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Doctor Who S10 E12: ‘The Doctor Falls’

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For the series ten finale of Doctor Who, things are looking rather grim. The Doctor is surrounded by old enemies, The Master and Mondasian Cybermen, and to make matters worse, not only has companion Bill Potts been transformed into a Cyberman (woman?), but Missy, the version of The Master that The Doctor has been trying to reform, has joined her previous regeneration against her old enemy. Can things get worse? Is this The Doctor’s last stand? Will he regenerate? Check out my thoughts on “The Doctor Falls” after the jump.

Turnabout

While Missy and The Master try to figure out what the best way might be to kill The Doctor, trying to add a little variety to the equation by not repeating how he’s died before, and of course, not wanting it to take forever, as they don’t know how many regenerations The Doctor has left, the world has moved on, and the entire planet has become a foundry for converting humans to Cybermen. Might I add how creepy it is to watch the two of them flirt with themselves? Of course The Doctor is not afraid, he’s already planned for this, offscreen so we can’t be privy to it. But, the details just don’t add up.

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In a tricky flashback to the last episode, The Doctor reprogrammed the Cybermen to count Time Lords (and Ladies) as human, so the army of Cybermen are scaling the high rise building where The Masters have been torturing The Doctor, they are after new meat to convert. Missy and The Master’s only chance? Untie The Doctor, as he is the only one who has ever had any success fighting off an army of Cybermen. Whether that’s true or not is debatable – I seem to remember the Daleks decimating them at one point in the new series at least.

Timey Wimey

Here’s where it gets really tricky though. Mention is made of ten years having passed, as the single hospital has now grown into an industrial city. Time passing for Time Lords is like the wind, as it would be for Bill-as-Cyberman as well, no sweat, a drop in the bucket. But what about Bill before she was converted? Shouldn’t Bill have aged a lot in that time, seeing as how she was at the fast time end of the 400-mile spaceship?

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And what was up with that opening? Was that Bill as a child living an idyllic life except for the metal ship number in the sky and occasional invading Cyber-surgeons? The one thing that struck me, and really I have no way of knowing this, but was that Scotland? Because, if the Peter Capaldi Doctor had a choice of where to die, one imagines it might be Scotland, right? Could this guaranteed-not-to-be-what-any-of-us-imagine-it-to-be opening be another trick of The Doctor’s, a last minute ploy of some kind? I guess we’ll find out.

On the Solar Farm

Once again the sides are turned as Missy, who is of two minds on the subject, says she’s been on The Doctor’s side all along, after punching out The Master. Who trusts her? Raise your hands, yeah, thought so. Still, I can’t get enough of the comedy team of Missy and The Master, more please, And is that ship Nardole arrives in the same one that lands in front of young Bill? It is indeed, but nothing is as I imagined it – doesn’t that sound familiar? Not Scotland, but a solar farm, and not Bill, but just a kid. From the attack on the building, the team have gone up to the next level, to this farm.

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Bill has apparently resisted programming and is still somewhat Bill, and two weeks later, after everyone has recovered from their injuries, Bill wakes up seeing herself as herself, but it’s not true, she is still Cyber. But her mind is so strong that she is resisting the programming, and still sees herself as she used to be, and as long as she’s still Bill, she’ll be on The Doctor’s side. Vagaries of what The Doctor can or cannot do, and if he lies (we know he does), remind me of Clara and how much I hated her.

Trenzalore Redux

Bill, in a heartbreaking scene going back and forth between actress Pearl Mackie and the mechanized voice of the Cyberman, tells The Doctor is she can’t be Bill any more, she doesn’t want to live. The Doctor hears her, but we know how he is with promises. He’s also not doing too well himself, pushing back his own regeneration to stay here and defend this small solar farm from the quickly evolving Cybermen below. Are the Venusian Aikido and Jelly Babies, trademarks of The Doctor’s previous regenerations (Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker respectively) signs of an overdue regeneration? If memory serves, The Master was there the last time he did that in “Logopolis.”

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The Doctor is desperate, so desperate that he is accepting the help of Missy and The Master, to defend a small town from his enemies, against impossible odds. Sound a bit familiar, does it? This is Trenzalore all over again, saving Christmas. Is this to become a regular pattern for regenerations? I really shouldn’t complain though, because it’s nothing so bad. The feels for Bill’s plight, the worry over The Doctor dying, and the wonderfully punny and creepy interaction between Missy and The Master make it all worthwhile.

The Evil Twins

One thing that makes this not a redo of “The Time of The Doctor,” and that’s the evil twins, Missy and The Master. I can’t say enough about the performances of Michelle Gomez and the much more mellow this time John Simm. The latter was far too over the top for me before, but here he is just right, and Missy, well, she has always been just right. I love the flirting, no matter how creepy, because let’s face it, The Master is an egomaniac, so who else would make a better mate?

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Missy and The Master have all the great lines in this one, my favorite being “The Doctor’s dead, he told me he’d always hated you” and also the bit where she arouses himself, ewww. Still they are the subtle stars of this drama, and this time, even have the wonderful time tricks usually saved up for a multiple Doctor meeting, like having a dematerializer for his TARDIS just in case.

Missy

But The Doctor’s reprimand to them when they want to bail on the farm just seems false. I can’t see either of them falling (pardon the pun) for his plea or his explanation. The Master, the real Master, would have walked away just like John Simm did, and Missy as well, but that handshake, that hand touch, just like she did in the beginning of the episode when she changed sides. Has The Master gone soft? No, she has not.

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I had a feeling of what was coming. And it is the next best thing to them getting it on, and in all honesty, this double act of murder (or is it suicide?) is The Master getting it on. Surely Missy must have had some safeguard if she suspected, or remembered, that The Master would kill her after she killed him, right? Maybe that handshake with The Doctor? Still, I did love this scorpion and the frog moment of the Masters’ murder/suicide. Beautiful and chilling.

Last Stand

As Nardole, after a sad goodbye, leads the children and adults to safety in another solar farm, The Doctor and Bill make a last stand against the Cybermen, with by his own admission, hours left to live. We see quite the fight, a real action sequence of The Doctor running and jumping and blasting Cybermen with his amped up sonic screwdriver. Although I remember the second Doctor I ever saw, Peter Davison, punch someone and I was thrilled, having grown up with the more cerebral Tom Baker, I have to say, this isn’t the kind of Doctor Who I really want. More think, less fight.

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In the midst of battle, Bill turns on him, programming finally catching up, and delivers the final blow just before The Doctor himself blows the whole place up. His plan apparently works, yet I’m not sure why Bill is still standing. Could it be the force that allows her to cry, and enters like a proper deus ex machina in the next scene? Of course, but the real question is – why isn’t The Doctor regenerating? Why is he just lying there? Is he out of regeneration juice? Or worse yet, is he out of regenerations? It shouldn’t be the latter, as he gained almost infinite regenerations at the battle of Trenzalore.

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We see that the children and the village are all right on another solar farm, and the Cybermen will take some time to regroup. One of the many hard almost cries in this episode is the image of Nardole waiting by the lift doorway for The Doctor and Bill, but they’re not coming. Maybe Nardole can live happily ever after with his new friend who will try anything once. If you’re not crying yet, just wait.

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As we overlook the burned out battlefield after The Doctor’s last stand, we find Cyberman Bill walking over to The Doctor’s unmoving body, and it starts to rain. But it’s not just any rain, it’s Heather from “The Pilot.” And now we know why a Cyberman can cry, it was her. Heather can now not only save Bill, but take her with her finally to explore the universe. Oh, the feels, but everyone, except for the Cybermen, and a few Time Lords get a happy ending.

Don’t Change

Before they leave for the great unknown, Heather and Bill take the still unmoving Doctor to the TARDIS, what better place for him to rest in peace, right? He’s still not regenerating, even though the TARDIS is till full of smoke, and the newly transformed Bill even left him a tear of hope on his face. The tear seems to jumpstart him – giving him visions of past companions like Bill, Nardole, Rose, Martha, Donna, Captain Jack (yay!), Madam Vastra and Jenny, Sarah Jane, Amy, River Song, Missy, and yes, even Clara. Surprisingly, there’s no Rory or Strax or other decidedly straight male companions.

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The Doctor has made a conscious decision, one not to regenerate. He doesn’t want to change any more, he wants to stay the same. As a fan, I concur. Just when I’m getting used to Peter Capaldi, he’s leaving, so I get the vibe, and I’m sure fans all over the world feel the same. I myself was exposed to Tom Baker for so long that the very idea of regeneration was completely foreign to me. When he fell from that tower in the aforementioned “Logopolis,” I thought that was it, he was dead, game over.

Full Circle

The Doctor’s refusal to regenerate makes me wonder if perhaps that was not a parlor trick played on Bill back in “The Lie of the Land.” Maybe he was regenerating and simply pushed it back again. After he makes his speech about not wanting to change however, the TARDIS lands, as if in answer. When The Doctor steps out, still fighting regeneration, we recognize the scene.

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This is how “World Enough and Time” opened, with The Doctor stumbling from the TARDIS onto a snowy world, fighting off regeneration. Then he hears a voice asking who he is. It’s The Doctor, The First Doctor, as played by David Bradley, who portrayed William Hartnell in the BBC telemovie An Adventure in Space and Time. Wow, it is going to be a looong wait until Christmas…

Conclusion

I have to say it, this might not have been the best this season, but it was damned good, and it was definitely the most emotionally charged episode we’ve seen in quite some time. Seriously, if you didn’t cry at least once, you have no soul. This was one of those, and one of the good ones.

As I end this, we should mention that the episode sent Twitter once again through the atmosphere with two lines from the episode. The Master asks if the future will be all girl, to which The Doctor answers, “we can only hope.” Hmmm, push Olivia Colman, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Hayley Atwell of Agent Carter straight to the top of the polls, folks. A female Doctor? Bring it on. I just hope the summer and fall go by quickly, and we get more than twelve episodes next seasons. Long live Doctor Who!

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About Glenn Walker

Glenn Walker is a professional writer, and editor-in-chief and contributing writer at Biff Bam Pop!. A blogger, podcaster, and reviewer of pop culture in all its forms, he's done stints in radio, journalism and video retail. Ask him anything about movies, television, music, or especially comics or French fries, and you’ll be hard pressed to stump him or shut him up.

Posted on July 2, 2017, in Doctor Who, Glenn Walker, science fiction, television and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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