World Enough and Time by Steven Moffat
I’ll give a spoiler warning, even if the BBC showed all but one plot point in the trailers.
This episode might have been a classic but for two avoidable problems. But really it comes down to one problem: unnecessary spoilers. The episode all moved a bit slowly in the second half, but that was only an issue because we all knew where it was going. We knew the hospital patients were being converted into Mondasian Cybermen. It was thus very easy to guess that was exactly what was going to happen to Bill. We knew John Simm’s Master was returning. Thus it was pretty easy to guess ‘Mr. Razor’ was more than he seemed. I can understand why the Cybermen’s return was announced early. They feature in exterior-shot scenes which extras or photographers could easy have spoiled. The episode works whether or not you know they’re coming. But Simm’s reveal was so late on, and only in front of the principal cast members, that spoiling his return seemed completely unnecessary. Had he been a surprise this could have rivalled ‘Dark Water’ and ‘Utopia’ for great Master shock reveals. But, whether to entice viewers or just out of idiocy, the BBC decided to announce Simm’s return and put him in various trailers. #Mistake. Fortunately, despite this misstep, the episode was pretty damn good!!!
I feel like I’ve been moaning about the direction for half the damn series, but Rachel Talalay has never disappointed on Who (seriously, someone hire her for the final Game of Thrones season!!! Imagine what she could do with that budget!). The ship reveal was sublime, the creepy hospital expertly shot, and the episode generally full of little directorial flourishes that helped make the last two finales so splendid. Murray Gold’s score was pretty good for the most part too. Moffat’s script deserves equal credit with Talalay’s direction, as, just like ‘Dark Water’ and ‘Heaven Sent’ Moffat comes up with a great sci-fi concept to base an episode around. The ship with time running faster/slower at each end is a great idea and one he has plenty of fun with, even if the episode spends a little too long explaining it as a concept. In short, the production team nails it.
Nardole and Capaldi played a smaller role in proceedings than normal, though Capaldi’s explanation of the gravity-time phenomenon was good and his recollections of him and Missy as young boys on Gallifrey was touching. The episode was instead largely carried by Missy, Bill and Mr. Razor (AKA the Master – I’d sussed that out within about five minutes of him being on screen and I’m guessing most of you knew well before he and Missy went face to face). Michelle Gomez had tremendous fun playing ‘Doctor Who’ and winding Bill and Nardole up, while Bill’s experience in the hospital leads to one of Pearl Mackie’s best performances to date. But the real praise has to be saved for John Simm. His performance (under heavy make-up) as Razor was so good I almost started doubting if it actually was the master under there. His Master may have only been on screen for two minutes, but this is the first time since ‘The Sounds of Drums’ I’ve really felt like Simm was playing the Master as he should be. He was (thankfully) restrained, and more of a smirking, creepy villain than the laughing, overblown psychopath Russell T. Davies wrote. This version of Simm’s Master just felt instantly more nuanced – and hopefully the next episode will maintain this transition and not revert to the animalistic madman from ‘The End of Time’. Credit to Simm and Moffat if that happens. The scene between him and Missy was the best scene Simm’s got since the phone call between him and Tennant in Sound of Drums, and if we’re lucky the interaction between those two will give us plenty more highlights to look forward to.
Overall, World Enough and Time works very well, but the slow pacing in the second half and the big drawn out reveals are far less effective because of the spoilers. The stage is set for a truly great finale though. Don’t let us down Moffat.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Next Time: The Cybermen rise and evolve, The Doctor and Nardole try to save Bill, The Master fights for his future and Missy finally decides what side she is on…
Seriously if this finale doesn’t get 5/5 they’ve fucked up. Because they’ve created a set-up with so much potential that anything less than perfection would be a missed opportunity