Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Doctor Falls - Review

I was a little worried going into the final episode of Series 10. Steven Moffat has tended to avoid two-part finales altogether, or has failed to deliver after a great penultimate episode. The Big Bang was a let down after The Pandorica Opens, and Heaven Sent just couldn't top Hell Bent.
I had also read a preview which mentioned that much of the new episode centred around the Doctor staying to protect a community of humans - which just happened to be the framework for Matt Smith's final episode. Moffat has tended to reuse plot elements a lot this season.
I'm very pleased to report that The Doctor Falls did not disappoint.
The story did shift from the urban horrors of the Cyber-city, but this did not jar. There was no sudden "Six months later..." trick. We got to see the immediate aftermath of the conclusion to last week's episode, as the Doctor is knocked out and wakes, shackled to a chair, on the hospital roof, where he's confronted by the Master and Missy, who appear to have quickly bonded - acting at times like a twisted pair of siblings. They could so easily have killed the Doctor, and are even debating how they would do this, but it is significant that they haven't actually done it. Deep down I don't think the Master could ever bring him (or her) self to do this.
The Doctor has done a thing, however. One of his clever things. He has changed it so that Time Lords are just as much targets for the Cybermen as the humans are. Before escaping in a shuttle piloted by Nardole, the Doctor gets zapped in an electrical bear hug by a Cyberman, Presumably this is what is actually going to kill the Twelfth Doctor. That's unless you go with the theory doing the rounds that he has been dying ever since Oxygen, when he was left blind.

Last week I posed a couple of questions - namely how this fitted with known Cyberman chronology, and how could the Master be present. Both were answered. The Cybermen here were simply a separate group to those who developed on Mondas. As for the Master, well this was where he ended up after being dragged back to Gallifrey at the conclusion of The End of Time. Significantly, he mentions having a TARDIS. Now, since 2007, the Master / Missy has never had a TARDIS. The Master had to steal the Doctor's to escape Malcassairo, and Missy always went by Vortex Manipulator. Nice to see that the dematerialisation circuit was like the ones seen during the Jon Pertwee / Roger Delgado era.
The Master had ruled this domain, but had been overthrown, and so resorted to his disguise as Mr Razor. He maintained this for 10 years just out of pure malevolence, as he was setting up Bill's fate.
I could have done with a bit more of the two Masters. What we got was very good, but there was too much going on to let them really shine. The Master was simply nasty. One of Peter Capaldi's defining moments as the Doctor - his impassioned speech to the duo to try to get them to stay and help - was followed by the Master simply stating that he hadn't been listening. Missy, on the other hand, appears to have learned something from her years in the Vault, and the Doctor's attempts to rehabilitate her. It looked like she might just stay behind. Later, in the forest, she will decide to do just that, and it was probably inevitable that the two Masters would end up stabbing / shooting each other in the back. The Master went off to regenerate into Missy in his TARDIS, whilst it looked like the end for the character as a whole, as Missy died without regenerating. Is it the last we have seen of the evil Time Lord? Of course not, though Michelle Gomez has claimed it will be the last time we see Missy. But then, John Simm said that he was David Tennant's Master, and couldn't see himself ever returning with another Doctor. Never say never. In The Last of the Time Lords, the Doctor defeats the Master when he points out that he could never commit suicide, and I don't think he would kill his own future.

One last word about the Cybermen. I don't think we really needed the newer versions at all. I think the production team were worried about how the crude originals would work, and so hedged their bets. We certainly didn't need the RTD era ones. A stand out moment in the episode was the Doctor's climactic fight with the Cybermen in the forest. Lots of references to previous Cyber-stories, as he mentions places where he has fought them before. Fans will have especially picked up on reference to Planet 14 (mentioned in The Invasion) as well as Marinus. This latter comes from a Doctor Who Magazine comic strip of the Colin Baker era, where it was claimed that the Voord from 1964's Keys of Marinus evolved into Cybermen. Don't tell Terry Nation's estate, or they'll be looking for 51 years worth of back royalty payments.
On to the principal cast. In general, the story arc for everyone who has travelled with the Doctor should be that they benefit from the experience. They leave as better people, their eyes opened to the wonders of the Universe - and the Doctor is enriched by his encounter with them.  Even Missy has become an ever so slightly kinder person. The Doctor has been travelling with Nardole because he used to work with his now dead wife - River Song - and it transpires that he was not a very nice person back in the day, out to make a quick buck whenever he could. He is left to look after the human community, mostly children. Like Missy, the Doctor has been rehabilitating him.
It was inevitable that Bill was not going to be simply represented by her new Cyberman body in the finale. Having her appear as she still saw herself is another old trick of Moffat's. Remember our first sight of Clara in Asylum of the Daleks? She had been turned into a Dalek, but her mind refused to accept it. It looked like Bill would sacrifice herself and die, but then we go full circle and Heather from The Pilot turns up to save her. She has the chance of becoming human again, but elects to go travelling the cosmos with her new best friend. Her fate transpires as the Doctor lies comatose, so he will never actually know what happened to her - or to Missy.
On waking, the Doctor decides that he is not going to regenerate. Not this time. He's had enough of becoming someone else. We got to see glimpses of past companions - including Sarah Jane Smith. The Doctor also saw Clara, though he shouldn't have as she was wiped from his memory in the last series finale.
Last week, I  hazarded a guess about that wintry setting where the Doctor ended up - based on rumours about David Bradley's return as the First Doctor. Looks like I was right. I presume that it is the South Pole, and the end of the First Doctor's life during the events of The Tenth Planet. The First also refuses to regenerate. I assume that the Christmas Special will be about the two Doctor's talking themselves into giving up the ghost, because of what will follow.

Overall, I think it has been an enjoyable series. I was so worried about the character of Bill, but I needn't have been. In some ways it is a shame she wasn't introduced sooner. Clara certainly overstayed her welcome, having a perfectly good ending in Death in Heaven. Bill may return at Christmas, if only as a cameo to give the Doctor the closure about her fate. I think that your opinion of the three part Monk story, sitting at the heart of the season, will decide whether or not fans see this as a great series.
Roll on Christmas.

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