Doctor Who Episode 12 | The Doctor Falls
Written by Steven Moffat | Directed by Rachel Talalay
It’s OK everyone. Bill can come back. Y’all can breathe again.
Hands down my favourite episode of the series so far and potentially the best finale we’ve seen in a while ‘The Doctor Falls’ proves that Moffat and Talalay are a creative force to be reckoned with. This episode contained some amazing moments from beautiful scenes and imagery, epic speeches and unexpected sexual tension. Even though Peter Capaldi still has one more episode to go as our beloved grumpy, old man Doctor he will definitely be going out with a bang with his tremendous performance in this episode.
I was genuinely nervous throughout this entire episode; I didn’t see how they were going to get past the Cybermen; I didn’t see how Bill was ever going to return to normal; I knew ( or ‘knew’) The Doctor was going to regenerate at some point but not when. The stakes were so high and every scene, unlike in some Doctor Who episodes before, a happy ending wasn’t guaranteed. Part of this was because we know that the Mondasian Cybermen survive even if you never watched Classic Who which means the Doctor doesn’t necessarily defeat them. And because of some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff (I realised I haven’t used the official term yet), Missy doesn’t remember how this event ends even though she lived it as the Master so her survival was no comfort. We don’t even, necessarily, get a happy ending either.
Bill, though technically alive, can never really return to her old life and the way she was before and Missy never got the chance to prove that she would stand with the Doctor. If/when she survives and regenerates there’s no guarantee she’s going to continue her journey to goodness and the Doctor might never get his old friend back. There was a lot of stories built within this two-parter and I feel like everything had a worthy conclusion even if they weren’t necessarily what we wanted for each character.
Now I know, we’ve actually seen Bill’s story arch before; the first time we met Clara she was Oswin, a Dalek tricking herself into thinking she was a pilot trapped inside her ship but this version was far heavier and far more emotional. Firstly, this was something that was done to Bill to hurt the Doctor. If you truly want to hurt the Doctor make him powerless and make him feel responsible. The Doctor promised to not let Bill die and essentially got her into something worse than death and allowed her to become one of his greatest enemies. One of the best scenes was between the Doctor and Bill when the latter, when questioning him on why he said he could fix her, asks “Were you lying…Were you right?” to which the answer was “No” to both. It was heart breaking to see that the Doctor would do absolutely everything to fix Bill all the while knowing there was nothing he could do and the Master being in the background of this entire conversation makes it even crueller.
I was on the verge tears a number of times all the way up to the end with the epic and fully deserved kiss. It seems like Moffat has learned from past criticisms and didn’t bog the finale down with an epic and complicated through line throughout the series and just foreshadowed tiny bits of information and character development which allowed the final plot to unfold as it did. We had the Doctor trying to make Missy good again something which had a great pay off at the end, unbeknownst to the Doctor. We also get reminded that Bill is a survivor and her mind and will is constantly underestimated. We came full circle with Bill and Heather’s story line and the ‘I don’t think [the tears] are mine’ was a great touch because it wasn’t obvious. I’m not certain how far into shooting and writing the series was when the first episode aired but I can’t help but think that the writers were acutely aware that if Bill didn’t get a happy ending of some sort the fan-girls/boys would be onto them immediately. But I’m not complaining; after so much tension and darkness, it was nice to get a reprieve.
Missy and the Master together had a fantastic story arch together and who knows if we’re going to see him/her again? The answer is probably but not for a few years. The scene when Missy kills the Master was, in a weird way, beautifully poetic. We now know that the Doctor got to her and was trying in her own twisted way to be good and be the friend that he used to know but in order to do that she literally had to silence her past. My only gripe with that scene is that they cut away to the Doctor and what was going on elsewhere in the episode before continuing with Missy’s death. I would have loved one continuous scene of the Master closing a loop and saying one epic goodbye Michelle Gomez as Missy and John Simm as the Master.
I have to admit I didn’t need the sexual suggestions from the Master towards his future self, I thought it got weird but in the end that particular Master was all sorts of crazy and it didn’t surprise me necessarily I just didn’t need it.
The directing in this episode was superb. The image of Cyber-Bill carrying the Doctor is set to become iconic in the Doctor Who world and it’s well deserved. As with the whole concept of time being slower at one end of the ship to the other the constant changing between Bill as a Cyberman and as her original self could have been confusing. Talalay flicked between the two just enough so that we understood: a) what was going on and b) the emotional beat of the scene. Bill’s projection of herself as she was, was essentially a coping mechanism and apart from cruel japes by the Master it’s never played for laughs and we got to see the situation from two angles; Bill’s and everyone else around her.
I also love how we brought back The Doctor as the action hero in that he doesn’t always have to save the universe through talking or getting someone to think long and hard about something, usually their innate humanity. This was epitomised in the Doctor’s speech with Missy and the Master where he talks about a moral stand point, the idea of just ‘being kind’, but it falls on mostly deaf ears. Even though Missy hears him and ‘kills’ the Master afterwards it doesn’t actually solve the situation and the Doctor has to actively fight and defeats the Cybermen, not through wit or a clever mistake they simply overlooked. As I’ve probably said before I can get frustrated with Moffat’s writing but throughout this series in particular, especially with these last two episodes, he showed us why we love Doctor Who so much and how he is the mastermind behind such iconic episodes as ‘Blink’. I’m looking forward to having new eyes on Doctor Who again but Moffat will be missed.
Obviously, Moffat, King of plot twists couldn’t make Capaldi’s regeneration simple. He had to raise the tension to its peak then be like “LOL, now you have to wait five months” but for once I’m not frustrated in an angry way because it delays Capaldi’s departure a little more. Every new Doctor has big shoes to fill and Thirteen (or fourteen depending on who you ask) will be no different. Obviously, the jump from the young fresh faced Matt Smith to the oldest Doctor we’ve had yet took some time getting used to but when Capaldi got into the rhythm he shined.
We are going to get our first female Doctor at Christmas and for that, I am definitely excited. I think the best thing the writers could do would be to treat a female Doctor as they treated Bill’s sexuality in this Series in that they point it out but don’t over emphasise it in every episode. The Doctor is the Doctor because of what he’s been through and what he continues to do i.e. be kind despite everything.
Great finale. See you in five months apparently.