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.
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.