My oh my – this was quite an episode! It’s chock-full of all sorts of current-Who goodness and classic-Who callbacks – so much so that I’m going to give you a shortened recap because the Observations are going to take up some serious real estate this week. Let’s dive in and see what we’ve got!
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: The episode opens with our man Peter Capaldi coming out of the TARDIS – alone, cold in the snow… and starting to have an all-too-familiar golden glow. For the second time in six weeks, it appears he’s starting to go through a regeneration sequence; but we’ll have to wait to find out if it’s a true changeroo or not, for the opening credits start to roll and we’re off on the main adventure!
The Doctor thinks it’s time to put Missy into a more “real-world” scenario to test her possible turn to altruism, so one quick distress call later, she’s leading Bill and Nardole onto a 400-mile long colony ship that’s slowly trying to work its way out of a black hole’s gravitational pull. As you might expect, however, things go disastrously wrong, and Bill ends up with a giant hole in her chest. But it’s creepy white-wrapped medical patients to the rescue, as they claim they can help her. They whisk Bill’s body away below decks, where, due to the gravitational distortion and the length of the massive ship, time is moving at a much fast rate than it is on the bridge.
Bill is in fact revived – thanks to a big bulky machine implanted in her chest. At the hospital on the deck thousands of levels below the bridge, she meets Mr. Razor, and the two spend years together watching the sequence of events unfold slowly on the bridge – a sequence that takes mere minutes in real-time to The Doctor, Missy, and Nardole, who have now realized the time displacement and are heading into the ship to retrieve Bill.
A few unexpected twists await them upon their arrival – patients in the hospital are being turned into Cybermen, but not just any Cybermen: “original” Mondasian Cybermen, as the colony ship is from Mondas! Also, Mr. Razor reveals his true form to Missy – he’s The Master! But, uh, how? Well, the answer to that question and more will have to wait until next week!
- So, starting with the most obvious point: John Simm is back as The Master, whom we have not seen since the 2009 two-parter “The End of Time.” The fact that Simm appears here is not particularly shocking, as the BBC let that “secret” loose long ago, presumably to ensure ratings, but it would have been nice not to know, y’know? As for how he’s here interacting with Missy, who is essentially himself – and he clearly knows a bit about, by his dialogue with her – I guess we have to wait until next week to have that question answered for us.
- Mondasian Cybermen! For the uninitiated, these are in fact the “original” Cybermen, who made their first appearance all the way back in the 1966 episode “The Tenth Planet,” during the time of the First Doctor. In fact – Classic Connection Alert! – that episode was the final adventure of William Hartnell as The First Doctor, and the first episode in all of ‘Doctor Who’ to feature a regeneration scene. Coincidence? Yeah, right!
- So, Mondasian Cyberman are from Mondas, the titular “tenth planet” from the classic episode referenced immediately above. Mondas was a twin planet of Earth, shown simply with its continents upside down, but was blasted out of the solar system and began to drift through space. As a result, the humans on Mondas had to adapt to survive the perilous conditions they met… and did so, by upgrading themselves and becoming the Cybermen.
- It’s hard to miss Simm’s emphatically-delivered line, “this is the Genesis of the Cybermen!” It clearly harkens to the episode “Genesis of the Daleks,” first shown in 1975 during the time of Tim Baker’s Fourth Doctor. Although that episode was not the first Dalek storyline to be featured in the series, it did explain the origin of the species, and the same rings true here in “World Enough and Time.”
- So, the title of this episode, then – let’s talk about that. It’s from a 17th Century poem, “His Coy Mistress,” written by Andrew Marvell (props to Den of Geek for pointing this one out a while back). “His Coy Mistress…” Missy is short for Mistress… are we seeing a potential connection here? Another line in the poem was taken to create the title of last season’s “Before the Flood,” although no immediate on-screen connection between that episode and this one exists.
- Bill is starting to experience something that a few other companions have as well: waiting for The Doctor for long stretches of time. In this episode, it’s years that she spends below decks while time moves slowly on the bridge, and earlier this season she spent at least six months along with the rest of Earth under the rule of the Monks as the Doctor was biding his time in an attempt to strike back. Martha, Donna, Amy and Rory… the list of companions waiting months and years for The Doctor to reconnect with them grows longer and longer.
- Last bit we’ll touch on for today: in the opening sequence of the episode, The Doctor is shown beginning to regenerate as he shouts “No! No!” This is the same “final line” that Second Doctor Patrick Troughton exclaimed before regenerating into Third Doctor Jon Pertwee. Could it be a coincidence? Have you been watching the show this season? Come on!
CLOSING THOUGHTS: As if there was any doubt at all before “World Enough and Time,” next week’s episode, “The Doctor Falls,” should be a doozy. Remember aaallllll the way back to my review of the first episode of the season? I mentioned that the Doctor had a surprisingly-prominently placed picture of Susan, the Doctor’s grand-daughter first introduced alongside Hartnell’s First Doctor, on his desk. Well, we know have another First Doctor connection in the Mondasian Cybermen and the cause of the first-ever Doctor regeneration… and ‘Doctor Who’ currently does have an actor, David Bradley, whom they have used previously to portray on-screen the First Doctor to great effect… and we already have one character in Missy and The Master who is on-screen essentially with themselves… it’s all possibly adding up to one of the craziest season finales we’ve seen in DW history.
I know I, for one, won’t be missing next week’s episode, and I don’t recommend that you do, either!
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
New episodes of ‘Doctor Who’ air on Saturday nights on BBC America.