Today’s Doctor Who sounded the cloister bells, as the Doctor stood for one last time against the Cybermen to save his closest friends, his oldest foe, and people he’d never even met before. There were shocks, there were tears, and we can discuss them all in our final weekly thread of the season!
“The Doctor Falls” could probably never truly live up to its first half, the stunningly dread-laden “World Enough and Time” — although it did try, what with the wonderfully atmospheric shots of Cybermen from various eras (oh, how I wish they hadn’t used the time dilation excuse to bring in the newer models!) slowly but surely encircling the Doctor and his allies. But while “World Enough and Time” was, really, an exercise in growing despair, “The Doctor Falls” was about hope: Hope for a way out, hope for a way to fix Bill, hope for Missy to avoid the temptation of her past self’s villainy. The fact that not many of the people involved got the hope they wished for arguably made it even more depressing than its predecessor.
Missy, having made a last-minute decision to side with the Doctor, kills her former self (Steven Moffat does love showing how every regeneration comes about, doesn’t he?), only for him to seemingly “finally” kill her rather than let her turn her back on him, the Master’s ultimate act of narcissism. Nardole is forced to say goodbye to the Doctor and Bill, full of regret that he’ll never see them again — and, even more chillingly, with the realisation that all they have done is allow him and other refugees of the ship to live to survive another day, with the Cybermen waiting to regroup and strike back. The only person who really gets that hope is poor Bill, rescued at the last minute by her space-oil magic love interest (as you do) from the first episode of the season. It’s a bit of a cop-out — the third companion “death but not really” in a row for Moffat’s tenure — but even if it means Bill is now flying around the cosmos with her oil-girlfriend like Clara is flying around with Me, someone in this finale had to have a happy ending.
Because really, it wasn’t the Doctor who’d get one. In fact, he maybe gets the most tragic and dark ending of all. Having completed a remarkable journey from a man who went around with a human so she could “care for him” to a man willing to stake everything, not just his current life but all of his future lives, in an act of random kindness, he now faces the horror of trying to force himself to die forever — no matter how much his own body wants him to regenerate and carry on, no matter how much his former companions want him to, either. Good job there’s going to be someone there for him at Christmas to help him finish this journey then, isn’t it? Ladies and Gentlemen, your Doctor Who Christmas special stars:
Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor and David Bradley as the First, courtesy of the BBC Press Office.
We’ll have more to say in our final recap of the season later this week, but for now, let us know what you thought in the comments.