Saturday, July 8, 2017

Doctor Who Is (Was) NEW!: The Doctor Falls

Today is Saturday and my heart, it is sad. After 12 weeks, tonight there is no new Doctor Who. Last week was the season finale and the end of new Who until December’s Christmas special. 

So how did Doctor Who Series 10 wrap up? What was the fate of Bill Potts? And of Nardole? And of the Master, both him AND her? 

And what happened to the Doctor? With Peter Capaldi heading toward the stage door exit, the Doctor’s destiny was fraught with drama. 

So let’s take a look back to last week, for one last look at when Doctor Who was NEW! 

After the break.

The Doctor Falls
By Steven Moffat

OK, things are not looking good. Bill Potts has been converted into a Cyberman, the Doctor has been captured by two versions of the Master, including Missy whom the Doctor was hoping against hope was heading towards redemption. But Missy appears to have turned her back on the Doctor and redemption and is back to her old self now that she is back WITH her old self, her prior incarnation that looked like John Simm. And where’s Nardole? He’s missing.

 And now the Cybermen are advancing towards our Time Lords? But they only come after humans.

Seems the Doctor managed to change the Cybermen program a bit and they now they register people with two hearts as human.  So Missy and the Master are eligible for Cyber conversion unless thet get the hell out of there. 

And then Nardole arrives flying a shuttle craft. But is he too late? The Doctor has been electrocuted by a Cyberman.

The Master enters the shuttle and tells Nardole, “The Doctor’s dead. And he told me he always hated you.” 

Then Missy boards the shuttle and tells Nardole, “The Doctor’s dead. And he told me he always hated you.” 

But the shuttle isn’t going anywhere. Cyber-Bill has repelled the other Cybermen and is holding the shuttle in place.

Scene change: an idyllic countryside.

Bill wakes up in a barn. Not a Cyberman anymore? Except when she sees her reflection or her shadow, she’s a Cyberman. Bill’s self image is a product of her mind resisting the Cyberman conversion.  (The same force of will that let Bill resists the Monks when they invaded the Earth.) 

It’s been two weeks since the previous scene. The Doctor has recovered from his injuries. OK, not completely. We see the Doctor’s regeneration begin but the Doctor resists it.


Where the heck are they?

The idyllic countryside is a solar farm on floor 507 of the colony ship, inhabited by people who escaped the lower levels of the ship. But these people are in danger. The Cybermen with days and years passing at a rapid pace have sufficient time to evolve their hardware and strategies to invade the rest of the ship, looking for new people to convert.  

Underneath the verdant hills of this countryside is a space ship floor with fuel lines running through it. Nardole discovers that if you shoot at the floor, a fuel line will explode, providing a defense against any attacking Cybermen. But the people on Floor 507 cannot stay there. The Doctor charges Nardole with the responsibility to lead the people away to safety while the Doctor stays behind to trigger the defenses to hold back the Cybermen.

The Master (both of them) have chosen to make it break for it on their own and get back to the Master’s TARDIS in the lower ship levels. But Missy decides against this course of action. She is going to stand with the Doctor.  She fatally stabs her prior self. He has time to make it back to the bottom of the ship before he regenerates. But this Master cannot bear that he, in this life or the next, would ever stand with the Doctor. So he shoots Missy in the back with his laser with enough force to keep her from regenerating.  The master has stabbed  and shot himself in the back twice over. Both Masters think this turn of events is funny as hell, overcome with laughter as death comes for both of them. 

Back with the Doctor, Bill chooses to stay with the Doctor against the Cyberman attack. Her will’s resistance to her cyber programming is weakening; she will bcome body and mind completely a Cyberman. She doesn’t want to live as a Cyberman; she will at least die as Bill Potts.

Using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor triggers fuel line explosions, decimating wave after wave of attacking Cybermen. But a Cyberman catches the Doctor with energy blasts to the back and chest. A fatal blow but the Doctor again resists regeneration as he triggers the entire floor to explode. 

In the ruins of his battlefield, the Doctor contemplates his end. Looking up into the artificial sky of Floor 507, he lamnts the absence of stars. “I had hoped… there would be stars.” And the Doctor dies.

Through the smoke and ash, a figure approaches the doctor’s body. It’s the Bill Potts Cyberman. Although she is more machine than human, she sheds a tear for the Doctor.

But then Bill is standing there as her normal human self. The Cyber body she had occupied is now empty and falls to the ground. Bill turn to see rising up from a puddle Heather. Yes, that Heather, the young woman Bill was smittened with back in episode 1 but who became merged with an alien liquid to form a new being, the Pilot.  Heather has retrieved Bill from her Cyber form and re-made her into someone like herself. Heather notes she can make Bill completely human if she wants. (“It’s all just atoms.”)

Bill and Heather take the Doctor back to the TARDIS. As the Pilot, Heather can fly anything, including the TARDIS so they head off for space. Bill sheds a tear for the Doctor. If he’s dead, there’s nowhere better to rest in peace than in his TARDIS. But maybe, just maybe, he won’t stay dead. Bill says good-bye as she and Heather leave the TARDIS to explore the universe together. 

Moments later, a litany of memories, faces of former companions calling out to the Doctor and the Doctor is alive one more as he begins to regenerate. Again, the Doctor wills the process to stop. He can’t bear being somebody else again.

The TARDIS lands and the Doctor staggers out into a icy wind swept snowscape. And this is where we came in for the previous episode: the Doctor engulfed by the glow of regeneration. Again a force of will shuts down the process as the Doctor proclaims, “I will not change!” Then we hear another voice, also declaring an aversion to change. This person then calls out, “Is there someone there? Who are you?”

The Doctor replies, “I am the Doctor.”

 And as a dark, cloaked figure walks through the snow, he retorts, “The Doctor? No, I don’t think so. You may be A doctor but I am THE Doctor.” And he stands revealed in the cold grey light as.. the First Doctor. “The original, you might say.” 

And we’re out.



There is an apocalyptic quality to The Doctor Falls. The Doctor is facing an end to another life while Bill's life has been stolen by conversion to a Cyberman. Even Nardole is facing an ending; his time of service to the Doctor is drawing to a close, replaced with a new and most unwelcome responsibility of leadership as the Doctor leaves Nardole in charge of protecting the humans as they retreat from Floor 507.

Even the two Masters are facing difficult fates. Missy struggles with her new found feelings that compel her to help the Doctor; her prior self cannot believe he would ever be so empathetic as he would never stand with the Doctor. Ultimately, these two versions of the same person kill each other, an absurdity that causes both Masters to convulse with laughter. We know that the Master will regenerate into Missy. But Missy's death appears to be more permanent, her prior self telling her he blasted her hard enough to prevent regeneration. (The Master was able to shut down the 10th Doctor's ability to regenerate back in Series 3.) Michelle Gomez has indicated she is leaving Doctor Who and her role of Missy. But the Master has a long history of cheating death.

Completely out of options is Bill Potts. Even the Doctor cannot bring her back from being a Cyberman. The idea that Bill sees herself as Bill is a clever way to keep Pearl Mackie in the episode which is a good thing as Pearl is really good here, struggling to resist her Cyber programming with the sad awareness that she cannot win. Pearl Mackie has been an amazing asset to Doctor Who and she demonstrates that again here.

I'm glad that Bill Potts gets a happy ending. The re-appearance of alien water Heather is a bit deux ex machina but the moment was prepared for, all the way back in The Pilot. The tears from Cyber-Bill at the end of Episode 11 and again in Episode 12 are important in recovering Bill's humanity. But I really didn't think Steven Moffat would kill off two companions in a row. As Steven noted, Doctor Who is about hope and kindness and he couldn't end his time on Doctor Who with a downer of an ending for Bill Potts.

The Doctor Falls was a script where Steven Moffat, on his way out as head writer and producer, cut loose with lots of drama and humor, lots of character moments and big action sequences. The Moff's not holding back now in what has to be his best season finale script since The Big Bang back in Series 5. And Peter Capaldi, following Steven out the door, is all in for this epic story. 

Peter is great with the epic speeches and he has a doozy in this episode as he explains to the Master 1 and 2 why he does what he does. He's not out to win. He doesn't hate anyone. No, he does what he does because it's right and it's kind. It's the kind of speech that I wish the politicians in Washington DC would take to heart but most I think would react like the Master: "This is the face of someone who didn't hear a word you said."

Well, I was listening and I'm thinking once more, I don't want this Doctor to go. I didn't want Tennant to go, nor Smith. And here we are again with Capaldi who has made such a powerful impression on the character of the Doctor, I will dare say he will rank at the top of a lot of lists for best Doctor ever. Man, I do feel sorry for whoever comes next.

We don't end on a high note for the Doctor. He doesn't know that Missy was coming back to join him. He doesn't know that Bill Potts is no longer a Cyberman and is doing fine now. He does know he's dying but he refuses to regenerate, not wanting to go through another change of face and personality. Perhaps if someone could talk some sense into him? Maybe... himself?

David Bradley's appearance at the very end as the First Doctor is an ultimate fan-boy squee moment which I imagine what Moffat, ultimate fan-boy that he is, also experienced when he wrote this sequence. Steven Moffat's heading out the door and he's holding nothing back now.

But what comes next, we will have to wait. Oh it is the burden of a Whovian to always be waiting, it seems. Come December and Christmas, we will then see what happens when the First Doctor meets the... Last Doctor?

Well, hopefully not the Last. After Steven Moffat leaves, the future and Chris Chibnall await and Chris has plans for Doctor Who.

Next Saturday's Doctor Who post looks at Series 10 as a whole as I rank the episodes from worst to first along with other observations on the season gone by.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another.

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