The Doctor Falls by Steven Moffat
WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS!!!
I said last week if this finale didn’t score 5/5 stars it would be a failure, given the potential it had. That may have seemed harsh, and I’ll rephrase that statement – if The Doctor falls fails to get 5/5 it means the episode was a missed opportunity, not a failure. Long story short – it hasn’t got a 5/5 from me.
The episode is good, if slightly less so than last week’s World Enough and Time, but this is hardly unusual for Doctor Who finales. As far as two-part finales go, you have to go all the way back to The Parting of the Ways in 2005 to find a Finale that was better than it’s preceding episode. Moffat’s writing, Talalay’s direction and Murray Gold’s score all perform, as do the cast, and I did really like large parts of the episode, but like Hell Bent last year, you feel like if Moffat had gone a slightly different route with the plot, it could have been even better.
While the double-Mastercide may look like the end for the character, Moffat’s handily left a way out for Chibnall (or any other future showrunners) in that Missy can’t remember if she is Simm’s direct successor or another incarnation (or incarnations) of the Master came in between them. While the Master and Missy’s end were neat and neatly refuted last week’s declaration that ‘you would never be so…self-destructive’, it was a bit underwhelming in that we saw neither regenerate (though in Simm’s case that may be because of the get-out clause I mentioned earlier) but primarily it felt wrong for me that the Doctor didn’t know about Missy’s change of heart. While that’s tragic in itself its not really satisfying, and I really hope she has some kind of appearance in the Xmas special to correct this oversight. I had mixed feelings about the Master-Missy part of the episode. While it was very fun seeing them together, and while I much preferred Moffat’s writing of Simm’s Master to that of Russell T. Davies (Seriously what the fuck was he doing in The End of Time with that stupid undead cannibal gimmick?!?!) it didn’t feel all that consequential in the end. They argue with the Doctor, they refuse to fight, Missy changes her mind and they kill each other. Not really a plotline that works when crammed into about a quarter of the episode. A multi-master story should have been the focus of the finale (as should a Cybermen evolution come to think of it) but Capaldi’s imminent demise and Bill’s predicament ended up overshadowing them both.
Ah yes, Bill. While I’m sure some fans will be annoyed that this is the third time Moffat has saved companions who looked destined for death, for me Bill’s reprieve seemed far more merited than Clara’s or even Amy and Rory’s. (I still maintain, Clara should either have stayed dead or simply died properly at the end of Hell Bent. I also maintain Amy and Rory should have died jumping off that roof rather than being trapped in the 1930’s. Both would have been much stronger exits.) Bill’s is nowhere near as annoying for two reasons: firstly Bill hasn’t been a long-term companion like the others and thus her death would have seemed less merited and premature, and secondly because Heather’s appearance tied up a loose end from the Pilot, while by comparison neither Clara nor Amy’s rescues were in any way foreshadowed or narratively justified. Bill’s was.
The Cybermen were yet again little more than cannon fodder, which, particularly because this was the case in Death in Heaven as well, is a real pity. We still haven’t had a great Cyber story in modern Who, something Chibnall can hopefully fix when he takes over – for starters by making them the main villain and the focus of the episode withput getting overshadowed by Daleks or the Master. That said, it was cool seeing Mondasian, Cybus Industries and Modern Cybermen side by side.
While the (brilliant) cliffhanger had me in full-on fanboy mode, I must admit it would have been better had rumours of David Bradley’s role in the Xmas Special not been leaked months ago. Can UK Media please fuck off and let us be surprised by Who once in a while?
In the end, I feel like we needed another episode between this and World Enough and Time, in which we could see the Master’s rise to power on the spaceship through flashbacks, get more Missy-Master-Doctor conversations and also see the Cybermen develop and turn against the Master in Level 1000 over 45 mins (thus giving both more screentime and making the Cybermen into more of a threat as they subdue and convert the city’s population). Then you could have had the Doctor help the Masters escape and jumped into the last 45 mins of this episode as a finale. That would have been much better in my opinion, as then the two Masters, Cybermen and the Doctor’s imminent death might have all got the attention and screentime they deserved.
Overall like Hell Bent and Death in Heaven before it, it’s a good hour of television, but not exactly what I wanted from a series finale. It wraps some things up in style but underused its villains too much. It’s probably Moffat’s best finale after Series 5’s ‘The Big Bang‘ though.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
So the long wait for Christmas begins as we see Capaldi joining David Bradley’s first Doctor for one last adventure before he regenerates. Hopefully it’ll be the send-off Capaldi (and Moffat) deserve.
I’ll do a full review of Series 10 later this week, featuring my view on what went right, what went wrong and how it could have been improved.
P.S. For any Game of Thrones fans reading this I’ll be doing some predictions for season 7 towards the end of the week as well, so keep a look out!
P.P.S. I’ll try to put out reviews of Wonder Woman and Season 5 of both House of Cards and Orange is the New Black as well, but those may well get pushed back a week.