BBC One – 7:35pm – Saturday 1st July 2017
Written by: Steven Moffat
Directed by: Rachel Talalay
HANGING ON IN A HURRICANE
“We’re not going to get out of this one, are we?”
On the day when fandom is anxiously awaiting the reveal of who will be the new face of the Time Lord’s 13th regeneration, I finally bring my run of reviews of Peter Capaldi’s final series to a close. Episode 10.11, “World Enough and Time” (reviewed HERE), had me impressed and enthralled, if ultimately frustrated that the entire instalment felt like little more than a tease for this hour-long finale. My anticipation, therefore, was high, especially as this concluding part was written and directed by the same duo as last week, exiting showrunner Steven Moffat and director Rachel Talalay. Safe hands, right?
My initial thought as we opened on an olde worlde hillock, with a horse drawn cart rumbling past cross-chained “scarecrows,” is that Moffat and Talalay were going out of their way to make 10.12 feel unique, to stand on its own. Indeed, despite continuing the same story with the same main cast, “The Doctor Falls” couldn’t have felt more divorced from 10.11’s steampunk, ship-bound adventure.
Except this is still aboard the same 400mile-long colony ship; this higher rural ‘level’ a solar farm, the ‘sky’ a hologram. Companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) is still confined inside and converted into a primitive Mondasian Cyberman, while nefarious antagonists Missy (Michelle Gomez) and the Master (John Simm), two different incarnations of the same foe, are still hellbent on capturing the Doctor. Can the good Time Lord convince them to stay and help in the fight against the evolving Cybermen army, fleeing the hull of the ship in what is known as “Operation Exodus”?
Critical reaction to “The Doctor Falls” has been universally high, but I was wholly disappointed. Bill’s fate is undoubtedly heart-breaking, doubly so because her mind still sees herself as human, while the villagers fear her metallic casing, but surely her character arc was pointing to some revelatory reunion with her biological mother? Instead her story wraps up by bringing back her puddle-morphing crush (Stephanie Hyam) from the excellent 10.1, “The Pilot” (reviewed HERE). It brings symmetry, sure, and is an attempt at a happy-ending for the doomed companion, but Heather’s return felt haphazard, unestablished, a quick-fix to write out an exiting actor.
John Simm’s return to Who after years away was touted as a huge deal, doubly so given that Missy’s appearance made this two-parter the first ever multi-Master serial. Yet despite being well set up to cause utmost calamity in “The Doctor Falls,” the Doctor quickly outsmarts their rooftop kidnapping attempt, and the self-appointed “genius twins” spend the rest of the episode simply hanging around like pissed off pests, half-heartedly fleeing while spouting smarmy dialogue which made these supposed ‘big bads’ feel like little more than pantomime villains! The cruellest the Master got was laconically admitting to not listening to the Doctor’s impassioned speech. Such a pitiful waste.
The hour wound up with the ailing Doctor repeated delaying his upcoming regeneration (“You can’t keep on being someone else,”) to allow Capaldi one final appearance in the 2017 Christmas special. The return of a familiar face (a perfectly cast Dave Bradley, playing the role for a second time after 2013 docudrama An Adventure in Time and Space) was a welcome left-field tease, but once again asks more questions than it answers! How can critics hail “The Doctor Falls” a fitting conclusion when so much dissatisfied and nothing was concluded, merely postponed?!
CR@B’s Claw Score: