I don’t want him to go.
This week’s episode of DOCTOR WHO opens with the Doctor starting to regenerate – the familiar golden energy at his hands and face, the Doctor crying out “No!” as he falls in the snow, alone and suffering. And I just can’t believe it’s happening already. It feels like we’ve just gotten to know and love Twelve – or maybe that’s what it feels like with every Doctor when he regenerates.
This is the first Doctor I have been with through his entire run. I finally caught up on the show just in time for the 50th Anniversary – I saw it in theaters for my 21st birthday, it was amazing – and then there was the Christmas episode, awful in all its elements except for the regeneration scene. The bowtie dropped, we said goodbye to Eleven, and Twelve burst in with a “sneeze regeneration,” grabbing our attention with his first line: “Kidneys!” And it’s been a wild ride ever since, with “Mummy on the Orient Express,” “Flatline,” “Dark Water,” “The Magician’s Apprentice,” “The Zygon Inversion,” “Heaven Sent,” all the moments you know you’ll always remember, from a Doctor who started out cold and callous, but slowly warmed to compassion through Clara and through Bill. Along the way, Twelve found his heart. And I’m going to miss him. So much.
Which is why I wish I could say I liked this episode. I want his last two episodes to be a slam-bang finish; I wanted to like it. It’s not a bad episode in of itself, either; I just wish it didn’t feel like a retread of themes the show has touched on before. Feel free to disagree! But I think this episode could have been so much more.
Okay, first the good points: this episode is directed by Rachel Talalay (one of my favorite directors) and you can tell because it looks awesome. That first shot of the colony ship looks straight out of Star Wars – taking in the sheer size of the ship, and then cutting to the black hole to emphasize just how much bigger that is, and it’s just all around a masterful (heh) piece of directing. You better bring her back every season, BBC, and if Sherlock is done for the next few years, give her a movie to direct already!
The best scenes, of course, are the simple ones – the conversations between the Doctor and Bill. Their relationship is the highlight of this season, as it should be for every Doctor and companion, but this feels so much lighter and genuine and heartfelt. Sometimes a companion’s relationship with the Doctor can get bogged down by drama, and I think that’s what ended up happening with Clara. Their whole relationship just became too strained – someone was always in the wrong, someone wasn’t being honest or was hiding something from the other, and overall it just wasn’t a good friendship, and the show suffered for it. Now, though, Bill and the Doctor can be honest with each other, and even if the Doctor lies (rule number one, after all) Bill can see right through it, and that’s what makes the friendship work. There’s no bullcrap, just banter and fun and, really, love, the kind only best friends can have for each other.
Which is why bringing Missy on board complicates things.
Oh, dear. This first scene with Missy – it just feels like it’s trying so hard. I love meta humor – I watch The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl, I have to love it – but generally it’s a bit more subtle, or at least a quick aside or something before the episode continues with the actual plot. But this scene opens with a commentary on the age-old debate of the Doctor’s name – is it the Doctor or Doctor Who? And it just keeps going. It felt like something a fanfiction writer would put in for a first draft, just for kicks and giggles, and then forgot to take it out. At this particular moment in time, who cares what the Doctor’s name is? How is that relevant to anything happening? It would be one thing if it was a conversation that showed up in the middle of the episode, just for fun, and we got a bit of comic relief while the characters are trying to sort out whatever mess they’re in. But here, we haven’t even established where we are yet – while Missy’s going on about the Doctor’s name, we’re still wondering where we are, what’s going on, and what’s obviously wrong with the ship.
Anyway, Steven Moffat’s obviously having fun writing Missy’s dialogue. Then Bill gets shot in the chest, and suddenly things aren’t so funny anymore. The problem is, Moffat’s killed off so many characters and then brought them back almost immediately afterwards, I can’t really feel shocked by their deaths anymore.
Sure enough, Bill is fine, she just has a mechanical heart now – oh, and she’s stuck in a different time zone on the other side of the ship in a hospital filled with patients who are being experimented on. It’s Inception meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – welcome to Doctor Who, enjoy your stay!
The hospital is a cool idea, and it definitely gives the episode a unique atmosphere. I love the idea of the different time zones, one much slower than the other, and the fact that this show trusts us to keep up with complicated science-y stuff like the black hole and its connection to time and gravity is why I love it. My main problem with this part of the episode is Bill – she’s just kind of stuck, and that would be fine, except it seems to happen to almost every companion recently.
The Doctor tells Bill to wait for him, and I just wanted to jump up at the screen and yell, “No!” That is not how this show works. We’re not meant to wait; we’re meant to work things out for ourselves, find a way out of our current circumstances, not just sit by and wait for the Doctor to save us. I can’t take this continuing theme of companions waiting – Amy Pond was literally the Girl Who Waited, Clara did her one thing as the Impossible Girl and then spent the rest of her time waiting around trying to be relevant to a story, any story, and now Bill is told to just wait in the hospital until the Doctor can save her. A companion isn’t there to wait – Rose Tyler became Bad Wolf, Defender of the Earth, saving the world from the Daleks; Martha Jones became The Woman Who Walked the Earth, saving the world the whole year the Master controlled the planet; Donna Noble was The Most Important Woman in the Universe, becoming the Doctor Donna to save the world from Davros. I want that agency back, I want that kind of companion – and if the plot needed to be served that way, I’m sure Bill could have found a way out. But she waited, and I feel like that was completely out of character, and a bit insulting to the heart of the show and the kind of message it usually imparts.
Don’t wait for a savior – and perhaps Bill learned that, because in the end they took her apart and made her a Cyberman.
The Mondasian Cybermen are back, in their first appearance since the First Doctor’s episode “The Tenth Planet” (and you just know Peter Capaldi is over the moon about it). We also have our first episode where two Masters meet – John Simm gives a very entertaining performance, first as Mr. Razor, and then as the Master when he reveals his disguise! There’s no doubt having two Masters on screen will be nothing but fun; I’m just wondering why Missy, being the later regeneration, doesn’t remember this taking place?
We saw the single tear fall from Bill’s eye inside the Cyberman helmet before the episode ended; perhaps this means the upgrade isn’t complete, and she can still be saved – I frikkin’ hope so, anyway! And, of course, everything is leading up to Twelve’s regeneration. I’m excited for next week’s episode, but I’m dreading its end (unless they save his regeneration for the Christmas episode).
Next week: “The Doctor Falls”!
Season 10, Episode 11 (S10E11)
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9PM on BBC America
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.
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Cailin Coane | Contributor