Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The Gallifrey Times Team Reviews The Doctor Falls

Warning: The following reviews contain spoilers for The Doctor Falls. If you have not yet seen the episode, we suggest you stop reading right now.

Bill is a Cyberman, there's two Masters, the Doctor has started regenerating... what more could you ask for in a finale? What did our team make of The Doctor Falls? Let's find out...

Ben (Assistant Editor)

A series finale is always a big event, but with this being Capaldi’s last finale and World Enough And Time being such a success, I had high hopes for The Doctor Falls. Fortunately, the episode lived up to the promise… mostly.

The big draw for this episode was undoubtedly the two Masters working side by side. It’s surprising this has never been done (on screen) before, because it really worked well, allowing two top class actors to expertly bounce off each other. The many jokes and contrast in attitudes made the pairing so interesting and entertaining. Although I wasn’t always a big fan of either Simm’s Master or Gomez’s Missy, I loved Simm’s latest take on the character; less wacky and more of a sense of evil, right up until the end when he turns on his own future self.

As well as multiple Masters, we also had several versions of the Cybermen. Whilst they were mostly just quiet armies marching, the moments we got with the Mondasian Cybermen were very exciting and nostalgic. These versions of the Cybermen work surprisingly well and even the partly converted scarecrow-like versions are just as creepy. Seeing Bill flit between her Cyberman and normal self was an interesting idea. Whilst it did mean we saw less of her Cyberman persona, we did get an insight into what it is like for those converted into the metal monstrosities.

Although the Twelfth Doctor’s time is drawing to an end, Capaldi was still on top form and proved once again just how great his Doctor is, giving one hell of a performance throughout the episode, with each scene going from humour to drama to heartbreak. The Twelfth Doctor has always excelled at big speeches, and his speech to the Masters was an incredible moment. I rarely get emotional watching Doctor Who, but his speech - which gave great insight into the Doctor’s motives and feelings towards what he does - did make me shed a tear. The speech was made even more impressive by Simm’s Master casually ignoring it in typical Master style.

Nardole too proved himself a memorable companion, with a good balance of humour and drama. His final scene waiting for the Doctor was particularly moving and I’m going to miss his character - something I never thought I’d say at the start of the series. We also got a glimpse of David Bradley's First Doctor at the end of the episode. Whilst I struggled to suspend disbelief that this was the same character as William Hartnell's Doctor - especially after seeing An Adventure In Space And Time - I look forward to seeing how the two Doctors interact in the Christmas special.

There were a few things that niggled me. Bill no longer being a Cyberman by the end of the episode was a big disappointment. Though I understand that Moffat wanted it to be a happy, optimistic ending, I would’ve liked him to have stuck with it and killed a character off for good before he left. On the other hand, supposedly killing off Missy and denying her regeneration was a step too far. Though he Master never stays dead for long and he (or she) will no doubt be back in a few years time, saying she can’t regenerate only complicates the character’s inevitable return. The excessive flashbacks and references to previous Doctors’ regenerations felt a bit much and too much like fan service. We know Moffat loves a reference, but the flashback didn’t make that much sense considering it was all of the companions from the post-2005 series. The Twelfth Doctor only ever travelled with Clara and Bill, so why would he remember Rose or Martha and not any of his other companions prior to them? I also don’t understand why Bill couldn’t have just blown up the floor (as Nardole had planned) and let the Doctor escape. Finally, the Doctor’s great reluctance to regenerate seems a little odd considering he was prepared to die earlier and knew what it would lead to.

However, those few niggles aside, this was a near perfect episode. With an engaging story, stunning performances from all and impressive direction, The Doctor Falls stands up as one of the best series finales to date and a brilliant final chapter for Capaldi’s much loved Doctor.

Patrick (news)

The Doctor Falls is a very different finale to those we have witnessed in years past. You come to expect an uptick in explosions, a near-death experience for The Doctor and perhaps a companion departure. We get all of this for Series 10's ending, but delivered with a respect and love for the characters I have never seen from a finale. The return of John Simm's Master is much more of a character study into The Master himself/herself, serving as the culmination of Series 10's Missy turning good story arc. Simm's Master is here not to directly cause death and misery, but to serve as the perfect foil for the sublime Michelle Gomez's Missy. The introspection of character is what turns The Doctor Falls into a masterclass of writing and acting, with Peter, Pearl, Michelle and Matt giving their greatest performances. Mr Capaldi in particular is truly heart wrenching, an actor and character who so clearly do not want to leave. Twelve's refusal to regenerate is something we have seen before with Ten at his end, but this is different. There is no vanity keeping Twelve alive or a desire to right wrongs; The Doctor has simply had enough of changing. Peter Capaldi captures that pain perfectly and heads into this year's Christmas Special in a mental state unlike anything seen before. Steven Moffat, with his penultimate story, writes his greatest character study.

Suman (news)

Often with Doctor Who’s two-part finales, the second episode can buckle under the huge weight of expectation placed on it by an excellent opener. Not so with The Doctor Falls, which succeeds in matching World Enough and Time’s high standard whilst providing an unexpectedly stripped-back conclusion to this series. That’s not to say that it doesn’t see its fair share of action, of course, but the stand-off on Floor 507 ultimately acts as a backdrop to some of the most fascinating and intricate character work ever seen in a Doctor Who finale.

For instance, The Doctor Falls sees the culmination of Missy’s character arc, a thread that’s been woven throughout this series. Although disappointing that the presence of two Masters isn’t more central to the plot, the dynamic between Michelle Gomez and John Simm is nevertheless compelling, with the latter’s presence drawing Missy’s internalised conflict out into the open. Caught as she is between his brand of cruelty and the Doctor’s morality, Missy’s ambiguity is genuinely intriguing to watch, with her eventual resolve to stand with the Doctor leading to her downfall at the hand of her younger self. Simm excels with his most nuanced portrayal of his incarnation to date, whilst Gomez’s vibrant, playful take on the character has been a joy to watch and will be deeply missed.

But Missy’s is not the only departure in The Doctor Falls. Nardole’s deadpan wit has been a welcome constant throughout his time on the show, and it is gratifying to see him play a more significant role in his final episode. As well as humour, however, Matt Lucas has portrayed Nardole’s quieter, more emotive moments well – such as his touching goodbye to the Doctor and Bill – but with his backstory again only hinted at, it feels like we’ve been somewhat robbed of joining Nardole on the journey of redemption that he seems to have been on throughout the series.

Bill, on the other hand, has so often been the emotional heart of the show, and so it is here. It’s an inspired move to have Pearl Mackie play Bill as a Cyberman, with her expressive acting skill fully portraying Bill’s horror and distress at her situation, contrasted with the cold unmoving image of the Mondasian Cyberman she has become. Even at the end, Bill’s inner strength wins through as she refuses to surrender her humanity, playing a key role in events and retaining her agency throughout. Whilst Bill’s impact as a companion cannot be faulted, her departure may prove somewhat more divisive. Although Heather’s re-appearance to rescue her is a bit of a deus ex machina, linking it into an explanation for Bill’s tears is an elegant way of making it work. It may also be a re-tread of Clara’s exit with Ashildr, Bill and Heather’s previously established romantic connection means that it ultimately ends up being a poetic, fitting fate for Bill to end up travelling the universe with the girl with a star in her eye.

And with Bill’s exit taking her back to the beginning, the Doctor’s does so too on an even grander scale. It’s already a bittersweet ending for the Twelfth Doctor, who presumably will never know that Bill survived or that Missy, in the end, tried to do the right thing. The roll call of past companions and lines from previous Doctors shamelessly tugs at the heartstrings even more, as the Doctor stubbornly holds off his regeneration before coming face-to-face with his original incarnation. Of everyone in this series finale, the Twelfth Doctor’s own character arc has been the longest; Deep Breath saw him question whether he was a good man, and The Doctor Falls sees his answer. His stirring, heartfelt speech to Missy and the Master – surely destined to be one of the standout moments of Capaldi’s era - is backed up by his unwavering compassion and moving self-sacrifice. The Doctor Falls leads into what will surely be a memorable send-off for the Twelfth Doctor, and provides an incredible end to what has been an incredible series.