So would you like the good news or the bad news first?
Well, the good news is this week’s episode of Doctor Who, “World Enough and Time”, was a fun, well-crafted affair. The bad news is it also was a gigantic tease heading into the season finale and we now have to wait for the pay off!
They literally started teasing us in the first seconds of the episode. We see The Doctor, disheveled and shaggy haired, looking battered and beaten in the snow … and beginning to regenerate!
Not the biggest surprise as Capaldi’s exit has been known for some time, but where these setups usually pay off in the same episode this one did not. Instead we never revisit this moment for the rest of the episode but I do have my thoughts on what could be the catalyst. More on that later.
Missy is leading things right off the bat here, in an absolutely fantastic and meta scene that sees her calling out and trolling us, the audience, through a series of snide remarks and digs at Who lore. Calling people disposables, and naming Bill and Nardole exposition and comic relief. Missy’s cattiness knows no bounds. She even declares her name is Doctor Who. Of course Bill thinks this is ridiculous and Missy offers up two explanations. The first being that when he says he is The Doctor, people’s first question is “Doctor Who?” So she wants to cut to the chase, cute, funny, yada yada yada. Her second explanation feels like a great big ole wink to the die hard fans, albeit in a teasing manner. She tells Bill that Doctor Who is actually the Doctor’s full name.
The whole thing is quite silly and of course it isn’t really but the way he reacts when Bill asks directly, and Missy’s delivery surely has sent some message boards into a frenzy, which I’m sure was the plan. Steven Moffat knows his time is up but he’s going to stir that pot up something good before he lets go of the reigns. Missy really plays up her evil Mary Poppins vibe here and it works great.
So the meat of the story this week deals with Missy going on her first “good” adventure, finding a distress call and trying to solve a problem. If you’ve seen Interstellar or are a big fan of time dilation theory then you might’ve picked up on the big twist of this episode.
The ship that sent out the distress signal is large, in fact massive. A ship designed to hold an entire colony of people. Said ship unfortunately drove too close to a black hole and is slowly but surely reversing from it. So after Bill dies, oh wait, yea Bill kind of dies, sort of. For some nonsense chicken shit reasons the lone occupant of the ship’s bridge decides to blow a hole right through Bill. That’s when Bill’s story really starts.
Dragged down to the bottom deck we meet Bill’s new friend, a bearded weirdo and her guide in her new life. As we found out, the gravity from the black hole is affecting the flow of time. The top deck being so close to the hole is going much, much slower than the bottom deck, in fact the entire society on the lower decks are the descendants of the twenty crew members who went down to fix the engine. The people are converting themselves to survive their new lives and the conversion theatre is a chilling horror of tortured beings with bags on their heads.
So as the Doctor tries to rescue Bill she lives years in the lower decks of the ship while mere minutes pass by for The Doctor. Bill has some great scenes in this new life, great little beats as she watches her friend in frozen moments. You really get to even like her weirdo friend. Even a cheesy flashback of her and the Doctor has a great moment. While trying to insinuate the Time Lords are beyond gender and sexuality as we know it, Bill calls out the fact that while that might be true they still use the name “Lord” instead of “Lady” or something more gender neutral. Touché!
So by the time The Doctor makes his way down with Missy, it’s too late and Bill has been converted, by her buddy no less, into a Mondassian Cyberman! A classic villain from the old Who. The cheesy look explained by her very nicely by the circumstances of their creation. A genius move to make a bad old effect still make sense, be cannon, and give a classic foe a tragic origin story.
The big question mark and possible bad turn, depending on next week’s explanation, is The Master. Or actually The Masters plural. And the big twist is that weirdo who has been looking out for, then betraying Bill? None other than the David Tennant era Master in disguise. He reveals himself to Missy who has no memory of the ship or his disguise. Um what? Some sort of amnesia? Or maybe she actually is an earlier version of him rather than a later one? None of the possible explanations make sense. Neither does building her up as sympathetic only for her to turn evil at the drop of a hat.
My only guess is she is tricking her past self and will enact a triple cross. I also bet that The Doctor uses his coming regeneration to heal Bill. I can’t see them leaving her as an emotionless robot. Just too much of a downer for Moffat to go out on. But overall I was highly entertained and found the time stuff not only fun but quite clever! The finale will be here soon and I’m hopeful, more now than a few weeks ago, that Steven Moffat will go out on a high note!
What did you think of this week’s episode? Share your thoughts in the comments section!