DOCTOR WHO Review: “The Doctor Falls”
Welp. This was it for this season of Doctor Who, you guys. Christmas special notwithstanding, this is officially the end of season ten. A lot was expected of this episode after last week’s well-executed entry. I didn’t quite get any of what I hoped for but ended up getting exactly what I needed.
First off, I was excited to see that this week’s adventure didn’t pull any punches in order to nerf the impact of last week’s cliffhanger. The gang is still trapped on the colony ship near a black hole. Bill is still a Cyberman, The Master and Missy have turned on the Doctor and an army of Cybermen are converting all humans into one of them. All in all, things are still super bleak.
In this episode, that bleakness is a ubiquitous little bastard. I was worried that Moffat would cheapen the cliffhanger by starting us off a few years later after everything had sorted itself out off-screen. It would not have been the first time Moffat has done that. Instead, he begins the episode on a floor of a colony ship we haven’t seen before. This floor looks a lot like a pristine scene out of a Little House on the Prairie episode. It doesn’t take long to see that things are a bit off, when crucified Cybermen are revealed to be littering the fields. Turns out these are used as “scarecrows” in order to ward off wandering Cybermen.
When the Doctor finds that this level of the ship is filled with children hiding from Cyberman conversion, he chooses to make his last stand to save the day one last time. The entire episode has sensibilities of both The Alamo and Red Dawn, with the children’s home being the last place to defend and the gang having to band together like so many Wolverines.
The biggest heartbreak comes from Bill’s plight and how she has to cope with being a newly-made Cyberman. She has been a favorite of mine all season and it's a pretty big bummer seeing her come to terms with her situation. Her battle of trying to hold onto her humanity isn’t an easy thing to watch for Bill lovers.
Past the stuff with Bill, a lot the rest of the episode kinda feels devoid of emotion. A lot of things that the season built on don't completely connect. Like, Bill and the Doc’s farewell. This should have been where all the emo gut punches were placed, but there is almost nothing there. He doesn’t seem too concerned with her being a Cyberman, or that they might never see each other again if they don’t both survive the siege. This is contrary to the relationship they have built all season, and kinda feels like a rushed writing decision. Compared to the last few Doctor/companion goodbyes, this one felt a little light.
One of the standouts for me was watching Missy and The Master’s “goodbye.” Each being inherently evil in their own way, what better way was there to have them “die” than to have each stab the other in the back. The Master inevitably regenerates into Missy but does Missy survive that sonic screwdriver blast? The last time we see the two Masters, they are fading fast and laughing at the irony of both of them essentially killing themselves.
Did anyone else notice all the weird sexual stuff going on this time around? Really weird timing on all of it too. Did we really need the horny older woman trying to get with Nardole? There is a time and place for lovin’, lady, but probably not when an army of Cybermen is coming for you. Oh, and how about the cringe-worthy moment of seeing The Master try to put the moves on his future regeneration, Missy? Talk about Master masturbation. Right, you guys? Is this thing on?
Out of all the bleakness that makes up this episode, one of the highlights was watching Missy and The Master side by side quizzing the Doctor on how many times and by what methods he has been killed before. Of course, they are only asking so that they can kill him in a way that he hadn’t experienced. The whole thing was playful and had a different tone than the rest of the episode. I hoped Moffat attempting to go out on a playful note but no such luck this time around. Doesn’t change the fact that John Simm and Michelle Gomez were amazing to watch together, even if it was short-lived.
Inevitably, the Doctor is mortally wounded by an explosion that wipes out a large portion of Cybermen. The moment that hung above us all season finally begins. Regeneration beams exude from the Docs hands. This is the moment, right? Well, in keeping with Capaldi and his Doctor’s resolute stubborness, he finds a way to temporarily hold off the regeneration. Wait what?! No Doctor has ever wanted to regenerate before, both David Tennant and Matt Smith have heartbreakingly not wanted to leave when it was their time. But to no avail, nothing has ever stopped regeneration. However, Capaldi’s Doc has found a way… at least temporarily.
In the last few moments, the T.A.R.D.I.S self-navigates to a desolate planet covered in ice. The Doctor stumbles out, burying his hands in the snow, still holding off the regeneration. I can safely say, nobody could have guessed what happened next as classic and first Doctor Who incarnation, William Hartnell (played by David Bradley) stepped out of the snow’s mist announcing himself as “the original,” before the finale ended cut to black.
This isn’t the first time we have seen David Bradley play Hartnell’s Doctor. The first time around was in the biopic, An Adventure in Space and Time, which chronicled the life and times of the first Doctor Who. Bradley is no slouch, and does an uncannily great Hartnell. But what does this ending mean? Looks like we won’t get any answers or a look at the next Doctor until the Christmas Special this December. I’m willing to bet that the OG Doc is going to school Capaldi’s Doc on why exactly a Doctor’s regeneration is necessary. Anyone got a T.A.R.D.I.S I can borrow to travel into the future and peep that X-mas episode? Cause this is gonna be a rough wait, folks.