“I hoped there’d be stars.”
So that’s it! The often-excellent series comes to a close with this explosive two parter. And both parts couldn’t be more different. The first is a slower paced horror-heavy episode and the second is an action-packed last stand. But are they a satisfying conclusion to the series? Well despite a few moments the Moffat detractors will hate, it’s one of the most enjoyable finales we’ve seen on Doctor Who, whilst also leaving it on a tantalising cliffhanger.
The story begins on a 400 mile long spaceship, reversing away from a black hole. If you wanted the coolest possible way to go out, this would be near the top of the list. The whole 2-parter has some really cool locations. There’s the spooky hospital Bill ends up in, the dystopian cityscape at the rear end of the ship, and the rustic farm on floor 507.
These episodes have some pretty high concept science fiction ideas. The gimmick here is that there is ‘time dilation’ between the floors, meaning that a few minutes on the top floor of the ship is equal to ten years at the bottom. This is apparently a real (or theoretical) phenomenon and the show really rolls with it, at least for the first episode. Bill is trapped at the bottom of he ship for a whole ten years! As soon as that happens you know she’s either going to die at the end of the episode (unlikely) or they’ll retcon it. The second episode deals briefly with this time idea, but it is much more concerned will all-out war and old rivalries.
There are two returning old rivals, one more exciting than the other. The slightly less interesting one is the Cybermen. The showrunners are really trying to appeal to the long-time fans by having the return of the classic Cybermen, the Mondas Cybermen. And the build-up is really cool! We slowly witness people being “upgraded”, with their faces covered, giving out creepy moans. When we see the first finished Cyberman they look scary, like something straight out of the sixties. But then when you’ve seen them a few more times, you realise that they do look like something out of the 1960’s. Luckily they don’t outstay their welcome and we get Cybermen that look much more like the awesome “Pete’s World” variants. I’m sorry old Who fans, but there’s a reason the Mondas Cybermen haven’t made an appearance in 50 years.
The much more exciting return is John Simm’s The Master. We’ve not seen him since he disappeared to Gallifrey (or…something?) and he makes one hell of a return. It is a shame that the BBC announced his return, it would have been a great surprise. But realistically, would we have believed that Razor wasn’t him? I’ve too much of Life on Mars and David Tennan-era Doctor Who to not recognise John Simm when I hear him, even through the Russian/Eastern European accent. And once he’s revealed, he knocks it out of the park in episode two. He’s hammy and over the top and I really wished he could have got a little more to do. His dynamic with Missy could have been very annoying, but it was just weird and funny enough that it was entertaining to watch. Their dual deaths were very well executed also, with him laughing his way down to the bottom floor and Missy dying alone in the woods. But let’s be honest, The Master will be back in some form.
And alas, we come to poor Bill. She got the short straw in these episodes, having a hole shot through her in episode one and then being left in that creepy hospital for ten years. Then when The Doctor gets there she’s a Cyberman(woman) anyway! It’s pretty grim actually. But the more depressing and dark Bill’s fate got, the more certain I was that she was going to be ok, this is still a family show after all.
And there we were, all hope was lost. The Doctor was (apparently) dead. Bill was left for dead. What could save them? The puddle girl of course! From the first episode of the series. On one hand this is peak-Moffat, it’s out of nowhere and wraps up Bill’s storyline a little too perfectly. But on the other hand, it is quite sweet. And it wraps up the weird water girl from the first episode, who left on a note that teased a return. Who would have guessed she’d be back to save the day?
So it’s time for The Doctor’s regeneration again. But he’s not changing without a fight. We all know he have to eventually, but I love seeing him go out shouting and raving. He doesn’t want to change and he isn’t going to just give in. But he certainly went out spectacularly. The shot of him running through the forest blowing up the Cyber army was something special, and a really memorable way to go – gunned down by Cybermen and then blowing them all up. It’ll be interesting to see how long he can hold out for without regenerating at Christmas, as he seemed to be struggling here.
I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all, it’s kind. It’s just that. Just kind.
He’s not gone just yet, but it’s a good time to reflect on Peter Capaldi. He is possibly the best Doctor we’ve had and his speech to Missy and The Master perfectly summed up what The Doctor stands for. He’s had some really good material to work with during his time with the show, this past season in particular. I’m sure whoever they have picked to take his place will be great, but now more than ever before, he or she will have some big shoes to fill.
Some loose ends; the villagers and Nardole. It sounds like the Cybermen are still after them. And yeah sure, Nardole will probably save them but are we really never going to see them again? Also what a shame that would be! Nardole has been excellent for this past series and it would be a disappointment never to see him again.
Another point, at the end of the episode when The Doctor saw his recent companions (a very touching moment), how come he saw Clara? I was under the assumption he didn’t remember her. Also no Mickey? Shame on you BBC.
Overall it was an excellent finale. Sure some points were wrapped up a little too neatly, but for the most part it was a tense and dramatic ending. There was some very good direction in this episode, with some striking shots. The important thing is if these final two episodes did justice to the great episodes before it, and Peter Capaldi’s run on the show. And it did, it really did. It had the return of classic villains and a great science fiction concept, with an excellent speech by The Doctor. What more could you ask for?
Next up it’s Christmas and the return of The First Doctor. Have the creators misjudged the level of nostalgia for the original timelord? We’ll have to see. But David Bradley is a good omen, he’s a very good character actor so it will at least be an interesting episode.
See you at Christmas!
Reviewed by Jack!