Sunday, July 2, 2017

Doctor Who, Season Ten, Episode Twelve: The Doctor Falls

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I almost don't know where to start with this final episode because there's so much that needs unpacking. On top of it all, Moffat had me all up in my feelings with his delicate balance between humor and impending doom. We had dueling timelords and masturbatory Masters. It was all too much and just enough at the same time.

The overarching question this season seemed to center around whether or not Missy could be redeemed.  The Doctor and the Master have known each other since childhood and Missy, is the only one really capable of being the Doctor's ever lasting companion because while the Doctor's human companions can spend the rest of their lives with him, he cannot spend the rest of his life with them. This is even more true now that the Doctor potentially has unlimited regenerations. World Enough and Time was supposed to be Missy's test run at being good but it all runs into a wall when she meets the Master. 

I must admit that Missy and the Master played off of each other so well. Until the very end we didn't know exactly where Missy stood. Her two hearts were pulled between her previous incarnation and her life long frenemy. John Simm's Master continued to throw in just the right amount of nasty, teasing Bill about being a cyberman and the role he played in that change, as well asking her for a bra, in reference to his own upcoming regeneration. John Simm's Master is evil because he can be and even when it leads to the revolt of an entire population because of the cruelty of his headship, he sees no reason to change, only a reason to move onto something new. 

Throughout this entire episode, we were continually reminded of just how great an actor Peter Capaldi is. I'm going to miss him so very very much.  When the Doctor gave an epic speech explaining that he does what he does not for attention or accolades but because it is the right thing to do, I found myself completely drawn in.  Missy, who has been struggling to change was clearly conflicted but of course, the Master didn't give a damn whatsoever about the Doctor's appeal to the better angels of his nature.

When the final stand between Missy and the Master occurs, it's quickly clear that it could not have ended any other way. Missy killing the Master was perfect and stealthy, just the way that you expect Missy to act. When Missy declares that it's time to stand with the Doctor, we know in this very second the Doctor has won and that he will finally have his eternal companion. Naturally this cannot be allowed to stand and so the Master destroys his own future redemption by killing Missy and making it clear that she shouldn't even bother to try and regenerate. The Master absolutely refuses to stand by the Doctor. The Master may be fascinated by being a Time Lady but he's only wiling to allow himself to go so far.  It makes me wonder if Missy's change of heart is about her experiences with the Doctor, or if the change in gender between the Master and Missy was simply enough to change her outlook on life and the universe? It makes very little sense for the Master to kill Missy, knowing that he's about to become Missy himself.  It shows the level of his unwillingness to bend.  I am absolutely going to miss Michelle Gomez as Missy.

For much of the episode, the camera shifted between Bill's perspective of herself and the way that everyone saw her as a cyberman. It was brilliant and allowed for the exploration of Bill's pain.  The fact that Bill could still cry the Doctor tells her is proof that there's reason to hope because cyberman don't cry. Bill is able to keep a hold of who she is because she's had so much practice during the occupation by the Monks.  It's Bill's strong mind that won't allow her to be defeated and keeps her fighting.  In the end, Bill is willing to make a final stand with the Doctor against the cybermen to allow a group of human children to escape in Nardole's care.

When the smoke clears and the Doctor lays seemingly dead upon the ground, only then is Bill's pain and grief laid bare.  This is when Heather reappears. That's right Heather, the woman Bill was attracted to in the pilot episode.  Heather quickly removes Bill's cyber suit making Bill like herself.  Heather explains that she was able to find Bill because she left Bill with one of her tears. Together the women place the Doctor on his Tardis and believing the Doctor dead, Bill chooses to go and explore the universe with Heather, leaving behind a tear on the Doctor's forehead. 

Here's the thing, I was absolutely adamant last week that Moffat had to find a way to erase the fact that he had made Bill into a cyberman.  In the end, I'm glad that he managed to accomplish that and gave her a happy ending, even if it wasn't a convincing ending because after all, how well did Bill really know Heather? This is not two people in love reuniting after all.  Then there's the whole Thelma and Louise vibe which of course is a call back to Clara and Ashildir touring the universe.  It's as though Moffat didn't know what to do with the Heather and Bill, once Bill was no longer a cyberman and because we don't know if the new showrunner will want to introduce a new companion, as well as a new Doctor Bill was sent off on an adventure. 

Of all the characters I didn't expect to ever care about on Doctor Who, Nardole would be it.  Matt Lucas is hilarious and he played his moments perfectly, even if he often seemed just a little out of place. It was not until Nardole was left as a caretaker of the children that the Doctor sacrificed himself to save that I realised that I was happy that he survived and that Moffat left room from him to reappear. 

Finally, to our beloved Doctor.  Knowing that he was outnumbered and could only hope to save the children, the Doctor continued on in the face of defeat and was absolutely defiant. “Mondas! Telos! Voga! Planet 14! Canary Wharf! Messier 13! Every single time, you lose. Even on the Moon!” And when the inevitable happens and the Doctor is shot several times in the chest, he struggles to keep his eyes open, disappointed because he thought that there would be stars.  The Doctor does manage to pull off his mission and set off an explosion which will mean hundreds perhaps thousands of years for the cybermen to regroup and attack again. The Doctor though gravely injured has won the day again.

I will however say that in The Doctor Falls, the cybermen really felt underutilized. As the tech advanced and the marched around only to be dispatched by explosions and of course the Doctor's screwdriver, they felt less and less threatening. The moment the cybermen are divorced from their desperation to upgrade to avoid extinction, they stop inspiring fear. 

And when the Doctor awakes alone on his Tardis, he is simply not done fighting. His hand glows tellingly and he tells us, "I don't want to go," harkening back to David Tennant and it's every bit as sad.  The Doctor absolutely refuses to regenerate.  The Doctor leaves the Tardis defiantly calling out that he is the Doctor when he hears someone approaching. While 13 may be the Doctor now, the original Doctor has something to say about his use of that title. 

We had the call back to Clara's goodbye and this episode was pretty much a reminder of Matt Smith's last episode, where he grew old protecting the town of Christmas from his various enemies.  Even when the Doctor was old and worn down, he absolutely refused to give up.  In this episode, we once again had the Doctor willing to sacrifice himself for a group of people. Yes, it's true to the nature of the Doctor but it also means that Moffat is repeating himself yet again. And yes, I understand that this entire last season has been a love letter to all of the previous Doctors and his companions.