I have loved Series 10 of Doctor Who but as always, the quality of the series would always depend on the strength on how it was wrapped up in the finale. Just look at last series, where a mostly strong run of episodes was let down by the incredibly disappointing and lacklustre Hell Bent, making the entire series feel pointless in hindsight. Here however, we have the exact opposite happen, as Steven Moffat has learnt from his mistakes in the past and created a truly brilliant finale that has taken a place in my favourite stories list.
Let’s talk set up first because obviously this is a two parter. World Enough and Time (no idea what that title means but oh well) was a great set up with pitch perfect pacing and an incredibly macabre tone throughout. As a huge Cyberman fan I loved seeing the New Series utilise the body horror aspect, with the emotional inhibitors not preventing the pain of conversion, merely preventing it. The time dilation also added a huge amount of tension to the episode, as every second the Doctor, Nardole and Missy spent at the top of the ship meant the closer Bill got to full conversion, which of course eventually happened. Like most part ones, it was mainly set up for The Doctor Falls, but it was fantastic nonetheless. Missy was brilliant as always (I love her sonic umbrella) and seeing John Simm return was glorious. I figured out that Razor was the Master by about his second scene, but that didn’t stop the reveal being executed perfectly. If the BBC hadn’t let the news be leaked beforehand, then I reckon the Master’s reveal would go down as one of the finest twists in the show.
Part two was where the main meat of the story comes into play, as the Masters are forced to work with the Doctor due to the Cybermen turning on them. It was a simple story and what I loved about it was that the universe wasn’t under threat: it was just one floor of a spaceship. This didn’t stop the story from feeling truly epic in scope however. This story really capitalises on who the Doctor really is, as his phenomenal speech to the Masters shows. He doesn’t travel the universe to win or to fight villains- he travels the universe and helps people because it’s right. I see this speech as Peter Capaldi’s defining moment, and John Simm’s reaction is hilarious.
The best finales in New Who- The Big Bang, Last of the Time Lords, Death in Heaven and this- not only tell a great story but make the entire series connect together thematically and making every story feel like part of a bigger picture. The Doctor Falls is no exception, as the themes of the series are explored in full. The idea of the value of individual lives from Oxygen is brought back, the idea of time dilation and the Doctor’s willingness to throw his life away from others from The Eaters of Light are expanded upon and the Monk trilogy is linked with Bill’s resistance to Cyber conversion. There’s also been Missy’s redemption arc which started in Extremis and of course the resolution to Bill’s story from The Pilot. This story just made re watching Series 10 so much better.
I’ll admit I’ve never enjoyed the Twelfth Doctor as much as the Tenth or Eleventh Doctors, despite still being great (mainly due to Clara hogging up two thirds of his era) even though Series 10 has made me love him more and more thanks to companions who weren’t irritating, but for this two parter, Peter Capaldi was quite possibly the best Doctor ever. Seriously, I wish this would have been the regeneration story, but we’ll have to wait and see whether the Christmas Special is a worthy send off for the Twelfth Doctor. I’m curious as to why he refuses to regenerate, but we’ll have to wait till Christmas. I’m so happy the cause of regeneration for him was a Cyberman, as I’ve wanted them to actually kill a Doctor. His arc in this episode is superb as he will do whatever it takes to defeat the Cybermen, even if it means his death. I cannot wait to see how this incarnation leaves. I have a feeling the Christmas special will be standalone but linked to this story in the same way Waters of Mars and Day of the Doctor were linked to the regeneration stories of Ten and Eleven.
Another one of the best aspects of the story was how Missy’s arc was handled. She’s been my favourite Master since Death in Heaven (although Roger Delgado will always be the best Master) and she got a superb send off. I love how the arc of the series has evolved from what’s in the vault to the question of whether Missy will truly change. Her scenes in Lie of the Land were the highlight of that episode and she’s a highlight here, with her final scene of self sacrifice and redemption being masterful (pun totally intended). I love how in Series 8 she tried to turn the Doctor onto her side, whilst throughout this series the Doctor is trying to turn her onto his side. It just show that even between all the fighting, they ultimately care for each other deeply. I adore the conversation the Doctor has with Bill in World Enough and Time about how he and the Master were friends, as it shows Steven Moffat understands the incredibly deep relationship the two characters have. Her arc this series was beautiful and wonderfully done, as she stands with the Doctor at the end and kills her previous self before dying herself. It’s a perfect end for the character and the fact that the Doctor may never know she turned good is utterly devastating yet appropriate.
Now onto John Simm. I’ve read some reviews that have said he was underused, but I disagree. He serves many purposes in the story such as being the catalyst of the Cyberman plot as well as to serve as a contrast to Missy. Moffat understands the Tennant era Master stories and from those stories it’s pretty obvious that the Master is without redemption. In Last of the Time Lords he chooses to die rather than be forgiven and in the End of Time he fights Rassilon out of revenge, not redemption. In The Doctor Falls, his only motive is to return to his TARDIS due to his plan failing. He doesn’t care about the Doctor’s struggle and his death and offscreen regeneration into who we assume is Missy is appropriate for this incarnation. In one last moment of evil, he essentially kills himself due to his refusal to turn good. I love the Tennant Master stories but this is definitely the best story to feature John Simm’s Master, and his Delgado-esque beard and rubbish disguise in the first part are brilliant Classic Series references. His presence in this also adds to one of the themes of the story- much like how the Doctor and Bill do not wish to live if they couldn’t be themselves, the Master would rather die than see himself changed.
This series has had not one but two awesome companions, and they both got great send offs here (well, Nardole got a send off. I’ve heard Bill is coming back in some form for the Christmas special). One of the surprise highlights of the series has been Nardole. I’ve always loved companions who are different from the norm and Nardole was certainly that. He was able to give many incredibly dark stories some humour and levity. His mini-arc in this story is subtly done but great, as he ends his travels with the Doctor to act as a protector, much like he’s done throughout the series. I wish his backstory was expanded upon, but there’s always Big Finish. Who would of thought that the bumbling fool from Husbands of River Song could end up blowing up Cybermen with a rifle and some computer hacking?
As awesome as Nardole was throughout the series, he wasn’t the main companion. Bill has become my second favourite New Series companion after Donna and I feel like this story was a good ending for her. I would have liked another series with her but Donna didn’t get another series so it’s fine. I was concerned that Bill’s Cyber conversion would be ignored but it was a major part of The Doctor Falls, utilising the psychological aspects of the Cybermen. I’m once again going to defend a controversial aspect of the episode and say that I really liked Bill’s departure. It didn’t undo her conversion and I feel like it wrapped up her arc well. It is similar to Clara’s, but to me Clara’s departure in Hell Bent was pointless as she already had a perfectly good ending in Face the Raven that was the perfect end to her character arc. Bringing her back just felt unnecessary. In contrast, Bill’s arc all series is all about her eagerness to explore the universe. What happened to her wasn’t her fault and no one, not even Adric, deserved a Cyber conversion without any sort of reward at the end. Killing Bill off would have been going against her character and the spirit of the show, as her death wouldn’t have been a heroic sacrifice like Adric’s or Clara’s. Now, she’s allowed to travel the universe with a new perspective thanks to her travels with the Doctor. That said, what kind of an alien race has the resources to make immortal, intelligent all-powerful oil? If the oil from the spaceship is that powerful, how powerful must the aliens themselves be? Sequel, Chibnall, sequel! It also helps that The Doctor Falls didn’t spend the majority of its run time saying goodbye to a companion who had already left three times and instead actually told a story.
On top of all the character development and themes, this story doesn’t forget to just be awesome. Three types of Cybermen (I would have liked to see the Eeeexcellent Cybermen from the 80’s but it doesn’t matter), two Masters and even a surprise First Doctor cameo! The scene where the Doctor blows up the Cybermen is nothing short of breathtaking. Not only is it symbolic of the Doctor’s final stand and packed with continuity references, but it’s just plain awesome to watch. The scene of the Cybermen flying up from the bottom of the ship is all kinds of cool and the soundtrack throughout the episode is glorious. As much as I like Death in Heaven, the Cybermen were ultimately superfluous to the story, whereas they were the main enemy here. This story was in the end a base under siege and wasn’t over complicated or convoluted- just a simple story.
In conclusion, World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls has easily earned a place in my top ten Doctor Who stories of all time. The pitfalls of the era have been forgiven due to this absolutely magnificent story that felt epic but at the same time restrained. Everything I’ve wanted in the Capaldi era from the beginning was present here, and as much as I’ve loved a lot of his era, no story (not even Heaven Sent, which was let down by what followed) was as amazing as the best of David Tennant and Matt Smith until now. This story is up there with The God Complex, Waters of Mars, Kinda and Inferno as the show hitting on all cylinders and with everything working. I cannot wait for Christmas and cannot wait to write up my Top 10 Peter Capaldi episodes afterwards.