The final season for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor has come to an end. With only one more appearance in this year’s Christmas special, he leaves behind his mark on a legacy. He has done a wonderful job with the role, and even with a few terrible scripts, he has been able to shine through and I am going to miss him. With this final episode of the season, he has cemented his place in television history. While the Doctor Falls is easily one of the better season finales we’ve had, it’s not without its flaws.
We begin on the same massive spaceship from the previous episode where Bill Potts has been converted into a Cyberman. The ship is so big that each floor is its own little world. On floor 507, we find a small farming community where the hooded patients from the hospital at the bottom of the ship invade the landscape. Some are shot and killed, some are captured and turned into scarecrows. While the farmers defend themselves from the patients, a small rocket ship smashes up through the ground and lands. Bill the Cyberman carries out an unconscious Doctor in her metallic arms.
After the opening titles, we see the Doctor tied to a chair on the roof of the hospital. The entire city has become a Cyber-conversion factory. The Master and evil-once-more Missy are interrogating him. They are playing a sick game with him, asking him how he has died in his previous incarnations and then ask him how he wants to die this time. The Master and Missy dance around the rooftop, mocking the Doctor and poking fun at Bill. The Doctor asks about Gallifrey since the last time we saw John Simm’s Master, he was trapped there with the rest of the Time Lords. The Master claims that him finally leaving the planet was a mutual agreement between him and the Time Lords. Why do I get a funny feeling that this ‘agreement’ ended up with someone dead?
As the two villains berate the Doctor, they notice the Cybermen are looking for them. How could this be? Of course, it was the Doctor reprogramming the computer systems during a brief seconds long opportunity he had. The Cybermen reach the rooftop and when the Doctor’s life is threatened, Missy knocks out the Master and frees the Doctor from his bounds. At this point, we’re still not sure who’s side she is ultimately on. A small shuttlecraft flies up, hovering over the room with Nardole in the pilot’s seat. As they all try to escape, a Cyberman grabs the Doctor. Bill the Cyberman springs to action, blasting the Cyberman with the laser gun in her headpiece and rescuing him. And they use the shuttle to burst through the floors, crashing up and up until they get to floor 507 and the scene we saw at the beginning of the episode.
A brilliant part of the episode is here where we see how Bill copes with becoming a Cyberman. We find Bill as a human locked up in a barn on the farm on floor 507. This goes on for a few minutes with people keeping their distance from her as if they are afraid of her. Wondering why everyone is acting so strange towards her, a girl gives Bill a mirror. Bill sees that she is still a Cyberman. Whereas we’ve been watching the human inside the machine, the townspeople only see a metal man who seems harmless but they still fear. I like how they did this, giving us a glimpse into the tortured soul inside the metal body. Pearl Mackie does a wonderful job acting this out, and we see that Bill hasn’t quite accepted her fate as a small part of her mind is constantly fighting against the Cybermen programming.
While Nardole is preparing the townspeople and farmhands for battle against the Cybermen, the Doctor finally comes to see Bill, handing out jellybabies along the way. The Doctor tells Bill exactly what her predicament is, as she has yet to come to terms with her conversion. The Doctor knows he can’t reverse it, so he does his best to ease Bill into accepting her fate. It doesn’t go as well as he expects. Bill gets angry which triggers the laser gun and nearly blows up the barn.
The emotional moment is brought to an end when the Master joins in and is his usual complete asshole self. He taunts the Cyberman and insults it only to be refuted by her telling him she isn’t upset. The Master trods off and we see human Bill heartbroken and crying. The Doctor and Bill follow the Master, along the way, the Doctor has a mild attack and his hand begins to glow with regeneration energy, which he quickly shakes away. The Doctor is dying, but he’s not ready to let anyone know about it yet.
The Doctor and Bill meet up with the Master and Missy. Missy shows a teeny bit of compassion towards the Cyberman, and the Master puts her down for it. They have all gathered in this spot to uncover an elevator which had been hidden by holograms. The Doctor wants to use the elevator to evacuate the children since they are the primary targets of the Cybermen. Missy calls for the elevator, not knowing that there is an upgraded Cyberman inside. These new Cybermen are the steel armor ones we have become used to lately, but without the Cybus logo that the ‘parallel universe’ Cybermen had.
Missy posits that they can all just take the elevator up to the top floor and escape in the TARDIS. It’s a good idea with one major drawback, thanks to the way time flows faster at the bottom of the ship, they could never reach the top without the Cybermen finding a way to stop them. Getting back to the TARDIS is a ‘mathematical impossibility’ according to the Doctor.
The new Cybermen have amassed an army and are on their way up to the farm floor and the Doctor hurries to come up with a plan. Luckily, Nardole has been working on the townspeople’s weaponry to cause whatever gets shot at to explode. It’s kind of hard to explain, he’s not upgrading the weapons themselves, but making the ground explode wherever the shot lands. Apparently, on this massive spaceship, the structure between floors can be triggered to explode remotely.
Missy discusses with her past self that if they go back down to the Cybercity at the bottom of the ship, they can escape in the Master’s TARDIS. The Master tells her that his TARDIS is broken, his dematerialization circuit blew out. Missy tells the Master that no matter what he does from here on out, to always carry a spare demat circuit with him. Missy then takes a working circuit out of her pocket. (If it worked in the Bill and Ted movies, it should work here.) The circuit looks the same to the one we saw the First Doctor and Third Doctor tinker with. It’s attention to detail like this that makes me smile.
The Cybermen are on their way up, crashing through floor after floor. Bill is still coping with her new body by getting shot at by Hazran, the woman who runs the farm. The Master and Missy tell the Doctor of their plan to go back to the Master’s TARDIS while the Doctor tells of his plan to save the farm by taking them five floors up to get away from the Cybermen. Why? The Master asks when he knows the plan is futile. The Cybermen will just follow them up and wipe them all out up there.
The Doctor gives one of the best speeches he has given so far. He does what he does not to win, not to be a hero, but to be kind and to do what’s right. I was tempted to transcribe it here because it is a simple but powerful speech, but there’s no way I could do justice to the way Peter Capaldi delivers it. The Doctor asks the Master to stand with him. The Master is forever cold and tells the Doctor he wasn’t listening. Missy refuses to help him as well but leaves the Doctor with a tiny sliver of hope.
The Cybermen have reached floor 507 and it’s time to attack the farm. Nardole says that he can blow up the entire floor, destroying everything on it including the Cybermen. The Doctor gets the adults to fight while he wants Nardole to take the children up to safety. Cyberman Bill and the Doctor will fight the Cybermen down here.
The Master and Missy prepare to take the elevator back down. Before they do, she embraces him and silently stabs him. The Master is impressed at this knowing no other person could ever trick him so. The Master now only has a certain amount of time to get back to his TARDIS before he regenerates, but he has one last question to ask Missy. Why did she kill him? She simply tells him its because the Doctor was right after all, and it’s time to join him. The Master can’t accept that and shoots Missy in the back, telling her not to bother regenerating, it won’t work. The Master leaves to go regenerate and Missy dies. Is this the end for the Doctor’s oldest enemy? We have no idea. It’s entirely possible that she will regenerate and keep on living, but Missy is no more.
The Doctor fights the Cybermen, blowing them up with his sonic screwdriver. It’s not explained how, but since it’s pretty much used as a magic wand anyway, let’s just go with it. As he fights, The Doctor remembers his past battles with the Cybermen. On planets Mondas, Telos, Voga, Planet 14, Marinus, and on the moon and Canary Wharf. He remembers them all, but he is vastly outnumbered and is quickly surrounded by Cybermen and is shot at point blank range. He drops to his knees and begins to regenerate. Instead of giving in, he blows up the floor and kills all the Cyberman and himself in the process. As he is dying, he is disappointed to not see any stars over head, just the hull of the spaceship they’re inside of. Bill finds him and cries over his dead body, a tear escaping from the metal eye socket of the Cyberman which lands on the Doctor.
Nardole has made it safely upstairs with the children and the farmhands. Everything is safe, for how long, they do not know.
This would have been the perfect ending, but we fall victim to another of Moffat’s deus ex machina. Bill is rescued by Heather, the water girl from The Pilot episode. They get the Doctor back to the TARDIS and Bill gets to live forever with Heather, the girl who tried to kill her twelve episodes ago. I need to express how much of a disappointment this was for me. It was too much of a cop-out, a cheap move to force a happy ending, and, as far as I’m concerned, sloppy writing. It was almost a carbon copy of how Clara cheated death last season, which I didn’t like either for the same reasons. It canceled out the emotional impact of Bill being stripped of her humanity, essentially murdered, and thrust into a robotic body. Even if the Doctor could have saved her properly by finding a way to reverse the conversion process, that would have been much more plausible. A part of her mind might still be Bill, but every other Cyberman story in the history of the show informs us that the process is irreversible. Bringing her back to life in such a ‘Peter Pan’ way ruined it for me. But there’s one thing I can do to remedy that. In my head, I simply say that Bill being rescued and saved by Heather was nothing more than the fevered dreams of a dying Cyberman while the Doctor mustered up the last bit of his energy to get on his feet and stagger into the nearest elevator and make it back to the TARDIS.
But enough of that, time to get to the Christmas episode teaser.
The Doctor is sick and tired of regenerating, and either wants to stay in this body or just finally die. He lands on the snowy field we found him on at the beginning of ‘World Enough and Time.’ Whenever the regeneration energy builds up, he forces it away desperate to stop the process. Unfortunately for him, his plans are interrupted by himself. An old familiar figure walks into sight. The Twelfth Doctor is rescued by the First Doctor. Now we find ourselves staring at the calendar and waiting for Christmas to hurry up and get here.
As I said, this was one of the best season finales we have had, even with Bill’s hackneyed revival. There are still a few questions that went unanswered, but those can be saved for later. Even though it is doubtful that Missy will survive in her current form, and although I would love to see John Simm’s Master one more time, I think it is safe to say that since Missy never directly confirmed that she was the Master’s very next incarnation, we still have room for a new Master at some point. The Master will undoubtedly live on and return at some point in the future.
But not Bill. She’s bloody dead.