Sunday, 16 July 2017

WHO REVIEW: 10.11 & 10.12



“World Enough and Time” kicks off what is Doctor Who's best series finale since Matt Smith's inaugral run, perhaps even since the heady days of the Eccleston, Tennant and Piper. There is, however, a big flaw in the episode's presentation that comes about, not because of the episode itself, but because of the media surrounding its broadcast. Which is why I'm hiding the review after a page break, because I still know fans who haven't seen it and it really is best seen without spoilers.

The episode itself is pretty perfectly structured, hinging around an ingenious sci-fi conceit. The TARDIS lands on a starship that is trying to escape from a black hole, with the bridge at one end subject to enormous time dilation due to the gravitational effects of the anomaly. The further away from the singularity, the further out of the steep gravity well, and the less extreme the effects of the dilation. Time is passing at a crawl on the bridge, and proceeding at a what must approximate its ordinary pace in the bowels of the ship. (Note: that means that, from the reference point of most of the universe, this episode takes centuries to pass.)

What's so satisfying about this, for me at least, is that this is based in real, rock hard science. I love when the real laws of physics throw up such bizarre consequences. Time dilation as a result of speed or gravitational influence is a genuine phenomenon, proven not only mathematically but empirically detected in real life experiments. It has to be factored in by GPS, because the satellites are moving faster, and under less gravitational influence, than the systems they are communicating with on the surface of the Earth. Time is running very slightly differently for them, and even the tiny fractions of a second difference that makes would play havoc with the network.

Moffat has played with a similar idea previously, in his excellent sixth series episode “The Girl Who Waited,” but in that case, Amy was caught up in an entirely artificial and fantastic form of time differential. His son Joshua, who is now studying physics and therefore extremely cool, suggested he write a story about real time dilation, and although we've never experienced anything like the gravitational effects of a black hole, this is exactly what would happen, assuming someone could build a ship large enough and stable enough not to be ripped apart (which I seriously doubt the Mondasians could, but never mind that). Kudos for that, and it seems appropriate for a story that harks back to the origins of the Cybermen, as Kid Pedler and Gerry Davis were drawing on their anxieties of real world spare part surgery, which was jut becoming a thing in the sixties.

Unlike “The Girl Who Waited,” there's no last minute reversal of fate for Bill (well, there kind of is, but more on that later). History isn't altered. As I struggled to point out to someone when watching this episode, there's no time travel on display here, other than in the usual forward direction. Time is marching on normally, just at variable rates, and it is impossible for a character to go back to an earlier point in their own timezone. It may be appear that they're travelling back in time when they visit a slower region, but they're not. It's completely linear, and there's no way to cut out the ten years that Bill spent in the bowels of the ship. She's the real girl who waited.

“World Enough and Time” works the new TARDIS ensemble in a very sly fashion. We can tell from the outset that having Missy along for the ride is going to go horribly wrong, but the reasons why are unpredictable (assuming you've missed the spoilers). Bill is absolutely right to doubt the Doctor's plan to prove Missy's ability to be good. Nardole is equally dubious, but is duty bound to the Doctor. Bill goes with it, protesting, out of loyalty, and pays for it. Why the Doctor thought that this was a safe environment to test the team out on is anyone's guess. He immediately steps in when blue-skinned Jorj arrives with his gun (now why is he on a Mondasian ship? Maybe they hired it), but by then, it's already too late. A sequence of events has begun that moves on with tragic inevitability.

Which brings me back to the problem with spoilers. This was one time that I regretted enthusiastically reading Doctor Who Magazine, but even more casual fans would have had the episode's two big reveals spoiled by trailers, pre-episode interviews and Facebook. I apologise to my girlfriend, who was spoiled by me getting overexcited by the return of the original Cybermen. How much this would all mean to the more casual viewers – the normal people in the audience – is debatable, but to anyone with a fair interest in the show, keeping those reveals a secret would have been far more powerful. Not that it's impossible to avoid spoilers, as some of my friends have managed to keep away from the synopses and really should hurry up and watch this, and I enjoyed reading my sister's messages as she watched the episode almost as much as watching the episode itself.

The reveal of the Cybermen is really there for genuine, old school fans of the series. I'm completely of the opinion that the original Cybermen from The Tenth Planet were far more frightening than any version that has come since. The cloth faces, clunky implants and voices that are just plain wrong. They're horrible. It's arguable how relevant a monster based on spare part surgery can be now, when my own grandmother has as many artificial parts as a Cyberman, but the very concept of surgery is uncomfortable to me. Making it involuntary surgery is just terrifying. I have never been as scared for a companion in Doctor Who as I was when Bill was being led away to the operating table. While part of the reason that the Cybermen are here is so Capaldi has a chance to say, “The Mondasian Cybermen!” in awed tones before he leaves, they really do work on a disquieting level that other monsters just fail to.

However, the reveal is built up to slowly, giving viewers who know enough about the Cybermen's origins clues to work it out, and others a complete surprise. It's not the same going in knowing they're coming. Which makes the episode's second reveal even more important. Even if we'd known the Cybermen were involved, following that reveal with another, completely unexpected reveal would have been fantastic. A lot of viewers have said that they could tell the weird, amiable Mr Razor was John Simm from the beginning. I was completely unaware until right before he pulled the mask off, and I think that without the foreknowledge of his involvement, more people would have been. And while I understand the need to trail these things to generate interest, how much more powerful would that cliffhanger had been had it come out of nowhere?

“The Doctor Falls” isn't quite as good as its predecessor, but then, part twos are so rarely as good as part ones. It's still a strong contender for the best final episode of the Moffat era, though, giving us a powerful exploration of why the Doctor does what he does. Back at the beginning of Capaldi's run, his Doctor questions whether he is a good man (this raises so many questions about what happened on Trenzalore), and this episode sees him unequivocably answer that. He is a good man, making a last stand not because he's a hero (although he is), not because he's perfect (because he most certainly isn't), but because he was passing through and it was the right thing to do.

God, poor Bill. If ever a companion has gone through the ringer, it's her. There's been a sense that Bill wasn't going to make it out of the season, what with the whole shake-up coming behind the scenes. The nature of what happens to her is so horrific, far worse than anything that's happened to a companion in the series' history, I feel. Companions have died before, been left behind, but never been so irrevocably violated like this. Added to that is the betrayal she feels, both from the Doctor, and the Master, who positioned himself as her friend for ten whole years in an astonishing act of spite. I'll come back to her rescue in a moment, but it's worth noting that, as bad things get, Moffat can never, ever let a major character die. Everyone is saved somehow. Now, I'm glad Bill is saved in the end, because having the first queer POC companion in the series be the one who is offed would have really stuck in my craw, after so many pretty white girls got off scot free. Still, there's a sense that the writer can't stick to his guns and explore the real consequences of the Doctor's life. Nonetheless, Bill suffers immeasurably in this episode, and it's particularly horrible that she becomes a Cyberman: ultrawhite-faced, masculinised, heterogeneous, the ultimate whitewashing. She's even got peach-coloured gloves so that there's no way to tell her apart from the other massed cyborgs (the original Mondasian Cybermen had bare hands).

The idea of important characters having strong enough minds to resist Cyber-conversion is becoming a bit old hat now (we've had Danny, the Cyber-Brig, even thingie from Torchwood One) but at least here it follows on from Bill's development of mental barriers in the Monks Trilogy. There's probably something wrong with her emotional inhibitor as well, but it's her faith in the Doctor, albeit shaken, that gave her the strength to get this far. In essence, he's taken the place of her semi-fictionalised mother as her mental rock. The end result is Bill, barely able to even recognise what she's become, but rendered entirely unrecognisable as her true self by anyone else. The Doctor's fall is, more than anything, his failure to keep Bill safe.

It's a powerful episode for all the members of the TARDIS team, with Nardole becoming the general of the mid-level Mondasians in their Waltons-esque environment. It's perhaps a bit too idyllic there, even if it is a better environment to start with and less time has passed – I mean, the whole population of the ship arose from just twenty crewmembers, no wonder the bottom levellers are ill. There's still that sense of inevitability about the whole situation, with Nardole reluctantly leading his new people to safety another few decks up, but with the Cybermen inexorably regrouping behind them. Also worth noting is that Nardole is in fact an alien cyborg himself, but because he looks human, he passes enough to gain people's trust and even a romantic interest, while Bill is viewed with fear.

What the episode doesn't quite live up to is its billing as a multi-Master adventure. I'll go into this in much more depth when I get to the Simm and Gomez incarnations in my “Master Who?” articles, but a multi-Master story has been a long time coming. Big Finish paved the way with The Two Masters last year, and the final episode of Sherlock felt very much like a dry run for this team-up. However, considering how much Moffat's Moriarty is so clearly based on John Simm's Master (hereafter referred to as “Harry”), his take on the actual Master is quite different. Missy is very much her own character, while Harry is, in “The Doctor Falls,” far more like the Master of old. Much of this is probably down to the character being cured of his “condition” by the Time Lords, but it's good to see Simm play an older, more reserved, but equally malevolent version of Harry. What there doesn't seem to be is any real reason for the two version of the Master to interact. It doesn't make a great deal of difference to the story as it plays out, other than dividing Missy's allegiances. She's torn between who she wants to be and who she literally once was. Still, there are some wonderful moments between them, with that final backstabbing self-murder second only to Harry trying out eyeliner for the first time.

It is a very busy episode, however, and there's not going to be room for everything. A lot of time is put aside for the two main characters' deaths. Bill's saving at the hands of Heather just about works for me. It's entirely right that she gets a second chance, and equally right that it comes at the hands of someone other than the Doctor. It does feel a little unearned, though, storywise. It's not as though the rules of Heather/the Pilot's character weren't laid out at the beginning of the season, but an occasional reminder of her existence or a hint that she was still following Bill might have made it seem less arbitrary. I dislike the idea that Bill can, if she wants, go back to being fully human, everyday Bill. Surely magical lesbian space ghosts is enough? Nonetheless, it's a triumphant moment for the character, and at least leaves us the chance to see her again. Maybe she'll bump into Clara and Me out there.

The Doctor's last stand against the Cybermen is powerful. The upgrading of the Cybermen to their more recent models loses the existential threat that they displayed in part one, but it does up the general threat level and makes them into, finally, a truly unstoppable force. His brutal death at the hands of one of the last standing cloth-faced versions, followed by his extermination of them all with his last breath, takes this Doctor from being the arrogant general of series eight to the man who accepts that he is a soldier. And then the regeneration starts, and for a moment, I honestly thought they were going to surprise all of us and reveal the thirteenth Doctor there and then (as I write this, the actual reveal is mere hours away). They even had the companion flashback, and that only happens when the Doctor is about to change (notably, companions from throughout the modern run appeared, suggesting that they're really billing this new series as a completely new slate).

Some commentators have suggested that the Doctor's refusal to regenerate is a retread of Tennant's last moments, but I disagree. It's a wholly different thing to “I don't want to go.” The twelfth Doctor isn't arrogantly holding onto his current persona, thinking he's the best he could be. He's old and tired and just terrified of doing it all again. He has, after all, had the prescribed thirteen different faces, and unlike the Master, has never been desperate to cling onto life no matter what. The prospect of carrying on, and on, and never ending, always changing, must be monstrous at this stage.

So it's entirely right that the first Doctor (or an approximation of him, at least) turns up at his last moments to put things into perspective for him.


The overall title I'm giving the story is "Genesis of the Cybermen," although "The Day of the Master" is a good one, too. (Some internet genius came up with "Spare Potts," which is amazing, although "Kill Bill, Vols. 1 & 2" takes some beating.)

The title of the first episode comes from the 17th century poem "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell. This was a love poem in which a suitor laments that he would romance the object of his affections over centuries, if only they lived so long: "Had we but world enough, and time/This Coyness, Lady, were no crime." Unlike the Doctor and Missy, the suitor in the poem has only a short human lifespan, so his potential paramour needs to put out. A host of fictional and non-fictional works have used lines from the poem as titles, quotations and references, "World Enough and Time" being probably the most common. Among other things, it has been used as the title of a River Song adventure by Big Finish, and a Star Trek fanfilm.

Links and references:

The Doctor fells Jorj with a bit of Venusian aikido. This was his martial art of choice during his third incarnation, although it was just as commonly referred to as Venusian karate. According to Nardole, it normally requires four arms.

Missy/the Master wonders how the Doctor has died before. Missy says she knows he's fallen, thinking back to the Ainley Master's battle with the fourth Doctor atop a transmission tower in 1981's Logopolis. They ask if he's burned or drowned before. The Ainley Master burned to death while the fifth Doctor looked on, although he got better. The tenth Doctor drowned, and suffered "fatal death," in the parallel timeline seen in 2008's "Turn Left."

Harry is still wielding his laser screwdriver, but Missy has a sonic umbrella, which is brilliant.

The Doctor mutters several lines from previous regeneration scenes as he fights off his transformation. "Don't want to go," is of course from the tenth Doctor's last moments, while "when the Doctor was me," comes from the Eleven's final soliloquy. "Sontarans... perverting the course of human history," was the odd exclamation of the fourth Doctor upon his first moments of consciousness, referring back to his previous incarnation's adventure The Time Warrior, making this another reference to a reference. The twelfth Doctor also splurted this out when he regained consciousness in

"Where's there's a tear, there's hope," plays on the third Doctor's last lines from Planet of the Spiders: "A tear, Sarah Jane? No, don't cry. Where there's life, there's..."

"I am the Doctor - the original, you might say!" spoken by both the twelfth and first Doctors, is an amalgamation of line spoken by the fourth Doctor in Robot ("You may be a Doctor, but I am the Doctor - the definite article, you might say,") and one spoken by the first Doctor in The Five Doctors ("I, my dear, am the Doctor - the original, you might say!"). Funnily enough, neither time the first Doctor has said this has he actually been the original; each time a new actor has stood in for the late William Hartnell: Richard Hurndall in The Five Doctors and David Bradley in "The Doctor Falls."

Is Who the Doctor?

It's an old mantra among fans: "Doctor Who" is the name of the programme, not the character. Which is why having Missy sashay out of the TARDIS declaring that she is Doctor Who, the adventurer in time and space is one of the best bits of trolling the series has ever managed. Ooh, it must have set fans seething out there. The daft thing is, it almost certainly is his name, or at least, one of the many names that he's used over the years. Apart from the title of the series, which notably does not include a question mark, numerous episodes were referred to as "Doctor Who and..." in the "Next Time" captions during Hartnell's era, a trait that was also used for the bulk of the Target novelisations, and even the second Pertwee serial, which was titled Doctor Who and the Silurians due to a cock-up. As well as that, the penultimate episode of 1965's The Chase was called "The Death of Doctor Who," although, in fairness, he didn't die at all.

Still, there's some evidence that the Doctor has used the name Who in the fiction of the series. Aside from the various sly jokes, which always just about stop short of "Knock knock? Who's there? Doctor..." the Doctor has hinted that he's used the name. The second Doctor has signed his name as "Doctor W" and "Doctor von Wer" in the past, which is almost, but not quite, the same thing, and WOTAN explicitly ordered the capture of the first Doctor in The War Machines with "Doctor Who is required!" Perhaps Doctor Who is one of the many names he's used in the past when he's forced to use an Earth-style name, like Doctor John Smith. And considering that he's been calling himself things like Doctor Disco and Doctor Mysterio lately, I don't think Who is too outlandish.

Geneses of the Cybermen:

Initially, it looked like it was going to be very hard to square the Genesis of the Cybermen seen here with the one so beautifully portrayed in Big Finish's Spare Parts. Indeed, it wasn't clear how it was going to be squared with The Tenth Planet, which did not have Cybermen running around a spaceship but instead had them enter the solar system on their own travelling planet. However, Moffat has instead picked up on the Lance Parkin's thread from AHistory (of course he's read it) suggesting that the Cybermen have multiple origins, as a sort of inevitable result of approaching human extinction or blind technological progress. "They always get started," says the Doctor. "They happen everywhere there's people. Mondas, Telos, Earth, Planet 14, Marinus."

The Doctor mentions the Cybermen's origins on Marinus, canonising the utterly mad Grant Morrison DWM strip "The World Shapers" which saw the Voord evolve into the Cybermen. The only anomaly here is that the Doctor also mentions Planet 14 and Mondas as entirely separate worlds, whereas "The World Shapers" posited that they were all the same planet. Also, the reference to Planet 14 must be noted as a rare reference to a reference, calling back to an unseen adventure, rather than to something that fans actually saw, read or heard. Also surprisingly, this suggests that the Cybermen arose separately on Mondas and Telos, when conventional wisdom suggests that the Mondasians colonised Telos after their original planet was destroyed (although the novelisation of The Tomb of the Cybermen suggests the reverse).

What's particularly satisfying about this is that it not only makes it simpler to accept the wildly confusing history of the Cybermen on the series, but it also makes the Cybermen more of an inevitable result of human failure than an alien monster. Unlike the Daleks and Davros, as the Doctor says, "There's no evil genius, only evolution." There have been multiple designs of Cybermen appearing over the years, with three of these appearing as stages in the spaceship-borne Cybermen in this story: the "Mondasian Cybermen," very similar, although not identical to the original Mondasians from The Tenth Planet; first-stage attack versions, which look like the Smith-era variants on the Cybus Cybermen; and the more advanced attack versions, which look like the far future versions from "Nightmare in Silver," and the ones that already menaced Capaldi in "Death in Heaven." In fact, I'd suppose that these Cybermen are somehow linked to this story, with the newly regenerated Missy somehow taking control of some stragglers from the ship.


Well, Suz has been saying since "The Pilot" that Heather would come back for Bill and was absolutely convinced she'd save her from Cybermanniness in "The Doctor Falls." On the other hand, her alternative prediction that Bill would become Handles proved untrue. For myself, I was correct in predicting that Missy would kill Harry, although I wasn't expecting him to return the favour. I thought that the Doctor might regenerate because he donated one of his hearts to Bill, but she's rather too far gone for that as a Cyberman.

Best lines:

“Winning? Is that what you think it's about? I'm not trying to win. I'm not doing this ebcause I want to beat someone, or because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone. It's not because it's fun, and God knows it's not because it's easy. It's not even because it works, because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it's right! Because it's decent! And above all, it's kind. It's just that. Just kind.”


Nardole: “May I remind you that I'm still empowered to kick your arse.”
Bill: “You'll have to go back down to the hospital and find it then.”


“People, plus technology, minus humanity. The Internet, cyberspace, Cybermen. Always read the comments, because on day they'll be an army.”

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