The DWC has found itself in a snowy landscape. Ice speckles our time-space ship (the chameleon circuit cleverly disguises it as a space-time ship), and a frosty rime settles on our collective heads. We hear Series 10 is coming to an end, an there’s only one reasonable reaction.
No. No. Noooooooooo…!
Anyway, World Enough and Time. Simon Mills was most impressed with this genesis of the Cybermen (except the meta bit, where the Master said it was the genesis of the Cybermen). In his review, he reasoned:
“I may have hated some aspects of this story – the overlong intro, the references YET AGAIN to the gender fluidity of the Time Lords (mmm… sounds like a fanfic title!), Missy being cleverly meta with her “exposition” and “comic relief” references and calling herself “Doctor Who” and the whole discussion around that… but, on the whole, this was a fantastic part one to a season finale with lashings of creepy atmospherics, somewhat reminiscent of a horror video game. Maybe even worthy of the Hinchcliffe era Tom Baker years with The Brain of Morbius, for instance.”
So what do the rest of the DWC crew reckon? There’s only one way to find out…
I’m upset. I’m very upset. It looks like Bill Potts, one of my favourite companions of all time, is no more. Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, and Peter Capaldi have been fantastic this season and I was hoping that when the ‘band’ broke up, they would all get happy endings (with Capaldi heading off into the sunset before regenerating after a stand-alone Christmas episode). It looks like that isn’t going to be the case for Bill (and the Doctor too, as World Enough and Time seems to be the start of his regeneration story, if that pre-credits sequence is anything to go by). Anyway, this is Moffat, so who knows whether Bill is gone for good or not. Part of me wants him to use some narrative sleight of hand to press the reset button and get Bill back completely intact. Part of me knows, however, that if he does, I’m somehow going to feel cheated… What a dilemma!
Anyway, as for the rest of the episode; it was weird and wonderful with only the odd mis-step. It’s one of two this year that I think I’ll be re-watching again soon, rather than when I happen to catch a repeat: the other being Eaters of Light.
On balance, I think it’s been a very good year for Who and the TARDIS team has been fantastic. I think that Bill, Nardole, and the Twelfth Doctor could have easily done another season without wearing out their welcome. Oh well, let’s hope they pitch up at Big Finish at some point instead…
Oh, and we had (another) confirmation that his name totally is Doctor Who.
Deal with it, Fan Boy!!!
“Doctor Who is required!”
Some episodes of Doctor Who fall under an umbrella we might label Event Stories. A Good Man Goes To War (and its immediate follow-up) might be a decent example; The Wedding of River Song is another. Monsters and threats are all present and more or less correct, but the McGuffins serve the dramatic purpose of padding out the running time between the twists. Put simply, these stories are not about the story; they’re about traversing the arc. Event Stories are usually the ones that people remember, because they are the game changers – the ones that kill, that resurrect, that shine a torch onto the identity papers of heretofore mysterious, enigmatic guest stars.
World Enough and Time is a classic case of an Event Story. This is not an episode that you watch for the meat, because by and large there isn’t any. Oh, there are Things That Happen. Many of the Things That Happen will have the fans talking: one or two undoubtedly resulted in the collective dropping of jaws. Nonetheless, it is the moments, rather than the whole, that you carry with you. That’s not to do it a complete disservice: Bill is as good as ever, the hospital is appropriately creepy, and Rachel Talalay shows once more exactly why she’s one of the best directors in the business. John Simm is marvellous as the Fagin-like, heavily accented Mr Razor, and Missy’s “Doctor Who” exchange with Bill and Nardole takes an axe to the fourth wall and essentially summarises every conversation I’ve ever had on Facebook. It’s just a shame that that moments like these couldn’t have occurred within the confines of an actual story – instead of a collection of vignettes and moments, stitched together into a Frankensteinian whole, much like the shambling abominations that haunt the corridors of the Mondasian spacecraft.
Nasty, brutal, horrifying, and with an undertone of dread throughout. A masterclass in how to do it.
I maintain that Doctor Who works best not when it’s trying to be a whimsical sub-Hitchhickers smart-alec fest, nor when it’s a children’s high-brow adventure series, nor when it’s a straight science fiction programme, but when it’s essentially a horror series with science fiction elements: horror with natural rather than supernatural threats, but horror nonetheless.
The best episode since The Day of the Doctor. Brilliantly written and realised: the hospital scenes were Gilliam-esque in their surreal brutality, the proto-Cybermen’s distress was genuinely pitiful. Beautifully acted by the regulars and the guest cast. John Simm superb both as Fagin and as the Master, radiating a palpable sense of sadism and malice — a sense which the production team buried too far deep in Michelle Gomez’s performance, overplaying the comedy and overdoing the silliness (though she’s been better this season).
The episode made the original Cybermen genuine and horrific; the cloth faces were part of their essence rather than the result of budget problems, the slight streamlining of the originals tidied up some of the odder aspects of the design. The voices recalled the originals but were similarly tidied up. It’s entirely fitting that the Cybermen are born from an apocalyptic and despairing society. Humanity wills its survival and the price it pays is too high.
I found Capaldi’s first two seasons to be mediocre, on the whole. This season has given us the best run of stories since Amy and Rory left, and this episode was one of the best of all nu-Who.
If Chris Chibnall can give us anything approaching this sort of standard, I can’t wait.
A new Moffatian classic – part 1. This doesn’t just pay tribute to Bill Hartnell’s final serial, it really is the beginning of the end of an era. Rachel Talalay captures the essence of the scariness and thrills that make the Mondasian Cybermen appear horrifying for the audience, and let’s not forget the visualisation of the dystopian war-torn town that would remind the fans of Big Finish’s Spare Parts.
One of the most hilarious aspects of the script was the whole “Doctor Who” name identity gag, which I consider a reference to the whole title-meaning dispute from the Classic era production documents; not to mention the Cushing films in which his ‘incarnation’ was a human named “Dr. Who”. Almost every single moment with “Mr. Razor” got me guessing, “is it really John Simm being a Master of disguise?” I call that an homage to the Hood from Thunderbirds, who literally rips off his mask.
The shocking revelation of Bill’s conversion to a Cybermen, with the two Masters actually being part of the – almost a title drop – “Genesis of the Cybermen”, was one classic cliffhanger to send chills down my spine. Speaking of which, could this also be the Master’s plan to subliminally revive his “Master Race” agenda, by making all the hospital patients resemble robotic KKK? We may be right, but there could be a twist.
And to conclude, why did they have to spoil the closing minutes by omitting the “To Be Continued” caption, then adding the “Next Time” trailer for The Doctor Falls, just like what happened with Heaven Sent? Nevertheless, I’m glad that I have no concerns about the entire plot or structuring. Let’s see what happens in Part 2…
I have a lot of problems with World Enough and Time, but the funny thing is, they pale in comparison with how enjoyable it is. Series 10 has been a very strong one, but this is surely one if its best instalments.
I say this despite having the whole plot sketched out in my head beforehand. I knew Bill was going to die then get “saved” by the Cybermen. I knew there was this lovely time dilation thing affecting their ship. I even knew the Master was going to be in disguise. Honestly, all this was pretty easy to work out quite far in advance. And yet it all worked beautifully! Perhaps this is less about the story itself and more about its tone, its direction, its thoroughly unnerving Cybermen.
Pearl Mackie’s a wonderful actress, and seeing Bill die was horrendous. The time dilation is a stunning bit of fact in fiction, ideal for Steven Moffat’s writing. And I actually gasped at the moment I realised who Mr. Razor was! Like, a physical gasp.
Let’s get this straight: I hated the meta bits because I generally do; I’m nervous this will all go a bit Death in Heaven; and I hated that, for the third finale in a row, Moffat had to reinforce the “gender swapping regenerations” rubbish. Seriously, if you were that enamoured with the idea, you should’ve just cast a female Doctor (and this is coming from a big fan of Steven’s).
But what the heck. John Simm is back as the Master. He’s funny and smart and genuinely threatening. He’s oddly charming as ever. He’s My Master. Here come the drums…
Pretty overwhelming praise, eh? Yet its reputation will surely depend on The Doctor Falls, the Series 10 finale. Not long now…