I find myself in a strange place. I quite enjoyed The Timeless Children as an entertainment, yet found it badly flawed, clunky and a bit disappointing. I also found the massive re-engineering of the show’s mythos a bit unnecessary (and it had been leaked). Here I will focus on the core elements that (kind of) worked and produce other posts around the other topics. I have too many ideas to corral into a single article, so be warned! Spoilers follow, of course!
The Timeless Children
If Ascension was about Cybermen, the Timeless Children was about Time Lords and Gallifrey. The whole dream / Matrix / Tecteun sequence was all about trying to justify the Master killing the Time Lords and reset the show’s mythology. Why is his reaction to finding out who the Doctor is and the origin of regeneration to kill everyone? He’s already had his regeneration cap lifted / reset – why wouldn’t he want the secret of total regeneration? What did he want the Doctor for? Infinite regeneration isn’t immortality (and nor is Captain Jack immortal, just closer to it than we are). Being dropped in a star, blackhole or some other gross mechanism would condemn to eternal regeneration death. Not fun.
Not only that but the reveal is done entirely as narrative exposition. The entire Brendan line of the story was washed away as being purely allegorical in the redacted Matrix. If the Brendan sequence was a dream, why wasn’t it flagged as such? Why not have it occur in previous episodes (eg Can You Hear Me?) rather than rushed at the end.
None of it affected the Cybermen story. It’s there I will focus. The mythos change I will cover in other posts.
The Cybermen, and in particular Ashad’s Lone Cyberman were looking good in Villa Diodati and Ascension. The Master wanted Cybermen to make a new superrace, though there’s a big flaw (one of many); there’s no more supply of Cybermen and the bodies of Time Lords are capped a twelve regenerations [sic!] so not quite the all conquering Cybermen the Master wants. Admittedly more useful than Cybermen based on other life forms.
Ashad’s Lone Cyberman was betrayed by this story. As I expected in my response to a massive Cyber-army, there’s a simple solution. In this case some of the bombs Ko Sharmus happens to have around.
There’s a simple solution to the Lone Cyberman – tissue compressor (pssst – Cybermen are mostly plastic and metal / not organic). Once the Master has the necessary exposition about the Death Particle (ie magic resolve the problem item) he gets wiped from the story, left to be used by the Doctor. We did learn of the Master’s death wish. Very dark waters!
In the end the plot was comic book simple: big army, deal with Master, super Cybermen and explosions. Of course the Doctor can’t bring herself to the ultimate sacrifice – enter Ko Sharmus.
Yes they were there and with Ravio (‘I know the legend of the Death Particle’) they had between them almost one quarter of a character’s work. Ryan threw a basketball bomb to allow him one whoop before running away and shooting a few things. Graham came up with the disguise plan (and to be fair, as filler it worked well and brought some good tension when they were hiding from Ashad. His scene praising Yaz really drove home my view he would leave soon as it felt like his farewell speech. Apart from being disguised, all Yaz seemed to do was walk through the barrier first.
They all lived, all made it to their own TARDIS (and what happens to that!) with Ravio and Yedlarmi.
The final scenes
I’d guessed we’d have one last moment at the end. Did it have to be Judoon beaming into the TARDIS? Can we please stop with this whole gimmick whereby anyone can get into the TARDIS as long as it’s funny or just a transition to a new story / location. The list is very long now, including Kerblam! and Doomsday. The TARDIS is meant to be virtually indestructible, not some banal starship with dodgy shields. One more irritation.
The Doctor is in prison. My guess is no more than three minutes of Revolution of the Daleks. It’s a pointless exercise.
I’m felt Jodie Whittaker has found a take on the Thirteenth Doctor that works. Darker, angrier and more like a character rather than a script. He scenes with the Master, Jo Martin’s Doctor and others worked, helped in part by Sacha Dhawan’s energy. More like this, please, from now on.
Let’s have a realistic reaction to events and a coherent series 13. I’ve some ideas if Chris Chibnall is reading!
If I ignore the whole true history of the Time Lords, I get a big idea (end of Gallifrey) story with a straightforward Cybermen army defeated adventure. That part was OK, not brilliant but levels above Battle of Thing Whatsit.
It’s when I worry about the clunk story-telling and debatable reimagining of Time Lord history I come away far less enamoured.