For the sake of completeness, here’s my thoughts on The Doctor Falls. Short review: few gripes aside, like all the reviews I can find I agree it was rather excellent.
Long review? Well, here’s some thoughts…
The Doctor Falls
Lots of tightly wound threads, some random stuff (no bad thing in and of itself) and some oddities. I’ve been trying to think more like a writer, and for me the theme behind this story was:
Transformation through death
Steven Moffat has a history of avoiding killing characters, and manages to steer his way round this pretty well in Fall. Let’s pick some major threads:
- The Cybermen
- The Mondasian farmers
- Missy / The Master
- The Doctor
For the sake of structure, I’ll take them in that order.
So, loads of Cybermen of varying vintages. This was well explained by the time variation across the ship’s floors. Sadly they didn’t provide much menace. There were many of them, and they existed to get slaughtered. Their only narrative purpose (having already converted Bill) was a generic menace the the trigger for Capaldi’s regeneration.
The Mondasian farmers
A nice set of generic people under seige, with a better than necessary character in the form of Hazran (Samantha Spiro). They existed to be the target of the Cybermen, but didn’t the farm level look wonderful? Hasn’t a lot of the visuals been amongst the very best this series?
Nardole. Well, Matt Lucas has surprised me this series. I knew he was a Doctor Who fan, but Nardole has really grown on me. He hasn’t had a big origin, we know few things about him, but he really helped the TARDIS team dynamic. He even has a happy ending (until the next Cyberman attack!)
Missy / The Master
Now we hit the transformation motif. John Simms and Michelle Gomez were brilliant. The Master has to transform into Missy, or does he? We don’t know, we didn’t see the regeneration. We know the gender change is coming though, and in a great bootstrap paradox, Missy creates herself and rescues herself at the same time. OK she also kills herself, but to be fair she gets killed as well.
Missy transforms into a positive version of herself (mostly), but dies for it. Is she finally dead? Don’t be silly! Knowing The Master would try something, she will have faked her death. You can count on a return at some point.
I like the resolution to this thread, even if it takes them out of the story all together and makes them passengers. It would have been too trite to have a last stand of the Time Lords against the Cybermen, despite the episode going that way.
He’s out of ideas apart from a big sacrifice to save the farmers and Nardole for a few years. He does the right thing, but can’t save Bill and doesn’t know how to handle the failure. Instead of a grand find the reset / off switch, this is a do or die battle, and guess what? He dies. As far as he can.
The anger at yet another regeneration and the TARDIS taking him to the end of Tenth Planet to meet the First Doctor: we knew something like this was coming, but wasn’t it amazing? What next? Two Doctor transformations, and maybe even a recast Second Doctor?
Roll on Christmas!
From the Doctor’s perspective, Bill must be dead and gone, though she has transformed into an angel (of sorts). Stephanie Hyam was really good in this, and even though I wasn’t a fan of The Pilot, given that, this works well as a transformative ending, and better than Clara’s dodgy Time Lord technology cheat.
As to Pearl Mackie: brilliant. The way she was on screen yet really a Cybermen is not a new idea, but really, really well executed here (credit to Rachel Talalay’s direction). As a Cyberman she existed to carry the Doctor, get angry, not help out much in the battle yet take a pivotal part in the next regeneration.
She had too much talk and too little do (as did others in places), and the episode was a bit staccato, veering from dialogue to emotion to explosion almost anarchically, but not fatally so by a long way.
A good story, and good end to a decent two-parter and a decent way to conclude Steven Moffat’s final series. What will Christmas Day bring? Let’s count the days!