The Doctor Falls, Image via radiotimes.com
The clue is in the title, please do not read this if you have not seen all of Doctor Who series 10, you will regret it!
Still with me? OK, let’s do this.
First and foremost… WOW. Emotional overload. I cannot, at this stage, wait until Christmas, however in the absence of actual time travel, here are my top ten reasons why I LOVED this episode.
A space ship locked in a battle with the gravitational pull of a black hole? Time going slower at one end than the other? Every floor a different world, in essence? A whole city turned into a cyber-factory? This is a far cry from robots with emojis for faces, which, to be honest, was a fairly weak start to the series (although compost bins full of bones sort of made up for this). There is a real feel that Doctor Who is growing up and taking on more diverse themes, without trying to dumb it down for those that only like their sci-fi-lite.
One of my favourite scenes is the idyllic farmstead, green grass and blue sky, and the kindly looking matriarch bustling about with the children. Suddenly she has a rifle, with a blue laser sight, and the scarecrows are attacking. This is the key to good sci-fi: taking the mundane, and making it surreal and even scary.
OK, this makes me sound like a ‘Bill Hater’ but I’m not, I’m truly not. I actually think she’s one of the most well rounded, believable companions for some time. Probably my favourite since Donna.
It’s not that I’m glad she got a big hole in her chest, and is now living out some crazy fluid-based astro-life (although, to be fair, that looks and sounds pretty cool); it’s the fact that Doctor Who is showing it’s not afraid to do horrible things to the main characters, even ones we’ve come to really identify with. Even if she does have a happy ending, of a sort, she’s still lost her entire human life, and she was upgraded for jelly babies’ sake! Ew.
Oh, and there have been complaints that ‘Moffat can’t kill anyone properly’. Stick it. She was shot, bodged back together, had to wait over ten years for her best friend to find her, upgraded, lived to see everyone terrified of her then watched said best friend die in apocalyptic cyber-horror-show. That’s enough, I think.
My one complaint is that she seemed to get over The Doctor dying really, very quickly… I would have expected a bit more ‘bitter’ in the bitter-sweet ending she got, simply because of his apparent demise.
Jelly babies? Yes, I just wanted to say ‘Jelly Babies’ several times in quick succession. If you do it right, Tom Baker appears and gives you a scarf (fake news). I loved all the little references to other incarnations of The Doctor in this episode, and offering the kids jelly babies is just such a lovely touch. Also, clever foreshadowing of the end scene where we meet…
…The First Doctor…
…The original, you might say!
David Bradley was excellent as William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time, so to bring him back as the actual Doctor, The Doctor, is a stroke of genius. The two Doctors meeting at the end of the episode; Bill gone, the latest incarnation desperate to not regenerate; all in all, things not going sparklingly well… What a way to leave Whovians jumping up and down in their seats and frothing at the mouth.
I can’t wait to see the chemistry between these two distinguished actors, and to see how the story pans out.
As an aside, Bill and Heather were so named for Bill (William) Hartnell, and his wife, Heather. What a lovely tribute.
Nardole the Naughty Boy
We get a little glimpse of Nardole’s origins, with this brief argument against being sent to look after the escaping children:
“You know what I was like. If there’s more than three people in a room, I start a black market. Send me with them, I’ll be selling their own spaceship back to them once a week.”
Knowing he has a shady past kind of makes more sense of why he was involved with River Song, who was rarely on the right side of the law. We may never get any more than this teaser about his past, especially with the show changing hands after Christmas, but it was a clever way to give his character a bit more depth.
I Don’t Want to Go
As the Doctor nears the end of his life, he bounces from incarnation to incarnation, remembering his companions (more on that below) and monumental moments from all his previous lives. One heart-wrenching moment is him reiterating his ‘tenth’ reincarnation mournfully proclaiming I don’t want to go. We also hear him remembering When the doctor was me (originally ‘I will always remember when The Doctor was me’, said by ‘eleven’) and, in another Tom Baker throwback:
“Sontarans! Perverting the course of human history!”
Remember the end of series 9? Well it’s only us mere humans that can remember the key point, which is that Clara was completely wiped from The Doctor’s memory. But during the Logopolis style montage of The Doctor’s companions toward the end of The Doctor Falls, he clearly recalls Clara standing on a snowy rooftop, saying his name (Last Christmas). So is this a sign that nearly dying may have kick-started his hidden memories? Only time (and Chris Chibnall) will tell…
Is she good? Is she bad? Is she completely off her rocker? Yes! I’ve loved, loved Michelle Gomez’s interpretation of The Doctor’s arch enemy, and was worried that her move towards a supportive rather than adversarial character may weaken her appeal. I was wrong to worry, as right up until the end she is as dark and divisive as ever, even as she takes down the earlier incarnation of…
John Simm is a rather good actor, isn’t he? And I think he loves this role, and jumped at the chance to play it again. This Master is the King of Cruelty, revelling in the pain and suffering of others, even down to the tiniest, hurtful comment if he can get away with it. He destroys Missy completely (so we are led to believe, but how many times has the Master died ‘permanently’ before?) despite in the previous episode proclaiming he would never be so ‘self-destructive’. Praising her like a student who has surpassed him in every way, for stealthily stabbing him in the back; wonderful stuff. The madness of The Master is brought to shuddering, monstrous life by these two great actors, as they laugh maniacally as they both die by the other’s hand. A truly apt end, although I hope it isn’t really the end for The Master. There’s always a way back, right?
Refusing to Regenerate
The Doctor has had enough! He’s stamping his foot and putting it down and sticking his chin out and saying No! He will not regenerate! You really get the sense here of how old he is, just how much he’s seen and how much loss and regret he carries with him every single day. And when you’ve lived for millennia, the days really do add up. He’s had to fight the cybermen, again, with no way of knowing if the children that escaped will actually survive, he’s lost another companion, his oldest frenemy abandoned him at the end and is now dead; I mean really, what’s the point?
I loved the visual of shoving his glowing fists into the snow to douse the fire of the regeneration energy. His determination to end seems unwavering, and makes me wonder what will The First Doctor show him in the Christmas Special, that will change his mind?
Sadly, that’s another five and a bit months off, so I’m popping off now to work on my proto-type TARDIS. Has anyone seen my dematerialisation circuit?
Image via digitalspy.com