This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love's day.
from To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell
Tonight is it.
It took forever for Doctor Who Series 10 to get here. And now it ends too quickly.
Tonight is the final episode of the season.
AND it’s the final regular episode by Steven Moffat as producer and head writer.
AND also the final regular season episode with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor.
Both gentlemen have had their detractors but that’s mostly just a low rumbling undercurrent of trolls who will never be satisfied with anything. Doctor Who has thrived under Moffat’s tenure and the Doctor has never been so complex and interesting as he has been while occupying Capaldi’s skin.
The story proper commences with the TARDIS materializing on a spaceship. Out steps Missy who introduces herself as "Doctor Who" (really) and her "two plucky assistants: Thing One and... the other one." (Bill & Nardole).
The spaceship is 400 miles long and the bathrooms are really far apart. The ship is moving away from a black hole. Or trying to. Anyway, there's a distress call and "Doctor Who" is here to help "like awesome heroes" along with "Exposition" and "Comic Relief" (Bill & Nardole).
What's going on here is the Doctor (still inside the TARDIS) is road-testing Missy's rehabilitation from evil. Then things take a bad turn when a blue man with a gun turns up, frantically demanding to know which of these visitors is human. Being "human" is not a good thing to be but to protect the others, Bill admits she's the human. Blue man points his gun at her.
The Doctor exits the TARDIS to defuse the situation. But no can do. Blue guy shoots Bill. We're focused on Bill's shocked face. As the shot pulls out, we see a very big gaping hole in her chest. You can see out to the other side.
That's not good.
Flashback.. on Earth at the university where the Doctor is making his case to Bill & Nardole to give Missy a chance to prove herself and demonstrate her rehabilitation is for real.
Bill & Nardole are not really on board with this. Bill thinks Missy is scary and Nardole thinks she needs to stay in the vault where she's supposed to be. But the Doctor is resolute. The Master is closer than anyone to being like the Doctor and he would like nothing more than to have his friend from childhood back again.
Bill reluctantly agrees to the Doctor's plan but asks, "Just try to not get me killed, okay?"
Scene change and back to the present. Bill with a very big gaping hole in her chest falls down. She's dead.
But others appear, dressed in white like nurses and doctors from a madman's nightmares. They take Bill away. OK, despite the very big gaping hole in her chest, maybe she's not dead? The Doctor leaves a message in Bill's subconscious: "Wait for me." And then she's taken away, leaving the Doctor, Missy, Nardole and blue guy behind.
OK, kids: this is where it gets complicated.
Bill is taken to the bottom of the ship (the end closest to the black hole) where she is restored to life with a bulky machine thing on her chest. She is befriended by a ragged hunchback who talks like Gru from Despicable Me. His name is Razor and he fills here in on how time works on the ship. Time at the bottom of the ship moves at a different rate than at the top. Razor has the Doctor and friends on a monitor where it takes a week for the Doctor to raise an eyebrow. Razor tells Bill she cannot leave; the device that keeps her alive only works in the hospital. So that's where Bill stays, mopping floors and tending to patients, prototype Cybermen with white hoods who can only say a few words over and over in an electronic voice. One of them says "pain" over and over. Another one, "kill me". So this is not a lot of fun for Bill but she stays, heeding the message the Doctor left in her head: "wait for me".
And she waits as days pass into weeks into months into years. Bill is at the bottom of the ship a very long time. Then Razor betrays her, turning her over to the hospital staff for full conversion. Bill is very frightened.
And so are we.
Meanwhile at the top of the ship, the Doctor, Missy and Nardole head for the bottom of the ship. Mere minutes have passed for them during Bill's years of pain and isolation. At the bottom, the Doctor puts Missy to work hacking the computers to find out more about the ship and what's going on while the Doctor takes Nardole to search for Bill.
What they find is a Cyberman. The Doctor entreats the Cyberman to access the cybernet to find out where Bill Potts is.
The Cyberman replies in a cold, flat electronic voice: "Bill Potts. I have located Bill Potts. I am Bill Potts."
Meanwhile Razor turns up to harrass Missy working at the computer. Missy finds the ship is from Mondas which is where the original Cyberman began. Then Razor peels back his disguise and Missy sees a face she last saw in a mirror years ago.
It is the Master in his form prior to his regeneration into Missy. The Master tells Missy he's worried about his future.
Meanwhile, several pennies are dropping for the Doctor as he realizes he's up against Mondasian Cybermen. The Missy and the Master enter on either side of Cyber-Bill. The Master proclaims they are witness to the genesis of the Cybermen.
Then the Cyberman adds, "I. Waited. For. You." Through Cyber-Bill's eyepiece, we see Bill's human eye and the tears flowing from it out of the eyepiece.
And we're out.
To be honest, I'm not sure but at least some of that may not be in the correct order. I'm writing this several days after fact, recalling details as best i can from a complex but emotionally gripping narrative.
The big reveal of the return of John Simm's Master was a bit anti-climatic thanks to spoilery promotional materials. Imagine if the Who office had kept a lid on that particular piece of info. Simm's appearance would've been so explosive. Instead, we were on the watch for John to appear; we're all nudging each other, "Hey! That Razor guy? It's John Simm's Master in disguise."
Still, John's turn as Razor is interesting. Even as he ingratiates himself into Bill's life, we know that all is not what it seems. Razor is a threat to Bill but who else has Bill got to turn to in this dark, grimy cesspool she finds herself in?
And speaking of Bill, Pearl Mackie has to do a lot of heavy lifting in this episode, cut off for most of it from the Doctor and Nardole. Bill's strength and optimism are sorely tested in this place she finds herself in, wired to a metal thing that keeps her alive,trapped in a dark labyrinth with the Cybermen patients who express their distress in electronic voices, saying "pain" over and over. And Bill is down there for years.
Only to wind up a Cyberman? Is Bill Potts doomed? Maybe not. We see Bill's still human eye and some of her skin beneath the hood. It is possible that Bill can be saved.
Also in the trailer for tonight's episode, Bill's non altered voice can be heard twice and there are two glimpses of Bill not being a Cyberman.
Having killed off the last companion, Clara Oswald, in Series 9, I find it unlikely that Steven Moffat would kill a second companion in a row. And I can't see Moffat leaving the series on such a downer note.
When trying to explain to Bill his relationship to the Master, the Doctor is all over the map with gender pro-nouns. It's a remarkably progressive scene. But Bill notes that if gender is not a big deal to his people, they still call themselves Time-Lords.
On the subject of Time-Lord things, that regeneration scene at the beginning? I would not expect it to be followed up on tonight. It's in the snow so it may well be a flash-forward to the Christmas special.
And there is a rumor that the ending of Episode 12 will end on a cliffhanger that will not get resolved until Christmas. Oooh boy! 6 months to agonize over what that may be.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We still have tonight.
The Doctor against the Cybermen with two versions of the Master? Will Missy return to the dark madness of her former self or will she stand with the Doctor? And is Bill Potts doomed to be a Cyberman forever?
It doesn't look good for the Doctor.
Tonight at 8:30 PM (half hour early guys!) on BBC America,
The Doctor Falls.