So, part one of the season finalé, the return of John Simm, that moment, that other moment and really a hell of a lot to chew over. Widely lauded as among the best of all ten series of modern Doctor Who, arguably so too, it was damn fine even though (you know me so well) I have some observations. That aside it entertained and didn’t break Spare Parts. Result!
This review is laden with spoilers — you have been warned!
Steven Moffat has set himself a very high standard for next week / Christmas, and I think he might just do it. Meanwhile, back in orbit around a black hole…
World Enough and Time – the story
The story consists of several stages with pretentious labels of mine own devising:
- (CUSP) The Doctor in snow on the cusp of regenerating
- (ARRIVAL) The arrival on the spaceship and Missy as Doctor Who
- (TRIGGER) The triggering event – Bill shot
- (STRAND A) The Doctor, Missy and the blue alien chatting in parallel to STRAND B
- (STRAND B) Bill with new heart explores the decaying metropolis at the base of the time-stranded ship with new friend Razor
- (DOOM) Bill’s doom (or is it?)
- (CLIMAX 1) Missy and Razor
- (CLIMAX 2) The Doctor and new Bill.
This sets a mood and also has the consequence of acting as a reveal: we see the Doctor defeated, dying and alone. The story has a pre-cooked destination, a mood and yet this is parked. Is it the bridge between The Doctor Falls and the 2017 Christmas Special? Perhaps.
A beautifully modelled spaceship, a pristine yet abandoned bridge, and a self-indulgent I’m Doctor Who sequence from Missy.
And so it gets real, the Doctor might just have made a mistake, there is someone on-board and they want to spare human beings from a fate worse than death by killing them. Cue a great big hole in Bill’s chest before the eerie, gowned medical team take her away for healing.
And the Doctor gets to tell us the relativity behind what’s going on in slow time, padding out the separation from the companion without needing much to do.
Not dead, but with a tin heart, Bill explores a wonderful world of urban decay somewhat reminiscent of the city in the film The City of Ember. We saw the evidence of cyber conversion, Bill saw another wonderful alien world. It was sinister and simplistic at the same time, and her new friend, Razor, was magnificent. This is how to to do horror in Doctor Who, with a few people in a hospital ward (a bit Empty Child, perhaps?) and the moment Bill finds out how much pain the patients are in is potent and unsettling.
Of course it can only end one way, but surely the Doctor can arrive, surely Razor isn’t a villain, surely Bill will survive?
Missy finally as something to do, but it is to be the straight man to Razor. No wait, who is Razor, surely it can’t be…
And there’s worse as the Doctor finds out Bill has been cyber-converted and this is a Mondasian ship. Cue the biggest jaw drop for the Doctor as he realises just how far he has betrayed Bill’s trust. Enemies to the left and the right. Tune in next time!
World Enough and Time the storytelling
It worked for me except I wanted more of it during the episode. My guess (hope) is it will become more relevant during the next episode.
I know several people were amused by this, and by the fourth wall moments, I felt it didn’t achieve anything except act as a vessel for in-jokes. It’s a change of mood, of direction and of hero. Whose story is this? The Doctor’s? Missy’s? Next up it’s Bill’s. One thing it isn’t is Nardole’s who is almost invisible in this episode.
It also gives us more of the Doctor as not a human. He spent two series passing remarks on Clara, now he looks down on short-lived species as he eats his crisps. He thinks he’s the Master of events (poetically), but just wait.
This is no trick (as we saw with the Doctor’s faux regeneration in The Lie of the Land) but Bill is dead. Early episode, out of the blue (almost literally) and very powerful. Disappointingly the Doctor seems only marginally concerned, guilty for moments only. This reinforces his alien nature.
STRAND A thoughts
Many years back I studied relativity at university. Part of me wants to dig out the relevant equations and work out if a 400 mile ship could really have such a time differential along its length (never mind the stresses), but I liked this idea even if it was explained rather than being discovered. Why do we have to spoon feed the audience?
STRAND B thoughts
This is the heart [sic!] of World Enough and Time, and works really, really well. Rachel Talaly deserves enormous credit, as does John Simms. I did, at first, wonder at the wooden hospital and the city, but if the spaceship is just a vessel for the story, I can live with this, and it means Mondas itself is unaltered, and Spare Parts continues. It is here where World Enough and Time equals Blink. Equals but doesn’t surpass in my not so humble, and it is elsewhere where it doesn’t quite match the standard reached back then. Feel free to disagree.
Pieces are falling into place and the extent to which the Doctor has failed ramps up. Dead then reborn, Bill now faces the ultimate death. Can she survive? It’s good pacing.
CLIMAX 1 thoughts
Even if you remembered who was in this episode, and guessed, the reveal was wonderful. Where is this going? Is Missy on the verge of becoming good? The Master certainly thought so. Didn’t see that coming.
CLIMAX 2 thoughts
I see a debate on the web, between ‘Bill should stay dead’ and ‘the Doctor saves Bill, that’s the point’. I am of the camp that says one feature of the Steven Moffat I don’t admire is the inability to let major characters stay dead. I’m not anti-Bill on any level, but as Adric tells us, sometimes sh*t happens. Missy can’t die, but can regenerate (maybe that’s coming), the Doctor survives in name if not form, so only Nardole and Bill are at any risk. Nardole’s been dead already (hmmm, I wonder…).
I suspect Bill survives until Christmas (and we probably know Pearl is still around for a while at least), and unless she is Handles 2, something will be pulled out of the bag and fans will argue about it. I have my own theory (look for the post).
Really World Enough and Time is one of the best of modern Doctor Who, and my intellectualising over structure and story-telling make no difference to that. Let’s pay attention to the ratings when updated. I predict a lot of viewers next week.