Well, well, well… last in my review of last week’s episode, I had mentioned a few theories that some fellow net-denizens and I held, including the one about the First Doctor making an appearance in the episode. Lo and behold, in the final scene of the episode, here comes David Bradley to reprise his re-casting role of William Hartnell’s First Doctor! It was a crazy episode (as expected) with some things that worked, and some things that somewhat didn’t work (also somewhat as expected) – so let’s get right to it, yes?
WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘Doctor Who’ lie ahead, obviously. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!
RECAP: Another short recap here, as the Observations section is going to be a fairly lengthy one this week. We open with the Doctor in a pickle – maybe even dead, as we see the farm colony on the 507th Floor of the spaceship repelling yet another Cyberman attack – until a Mondasian version shows up holding the seemingly lifeless body of the Doctor. How many ways is this Time Lord going to “die” this season, eh?
He’s not dead, thankfully, and we see how he gets out of the pickle of the Master and Missy holding him hostage – Missy’s on the Doctor’s side still, maybe? After the Doctor reprograms the Cybermen into wanting to kill all Time Lords instead of all humans (but the Cybermen still spend the rest of the episode coming after the humans on the 507th floor…?), the trio of Gallifreyans escape with Cyber-Bill and Nardole to the aforementioned higher floor, where they spend some time prepping with the locals to prepare for the coming Cyberman invasion (again, the Doctor reprogrammed them, so why are they still after the humans?).
There’s angst, there’s drama, there are explosions, and there’s a surprisingly calm Master – until Missy literally stabs him in the back, forcing his regeneration cycle to begin, so he can turn into her. He’s not thrilled about this, though, so he uses his laser screwdriver to deliver a killing blow to Missy as her back is turned as well, thereby seemingly literally fulfilling his self-destructive nature.
Nardole and the humans are sent up to the 502nd Floor to escape the Cyberman attack, but the Doctor stays behind to hold off the impending onslaught. Cyber-Bill stays with him because she “don’t want to live like no Cyber-thing no more.” The Doctor falls, heroically staving off the Cyber-threat; Bill finds his body and sheds tears, just in time to welcome back an appearance by… Heather? You remember, the seemingly “one and done” pseudo-villain from ‘The Pilot,’ the first episode of this season?
Well, she’s here now, conveniently – she did say that she would follow Bill across the universe, yes? – and she converts Bill into a being like her, freeing Bill from her Cyber-shackles (boy, it’s been tough finding all these different ways to say “Cyber…” in this review). They take the Doctor’s body back to the TARDIS and then they roll off to explore the universe together – but not before Bill sheds another tear over the Doctor’s body – which then helps him spring back to life. But he staves off his regeneration sequence, long enough to pop outside of the TARDIS in the snow, where he meets… himself, in the form of the First Doctor. Where will they go? What will they do? Well, we have until Christmas to learn such things!
- Where to begin? Well, how about at the beginning of this two-part episode, and the end of this part – the TARDIS in the ice and snow, with the current iteration of the Doctor meeting the “original” iteration. For those who didn’t quite catch it: it appears that this chilly meeting space is meant to be the South Pole, circa 1986 – the exact spot and time that the First Doctor underwent his first regeneration sequence. That first regeneration sequence, at the conclusion of the tale ‘The Tenth Planet’ back in 1967 (the original Mondasian Cybermen story, remember), happened with the First Doctor telling his companions, Ben and Polly, that he needed to get back to the TARDIS, and then went running away from them in the snow towards his big blue box. They caught up with him at the TARDIS, and he was ready to change… but it seems likely that with the meeting of these two Doctors, we are now seeing these “missing” moments from that story so long ago.
- Fans will also have noticed that the Doctor, upon awakening from seeming death in the TARDIS, hops up and starts spouting lines from previous regenerations. We hear the line about Sontarans, the first line of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor… the infamous “I don’t want to go” line that was the Tenth Doctor’s last… and a bit of Eleven’s final “I will always remember when the Doctor was me.” We get some visual flashbacks as well, mostly of the Doctor’s recent(ish) companions and associates saying his name, presumably to help him “wake up.”
- Newer fans to the series may wonder what the Doctor was spouting while he was blowing up Cybermen in the climactic battle scene. “Mondas… Earth… the moon… Planet 14… Telos…” and others – these are all locations throughout the series where the Doctor has previously defeated the Cybermen.
- Do we really think, what with their “mutually assured destruction,” that we’ve seen the last of The Master? Yes, Michelle Gomez has said that she will not be returning to ‘Doctor Who’ in future seasons, but… who can say for sure. I’m not sure the character’s “final moments” resonated as emphatically as writer Steven Moffat was hoping for – at least with me, anyhow.
- Was the (re)appearance of Heather really that random? Back in ‘The Pilot,’ the first episode of the season, when Bill and Heather finally touched, Bill saw “all of space” much as she does in this episode when they reconnect. In ‘The Pilot,’ the importance/usage of tears is firmly established, with Bill mentioning “I don’t think they’re mine” when Nardole tells her that she’s crying after Heather disappears. Lastly, in that episode, Bill asks the Doctor if he thinks they will ever see Heather again. He eventually answers “It’s a big universe… maybe one day we’ll find her.” Cryptic and somewhat non-committal at the moment, but seemingly prophetic now.
CLOSING THOUGHTS: There’s more, of course, and I could go on and on… but I won’t. There’s definitely a lot to process with this episode, and I think part of the joy of ‘Doctor Who’ is re-watching scenes and episodes and coming up with your own thoughts, opinions, and theories. So, I’ll be back with you around Chrismas time, but until then – keep thinking ‘Who!’
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Peter Capaldi as the Doctor
Bill Mackie as Pearl
Matt Lucas as Nardole
Michelle Gomez as Missy
John Simm as The Master
A new episode of ‘Doctor Who’ will return in December on BBC America.