DOCTOR WHO Review: “The Doctor Falls”

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And here we are at the end of Season 10 of . We’ve faced water creatures, emojibots, a giant fish under the ice, a dryad, oxygen-sucking space suits, the Monks, Ice Warriors, Eaters of Light, and now we’re back to face off with the Cybermen, upgraded from their Mondasian edition to the form we know from modern Who. It feels like Trenzalore, like the Doctor’s last stand all over again, and I both loved and hated it all at the same time, because it was both so good and so very hard to watch.

What makes this episode good is that it’s all about character development. We have our Doctor, who we have seen evolve from Season 8’s grumpy, cold, callous arsehole to Season 10’s open, kind, blunt but ultimately compassionate friend, and I have loved seeing that transformation. It’s funny; at the beginning of Twelve’s run I never in my wildest imaginings would have thought he would end up being the kindest of the modern Doctors, but he is.

Eleven, though he looked young, over time slowly grew tired and embittered; Ten, for all his seeming love of humanity, had an arrogance that often got in the way of his compassion; Nine is probably the closest to Twelve’s arc, where he started out as a world-weary, angry soldier, but through his relationship with Rose he was able to find his heart again, and sacrifice himself for her and everyone in the Game Station. Twelve is the kindest Doctor I’ve seen, and also the most intimidating, which is an unusual and powerful combination. Fear and anger isn’t Twelve’s strength; it’s love.

BBC America

BBC America

Doctor Who has always been a topical show, but it’s gotten especially topical this year. After taking a few not-so-subtle jabs at the current White House administration – “I didn’t vote for the President – he’s orange!” – this episode they came out and said his name, and it was glorious: “Like sewage, smartphones, and Donald Trump, some things are just inevitable.”

The Trump administration is the antithesis of everything the Doctor stands for – the Doctor has always chosen intellect over ignorance, romanticism over brute force, compassion over greed and apathy and malice. In a world that feels very dark right now, it’s heartening to see we can still count on the Doctor for words of hope. While I think the speech for Twelve will always be his “Zygon Inversion” speech against war, this speech about kindness brought me to tears, and, even though it’s long, I’m going to share it here, because I think it’s more important now than ever to hear it and draw strength and hope and inspiration from it. Because it’s true:

“I’m not trying to win! I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone, because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone! It’s not because it’s fun; god knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works, because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all, it’s kind! It’s just that…Just kind.

“If I run away today, good people will die. If I stand and fight, some of them might live. Maybe not many; maybe not for long. You know, maybe there’s no point to any of this at all. But it’s the best I can do. So I’m going to do it. And I’m going to stand here doing it until it kills me. And you’re going to die, too, someday. And how will that be? Have you thought about it? What would you die for? Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.”

Thank you, Steven Moffat, and thank you, Peter Capaldi, and thank you, Rachel Talalay, for this beautiful moment. I think we all needed it.

master and missy

Another intriguing bit of character development is Missy. This whole season we’ve been trying to figure out if she actually is turning good, or if she’s just playing the Doctor so he’ll let her go. For awhile I think she was playing him, but now, put up against her past regeneration, it’s interesting to see her experience peer pressure in the way of bullying the Doctor and acting like he’s weak for caring about others. Contrasted with the Master, we can see Missy clearly has changed – and though she refuses to help the Doctor at first, in the end she decides to go back and help him, stabbing the Master in the back. And if that doesn’t describe the Master in a nutshell, I don’t know what does.

Who knows if we’ll see Missy again; personally I would love it if she returned, although Steven Moffat might prefer it if she remained in his era of Doctor Who as purely his creation. The Master supposedly killed Missy after she stabbed him, but, as always with Moffat, I’m skeptical. If Missy was going up against herself, she must have known he would try to kill her back (Firefly fans know the quote I’m thinking of right now). On screen it looked like she was dying, but until I see a genuine dead body, I think the door can be left open for Missy to appear again sometime down the road. I know I get on Moffat for not killing off his characters ever, but I’m honestly going to miss Missy’s unique brand of insanity.

The one who may have ended up being shortchanged here is Bill. I can’t say she experienced any real character development over the season; then again, she was kind of perfect companion material to start out with. And not perfect as in Clara Oswald’s I-know-everything-and-can-do-everything kind of artificial candor (I do love Clara, but that irked me about her), but perfect as in walking into the TARDIS with the right mindset – she’s already wide-eyed and full of wonder, she wants to see everything, she’s intelligent and full of wit and has a compassionate heart. And that’s all I can ask for a companion.  Her relationship with the Doctor is perfect; I could probably just watch them have a conversation for an hour. She’s bright and funny and wonderful, and I’m going to miss her so much.

Bill Potts died as a Mondasian Cyberman, but was transformed into a water creature by Heather, who was brought back by her tears. The whole thing felt a little deus ex machina, but let’s not pretend the show hasn’t done stuff like that pretty often in the past, and I’m glad they brought Heather back – someone deserves a happy ending, and I’m so glad it’s Bill.

missy

So now we’re on to the Christmas episode. The Doctor is fighting regeneration, and I’m fighting back tears, and then he looks up and sees himself – the first Doctor, played by David Bradley, who portrayed William Hartnell in the wonderful film An Adventure in Space and Time. The First Doctor said he would come back, and I guess it’s happening, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic Christmas episode – just in time for the heartbreak of watching the Doctor regenerate.

I don’t know what the next regeneration will look like, but we will all miss Peter Capaldi. He brought a heart and a vulnerability to the Doctor that I’d been missing, and this season gave him the writing he needed to bring his Doctor to new heights – before he falls.

I will see you in December, where Rachel Talalay (woohoo!) will be directing the Twelfth Doctor’s last episode. Until then!

TB-TV-Grade-ASeason 10, Episode 12 (S10E12)
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9PM on BBC America

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Cailin is a screenwriter and an aspiring TV writer. When not writing, she’s busy convincing random passersby that Firefly was the best show ever, converting her co-workers into Whovians, and waiting for the next season of Sherlock.
Follow Cailin on Twitter: @sherlocked1058
Keep up with all of Cailin’s reviews here.

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