Sunday, 25 June 2017
World Enough And Time - Review
Let's get that pre-credits regeneration scene out of the way. Mr Capaldi had a particularly bouffant head of hair in comparison to the subsequent episode, so I suspect that what we were seeing was actually a throw forward to the Christmas episode - the Twelfth Doctor's last hurrah. Note the wintry setting. There has been a rumour kicking around that David Bradley might be playing the First Doctor at Christmas - rather than the actor who played him. The Doctor is absent from the third episode of The Tenth Planet. Could he have sneaked off and had an adventure with his later self?
Our thoughts are obviously with that first Cyberman story from 1966, as World Enough And Time sees the return of the Mondasian Cybermen.
Lately, the Doctor has been attempting to rehabilitate Missy, and this story opens with him allowing her to play his role. She is "Doctor Who". Back when The Tenth Planet was made, Gerry Davis was story editor on the show (as well as co-creator of the Cybermen). During his tenure, it is frequently implied that this is the Doctor's real name. The computer WOTAN states that "Dr Who is required...". The Doctor then calls himself Dr Von Wer in The Highlanders, and signs a note to Professor Zaroff as "Dr W" in the subsequent story. This only happens during Davis' tenure, and is never revisited by any of his successors. Presumably Steven Moffat included these scenes as an homage to the Davis era.
As soon as blue-skinned alien Jorj appears brandishing a gun, the Doctor can no longer sit back and observe. Nine minutes in, and Bill has a hole in her chest where her heart should be. This, naturally, came as a great shock. It is one thing to build towards a life threatening situation for a companion - but this just comes out of nowhere.
Her "death" allows her to go off to take the lead in the main part of the episode. The creepy patients come and take her away, claiming that they can repair her, but she won't be able to come back. We know, from the voices and from the bandaged heads, that these are proto-Cybermen - and this is the fate in store for Bill.
The Doctor, Missy and Nardole are sidetracked - stuck at the front of the spaceship where time is going much slower than the lower levels, thanks to the gravity well of the nearby Black Hole. They only set off to find Bill towards the end of the episode. It's only been a couple of minutes for them, but for Bill, trapped in the hospital, many, many months have passed. She has a cybernetic heart now, and has been befriended by Mr Razor, the caretaker. I'm afraid that, despite a wonderful make-up job and vaguely Eastern European accent, I could tell that this was John Simm.
The only real frustration I had with this episode was the foreknowledge that the Mondasian Cybermen, and John Simm's Master, were to return. Such a pity that both things were spoilered by the production team themselves.
It meant that we weren't waiting to see what would happen - only when it would happen. At least Bill's shooting, and subsequent conversion in to a full Cyberman, weren't flagged up in advance - though publicity materials did state that the Doctor would lose someone he was pledged to protect.
Who would have thought that the images of the Doctor with the Cyberman were really images of the Doctor and his companion?
This story pushes the boundary when it comes to body-horror. We have always known that the Cybermen were once human - their bodies replaced with plastic and metal, and their emotions removed. Only the Colin Baker story Attack of the Cybermen dared to give us a glimpse of what this actually looked like. The scenes in the hospital of the bandaged patients in pain and longing for death were disturbing to say the least.
Two big questions - beyond that regeneration scene.
First of all, how does this fit in with what we already know of the Genesis of the Cybermen? The planet Mondas was Earth's twin, and at some point in the ancient past it left its orbit and went travelling through space. The humanoid inhabitants had to adapt to this peripatetic lifestyle and so gradually, over time, replaced limbs and organs with artificial ones. They then started removing those other weaknesses that we call emotions. The implication was that this was born out of necessity, and the Cybermen went through the process willingly. Only later did they forcibly convert others to join their ranks.
In this episode, the spaceship has been constructed to take colonists from Mondas - humanoid ones. Mondas can't be run by the Cybermen at this point, as the ship clearly has cultivated zones, and a city designed for flesh and blood people. These Cybermen are the descendants of the 20 crew members who went down to the lower levels - so seem to have evolved on their own, irrespective of what will eventually happen on Mondas. We don't know what will happen next week, but these Cybermen might survive to reach Mondas and be the impetus to start the planet's conversion. Then again, the Doctor might simply crash the ship into the Black Hole. A complicating factor is the appearance of those more advanced Cybermen. How can they evolve if they come from a higher level, where time is going more slowly? They have to come from lower down. All slightly confusing for now.
And talking of confusion, my other big question?
What on Earth is the Master up to, and how is he even there? Having him in disguise for no discernible reason is clearly an homage to the sort of thing the Anthony Ainley version got up to. No-one on the ship knows who he is. They won't know who Harold Saxon was, as in Earth terms this has to be before 1986 - when Mondas returned to the Solar System. Why spend years impersonating Mr Razor? If he wants to take over the Cybermen, then why not push their development along and adopt a position of authority?
He doesn't recognise Missy, but does work it out after a while - or so he tells her. How, though, if all he has to go on is very slow moving images on his TV set? There's no mention that Bill has told him about her, though you would think that she would tell her new friend who these three people she arrived with are.
The last time we saw this incarnation of the Master, he was being dragged back into the Time War in David Tennant's last episode. There never was any explanation of how and when he regenerated into Missy. There might even have been an incarnation or two in between them. How did the Simm Master end up here? Why does Missy not remember any of this? Hopefully events next week will answer some of these questions.
It was a bit of a swizz, the BBC releasing images we thought were from this episode, when they're actually from the next - namely the different Cybermen in the streets. The trailer for next week doesn't show us anything of substance, being composed mostly of battle sequences.
The beginning of the end for Moffat, Capaldi and Gomez. Is it also the end for Mackie? Can't wait to see how this is all resolved next week, and leads into the Christmas episode.