Leaving Amy and Rory behind, the Doctor is preparing himself for his ultimate demise. But before he faces his fate, he’s trying to do “normal people” things by paying a visit to his former roommate, Craig. But where the Doctor goes, trouble almost always follows, and this time it’s Cybermen. Be warned, the rest of this recap will contain spoilers for the episode and the events leading up to next week’s season finale.
Craig has moved on with his life as best he can. He now has a child with his long time love, Sophie, and they live in a nice new house. Craig, however, is still adjusting to being a father, and not having the best time of it. The Doctor, who has established before that he speaks “baby,” quickly informs Craig that his son, Alfie, has named himself “Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All” and sees Craig simply as “Not Mum.” But not to worry, dear Whovians. Craig and Sophie have not accidentally brought some unspeakable terror to the world. They simply have a very imaginative (and somewhat judgmental) son.
The real danger lurks in strange power outages happening all over town, and a mysterious string of disappearances in a local department store. The Doctor, knowing what lies in store for him, does his best to try to ignore these ominous signs and stick to his original plan of paying Craig a simple visit and then go off to streak across an epic galactic alignment. But, in the end, you just can’t keep a good Doctor down.
Taking a job in the department store that seems to be at the center of the strange happenings, the Doctor begins his investigation. While shopping, Craig discovers the Doctor hawking overpriced toys to kids, and knows that there is something dangerous going on. With Sophie out of town for the weekend, Craig insists on helping the Doctor. They begin by simply asking the store employees if they have seen anything strange. While getting a lot of juicy gossip about the store employees – and one disastrously awkward encounter with a sales girl in the lingerie department – they finally learn about a strange silver rat that’s been seen around the store. The Doctor knows that this is a Cybermat, a power-draining probe that is sent out by the Cybermen to transfer energy to their ship. The Cybermen are here, and gearing up for an invasion.
When the Doctor and Craig are accidentally teleported to the Cybermen’s ship, the Doctor fuses their teleport device to try to stave them off for a little bit while he attempts to figure out what they are planning and how he can stop them. Craig is desperate to help in any way he can, so they go back to the store to find the Cybermat. While searching the store, the Doctor comes across Amy and Rory. He hides so that they don’t see him, but watches as a girl walks up to Amy and asks for her autograph. It is then that he notices that Amy has become the spokesmodel for a perfume with the slogan “For the girl who’s tired of waiting.” Amy has successfully moved on and is doing well with her life. When they finally capture the Cybermat, the Doctor attempts to reprogram it to destroy the Cybermen when it reconnects with them. In a turn of events, the Cybermat attacks them, and it’s Craig who ends up holding it back long enough for the Doctor to hit it with just the right setting on his sonic screwdriver.
They also quickly learn that, despite having a disabled teleport, the Cybermen are still kidnapping people from the store. Knowing that he is a selfish man who drags people into danger, the Doctor sneaks off to track down the Cybermen on his own. Tracking their signal, the Doctor finds that the ship isn’t in orbit, but is actually underground, and the Cybermen have dug a tunnel from the ship up to the department store. While the Doctor is incompatible with the Cybermen as a whole, they can’t convert him, but they can dissect him for spare parts.
Craig, knowing that the Doctor can’t do it on his own, goes after him with Alfie. He leaves Alfie with one of the sales women in the store, and follows the Doctor down to the ship where he is grabbed and thrown into a conversion chamber. Impressed by how well he fended off the Cybermat, they plan to make him their new leader. Seeing Alfie crying on a security camera, Craig is able to beat the conversion process and switch the Cybermen’s emotional inhibitors back on. As before, when a Cyberman experiences emotion, they self destruct.
Having won the day, the Doctor disappears. Craig knows that he has gone to face his death. But when he gets home, the Doctor has redecorated his entire home to make is perfect for when Sophie gets back. He has used up all of he remaining time to do it, and is about to leave for Lake Silencio for his final showdown with the impossible astronaut. Before leaving, he takes a few blue envelopes – the same envelopes the he uses to send messages to Amy, Rory, River and his younger self. As a good-bye gift, Craig gives the Doctor a Stetson hat. As Sophie arrives, the Doctor disappears for the last time. She is awed by the house, and both she and Craig are shocked when Alfie suddenly speaks his first word: “Doctor.”
As the Doctor readies himself for one last ride on the TARDIS he stops to speak to three children, saying simply “I’m the Doctor. I was here to help, and you’re very very welcome.” These three children may not have realized it at the time, but they were just given his epitaph.
Going back to River, we find her in the library at her academy. Having just received her doctorate in archaeology, she is still feverishly tracking down the Doctor. The one moment that sticks out to her is a moment at Lake Silencio. And that is when Madame Kovarian and the Silence suddenly reappear. Kovarian tells River that she was constructed for this one purpose: to kill the Doctor. And now was the time for her to make good on it. She is taken by Kovarian and the Silence and put back in her old space suit, and placed underwater in Lake Silencio. The stage has been set.
I have to admit that I was a little wary of this episode at the start. The Cybermen are overused villains, and their presence isn’t nearly as interesting as it once was. But this was not an episode about them. This was an episode about the Doctor’s final days. With the hardcore emo-fest that was ‘The End of Time,’ the two-parter that ended the tenure of David Tennant, this “day before” story actually seemed more heartfelt and genuine. Perhaps it was because this time the Doctor was going to his true death as opposed to just one of many regenerations. It also was much more understated. There were no tear-filled speeches and a desperate clinging to his own life. This time, the Doctor has made peace with what is about to happen, and is ready to face it head on. As great as David Tennant was at the Doctor, Matt Smith’s portrayal of a man going to his death just felt much more noble.
There are still many unanswered questions, not the least of which is what is the meaning behind this one shot we keep seeing of River dressed up as Kovarian? Next week, we’ll get the answer to that along with how the Doctor will get out of this particular bind. He may be going to his true death, but Whovians know that this can’t possibly be the end. Still, the buildup has been two years in the making at this point, and I’m very eager to see how this finally plays out.
If you missed last week’s episode be sure to read my ‘Doctor Who: The God Complex’ recap to catch up.