So what happened?
Before the opening credits, we see The Doctor stumble out of the TARDIS and drop to his knees in the snow, clearly in disarray. As he shouts, “No!” the regeneration process begins.
Meanwhile, sometime earlier, Twelve proposes to test Missy by allowing her to step into his shoes and respond to a distress call from a colony ship that’s only just managing to avoid being sucked into a black hole. Along for the ride are Nardole and Bill, who seem perplexed by The Doctor’s decision to give her another chance, but agree to act as her companions as he oversees the mission from the TARDIS. Soon though, they’re held at gunpoint by the only remaining pilot, Jorj, who asks who the human is and gets all the more agitated as one of the lifts begins to ascend to their floor. Realising the danger of the situation after Bill is revealed as the human and the pilot aims his gun at her, Twelve leaves his time machine and joins them, seeming to successfully talk down the agitated alien until the ping of the lift arriving spooks him into firing his weapon, and blasting a hole right through Bill. With everyone still reeling, humanoid figures in hospital gowns and masks pick up the newly deceased companion and wheel her away, stating that they can fix her. Before the doors on the lift close, Twelve sets up a psychic link between himself and Bill and tells her to wait for him.
After interrogating Jorj over what caused him to send the distress call, The Doctor, Missy and Nardole learn that the human members of his crew left for the lower levels two days ago to start the thrusters, in order to propel themselves away from the black hole, and they never returned. Now, instead of the 50 crew members that were registering a few days ago, Nardole notes that there a currently thousands of life forms being detected in the lower levels. It’s an anomaly that The Doctor surmises is down to ‘time dilation’: the lower decks are closer to the black hole and therefore time is moving faster the lower you go in the ship, meaning that the 50 crew members have proliferated. Another side effect is that time is also moving faster for Bill, and by the time they vacate the bridge to travel below a significant amount of time has already passed by for her.
In the meantime, Bill has awoken in a hospital, and finds herself fitted with a mechanical heart and hooked up to a drip. After walking into a room where a number of ‘patients’ are hooked up in a similar fashion, but are silently calling out in pain, she narrowly avoids detection by the Matron and is covered for by Mr Razor, one of the hospital’s employees. She quickly befriends the man, and he shows her around, explaining that some of the patients are waiting to be ‘upgraded’ for Operation Exodus, a plan to escape the polluted air of the lower decks. Months later, they watch footage together of The Doctor preparing to come down to save her, and then Mr Razor leads Bill to the hospital theatre where its revealed he’s tricked her into being the prototype for a new type of upgrade that suppresses pain and emotions.
After stepping out into the lower levels, The Doctor takes Nardole with him to find where Bill might be, whilst Missy is left to discover the origin of the colony ship, and her investigations uncover that the ship set off from ‘Mondas’, Earth’s twin planet. During her discovery, Mr Razor creeps up behind her and tells her she’s been there before, and that The Doctor will never forgive her for what she’s done to Bill. At a loss as to what he means, it’s only when the hospital employee pulls off his mask and reveals himself to be The Master, her previous incarnation, that she understands what he means. Elsewhere, Twelve and Nardole discover the operating theatre where Bill was taken to, and encounter a ‘Mondasian’ Cyberman walking out of the closet. After The Doctor employs it to locate where his companion is, it reveals itself to be Bill Potts to Twelve’s shock and devastation. As Missy and The Master enter the room, they gleefully tell their ‘old friend’ that they’re witnessing the Genesis of the Cybermen. Inside her Cyberman shell, Bill reaches out her hand and tells The Doctor she waited for him, as a solitary tear rolls out of her eye and down the metal eye socket of her new visage.
Monster of the Week
Marieke: Cybermen. Of the Mondasian kind. Very old school looking Cybermen that is, but since they were only created and did not really do anything, aren’t Nurse Ratched (anyone else had think of her too?) and the surgeon creating the Cybermen, whilst letting them suffer in silence, the true villains here? Again, humans who create something evil, out of other humans this time. A subtle sci-fi hint that we will destroy the earth I suppose! Or… Is The Master the true baddie at work? There he finally was! Long awaited, totally unsurprising! At least he wasn’t as maniacal as before…
Danielle: Marieke has a point here. The Cybermen aren’t really the ‘monsters’ as they have little to no free will. They just do whatever they have to do to keep on ‘upgrading’. Instead those who created them and turned them into weapons are the real villains, and perhaps those who stood by and let it happen are to blame too. The question is, does The Doctor shoulder some of the blame too seen as his attempt to test Missy indirectly lead to the ‘genesis of the Cybermen’?
Marieke: The whole hospital room with the humans hooked up to an IV with their heads wrapped up. PAIN PAIN PAIN. KILL ME NOW. Turns out they are all in extreme agony, but the nurse just simply mutes them. How unbelievably creepy is that?! It’s the stuff of nightmares. Not getting any anaesthetic, but just being muted so you won’t bother the medical staff. One of the most unsettling Who scenarios to date.
Danielle: That scene was genuinely terrifying. It’s not just the fact that those patients were in so much pain that at least one of them was begging anybody who’d listen to take their life, whilst their sociopathic ‘carers’ do their best to ignore their suffering, it’s that covering their faces completely robbed them of their human identity. They’ve become husks of their former selves and, essentially, lab rats. The thought alone is enough to make your hair stand on end.
Marieke: The Master returned because he does not like his future version contemplating turning good. The mystery to me is, how did the Master recognise Missy, and how did she not see it right away? Is this a plot hole, or will it be explained? Also we are teased again with Twelve’s regeneration at the start of the episode. What will be the trigger? Or who? ‘Doctor Who’ perhaps?
Danielle: Missy not recognising The Master in disguise is the thing that bugs me too. Surely she would have recognised the whole situation seen as he’s her previous self? After all, she should have lived through it herself. An explanation in relation to her memory being compromised might suffice, but I really don’t want this to be a plot hole. Seen as alternate realities have already been a theme this series, I do wonder if that might come into play regarding this anomaly. I’m also very curious about the circumstances surrounding Twelve’s regeneration, more specifically, where he’s regenerating? That snowy backdrop elicits all sort of questions. In addition, how was Bill able to cry if her emotions were being suppressed by the upgrade? Is it something to do with the psychic connection The Doctor established just after she’d been shot?
Oliver Lansley, perhaps best known for his roles in Sherlock and the sitcom, Whites, played blue humanoid, Jorj, in this episode. However, in this first half of the finale, by far the most familiar of familiar faces was John Simm, who dropped by to reprise his role as The Master.
Twelve and his Companion(s)
Marieke: Oh Bill. Poor Bill. The shining light this series, making the show truly worth watching again. First, she gets shot Death Becomes Her style. Intertwined we see a wonderful conversation with the Doctor, when they’re relaxing and eating fish and chips. They talk about protection and safety, The Doctor promises to not let her die and then Jorj shoots… The companion with the big heart loses hers. Then she gets to live through the time zone problem. For years and years she sees The Doctor move inch by inch which is only ten minutes for him, whilst in between mopping the floors for Nurse Ratched. Finally, she is turned into a Cyberman too, reaching out to the Doctor when her last piece of humanity sheds a tear. She waited. And waited. But he did not arrive in time. Oh Bill. Will she be lost on us forever, leaving the show as a Mondasian Cyberman? Will she get redeemed and have a nice ending instead? Bill truly deserves the latter, it was heartbreaking to watch her despair.
Missy shone as ‘Doctor Who’, being deliberately annoying and funny at the same time. Categorising Bill and Nardole as ‘exposition and comic relief’ was spot on, and at the same time so hypocritical. Especially as she mostly served as the comic relief here, and Bill was the one was exposed to danger. It was obvious that Missy taking the mickey would trigger The Doctor’s appearance. She tried so hard to be the real Doctor Who though… And then there’s the Master himself. The long awaited appearance of John Simm. I’m not sure if it is because I was expecting him, or having him seen on a few shows on telly recently, but I immediately recognised Mr. Razor. It was clear when he spoke, his voice is distinctive. The reveal therefore was no surprise at all, and that disappointed me. Imagine not having known he’d return. Would I have recognised him? Even if I would have, the confusion would still be there. I guess John Simm is pretty ‘undisguisable’, to me at least. I guess it only worked when he was Derek Jacobi…
Danielle: My heart was in my mouth when Bill lost hers. The really tragic thing is that The Doctor had nearly convinced Jorj to put his gun down when the lift arrived, and then his finger accidentally pulled the trigger. She was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, a casualty of Twelve thinking it was possible to save Missy’s soul without realising the danger it would put those closest to him in. Still, even after Bill woke up with a mechanical heart, she had to sit and watch the man whose hands she’d put her life in work his way towards her agonisingly slowly, until it was all too late. *Sighs* I really do hope The Doctor can work his magic, and free her from the agony of her current predicament. Bill could easily be my favourite ‘New Who’ companion, and I want her to have a good send off if this is indeed Pearl Mackie’s swansong on the show.
I, too, recognised John Simm straight away. There’s just something about his mannerisms that sticks out, regardless of the accent, or the layers of latex covering his face. I wouldn’t say it ruined his ‘reveal’ though. I was looking forward to his Master meeting Gomez’s Missy, and so far they haven’t disappointed. I’m also fascinated by the fact that in terms of linear time, Bill spent more time as Mr Razor’s companion than she has as Twelve’s. I don’t know if that will affect where her loyalties lie as a Cyberman, but both Time Lords betrayed her, one knowingly and the other because he was preoccupied with other matters.
Just as a quick side note, Nardole seemed somewhat lost amidst Bill’s plight and the Master/Missy reunion. As sidelined as he was in this episode, I suspect he’ll play a much more important role in the second part of the finale. In fact, in terms of going out in a blaze of glory, there’s part of me that thinks that Nardole might be the unexpected hero in all of this. We shall see…
Marieke: There was a lot to love about this episode, but I cannot shake the feeling that had the surprises not been ruined, it would have been an epic outing. The writing clearly builds up towards the reveals-which-are-not-reveals, however the ‘John Simm spoiler’ was pretty hard to avoid, and the Cybermen featured in the trailers. Had they been kept a secret, it would have elevated the episode even more. As I said there was a lot to love.: the creepiness of the hospital ward, and the different time zones within the spaceship itself, specifically. This was a very clever way of showing time travel in microcosm within one location. It showed us the horror of ageing, wasting time and waiting for someone to come rescue you. Also Bill’s fate was rather horrific. At least Missy gave us a touch of comic relief trying to be ‘Doctor Who’.
However, I cannot help but feel that had there been real surprises, my mind truly would have been blown, although I suspect I will be harsher on this than my Fezzy colleague will be. I also wasn’t keen on that regeneration teaser again. We know it’s coming, just show it when it really happens. To end with some positives, it was nice to see two Masters interact, one in the know and the other surprised. Never having been a fan of the maniacal, overacting Simm!Master, I was pleased to see he calmed it all down a little. Even so, I still like Missy better than him and it will be a shame to see her go too, although I cannot see her having the same chemistry with a new Doctor as she has with Capaldi. A new team for a new showrunner sounds like an excellent idea, and a new companion for a new Doctor too, especially after the Clara debacle. But, at the same time, it will be so sad to see Bill go. I do miss early season Twelve, but going back to his old ways it is time for Twelve to regenerate. Now, as for the finale, will it deliver, or will it be a case of ‘the trailer was better’ yet again? And will we add another ‘no that companion did not deserve that ending!’ to the Who stories? Moffat never really managed to let anyone die though…
Danielle: Am I really that predictable? Yes, I am. As much as I can understand Marieke’s niggles about there being no real surprises in ‘World Enough and Time’, I’m not sure it detracted enough from the basic premise, or the execution to truly annoy me. On the contrary, this first half of the finale was a return to form after a mediocre mid-season run. We were finally gifted with a truly terrifying situation that actually felt like it had high stakes, something we haven’t necessarily had for a while. The sense of that was made all the more acute by the fact that Bill is a character you can readily identify with. When she was shot, we felt the pain too. Just as a tear threatened to trail down my own cheek as she told The Doctor that she’d waited for him, but alas he’d arrived too late. Simm and Gomez crossing paths was a blast as well. Although I too prefer Missy’s tempered eccentricities to the madcap nature of Simm’s incarnation, I thought they bounced off each other nicely even before Mr Razor revealed who he really was.
I really enjoyed the central conceit of this episode as well, i.e. that time was moving faster on the lower decks than it was on the bridge because of their respective proximities to the black hole, especially as it has its basis in actual science. Furthermore, it was an ingenious way of re-framing a question that’s been hanging over Twelve since the beginning; is he a good man? Do ‘good men’ put the safety of those who are most loyal to them at risk, because they’re feeling nostalgic for the memory of childhood friendship. My recognition that Twelve needs to regenerate doesn’t stem from my frustrations at in his incarnation of The Doctor. Anybody who’s read this blog before will know that I have a LOT of time for Capaldi’s spin on the Time Lord. Rather it’s that a weary version of him, with a pile of bodies in his wake by his own admission, have made him a liability. His need for an equal to relate to, and to abate his loneliness has started to affect his efficacy as a force for good. Missy has proven to be a distraction for The Doctor, and rather than worrying about her soul, I worry about Twelve’s. As with The Master, villains don’t always start out bad. Events shape people and Time Lords, and losing Bill might be all too much for him. Let’s hope he can do something to save her and himself.
- Was Jorj related to Dahh-Ren, or was it just a case of aliens who happen to look like each and other, and a whole lot of blue facepaint? Odd how Bill did not even address this. (M)
- I thought the reminder that The Doctor has two hearts was interesting, especially as Bill lost hers in this episode. Symbolic, or might there be ‘solution’ to his companion’s predicament there? (D)
- There is so much Doctor/Master gender talk, I wonder if they are preparing us for a female regeneration, or if that’s just trolling on Moffat’s part. (M)
- On the back of that, I have a crack theory that Bill will be the next Doctor. Don’t judge me! (D)
Our Fezzy Score:
So what did you think of the first half of the finale? Let us know in the comments…