What an ending! There is so much to talk about. Please don’t read on unless you’ve watched it already; spoilers abound. To lighten the mood, your spoiler warning gif this week is a Cyberman busting a move… You’re welcome.
What about those Cybermen then?
The time dilation meant that we saw some speedy evolution from the OG Mondasian model to the more familiar upgrade. We saw them at various stages of their evolution, including the creepy scarecrow ones on the solar farm floor. They were a fairly predictable foe for the most part, but what was interesting was the way that they were framed as inevitable, like “sewage, smartphones and Donald Trump”. Is this really where we’re heading as a species? Because, damn. That’s depressing. “People plus technology minus humanity. The internet, cyberspace, Cybermen. Always read the comments because one day, they’ll be an army.” If this is our fate, please let the army consist of Pajiba Eloquents…
Missy versus the Master
I loved every second of this. The flirting, the plotting, the repeated jokes, the banter; the way that they teased out the evil spectrum; the way that the Master seems to hate the idea of becoming a woman yet is weirdly attracted to Missy; the Master’s guyliner; the way their super plot failed in about 10 minutes and they had to behave; the way that Missy played fast and loose with her allegiances; and the way that they ended up destroying each other.
It was brilliant.
“I loved being you. The way you burn like a sun. Like a whole screaming world on fire. I remember that feeling. And I always will. And I will always miss it.”
“Now that was really very nicely done.”
Michelle Gomez isn’t returning, and presumably that’s the last we’ll see of John Simm’s Master. But has the character gone forever, too? It looks that way, as the Master, fatally wounded, travels back to his TARDIS to regenerate into Missy, who is fatally wounded with apparently no hope of regeneration. But this is Doctor Who we are talking about. Perhaps there is another incarnation of the character between Simm and Gomez; she did say she was a “bit hazy” on the details. Or perhaps Missy will regenerate after all. She looked pretty dead, but so did the Doctor, and he got better. Perhaps, having had sufficient memory to warn herself of the need to have a spare dematerialisation thingymajig, she also had enough memory to protect herself from death. Or perhaps the showrunners will find another way to break the rules. But as a closed loop, how fitting it was that they destroyed each other (and by extension) themselves in the end. The Doctor’s rehabilitation of Missy worked, for the most part. And that’s something.
As much as I was sure last week that this was the end of Bill, a teensy bit of hope remained. At the start of the episode, I was clinging on to that. Perhaps she’ll be OK! Then Missy said this:
“Look, there’s Bill. Dead, dismembered, fed through a grinder and squeezed into a Cyberman. Doomed to spend an eternal afterlife as a bio-mechanical psycho zombie. It was hilarious.”
Oh. Sad face. But maybe there’s a chance…
“…Ripped out her heart, threw it into a bin and burned it all away.”
OK, no need to rub it in, Missy.
But then! Bill is in the barn! She’s going to be OK!
Oh. Sadder face.
But then! The Doctor has promised to save her! “You are so strong. You’re amazing. Your mind has rebelled against the programming; it’s built a wall around itself. A castle made of you. You’re standing on the battlements saying ‘No. No. Not me.’” She’s still Bill! She’s going to be OK!
“You said you could get me back. Were you lying?”
“Were you right?”
Oh. MY HEART!
Heroic sacrifices were set up from the start. It was always going to come down to this. “Where there’s tears, there’s hope” was a fitting line; please tell me I wasn’t the only one having a good cry during this episode? We all thought it just meant that Bill was still in there. Her humanity, her spark, her Bill-ness hadn’t been destroyed. Little did we know that those tears would take on a more metaphysical importance later. She was clinging on to herself then, even though she knew that this couldn’t last; the programming would override her sense of self in the end. “I can’t hang on forever. I don’t want to live if I can’t be me any more.” But CyberBill still had a part to play, and as horrifying as it was, she was not going to go without a fight.
As she collapsed over the Doctor’s body and wept, that’s when Soggy Heather from ‘Pilot’ came along to save our beloved Bill. Was it a deus ex machina cop out? Probably, but it was so nicely done that I’m inclined to be forgiving. It seemed massively out of the blue though; has anyone had a re-watch of the other episodes to see if there were any clues we missed?
“You know what old man? I’m never going to believe you’re really dead. Because one day, everyone’s just going to need you too much. Until then…. it’s a big universe. I hope I see you again.”
It’s mutual. Bill: you’ve been brilliant, and I hope we do see you again at some point. It’s a big universe, but a small world, after all. Well done for leaving a tear on the Doctor’s face, just so you can keep in touch.
In an episode with so many losses — the Master, Missy, Bill and pretty much also the Doctor — the loss of Nardy might get forgotten. But not by me. His technological wizardry (cyber-trickery, if you will) kept the fight from being hopeless. He only left under duress, though more because exploding sounded preferable to babysitting the “smelly humans”. For all his deadpan humour, he “never will be able to find the words” to say goodbye properly, though he does promise to name “a really rubbish” town after the Doctor.
Is this the last we’ll see of Nardole? Is he the foster-dad extraordinaire, always keeping his charges at least a floor away from the oncoming army of Cybermen? Will he wait by the lift for years, clinging on to some hope that maybe he will see the Doctor again? Will he ever get to safety? The TARDIS has gone, thanks to Soggy Heather and Bill’s rescue of the Doctor. The Master’s TARDIS is presumably departing sans refugees as well. Will Nardy find another way out?
Capaldi was at his absolute finest: kind, determined, sad, pained, heroic and hopeful. His ‘Stand with me’ speech was pure Capaldi brilliance. Once again, he fights “Without hope, without witness, without reward.” He is desperately suppressing the regeneration in order to do the right thing. Noble to the end. There were just too many people to save this time, himself included.
“No stars. I hoped there’d be stars.”
But he’s not quite ready to depart just yet…
The reveal of David Bradley as the first Doctor has been rumoured for a while in terms of the Christmas episode, but it was still a lovely surprise. There were some hints of course. The jelly babies were a cute nod to Tom Baker. And who could miss the ‘I don’t want to go’ reference to Ten? There was an early discussion of the ways that the Doctor has died so far as well, when the Master and Missy were thinking of ways to kill him. And did you hear the Cloister Bell when he left the TARDIS?
So, we end an episode where a Time Lord debated his future with himself/herself, with a look ahead to a Christmas special that in all likelihood will do something similar. Missy’s had her identity crisis; now it is time for Twelve’s.
With all the leakage of regeneration energy, I did start to think that there would be a surprise regeneration. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the next Doctor appear as a complete surprise? I know they can’t keep it under wraps until then, but wouldn’t it be great if they did? Just saying, Chris Chibnall. Get those non-disclosure agreements signed and give us all a massive shock.
Having said that, let’s speculate wildly though! There was a lot more discussion of gender this week; again, are they playing with us, or are they preparing us for a female Doctor?
“Is the future going to be all girl?”
“We can only hope.”
Maybe the Master’s not the only one who needs to be welcomed to the sisterhood?
Until the Christmas special then, fellow Whovians, I’ll leave you with this: love may have saved the day again, but damn, I think we needed it to.