Thoughts on: World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls

The world didn’t end in this finale. The world didn’t come remotely close to ending. There was no apocalyptic threat to Earth, the universe, time or the human race. No reality bomb, no cracks in time, no return of the Time War, no pestilential Dalek swarms, not even a mythical universe-devouring Hybrid. There were a dozen and a half farmers in a homestead on a farm on the 507th floor of a spaceship stuck in the gravitational pull of a black hole. No one knew they were there, no one would miss them, and it wouldn’t matter to the universe if they were absorbed into the ranks of a newly-minted Cyberman army, or died. They were no one. The Cybermen almost certainly wouldn’t be able to get off the ship anyway, without being sucked into a black hole. Everyone on that ship was doomed. It was only a matter of time. None of them mattered.

It’s an interesting choice of setting for Steven Moffat’s last ever finale. Just compare it with his predecessor. Russell T Davies went as big as he possibly could in his last finale. The end of all reality at the hands of the Daleks. He brought back every companion from his four (going on five) years’ time as showrunner and delivered what remains probably the most high-stakes and epic finale since Doctor Who came back in 2005. This isn’t like that. This is nothing like that. This is deliberately as low-key and low-stakes as possible. It’s literally the Doctor holed up on a farm defending a handful of unimportant inbred farmers against an unstoppable army of Cybermen, who are almost certainly going to die whatever he does and, in any case, whose whole world is doomed.

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But actually, that’s the whole point. The choice is very, very deliberate on Moffat’s part. And, frankly, it’s the only appropriate way Moffat could have ended his tenure. Moffat has done the big, epic, high-stakes finales. He’s done the end of the universe and/or reality – four times, by my count (two of those times more explicitly). No doubt he could have done it again, and done it more convincingly and more spectacularly than it’s ever been done on the show before, by him or anybody else. I believe, considering the form he’s been at the last couple of seasons, that he could have delivered the best Big Finale we’ve yet seen. But somehow, that wouldn’t have been right. It would have been reliably stunning, and the reviews would have raved, but it wouldn’t have been the right note on which to end Moffat’s tenure. Moffat isn’t about that. Never has been.

Because this was a love letter to Doctor Who and the Doctor, a tribute to the show and the character Moffat has been writing for twelve years, and which has been his life for the last seven years. Moffat likes to say, half-facetiously, that in his opinion the companion, not the Doctor, is the main character of this show, that the companion is the most important character in Doctor Who. It’s a silly idea, of course, but it’s a nice one, and it’s nice to look at the show that way. However, this finale shows that Moffat doesn’t really believe that. For Moffat, the character of the Doctor and what the Doctor represents is the beating heart of this show.

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Because this finale was all about what the character of the Doctor represents, and what this show is about. The Doctor is the man who will die defending a handful of farmers from an unstoppable army of Cybermen because it’s right. The Doctor is the man who does what’s kind and good in the face of almost certain failure because it’s right. It didn’t need to be a planet or a species the Doctor was defending, let alone the universe. The Doctor will die for the sake a few inbred farmers because that’s who he is. You can practically condense Moffat’s conception of the character to: the Doctor is the man who always does what’s right. That speech Twelve delivered to the two Masters, one of the most genuinely moving and passionate ever delivered by an actor as the Doctor, and I think my new favourite, basically encapsulated the essence of how Moffat conceives of the character of the Doctor and what he represents. It’s Doctor Who in a verse of passionately-delivered prose, a loving salute to the Doctor and Doctor Who.

Practically everything in this two-part finale revolved around that compelling theme. The Doctor’s mission to turn Missy good, into someone like him, was symbolic of the idea that being the Doctor isn’t an inheritance or an instinct, nor either nature or nurture – it’s a choice. It’s the choice to do what’s right and good, always, in the face of insurmountable odds, in the face of certain failure, without hope, witness or reward. Those opining that the presence of the twain Masters in this finale, especially John Simm’s Master, was rather pointless and that they played something of an irrelevant and peripheral role in the story are wrong. Missy’s struggle, between following the Doctor and being the person the Doctor wanted her to be, and being the person she had always been, represented by John Simm’s Master, represented the idea that being the Doctor was a choice. That, in the end, Missy made the choice to follow the Doctor, where she was without hope, witness or reward, was a vindication of what the Doctor represents. Which makes it all the more tragic that the Doctor never found out that she turned to follow him.

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I keep putting all this in terms of Moffat’s conception of the Doctor because there is more than one showrunner’s interpretation of the character. I say that this finale is the appropriate way for Moffat to end his tenure as showrunner because Moffat’s interpretation of the character, his conception of the Doctor and what the Doctor is about, has always been the central theme of his Doctor Who. The Fiftieth Anniversary special was the apotheosis of that vision. More relevantly, in the climax of the Series 8 finale the Twelfth Doctor stood in a graveyard with a Cyberman army at his command and made another speech to Missy which was the culmination of a whole series of angst-ridden rumination about what being the Doctor meant. Two series later there’s no equivocation, no sliver of doubt at all about what he, the Doctor, stands for – and, in a symbolic reversal of roles, it’s Missy who’s been undergoing angsty self-reflection all season, and the Doctor who’s offering her the climactic character-defining choice.

So it was only right that Moffat ended his run this way. It was only right that he made the Doctor’s final stand a symbolic embodiment of what the Doctor represents. He went down fighting in the most mundane and inconsequential of circumstances, where, for once, no one would have blamed him for high-tailing out of there. It would have made the most trivial of difference. But that’s why this was such a heroic fall for him, and it’s why it’s such an emphatic vindication of the character. He went down being the Doctor where no one would have blamed him for not being the Doctor. It made for a death scene as rousing and emotional as any we’ve seen yet. It rivals the Tenth Doctor’s “So much more” death scene in terms of its raw emotional punch. It’s definitely one for the ages.

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Before I tie up this rambling, messy not-really-a-review, any discussion of this finale would be incomplete if it didn’t talk about Bill’s fate, so let’s just talk about that. Before I saw The Doctor Falls I was sort of, without really thinking about it, hoping that Bill would either die or remain a Cyberman. I’m of the school of thought which believes that death is as important a part of Doctor Who as life and the saving thereof. Life is not as treasured, and saving lives is not as warranting of celebration, if no one ever dies and the significance of death, by experiencing the death of characters we love, is never appreciated. Death is the other side of the coin to life, and the show cannot have one without the other. Although I made peace with Clara’s fate in Hell Bent, I think she should have died. It was the appropriate logical and emotional end for her character and for that Doctor-Companion relationship.

But Bill is not Clara, and her arc was not Clara’s arc. This was an instance where the appropriate end for the companion absolutely was that, against all odds, even if it meant being magically resurrected by the power of the tears of her immortal undead celestial water girlfriend, Bill should have lived, de-cyber-converted. It would have been a bleak and jarringly cynical note if Bill had not survived in a story about how the Doctor saves lives – if, in the Doctor’s last heroic stand, he had failed. Bill never deserved that, she didn’t ask for that – Clara did. I don’t care that Bill’s salvation at the hands of waterbending angel Heather makes absolutely no sense and I don’t understand it, that it’s sentimental and mawkish and that, even for Doctor Who, it taxes the ability to suspend disbelief. Actually, this is one of the rare instances where I would be unsatisfied if it weren’t all that. Because it’s the right ending and this is Doctor Who. And Doctor Who can and, in select instances such as these, should do anything to make the right ending happen.

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I’m looking forward to this year’s joint Twelfth Doctor/First Doctor Christmas special. Seeing the First Doctor again in itself promises to be very special, and somehow very apt, given the numerous self-conscious analogies made over Capaldi’s run between his and Hartnell’s Doctors. But it also promises to be another rousing tribute to a central aspect of the show, given that this finale just ended with the Doctor furiously repressing his regeneration, adamant that he would not change. If I’m correct, it’s going to follow the Doctor struggling to reconcile two instincts, which represent two constants of this show. He has to change, he has to move on, to live: change is life – it’s who he is. But to live – that is, to change – is to die. The old him dies and the new him is born. Everything he was, everyone he loved and everything he felt is forgotten. The new man goes sauntering away as though the old man had never been. The Tenth Doctor in The End of Time touched on this these themes, but, if I’m right, it looks like we’re going to see a more intimate exploration of those themes in this year’s Christmas special, featuring, like a visitation from the Ghost of Christmas Past, a guest appearance from the Doctor’s past life. It should be fun. And emotional, always emotional.

So this wasn’t really a review as much as a messy commentary which I largely made up as I went along, mostly of my, frankly recklessly subjective interpretation of this finale’s themes. But these pieces aren’t explicitly intended to be conventional reviews anyway, which is why they’re called “Thoughts on” Doctor Who stories, not “Reviews”. They’re a space for me to ramble to my heart’s content on Doctor Who episodes and put an arbitrary and risibly subjective rating at the end. When they do cross into review territory, it’s usually when I don’t have anything original or interesting to say about an episode, or at least when I can’t be bothered to think of anything original or interesting to say.

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But, if you hadn’t already guessed, I really liked this finale. I liked it a lot. Thematically, it was a triumph. That much I think I’ve expressed. This finale’s themes, and the success with which it executed them, were what absorbed me and excited me most about it. I’m not sure I can think of a finale which has been more thematically profound, and which has been more unabashedly a tribute to the show itself (apart from The Day of the Doctor, which doesn’t really count as it’s not a finale). For that it gets high marks. Otherwise the character writing and the acting was perfect, and Rachel Talalay’s direction was reliably magnificent. I’ve already praised World Enough and Time verbosely here, and I thought the story’s treatment of the Cybermen was perfect. I’m not sure this is a complaint, but The Doctor Falls felt a bit slow in the middle. Maybe it actually would have benefited from being cut down. That’s about it. This finale wasn’t perfect, but the best Doctor Whos rarely are. I’m not sure yet where exactly to put it in a ranking of the finales, but it would go somewhere near the top – possibly even the very top. Well done, Steven Moffat.

Rating: 10/10.

First impressions: World Enough and Time

(Since it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, my policy is to do a single full review of multi-part stories unless I think the episodes are distinct enough to justify separate reviews, as in the case of the Monk trilogy; otherwise I do these informal “First impressions” posts for the first part of two-part stories just to jot down my initial thoughts. Expect a lot of this, albeit rewritten, to make it into the full review).

  • I thought this episode was phenomenal. I thought everything about this episode was exquisite: writing, directing and acting. I don’t remember being so absorbed by an episode of Doctor Who since, probably, Hell Bent. I haven’t stopped thinking about the episode since I saw it, a good 32-odd hours ago at the time of writing this, and I can’t remember the last time that happened to me after watching an episode of Doctor Who.
  • There’s so much to talk about in this episode, but let’s take things chronologically.
  • Missy. Missy’s play-acting the Doctor (“Hello, I’m Doctor Whoooh”) was as delightfully funny as I expected it to be. I was a particular fan of the dab, which will forever be etched in my memory as Missy’s finest moment, as well as “Comic Relief” and “Exposition”. The funniest little sequence of this series? Maybe. Probably. What’s clear is that Michelle Gomez owned the part of Missy, owned the screen when she was given the chance, and will be sorely missed when she’s gone. To be honest, I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of Missy being the Doctor — she’d barely stepped out of the Tardis before the Doctor decided to take over again. But that’s absolutely a compliment to Michelle Gomez.
  • Bill getting shot. Good. I’m a big supporter of companions getting hurt, ideally permanently, from travelling with the Doctor. Maybe the companion will actually stay dead/injured/cyber-converted this time. That’s not to say that Bill shouldn’t get the emotional sendoff she deserves, though.

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  • That moment was sensationally directed, though. The Doctor, giving his usual arrogant spiel, absolutely confident that he would save Bill and take control of the situation, only for the blue crew member to rudely interrupt him by blasting a great ugly hole through Bill’s midriff. Cue the Doctor, in shock and disbelief, slowly turning to face Bill, uncomprehending of what had just happened. Brilliant.
  • The conceit of putting the Doctor and Bill on opposite ends of a spaceship reversing out of a black hole, so that time is running much more slowly for one than the other, was good. It’s a bit like The Girl Who Waited, except this is a lot more elegant, and a lot cleverer. It doesn’t end up being that central an element of the story (the episode could probably have followed the creation of the original Cybermen without putting the Doctor and Bill in different time streams), but it certainly makes for some really interesting storytelling, and makes possible the tragic transformation of Bill into a Mondasian Cyberman.
  • Okay but the genesis of the Cybermen though. In telling a story about the Cybermen this episode was perfect. It’s perhaps the first Cyberman story since the 1960s, arguably even since The Tenth Planet itself, which, in my opinion, has truly understood the Cybermen and got them 100% right. Even though only one appeared in this episode. That’s not actually ironic: the whole point of the Cybermen is that they’re human. Or rather, they’re humans who’ve been stripped of everything that makes them human. They’re a mutilation of humanity. The Cybermen are not supposed to be scary, they’re supposed to be tragic — or, rather, they’re supposed to be scary by virtue of their tragedy. Which, frankly, still makes them a lot scarier than the stomping killer robots in their comic book Iron Man suits the show is afflicted with today.

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  • To that end, going back to the beginning of the Cybermen was the perfect way to explore what the Cybermen are about. I’m also so happy that the original Cybermen were recreated so faithfully. The ghostly cloth faces, the eerie lilting voices, the wretched patched-together look, all of it. (Shame about the stomping though — the original Mondasians ambled like zombies). Those who haven’t seen Classic Who might not “get” it, but for those of us who remember how creepy and entrancing the original Cybermen were in The Tenth Planet, it really is very special to see them back, straight from 1966. And Rachel Talalay did admirably in making them very scary, not necessarily an easy task given that, admittedly, the models have rather aged since 1966.
  • The hospital and its ghoulish patients, by the way, was wonderfully creepy. It all reminds me a bit of Steven Moffat’s first Doctor Who story, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, and I’ve no doubt I would have been terrified by this just as 10-year old me was when I first saw The Empty Child. Never mind children, though, the sight of heavily-bandaged and mutilated people using an electronic voice simulator to say “Pain” and “Kill me” will get under any appropriately sensitive grown-up’s skin. This is the US President committing suicide over an ancient gnostic text levels of dark, and it’s brilliant.
  • The revelation of John Simm’s Master was suitably jaw-dropping, even though, along with everyone else paying the remotest attention to Doctor Who news, I knew it was coming. I do feel that the revelation of both the Master and the Mondasian Cybermen would have been so much better if the BBC hadn’t spoiled us all for the publicity. I think an unspoilered revelation (I’m sorry I refuse to use the word “reveal” as a noun) of John Simm’s Master in particular would have been sensational, and we’d all probably have died right then and there.

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  • Oh well. It was still fantastic, and I’ll admit, even with foreknowledge, that I didn’t know Mr Razor was going to be revealed as the Master. Even as he was asking Missy if she remembered being there before, when it was pretty obvious the Master was about to appear, I thought John Simm was about to stroll around the corner—I wasn’t expecting him to pull off a (very convincing) mask with all the flair of Anthony Ainley.
  • So I’m very much looking forward to The Doctor Falls, although, to be honest, the next-time trailer actually looks discouraging (even with two Masters and hordes of Mondasian Cybermen). I saw lots of explosions, lots of modern Cybermen (yech), not much that looked like it might make for properly interesting storytelling, and I saw a publicity poster where the Mondasian Cybermen were flying (for fuck’s sake). I have a feeling The Doctor Falls is about to pull a Death in Heaven, that is: fuck up a phenomenal finale opener by following it with a conventional, lazy, phoned-in, trope-ridden second part. I really hope that isn’t the case.
  • Oh yeah, the regeneration. To be honest I was more dazzled by Peter Capaldi’s magnificent Pertwee-esque hair. I don’t really have much else to say or speculate about other than that this is probably a preview of the Doctor’s regeneration in the Christmas special, and that he begins to regenerate in The Doctor Falls. I do like the idea that Twelve has been holding back a regeneration all series, though (hence Missy’s “Are you all right, Doctor?” from The Empress of Mars), possibly since he exposed himself to the vacuum of space in Oxygen, or possibly even since he saved Missy from execution (maybe because he had to substitute himself somehow in her place?).

In other news

Now that I’m free from exams, I’ll be getting round to my belated reviews of The Empress of Mars and The Eaters of Light over the next week. But I just thought I’d get this one out first while the impressions and emotions are still raw.

 

Thoughts on: Extremis

Is it a reflection on the prudence of being showrunner as long as Steven Moffat has, that my initial reaction to what is undoubtedly the most daring and experimental storytelling Doctor Who has done since the classic series (perhaps short of Heaven Sent) was a feeling of being underwhelmed? I will admit that my expectations were fairly high for this one. The synopsis sounded amazing. The vault was opening. Missy was returning. A three-part mid-series arc was kicking off. All the advance reviews were drooling with acclaim. Steven Moffat was writing. The episode I anticipated in alignment of these auspicious stars was never going to be matched by what aired on the weekend.

But I think there’s a point to be made that what is undoubtedly an exceptional and distinguished episode has the potential to fall flat for many seasoned viewers, simply because this is Steven Moffat 101, and we’ve all become exceedingly familiar with Steven Moffat 101 over the last seven years. To be sure, Extremis is Steven Moffat 101 taken farther than it’s ever been taken before. It’s Moffat in his final hours—in extremis, you might say—digging deeper into his magic hat than he’s permitted himself before now, pulling out his wackiest, most envelope-pushing ideas and saying “F*ck it, let’s do it”, just because it’s his last chance to make the Doctor Who stories he wants to make and just because he can.

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But those of us who unironically refer to ourselves as “Whovians” have got to know the creative mind of Steven Moffat very well by now, and we know in a good level of detail what the inside of his hat looks like by now. So when we’re confronted with something new from inside the hat, even something from deeper within the hat than we’ve seen before, we’re not necessarily surprised anymore, and we’re not necessarily as impressed as we might have been seven years ago. It’s meta-reality. It’s timey-wimey. It’s clever psychological gimmicks. It’s Things Which Are Not What They Seem. It’s locked boxes (literal or figurative) with flashing neon question marks hovering over them. It’s the Doctor as pseudo-deity. It’s The Pandorica Opens. It’s Silence in the Library. It’s The Impossible Astronaut. It’s the distillation of a number of the familiar tropes and ideas we’ve seen in Steven Moffat’s writing many times before, and arranged into a configuration which is entirely new and interesting, but yet still familiar.

The point I’m trying to make in saying all that is that I just wish I could have had the privilege of watching this episode having not seen all of Moffat’s previous work – several times – before. Because it is a brilliant script. It’s an ingenious and daring script. It’s pushing against the outer limits of what’s possible on Doctor Who, and that’s always a good thing. This is Moffat taking his familiar ideas and making something genuinely innovative and interesting out of them, as opposed to, you know, The Name of the Doctor. It’s just that I feel I need to take a step back and take a more objective view of this episode to truly appreciate it as the brilliant piece of writing it is. As I said, apart from the final 15 minutes, I finished watching this episode feeling underwhelmed. But it’s ironic because this script had everything I want and ask for in a Doctor Who story: it was experimental, it was dark, it was atmospheric, it had huge, thrilling, audacious ideas that it wasn’t shy in teasing out indulgently. It improved on a rewatch, but I can’t shake the feeling of ambivalence. I think it really is that I’m just getting bored of Moffat’s style. For what it’s worth, my dad, a Casual Viewer™ whom I’m in the process of converting into a proper Whovian, absolutely adored this one. Which I think is very telling.

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To actually say something about the story, though. I’ve already waxed about how daring this script was, but can we just take a moment to appreciate the significance for Doctor Who of the ideas this story is playing with? There were an unbelievably suspenseful five minutes or so when it looked like the episode was about to say that the Doctor and Bill—the Doctor and Bill we know—were part of the computer simulation, that everything we’ve been watching for six weeks was part of the computer simulation—if not everything since 1963. I’d have been awed, if profoundly disconcerted, if the episode had gone that far, but, perhaps for the best, it didn’t. Still, I think hyper-advanced aliens creating an elaborate computer simulation of the Earth to practise conquering the planet is my favourite idea the show has played with. And telling the story from inside the Matrix makes for thrilling, mesmerising storytelling, as well as some of the out-and-out darkest material we’ve ever seen on Doctor Who. Existentialism aside, the depiction of an apocalyptic gnostic text causing the mass suicide of the scientists at CERN and the suicide of the President of the United States alone in his office, was bracing and provocative in the best way possible.

There were bits of the episode that positively didn’t impress me. It felt excessively busy. I think it could have done with less globe-hopping, a tighter and more compact narrative, or else a full 60 minutes to allow for something more slow-burning and detailed. Although I realise in the case of the former that we wouldn’t have then got the brilliant scene in CERN. The alien monks, I thought, were also quite nondescript and perhaps lazily conceived and designed. They looked like a cross between the Silents and the Pyroviles, and in design conformed to the typical profile of ugly humanoid Doctor Who aliens. I can perhaps forgive the design of the alien monks though, because as yet we don’t know what they are—I expect we’ll find out more about them in the next episode. I’m aware of the popular theory that the monks are the Mondasian Cybermen, and I’d be delighted if that were the case. But I’m sceptical that they are the Mondasians—somehow it doesn’t seem like their style, and I’d question why the Mondasians (or the Cybermen generally) would want to make themselves look like weird ugly blue aliens in the simulated reality rather than humans. Design and conception aside, though, I’m intrigued by the monks, by their identity and what their purpose and intentions are. Actually, on the connection of learning more about the monks in the next episode, I’m prepared to forgive a lot about this episode when I consider it in its context as the first part of a two- or three-part arc. As a standalone, it needs some work, but as Part 1 of 3… let’s wait ‘til we see Part 2 and 3.

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As for Missy, though. The constant flashbacks to Missy was one of the things congesting this episode, making it feel a touch busier than it needed to be, but the connection between Missy’s pleading in extremis with the Doctor, and the (simulant) Doctor’s actions at the end of the episode, having discovered the horrible truth of his identity as a simulation, was quite neat and poignant. It was also very interesting seeing another side to Missy, the side of herself she only reveals in extremis. But I can’t say I’m not disappointed that it’s Missy that’s in the vault after all. There was a tweet I retweeted on Twitter after the episode that said “Missy is in the vault” with a picture of a woman covering her mouth with her hands in a mock gasp, with the caption *pretends to be shocked*. I think that was the general sentiment of the fandom upon learning that, yes, as we’ve all been expecting since we heard that piano, it was Missy in the vault after all. A part of me was hoping, anticipating, that Moffat wasn’t going to go for something so predictable and uninteresting—because it really didn’t merit the hype and the overbearing confected mystery around the vault for the last six weeks—but maybe this is just something else that sounded more impressive in Moffat’s head than it was ever going to be in reality. There’s still the (slight) possibility that it’s not Missy in the vault after all—and, knowing Moffat, I still wouldn’t be surprised if it weren’t—but what’s more interesting to me now is what the significance of the vault is supposed to be. Why was Missy put in the vault at all, and why do we need to know that the Doctor spent all this time guarding Missy’s body? I’m expecting, pleading, for a worthwhile payoff for all this.

We’re at the mid-point of Series 10 now, though. Things are picking up now in earnest, as I hoped they would. After such an unassuming, albeit solid, start, this series has certainly taken an unexpected turn for the darker, and it looks like we’re in for a thrilling couple of weeks. To continue on from my theme from last week of admitting to the egg all over my face, this series has been consistently strong so far, and if this episode is an indication of the direction this series is heading, Series 10 could very well turn out to be Moffat’s strongest series of all, as I predicted. We haven’t had any stories I’d consider out-and-out classics yet (this one and Oxygen have come the closest), but I can’t believe that this series will not deliver up at least one. We still have Peter Harness, Toby Whithouse and Steven Moffat’s last-ever finale in two parts, after all.

Rating: 9/10.

Some final thoughts before Series 10

Wait, what? Doctor Who is less than a week away? Gosh. As far as hiatuses go, that was, well, an unexpectedly tolerable 16-month break. The pains of absence, such as they were, were definitely soothed by the constant, almost weekly drip-drip of news about Series 10. I don’t think we ever went for long without getting more exciting news about what was happening in Series 10, whether it was news about writers, episodes, guest stars, or announcements that the Mondasian Cybermen, or John Simm, were going to make a very public return to the show.

As someone who’s been following the Series 10 news avidly since Doctor Who decided it needed to spend some time apart from us in December 2015, I have a lot of feelings about what I expect, anticipate and want to see over the following twelve weeks. I’m taking this opportunity, on the eve of Series 10, to organise and set down my thoughts.

My attitude has totally changed

I’m not sure I was alone, earlier into the hiatus, in feeling cynical about Series 10. I wasn’t impressed by what we had seen and been told about Bill. I thought she looked like a lazily-conceived companion cast in the same repetitive mould as all Moffat’s other female companions to date. I was completely nonplussed by the decision to bring Nardole back — at all, let alone as a full-time companion to the Doctor. By the way Series 10 was being framed by Moffat, I was frustrated that Series 10 sounded like it was going to be largely a “fluff” series pitched at the lowest common denominator of the audience: the venerated “casual viewers” who were apparently considered incapable of paying attention week-to-week (but who can follow the interwoven multi-series storylines of Game of Thrones just fine).

It felt like, after the arc-heavy and high-frequency affair that was Series 9, Moffat was deciding to really dial the show back to basics as an early-evening children’s show about poorly-designed space monsters and little more. It sounded to me like Moffat really intended to phone it in in Series 10. After delivering his masterpiece and what was supposed to be his coup de grâce in Series 9, it seemed like he was opting to phone in a final dozen scripts of simplistic plots and superficial characters before claiming his salary and leaving.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Maybe I’m being swept up in the hype and the publicity about the new series, which has been reaching intensity levels in recent weeks leading up to the new series, but at this point I’m as excited as I’ve ever been about a new series of Doctor Who. I think it was the news that David Suchet was going to play a figure called The Landlord in one of the new episodes that started to change my attitude. That particular episodes sounds fascinating, as does the character, and anything with David Suchet in it is objectively worth watching. More recently we’ve had the terribly exciting news that the Mondasian Cybermen will be making their return in the finale, and that John Simm will be returning as the Master alongside Michelle Gomez.

The latter two items, really, have given me a whole new impression of what we can expect to see in Series 10. No, this isn’t going to be a phoned-in series of fluff before Moffat steals a Tardis key prop from set and scarpers. It may well turn out to be a “back-to-basics” series of Doctor Who, but it sounds like it’s going to be back-to-basics in a different way from what I was anticipating: not a return to banal children’s entertainment but a distilling of the show back to the basic elements of what makes it great, what we all watch Doctor Who for — the pure adventure and fantasy and escapism and imagination. If any reference point is appropriate, I think it’s like dialling the clock back to the early 70s glory days of Tom Baker in that Series 10, like Season 13, looks like it’s going to be a very pure iteration of Doctor Who and the essential elements that make the show what it is.

And no, this won’t be a series directed at the philistines “casual” viewers. The return of the Mondasian Cybermen and John Simm are about the two most fan-pleasing things the show has done in years.

But I’m still not sure about Bill and Nardole

Although I’ve definitely warmed towards the series itself, I’m still somewhat sceptical of this year’s Tardis team.

I didn’t understand why Nardole was being brought back when I first heard the news, and I still don’t now. It sounded then like Moffat just enjoyed working with Matt Lucas (or, at least, enjoyed his jokes) and didn’t realise that the prospect of the very-comical comic relief character from the Christmas special coming aboard as a full-time companion didn’t excite the fandom nearly as much as it excited him.

I’ve been somewhat reassured by the more subdued appearance of Nardole in the most recent Christmas special, and by the suggestion that there is actually a purpose to Nardole’s being there (some sort of “secret mission”?), but I’m going to reserve judgment until I actually see Nardole with the Doctor and Bill. Because, honestly, I thought the character we met in The Husbands of River Song was good for a laugh but I recoil from the prospect of seeing him in every episode in Series 10. I thought it must have been some sort of joke when I heard.

tardis team 2017

As for Bill, my complaints from a year ago stand. Bill will be the third companion in a row (four, if River Song counts) cast from a particular mould: an outgoing, bubbly, feisty, self-confident young 21st Century British woman who’s unrealistically fearless and glib in the face of extraterrestrial danger. I may have loved those qualities in Amy, River and Clara (I actually did complain of those same qualities in Clara, too, before I eventually warmed to her), but the fourth time round it’s become tiresome and boring. Bill seems like a minor reconfiguration of the personalities of the two or three companions who have come before her, mixed with a bit of Donna’s gob, and for that reason it’s going to be very easy to find her uninteresting and bland.

And, no, the fact that Bill is gay doesn’t make her interesting. At least not by itself. It’s great that a companion is openly gay, but Steven Moffat is right: normalising homosexuality in film and TV means not blinking an eyelid when a character is revealed as gay. It means not making a character’s homosexuality something that consumes the character and dominates their personality in our eyes. If a character is uninteresting, they shouldn’t automatically become fascinating just because they’re gay. That isn’t how this is supposed to work.

Of course I’m prepared to have my mind changed. I want to enjoy this series as much as possible, and I’m going to enjoy it much more if I can warm to Bill and Nardole. I want to have my mind changed, and I half expect it to be, if the quality of the writing this series is as good as it sounds. But it’s not like Moffat has never disappointed me before, and I think my reservations about these characters are fair.

I’m expecting something big

This is Moffat’s final series. If I know Moffat (and I do), he’ll want to go out on a fairly deafening bang. We’ve never known Moffat to balk at the opportunity to do something earth-shaking. He’s a continuity-builder, Moffat. He’s one of us, and he dorks out over geeky fan theories and wild headcanons just like us. This is his last opportunity to advance the 53-year narrative of Doctor Who and he’ll want to seize it with both hands. Since hearing the news that two Masters are going to feature, I’m under no doubt that Moffat has probably saved one of his biggest tricks yet for the Series 10 finale.

missy dabbing

As for what, we’ll have to wait and see, but I have a suspicion it will have something to do with Gallifrey. Gallifrey is back in the sky, the Doctor knows where it is, but more importantly Gallifrey knows where the Doctor is. After making such a triumphant return to the show in Hell Bent, Doctor Who can hardly ignore its existence from now on. It’s a permanent fixture of the show now, at least until the next time the Doctor blows it up. Even more urgently, Rassilon is still out there and doubtless nursing a major grudge against the Doctor for kicking him off his own planet. Whether we’ll see him this series, who knows, but he’s now another Big Bad to add to the list of the Doctor’s dangerous enemies.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Master were to be the big enemy of Series 10, given that there’s going to be two of them in the finale. Missy so far has not been an enemy of the Doctor as much as very bad friend. In Series 8 she wanted to buy his friendship with a Cyberman army. In Series 9 she accompanied him to Skaro and nearly tricked him into killing Clara. In neither of those instances was she definitively evil. But it’s time for her to be the bad guy now. After all, the last time we saw her, the Doctor had left her for dead on Skaro in the middle of a horde of angry Daleks. I’d be pretty pissed at my so-called “friend”, too, wouldn’t you?

Given that Missy’s previous regeneration is making a long-awaited reappearance, I’m getting a better idea of what Missy’s “clever plan” is going to be. And given that the only place John Simm’s Master could have come from is Gallifrey, I’m starting to wonder if the Master(s) won’t be the only Time Lord the Doctor meets.

8 questions for Doctor Who Series 9

What watching Doctor Who feels like at the moment.

What’s Missy’s “clever idea”?

The sewers were revolting. The Daleks were going berserk. The Dalek city was crashing down upon itself. Amidst all that, the last we saw of Missy, she was being ganged up on by a bunch of tough-looking Daleks. Scared? Not Missy. The Time Lady broke into a cheeky, knowing smile and declared, “You know what? I’ve just had a very clever idea.” Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of Missy and her diabolical schemes this series. Is she about to team up with the Daleks? A Missy-Dalek alliance might seem a bit repetitive after her collusion with the Cybermen in Series 8, but surely something momentous is going to come of this? Perhaps the Doctor will regret making his childhood friend jealous before the close of the series.

What did the regeneration energy do to the Daleks?

Speaking of the Daleks, what actually happened to them when the Doctor channelled his regeneration energy into them? The Supreme Dalek exulted, “We are renewed. We are more powerful.” Is this just like pumping the Daleks with steroids, or did the regeneration energy fundamentally change them in some way? Doubtless we’ll find out in good time, given whatever Missy’s “clever idea” turns out to be.

Was Davros being sincere?

We know Davros’s bromance with the Doctor was all a ruse to trick the latter into yielding up some regeneration juice, but was anything about Davros’s emotional catharsis sincere? I’d really like to think so. It would be extremely difficult, surely, for a creature of Davros’s age and decrepitude to produce fake tears at will, without really feeling it. I think, at least, that Davros’s teary elation over the news of Gallifrey’s salvation was genuine. That, at least, fits with his character. Davros may have a twisted and horrible morality, but he still has a morality, one dominated by fanatical nationalist and xenophobic principles. After all, as he admitted, it was what drove him to create the Daleks, which he still seems to see as his own people, his own Kaled brothers and sisters. I’m sure, in the warped nationalist worldview that guides him, Davros was genuinely happy that the Doctor had got his people and his home back.

Does the Master have a daughter?

maisie“It’s pretty, though, isn’t it? Got it in the olden days on Gallifrey. The Doctor gave it to me when my daughter—”

If you were watching The Witch’s Familiar with one eye on Twitter, you would have missed this mini-bombshell. It’s a very Moffat thing to do, dropping a fairly large new tidbit of mythology casually into dialogue like this. We know the Doctor has had children and grandchildren, including his genetic transfer-created “daughter”, Jenny, but this is the first time we’ve heard about the Master having had children. Will we get to meet her? Maybe—and this is a pretty wild and recklessly optimistic conjecture—maybe that’s who Maisie Williams’ character is?

How did Missy escape Gallifrey?

Seriously, are we ever going to learn how the Master can be in the universe now when (s)he was supposed to be trapped in Gallifrey’s pocket universe? I thought we might’ve learned how she did it in the series opener, but it wasn’t to be, it seems. Has Missy already told the Doctor offscreen?

Is the sonic screwdriver gone for good?

Capaldi rocks those sunglasses like a boss, but I don’t think I’m all that enamoured with them as a replacement for the reliable old sonic. The sonic screwdriver is a familiar staple of the show, and black sunglasses are just a bit too cool for the Doctor (unless he’s wearing them ironically). That said, I doubt the sonic is gone forever. I have a feeling this is about giving Capaldi a new sonic screwdriver, which I’m sure we’ll see him with by the end of the year. His old one, the one he gave to little Davros, was a leftover from the Matt Smith years, after all, and I’m sure Capaldi doesn’t want to feel like he’s acting under the shadow of his predecessor.

What is the Doctor’s confession?

One of the most intriguing things to come out of the Series 9 opener was that the Doctor apparently had some dark secret, which he’d committed to a confession dial, a Time Lord will, possibly relating to the reason he left Gallifrey in the first place. That this question, of what drove the Doctor to flee Gallifrey and continue running for the rest of his life, is going to be a theme or arc of this series really excites me. I can’t help myself, I’m a mythology buff, especially when it concerns the Doctor himself. I’ve come up with speculative headcanon about this mysterious subject, but I’ll be glad to learn the real answer.

The only clue the episode gave was that the Doctor’s secret may or may not involve a legendary “hybrid” creature of some kind, which the Doctor had some part in creating. Davros mentioned it, assuming the Doctor was referring to a Time Lord-Dalek hybrid created with the Doctor’s regeneration energy, but that theory seems pretty bust. The reason we can’t dismiss what Davros said, though, is because Missy also mentioned it. Whether the hybrid thing really is the Doctor’s confession remains to be seen. The only idea I have is that it sounds a little like a fan theory that’s been circulating for some time that posits that the Meta-Crisis Doctor we saw created in Journey’s End, half Time Lord and half human, became the Valeyard, the “evil” incarnation of the Doctor who persecuted the Sixth Doctor in The Trial of a Time Lord, driven mad after tragedy prematurely destroys the perfect life with Rose in the parallel universe that the Meta-Doctor was supposed to have.

It’s a pretty big stretch, but the only reason I mention it is that David Tennant was spotted visiting the Doctor Who studios in Cardiff during filming. I don’t think that’s it, though. It would be cool if it turned out to be what the Doctor’s “hybrid” was, but I don’t think Steven Moffat would want to “ruin” Rose’s happy ending like that. (On the other hand, he’s Moffat…) And fan theories have a habit of being laughably wide of the mark.

What’s with the episode titles?

The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar have surely got to be vying for the episode titles most seemingly unrelated to their actual episodes. No one can agree whom the titular “apprentice” and “familiar” is/are supposed to be. Okay, the “witch’s familiar” is not too ambiguous—Clara played the role of familiar, or companion, in the entertaining Missy-Clara double-act, following Missy around and doing what she said. Clara seemed especially like a witch’s animal companion (“familiar”) when she hopped into that Dalek shell.

Who the “magician’s apprentice” is supposed to be is less obvious. I have a feeling little Davros is supposed to be the apprentice, and the Doctor the magician, especially given that final scene of The Witch’s Familiar, where the Doctor takes little Davros in hand and imparts to him the importance of mercy, hoping to influence Davros and, indirectly, the creation of the Daleks, for the better.

I also have a feeling (or maybe a vain hope) that there’s more to “the witch’s familiar” than first appears. If Clara is the familiar, and Missy the witch, I’m hoping more details of the “woman in the shop” mystery will be revealed before Clara departs. It would be very like Moffat to drop a big hint like that that no one figures out until it all becomes clear later on. That’s assuming that the “explanation” offered in Death in Heaven, which I found wholly unsatisfying and infuriating, isn’t the whole picture. I mean, there has to be more to Missy’s bringing the Doctor and Clara together than “I thought you two might hit it off”. Please let there be more.

Thoughts on: The Magician’s Apprentice / The Witch’s Familiar

Warning: spoilers ahead.

Oh, Moffat. Miffie. Stevie-babes. Why do we let you out? You’ve just gone and created the ultimate fan-pleasing story. Did you hear that strange high-pitched wailing noise as you were watching this? That was the sound of fans everywhere squeeing for dear life in perfect unison. We knew this would happen one day. Ever since we saw William Hartnell’s mug five times over the course of Series 5. Steven Moffat is an über-fan, and this is a script only an über-fan could have written. And it’s magnificent. As a series opener, it’s perfection; exactly the way to start a new, hotly-anticipated series of Doctor Who (and a late one, no less) — not with a pathetic whimper, as we were too often offered in Russell T Davies’ era (*cough* New Earth *cough* Partners in Crime *cough*), but with a resounding, earth-shaking roar, the roar of an electric guitar being rocked by—who else?—the Doctor.

We’re hit with a pretty huge bombshell within minutes of the episode’s opening as the Doctor discovers a little boy trapped on a battlefield amidst a field of hand mines, who, we learn shortly, is a young Davros. The Doctor helpfully conveys how thunderstruck we feel in his own stunned expression. It’s a staggering way to begin this opening two-parter; the breath has been wrenched from our lungs before the thing has even got started. It couldn’t portend more effectively that this series opener is going to be big. And this is really well conveyed by the following sequences. A shadowy, hissing figure who refers to himself in the plural searches the universe for the Doctor. Missy, who makes an absolutely brilliant entrance, freezes the skies of Earth just to get Clara’s attention because she can’t find the Doctor either. “Where is the Doctor?” the episode asks. What could possibly make the Doctor hide himself away like this? And why has the Doctor made a Time Lord will and testament?

It all very effectively conveys the impression of there being a greater narrative at work here, lending the episode a sense of scale and moment that makes it feel more like an epic series finale than an opener. The impression is, if anything, reinforced by the, frankly awesome, scenes of the Doctor throwing himself an outrageous party in medieval England. The Doctor’s entrance was jaw-droppingly amazing (the message: “Doctor Who is BACK, baby!”), but the sight of the Doctor acting so preposterously out-of-character makes acute the feeling that something is very wrong. Indeed, the whole thing feels very different from what we’re used to in Doctor Who, even for a two-parter. The weight of a large-scale narrative lends, at least to the first part, a flow and form that almost makes it feel like long-form serialised drama, like Game of Thrones. The very heavy invocation of the show’s continuity and history, the sense of strong connection to past events, and progression of an ongoing story, only reinforces that impression. Those who’ve commented that this story, The Magician’s Apprentice in particular, doesn’t feel like a Doctor Who story are right — it’s composed very differently from what we’re used to. Some don’t like that, but I really do. I think it’s at least good that the show is experimenting and trying to break out of the standard, tried-and-tested formulas it’s employed since 2005, and doing something different.

As an indication of the sweeping scale of this story, it churns through so many compelling and brilliant ideas, one after another, many of which could easily be the seeds of potentially fantastic stories of their own. The disappearance of the Doctor, for example. The story had great fun while it was playing with that particularly gripping idea. The hand mines — a wonderfully scary, well-conceived new monster. The relationship between the Doctor and the Master, “A friendship older than your civilisation, and infinitely more complex.” The question the Doctor posed to himself, “Who made Davros?” The apparent extermination of Clara and Missy at the mid-point cliffhanger, and the terrifying lengths to which the Doctor would go, either to bring them back, or to exact revenge. I could go on. This all sounds very messy, but the writing is tight. The script indulges itself momentarily in the various ideas it brims with, but doesn’t get sidetracked. It all forms a very coherent and engaging whole, as a story, apparently, about the Doctor and Davros’s final meeting.

Davros has called the Doctor to his side on the eve of his death, for reasons that don’t become clear until the second episode. Steven Moffat has said that part of the inspiration for this story was his desire to write a prolonged “face-off” between the Doctor and Davros, lamenting that all the scenes between the two over the show’s history have been electric, but that all were far too brief and cursory. Accordingly, the Doctor and Davros duly receive a proper chance to talk, for once, and Davros is served better than he’s ever been. It’s not just that the character is profoundly chilling and macabre, even at the point of death (my highest praise to Julian Bleach), the character of Davros is taken to entirely new territory. It’s captivating watching Davros weeping over the news of the salvation of Gallifrey, doubting his own life and morality, coming very close, like a dying penitent to a priest, to asking the Doctor for absolution, even sharing a joke with the Doctor. In short, Davros totally convinced as an ancient creature near death. Sensitive, emotionally intelligent and bewitching, as it was, it was some of the best writing Steven Moffat has ever produced for the show. And both Julian Bleach and Peter Capaldi gave utterly magisterial, mesmerising performances.

And then it was revealed to be all a trick. All a ruse, exploiting the Doctor’s compassion to deceive him into employing his regeneration energy into reviving Davros and “renewing” the Daleks on Skaro (whatever that entails). I hate to say it, but I was a bit annoyed when this happened. I so, so wanted Davros’s apparent catharsis to be genuine, even if Davros ultimately lived. It would have made us see the character in a radically different light, a creature we once thought to be irredeemably evil, perhaps at least capable of redemption after all. And maybe it was time that something radically different was done with the character of Davros? If Davros were ultimately to repent for his own creations, it would open up exciting narrative possibilities for the future. That was ultimately what I was hoping for when I saw the “next-time” trailer in which the footage of Davros apparently offering the Doctor the opportunity to commit genocide against the Daleks was deceptively shown. I thought The Witch’s Familiar would involve Davros finally seeing the Daleks for the evil creations they are, and allying with the Doctor to destroy them. That would have been so much more bold and exciting than what we got, i.e. just Davros, the psychopathic evil scientist, up to his old tricks again. Nothing new to see here.

But I have to be fair. What we did get was still superb and amazing. Maybe I’m disappointed that the story squandered an exciting opportunity to do something truly audacious and interesting. Maybe I regret, in the spirit of the Tenth Doctor, that this story could have been so much more. But, considering the story on its own merits, for what it was rather than for what it could have been, it’s still the best thing Steven Moffat has written since the Series 5 finale in 2010. It’s still, to my mind, an instant classic, and one of the best Dalek stories ever; certainly the best Davros story ever. And considering the story in context, as a series opener, raises it even higher. It’s just the perfect story to usher in a new series of Doctor Who: grand, bold, extravagant, visually stunning, with an irresistibly seductive swagger. It makes you excited about Doctor Who again, and excited to see what the rest of the new series brings. Like The Eleventh Hour, this story is ideal for what it’s trying to do. The Eleventh Hour involved a fairly insubstantial plot, but, for an episode introducing a whole new era of Doctor Who, it was perfection. Likewise, this episode is just the perfect way to kick off a new year of Doctor Who, and I can forgive it its shortcomings to that end.

Some final thoughts. As good as this story was as a whole, I think my favourite thing about it was Missy (and Clara). I have to admit that I was somewhat ambivalent towards Missy in Series 8, but, after watching this story, I think I’m in love (figuratively speaking). Missy absolutely steals the show; it’s obvious Michelle Gomez is having delightful fun playing the bonkers, unhinged, comical she-Master, and it genuinely shows. There are so many brilliant scenes. Missy’s entrance alone was a total hoot, and the budding (and more than a little abusive) relationship between Missy and Clara was just a joy to watch. Gomez completely nails every line, from “No, I’ve not turned good!” to “Get in” (which was just pure comic genius). At the same time, Missy retains all the unsettling psychopathy and unpredictability of the character, as when she vaporises two soldiers in the plaza in response to a casual remark from Clara about her turning “good”, and when she attempts to trick the Doctor into killing Clara. She’s great fun, Missy, but she’s definitely not to be trusted. In any case, she’s firmly established herself as my favourite Master, surpassing John Simm by bounds. She can’t return soon enough.

Finally, I love this story as a Dalek story, as much as a Davros story. There were chilling sequences that made the Daleks a genuinely scary villain again. The cliffhanger scene, where the Daleks’ primal urge to kill was, if possible, palpably visible, was as suspenseful and frightening as anything in a Dalek story. Portraying the Daleks as predators, driven by an overpowering animalistic urge to hunt and kill, really injected, I think, the fear factor back into the Daleks. As well as this, the portrayal of the Daleks as channelling emotion through their guns was a fascinating, and chilling, insight into the way the Daleks work. It’s fascinating, albeit horrifying, to realise that emotion, any emotion, even love, is ammunition for the Daleks’ gun, is converted into lethal energy harnessed to kill. It’s a gruesome, horrific thought that, as much as it repulses me, actually also makes me feel for the Daleks as well.

Overall, an exceptional start to Series 9, and an undoubted classic to boot.

Rating: 9/10.

First thoughts: The Magician’s Apprentice [SPOILERS]

As per my blog policy of reviewing two-part stories together, I’ll wait until The Witch’s Familiar airs next week before doing a full-length review of the whole story. This is just going to be a quick round-up of my initial thoughts after watching the first episode.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

  • I’ll just say that I thought it was absolutely fantastic. If the second half holds up, this will easily be, by a good length, the best series opener so far. More than that, it’ll easily propel itself into the company of the show’s all-time classics if the second half is as good as the first. I think my mouth was stuck in a comical ‘o’ shape for the whole duration of the episode; I literally could not take my eyes off the screen. I’m going to be reeling for a fair while after this (and so you should be, too).
  • Something I really appreciated was that this was a very different kind of storytelling to what Doctor Who has traditionally done. Trust someone who’s gone through and reviewed every episode — this one is going to be somewhat more difficult to analyse and review because it’s so different to what I’m used to. This episode presents Doctor Who more as a serialised drama, with its strong continuity connections and its setting up of arc and narrative threads. It’s not Doctor Who’s traditional “monster of the week” format. There was a sense of scale and overarching magnitude that no Who episode has carried since The Day of the Doctor. The events of this story are definitely not going to be forgotten about any time soon.
  • And so the rumours about the Doctor meeting Davros as a child and being faced with the choice of whether to kill him or not were true. I thought that was an inspired story idea at the time, but seeing it onscreen is exhilarating. I love it when the show presents the Doctor with torturous moral dilemmas. In his decisions we learn something about the Doctor’s character, which can be every bit as exciting as new, scary monsters and alien planets. Here we learn that the Doctor would leave a small child to die in the hope of averting the creation of the Daleks (or, alternatively, since it isn’t explained, as punishment for what Davros would do in the future). “Davros made the Daleks, but who made Davros?” Really meaty, riveting stuff, this.
  • By the way, can I just indulge myself for a moment: OMFG DAVROS IS BACK!!!!!!@@@@ And back in jaw-dropping fashion. Davros’s return was not wasted by any means.
  • Dat cliffhanger tho. That was torturous. That was cruel. The last time we saw a lead character (let alone two) die onscreen was when the Doctor died in the beginning of The Impossible Astronaut, before he came back 5 minutes later. I think these were legitimate deaths, though. Not like Missy’s “death” at the end of Death in Heaven. It’s obvious how the story is going to go about reviving Clara and Missy (i.e. that final scene where the Doctor points a Dalek weapon at little Davros and declares he’s going to kill him to save his friend(s)). Or, at least, that’s how the episode wants us to think it’s going to happen. I sense Moffat deception afoot.
  • Skaro!!! It’s lovely to see the place again, and it looks amazing. It’s nice to see Doctor Who sojourning to legit alien planets again, after a very earth-bound Series 8.
  • I’m really intrigued by the Doctor’s “confession”. This seems like it’s going to be separate from the plot of this story, like it’s going to form part of an overarching narrative of Series 9. Those who’ve read enough spoilers would have a good idea that it has something to do with why the Doctor left Gallifrey in the first place. Which is, not to put too fine a point on it, HUGE.
  • The Doctor rocking out with his guitar and his Ray-Bans and his (fish-)tank in medieval England was possibly the coolest thing ever. I didn’t think old Twelvie had it in him. Although I’m not sure I like the Doctor’s new look — too scruffy. The Doctor has the biggest wardrobe in the universe, surely he could find something with fewer holes in it?
  • Missy’s entrance was probably just as awesome as the Doctor’s. Oh, Missy, you so fine.
  • In a very continuity-dependent episode, I loved all the little touches from the past inserted. Daleks of all shapes and sizes from 1963 to 2015 (thankfully the Tellytubby Daleks weren’t invited). And the playing out of that critical scene from Genesis of the Daleks where the Fourth Doctor agonises over whether to snuff out the Daleks at birth? Pure fanservice.
  • One of the few things that annoyed me was how easily the Tardis was shown to be destroyed. This is supposed to be the most indestructible ship in the universe, and it was disintegrated by a stray Dalek laser. How, exactly, did it survive the Time War?
  • From the “next time” trailer: did…did Davros just offer the Doctor the chance to kill all the Daleks? With his help? How can I be expected to wait a whole week for this? Oh, gosh, how I’ve missed two-parters.

Okay, so I ended up writing a lot more than I anticipated (approximately the length of one of my proper reviews, actually), but meh. There was a lot to talk about.