Cyberspoilers — for what it’s worth, I largely drafted this before seeing the season finale.
Doctor Who: “World Enough and Time”
Imagine a moment in the 1980s, when Five was in a cave, being ordered to open a metal hatch, and he and Nyssa and Tegan and the other characters come under attack from faceless androids. We get a point of view shot of Veterinary, tinged red, and cut to a number of silver figures around a console, obviously observing.
At the time I was a subscriber to Doctor Who Monthly and they gave no indication this was coming. Total surprise.
(Memory, eh? If pushed I’d’ve recalled that they were on yet another cargo ship and a door slides open and … cue the theme music.)
Cut to 2017 and we know that Capaldi wanted to meet the Mondasian cybermen (which were One’s swansong) and that John Simm is coming back, along with more Missy. We also have the rumours of Bill Potts’s demise, which may have been much exaggerated. Moffat may want to be Joss Whedon, but surely he won’t suffer from Dead Lesbian Syndrome too.
So for some reason — hope? — the Doctor wants to help Missy redeem herself and so has released her from the Vault to undertake a rescue mission of a spaceship with a mayday signal (shades of ”Oxygen”). Death Companion Walking Bill and Margot are sent along as companions, with the Doctor watching over them from the TARDIS, eating crisps (a running joke through the series has been him wanting crisps — if cybermen don’t turn out to be allergic to cheese and onion or the little blue bags of salt, Moffat has copped out). Missy has a lot of schtick with the Doctor Who joke, which soon outwears its welcome. With the appearance of a blue man (reminding us of Bill’s racism in “Oxygen” although Missy seems to get away with smurf, but she is a villain), things degenerate — killer beings are descending in the lifts in search of a human heart beat and Bill takes a blaster in the chest.
That’s an odd reference to Death Becomes Her, when Goldie Hawn’s character has a hole blasted through her torso.
This is a training mission. A practice run. Like, oh I don’t know, the the Monks.
Trust nothing. None of this is real.
This being Moffat, of course, he reverts to his strengths and the timey whimey — the episode starts with a pre-credits sequence of Twelve (as I believe the kids call him) stumbling out of the TARDIS into the snow, which immediately nods back to something like “The Tenth Planet” (or Ice Warriors), beginning to regenerate. Although we’ve had a moment like this before, yes? When Bill shot him in “The Lie of the Land”. He came over all regenny.
Mission Missy is intercut with Twelve trying to persuade Bill to go along with the plan, incidentally schooling a lesbian in gender identity. Because the Doctor may have always seemed to us to be a white, cishet, but he’s the experts on ethnicity and gender and sexuality. Chiz.
There is a genuine head splat in the idea of a four hundred mile spaceship reversing from a black hole and the time dilation effect of the gravity well. I was scratching my head on what happens in the lift, and whether that is a travel through time, and we have a neat can’t get out of jail card about how the TARDIS can’t operate accurately near a black hole. Even if you wave a sonic screwdriver. I’m assuming someone will have run the maths about how old Bill would be by the end of the episode.
Bill has found herself in hospital, run by a Nurse Ratchet-like matron and a very peculiar janitor named Mr Razor. At first, I couldn’t work out whether he was meant to be auditioning for Oliver! or whether the references to Star Trek have yielded a Klingon. Perhaps he’s performing Dickens in the original Klingon (which is clearly better). He’s a little hyper comic relief — balancing with Missy and Margot — and a little underlit.
I can’t work out it’s meant to be a surprise. You know, like that movie where the main character turns out to be dead — indeed you saw him get shot.And he turns out to be dead.
We’ve all been sitting there, shouting at the screen, noting that Mister Razor is self evidently an anagram of Master R. Rizo. Or is he Mister Raiser?
Yes, John Simm is back and we don’t have time to wonder why he’s there and why he’s hanging around for so long, waiting for a Mondasian invasion to happen. Because we want the delicious dialogue of Master meeting Missy and Missy meeting Master — we’ve had the three Doctors and the five Doctors and the two Doctors and the fiftieth anniversary, but we’ve never seen the Master cross his own timeline.
Like Danny Pink and the Brigadier before her, Bill has been upgraded to a cyberman (cyberwoman, surely) although she’s crying still. Perhaps she can hold onto memories of mum.
I can remember reading one of the Target novelisations in the 1980s — possibly The Tenth Planet, maybe The Cybermen (aka “The Moonbase”). The cybermen came for someone in their hospital bed — it may have been Jamie, it may have been Ben (who I either wanted to be with or wanted to be — as a prepubescent there was always already something about a sailor…) Wouldn’t it nice, to be freed of those icky emotions?
But I guess we need to feel sorry for Bill, whose lesbianism narratively marks her for death. And Moffat is thus damned either way — he’s fallen into cliché or there’s going to be some hand waving.
The most important thing is that he will have learned his lesson from killing off Clara.