This. This episode right here is one of the best examples of why I will be sad to see Peter Capaldi leave the show at the end of the year. I know, I know, it was purely his decision and I’m not going to sit around and cry about it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t absolutely gush about his portrayal of the Doctor. I am damn close to calling him my favorite of the modern-era Doctors. I have a hard time deciding if Eccelston, Tennant, or Smith are better than the other two, but I think Capaldi is about to top all three of them. He’s already doing very well on my list of Top 5 Doctors of all time.
In the coming weeks, I will be doing a retrospective on Capaldi’s time as the Doctor. For now, however, let’s get into World Enough and Time.
As always, massive spoilers ahead especially the whopper at the end.
The story begins on a desolate planet ravaged by ice and snow. The TARDIS lands and the Doctor stumbles outside. As he falls to his knees, his body begins to glow with regeneration energy and he cries out in pain. I’m sorry guys, but I don’t think this is THE regeneration. I’m going to give it away right now: We do not find out what happens here this episode. It’s entirely possible they could string this out until Christmas, but for now, I think this is another ‘fakeout’ regeneration, but I am wrong more than I am right about these things, so we shall see.
After the opening titles, the TARDIS lands on a spaceship which is four-hundred miles long, one-hundred miles wide and is slowly pulling away from a black hole. Fun times! The Doctor has decided to test Missy’s goodness and see how much she can be trusted. So he is sending her out of the TARDIS in his stead with Bill and Nardole along for the ride. The Doctor monitors everything carefully and is ready to jump in at any given moment.
Missy steps out of the TARDIS and gives a monologue, introducing herself and her two companions to an empty starship bridge, in her wonderful deadpan tone. This could be one of the most important monologues in the history of the show because Missy gives away a major detail of the Doctor’s mostly unknown early life. His name, for all intents and purposes, really is Doctor Who. It took them fifty-four years to get around to addressing the subject, but at least it has finally happened. In the First Doctor story The War Machines, an evil computer named WOTAN calls him Doctor Who, but no one on screen has ever questioned it.
They receive a video call on the main computer. A man tells them, for their own safety, not to leave the bridge. He cuts off the call and is presumed to be on his way to rescue them. Michelle Gomez’s acting is top-of-the-line here. She even struck the dab pose and nobody cringed. Next, the man from the computer screen bursts in waving a gun around. He’s a blue humanoid, I don’t think the name of his people has been given on the show (please correct me if I am wrong,) but I am assuming he is from the same planet as Dorium Maldovar. The gunman looks distraught and asks which of the three strangers are human. Then he notices that certain elevators are on their way up to this floor and begins to panic. The Doctor hurries out of the TARDIS, and tries to help just as Bill tells the gunman that she’s the Human one.
The Doctor does his best to talk the blue man into putting the gun down. Instead, he shoots Bill and burns a hole through her the size of a bowling ball. Needless to say, Bill isn’t in the mood for standing around all day and drops to the floor.
The next scene is a flashback of the Doctor and Bill at the University discussing the plan that we’ve just seen go horribly wrong. The major point of this scene is where Bill asks why the Doctor wants to help Missy like this after all the evil she has committed in her life. The Doctor honestly thinks she can change for the better. He believes that she can become good once more. The Doctor wants his childhood friend back and is risking the world to do so. At the end of the flashback, Bill tells the Doctor she’s scared and makes him promise she won’t be killed.
Cut back to Bill’s smoldering body. The elevator dings open and out steps a figure from a nightmare. It resembles a hospital patient with a glowing IV bag on a pole they roll around with. The face of this wretched soul is obscured by a cloth permanently attached. The way this creature communicates is by tapping a keypad at its side with an emotionless, mechanical voice speaking the words. Two more of these creatures take Bill’s body away. They announce they are going to repair Bill, but she won’t be coming back. They load Bill on to the elevator and the door slides shut.
The Doctor and Missy demand answers from the gunman. He doesn’t know where those things came from. The ship was supposed to be empty save for the fifty-man skeleton crew. Nardole brings up a screen on the computer and it shows the ship is teeming with life. It turns out they are at the very top of the four-hundred-mile spaceship. Up here there are almost no life-signs, but lower in the ship you go, the denser the human population gets. Two days ago the population of the ship was fifty, now it was in the thousands, and the Doctor knows exactly why. Since the bottom of the spaceship is closer to the black hole than the top, the immense pull of gravity makes it so weeks and months pass by on the bottom of the ship while minutes pass on the top, the point of the ship furthest away from the black hole. Now if I recall my high school physics correctly, (going back to the ancient stone age of 1993) this is all correct and legit.
The Doctor isn’t sure whether Bill is going to survive whatever was going to happen to her, and plants a subliminal message in her mind telling her to wait for him. If she’s ever conscious again, she should get the message. Bill does wake up and finds herself on a table in an operating theater. The surgeon tells her that ‘full conversion wasn’t necessary.’ The problem of the gaping hole in Bill’s torso has been solved by basically plugging it up with a machine. We now meet Bill’s caretaker while recovering from this procedure. His name is Mr. Razor and looks like he has spent more time in a prison than a hospital, but it’s the hospital where he lives and eventually brings Bill home with him.
Alone in her hospital room, Bill has a vision of the Doctor standing at the foot of her bed. He tells her to wait for him and fades away. This brings us up to a moment that sent more than a few chills up my spine. In the silence of the hospital, Bill hears a voice cry out the word ‘Pain!’ She gets out of bed and onto her feet, complete with her own IV drip to roll around with. This voice shouts out ‘Pain!’ over and over again. Here we are given a chilling moment of visual storytelling. Bill frozen in fear outside of a door with the sign CONVERSION THEATRE over it while the voice keeps yelling ‘Pain!’ and the sound of a drill coming from the inside the theater.
But the voice is coming from another room. Bill enters to find a hooded patient tapping his keypad to say Pain. The head nurse enters the room with Mr. Razor. Bill hides behind a curtain, and Razor insinuates he is here to help Bill as he distracts the nurse to keep Bill hidden. The nurse walks up to the patient and turns a knob on his IV bag. The screams of pain are quieted, and the nurse leaves with Razor telling Bill to keep hidden. When all is quiet once more, Bill examines the IV bag. The disturbing revelation is that this is not an IV bag at all, but a speaker with a volume setting. The nurse didn’t ease his pain, she just turned his volume down. Bill panics and turns the volume back down, and checks the next patient. This one is in even more pain, but Bill can’t let them make any noise lest the nurse comes back. Mr. Razor returns and has Bill follow him home. When she asks what is being done with these people, he simply answers ‘Curing them.’ One of the features of Razor’s apartment within the hospital is the direct television link to the bridge where they can watch the Doctor and gang move so slowly that they spend all week watching the Doctor raise an eyebrow. The nurse pays a visit to inform Bill that her mechanical heart won’t work outside the confines of the hospital.
As the months pass for Bill at the bottom of the ship, at the top, the Doctor has just finished explaining about the spaceship and the black hole. The Doctor tells the blue alien, who now has the name of Paul, how the fifty original crew members went to the lower floors of the spaceship and have already gone through a population explosion over a few generations. Two days up top, decades down bottom with Bill taking the slow path right along with them.
One day Bill starts asking about the patients again and Razor takes Bill outside. She can go a limited distance before her machine heart begins to fail. Razor tells her about life from his perspective down here. He tells of a dying world where everyone is afflicted by an unknown sickness. They cannot escape up to the top of the ship due to unknown dangers. Parties have gone up there only to have never been heard from again.
At the top of the ship, the Doctor finally calls for an elevator. When Bill asks Razor where the elevator opens up at on their floor, he admits he doesn’t want to tell her because he doesn’t want to lose her. He relents and they trek at night through the hospital. Avoiding not only the Nurse, but any patients along the way. But in the end, Bill is betrayed by Razor as she is captured by a medical team who are going to convert her into one of the hooded patients.
As the Doctor, Nardole and Missy arrive on the bottom floor. Missy is left on her own to look through a computer system to see if she can find anything. Mr. Razor creeps up behind her.
This is where the puzzle fit together for me. It took until this point for me to figure it all out. A lot of people who follow shows like this sometimes take to talking about when they had ‘figured everything out’ and compare notes with their friends. This is my marker, and I admit I should have seen it much, much sooner.
And I’m going to give it away right now…you have been warned.
As the Doctor and Nardole discover the patients, Missy tries to find the planet of this ship’s origin while Razor begins to play ‘Guess who I am.’ The spaceship hails from the planet Mondas, the patients are being converted into the first generation Cybermen, and Mr. Razor rips his face off to reveal he is Missy’s previous regeneration, The Master. A fresh out of the shop Cyberman approaches the Doctor. The Doctor asks the Cyberman if he knows where Bill Potts could be found. The final reveal is that the Cyberman is Bill Potts, not just any Cyberman, but the very first one. Serial number 0001. As the Doctor is confronted by Missy, the Master and what used to be Bill, the Master tells the Doctor ‘Welcome to the Genesis of the Cybermen.’
This is one of the more intense cliffhangers the show has had. The Doctor watching as everything he tried to accomplish this season falls apart before his eyes. The one problem with this episode is that we all knew John Simm was coming back as the Master, we just didn’t know when or where. Thanks to the BBC for announcing this weeks ago, they gave up the chance to give us all the mind-blowing surprise it could have been instead of “Oh yeah, here’s where he comes in.”
Thanks, BBC! I now know who not to tell any secrets to.
Below is the trailer for the final episode of the season: The Doctor Falls. Don’t watch it if you don’t want The Beeb to give away a major plot point. Seriously, never tell the BBC anything you don’t want to be plastered all over the cover of the Radio Times. (That’s the UK equivalent of our TV Guide.)