in the Five Doctors (where he once again wasn’t played by William Hartnell…)
*Phew*, that was a long write up. Still, it was a great episode, with some fun scenes, dramatic scenes and some nice continuity nods. Yes, there were some annoying bits at the very start and very end that stops it being a full-on classic, but it was still very enjoyable and I’d gladly watch it again.