Plot details will be discussed and possibly mocked.
Doctor Who: “The Doctor Falls”
So, let’s see: what do we know about Bill? I don’t think there’s any mention of her father and we know her mother is dead — the Doctor got her some photos as part of her recruitment. The memories of her mother were part of defeating the monks, as preserving her self identity.
What will survive of us is lurve, it turns out.
If she were to disappear, no one would likely notice — a potential girlfriend walked out once (or twice), potential house mates have gone quiet. Another potential girlfriend, who she demonstrated her live to with high fat food, has been turned into an alien spaceship and, to be honest, they barely spoke.
Oh, and she’s got a bloody great hole in her where she has been shot.
Last time a companion was killed, the Doctor rescued her – somewhere, somehow, Adric is really pissed off – and she disappeared off for a tour around the universe with a woman.
The Doctor has been made to forget this.
So, the series climax, and much timey wimey because we need a hook otherwise we wouldn’t watch.
A seemingly dead Doctor is held by a Mondasianised Bill, in a green and pleasant valley. Then we flash back to the city, with the Master and Missy and the Doctor awaiting a cyberattack. Fortunately, we know the Doctor can reprogram a computer in second, so it is a piss of piece to rewrite the code so that the Cybermen are looking for people with two hearts (presumably in addition to one heart, as they still hunt humans). They can’t get back to the TARDIS, but they can get to a farmstead.
So a western-style last stand is set up – with Margot programming the floors of the spaceship to explode by remote control, something that can be done with a sonic screwdriver. Although the Master’s sonic seems to have done for them too. We await the silver hordes and the last stand. We have a rural idyll set against a death factory, exposing a somewhat conflicted anti-technology point of view for the series. The Doctor seems to think Cybermen are an historical inevitability, “Like sewage, smart phones, and Donald Trump, some things are just inevitable.” And he gives us some fanwank by mentioning Mondas, Telos, Planet 14 and Marinus, which apparently is a comics reference rather than the place with the keys. Later we get nods back to previous defeats. It’s slightly odd that the Mondasian cybermen sound so like Kenneth Williams.
We don’t get the gold stuff, though.
Cos explosions are cool.
The Master/Missy combo switches between delicious and overdone – one of them is meant to be a villain than a comedy figure, and the other one is meant to have reformed. The Master gets a couple of lines that explain the lack of memories of these events in Missy’s past, but seems a little to fixated on his future as female, trying on mascara in one sequence (because make up is what being a girl is about). I also could have done without the erection joke. Missy is mostly bearable – Moffat tends to write so many of his female characters at a hyper level, too camp. There was a neat line when the Master asks if it’s all girls from now on – and the Doctor says “We can only hope.” It’s almost as if they are teasing us about the next Doctor’s gender.
There’s some business about the Master having damaged his dematerialization circuit – which the Time Lords temporarily removed from the Doctor’s TARDIS when exiling him to Earth. In the farewell between Missy and the Doctor there’s a handshake, which might suggest it is being handed across, but nothing is made of it. I’m less clear how she has been able to keep it secret all these years.
Margot gets written out, and threatens to name a town or a mpig or a cow after him, a nod back to the Doctor’s invitation to grant a name in “The Easters of Light”. It seems that he will just settle down.
Bill, meanwhile, does not quite believe she is a Cyberman and the camera cutting neatly switches between both versions, as we move in and out of her point of view. Pearl Mackie, oddly, is better as Bill than as a cyberman – the body language isn’t cyber enough, but then, so isn’t the character. If this is her last ever episode, and I have my doubts, her performance has really matured here, and you can really feel for her as a Frankenstein’s creature hiding in the shed. Her line about not wanting to be her, if she couldn’t be her, has especial resonance with the forthcoming regeneration – was it the Tennant version who said he didn’t want to go?
Whilst the Doctor can’t save her, Heather can, like whatever the female version of a deus ex machine would be. Bill, is, apparently, just atoms. She can now travel around the universe with Heather, and the Doctor doesn’t know.
I’m not sure what’s worse, the Killing the Lesbian Character trope or bringing a dead character back. One is just lazy plotting, the other is not trusting your audience. We did at least, finally, get a kiss, although it is entirely possible that Bill won’t like Heather.
They’ve barely spoken.
And so to another telegraphed twist, back to the Antarctic location seen at the start of ”World Enough and Time”. The regeneration is coming on again, and he falls in the snow… encountering a familiar figure. One, as I believe the kids call him.
Hartnell was absent from some of “The Tenth Planet”, and so we might have a Christmas special that fills in the gaps. I haven’t seen enough of even the surviving Hartnell serials to know if David Bradley is convincing enough for those in their sixties, but I’m happy to buy it. It’d be interesting to see if the Mondasians are reused – but I suspect there will be more raiding of the archives to go alongside the clips of companions used to say the Doctor’s name.
So, all in all a mixed season, a step above the quality of what Capaldi was working with before. I’m not convinced it answered the questions that were set up, and there’s so much convenient plotting. It needs a more rigorous thinking through, rather than a leap to flattery that we recognize the references (including Harry Sullivan).
I do, by now, know the next Doctor, and my main relief is that Moffat won’t be writing her dialogue.