Here we are at the end of season ten of the new Doctor Who and the final send off for Capaldi’s Doctor, Moffat’s showrunning, and Missy and Bill to boot!
But actually almost none of that is true. At least half is an outright lie and the other half is a vague and misleading statement. After a ton of buildup about the finale and how it is the end of an era, a sentiment many are headlining their articles with today, this is more a penultimate episode. A damn good one by the way, I’m not diminishing the amount of fun or the quality of the writing, I’m merely saying that this isn’t what was advertised.
The start with cheerful music and kids being led through fields adorned with scarecrows as an especially creepy way to begin. Said scarecrows were actually proto-Cybermen hung up, almost crucified, as a warning to any other invaders. The idea of this massive ship having levels so well disguised with holograms that the inhabitants have forgotten that they are on a ship after generations of people was an interesting one that barely got touched upon and made mostly for a series of funny jokes from Nardole.
Actually Nardole got some of his best moments this week, both as a force to be reckoned with as well as comic relief. He even got an admirer in one of the locals. Nardole’s wit and comebacks were peppered in perfectly and biting in all the right ways. It figures that what is likely his last episode as a regular cast member is the one that finally and fully won me over.
It was a wise choice to expand this one to a full ninety minutes (with commercials) as there are so many great characters and the extra time gave each one of them room to breathe and chew the scenery up. I mean with two Masters on screen we needed some time for snide childish insults. Oh boy were Missy and Master good together! John Simm’s take on the role is such a different, bombastic approach to Missy’s venomous snake like one that you would easily assume wouldn’t mesh well, but I loved loved loved them together!
When leaving behind The Doctor, they both make the same mean joke to Nardole about The Doctor always hating him, so perfectly paced and presented. The constant wonder on whether Missy was truly evil again or just double crossing herself is never fully answered. She tells The Doctor as much. Even her end was appropriately snide. After an episode of the two incarnations teasing and flirting with one another (which was weird and wonderfully twisted), Missy embraces the Master only to literally stab him in the back. Announcing she was going to stand with The Doctor as allies, her past self shoots her in the back and claims she can’t regenerate from it.
Until another showrunner down the line reveals that was all a lie or she remembered her past self so she did a thing to protect herself, blah blah blah. We all know there will be another Master sometime someway. But such a fitting send off for two actors who had great fun with this role(s).
So many little meta touches were sprinkled through the episode as well. A full on Trump reference (which is getting to be a crutch of television), a remark about “reading the comments section,” and Missy’s sonic umbrella. So much to love here!
The actual Cyberman attacks were probably the least interesting thing going on and rightly so left in the background, many times literally! The ideas of parallel evolution and the time differences between floors were tossed in as interesting details but really had little bearing. I also liked how Bill, and we the audience, saw her as her human self most of the time, her mind being in denial about her transformation (attributed to her time under the monks). Some interesting moments for her as well as paying off the season’s intro to her. Bill’s crush-turned-aquatic space pilot from “The Pilot” returns in a very deus ex machina way, that being that she left her tears with Bill. Thus she shows up turning Bill into a water based creature of immeasurable power as well and they flitter off to explore the galaxy together. A giant cheat but cutesy and sweet.
Much like how The Doctor reprogrammed the Cybermen. The explanation is cheesy and kind of stupid but putting it with an episode centered around the classic versions of one of the series cheesiest looking aliens it all feels like a love letter to the Who of old. Which brings us to Capaldi’s end … kinda.
After being shot many times it seemed that his regeneration was starting up, leading to the big change and end of this chapter. But it seems he’s not ready to go as Capaldi fought back and staved off the change for now. Fun references for fans in this scene, first his line “I don’t want to go” calling back to Tennant’s exit, as well as talking about remembering “when the Doctor was me,” a line from the big fiftieth anniversary, the scene Tom Baker cameoed in. So the twelfth quotes the tenth and fourth Doctors, ending up on those snowy plains we were teased with last week. Only to snuff out his regeneration, for now, and hearing another man fighting with fate as well.
In a brilliant and door opening move, David Bradley of Game of Thrones and Harry Potter fame shows up as the first Doctor. Having portrayed him and the actor William Hartnell in the BBC biopic An Adventure in Space and Time, how wonderful to use the dead ringer as the departed Doctor’s character, bringing us full circle. Like I said, the whole “this is the end” was nonsense. We all knew there was still a Christmas special coming with Capaldi and Moffat which this sets up and will serve as their true exit.
Setting this precedent though means other old Doctor’s can be portrayed by new lookalike actors moving forward. My vote would have to be Jon Pertwee, whose son Sean plays Alfred on Gotham. Sean looks quite a bit like his Father during his Who tenure and with a little costuming would be a great choice.
So this finale was more for The Master and Bill rather than The Doctor but it was great! Still a shame there was such a lull in the middle of this season but these last few episodes as well as the first few were so good they wash away the stink of the middle. Great character beats took the foreground while silly action acted as a backdrop. My largest complaint being our true goodbye to Capaldi won’t be seen for nearly six months.
What did you think of this season’s finale? Share your thoughts in the comments section!