Series Ten, Episode Twelve — “The Doctor Falls”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. Even the excessively loquacious Nardole was at a loss for words when the moment came to express his sadness at leaving The Doctor and Bill. Doctor Who has certainly tugged at our heart-strings in the past, but I struggle to think of a more emotional episode than “The Doctor Falls.”
For starters, four out of the five main characters die over the course of the episode (as much as anyone actually dies in Doctor Who). Deaths in the Whoniverse aren’t sad events in and of themselves, as we’ve been conditioned to expect our dearly departed to pop back up on the other side of a clever narrative trick eventually. This time ’round, our characters have plenty of time to contemplate the inevitable, which means a surfeit of fervent monologues on the nature of existence, self, and plain ol’ doing what’s right.
All five of them wore their existential crises quite well. Through the use of an excellent plot device in which Bill was unable to see herself as a Cyberman, we were able to watch Pearl Mackie’s enormously expressive features as she slowly came to terms with being stripped of most of her humanity. Hanging in a limbo between person and Cyberman is no way to live, and she was all set to destroy herself for the greater good.
The Doctor was uncharacteristically supportive of her kamikaze musings, as he spent much of the last two episodes fighting against regeneration, loathe to become a stranger again. Being true to oneself is a no-brainer for Bill, but how does that work for Time Lords, exactly? After his time in the Confession Dial and a dozen regenerations, he’s a veritable Ship of Theseus these days.
Unfortunately, The Master and Missy simply cannot exist side by side for too long. That sort of duplicitousness, while delightful to watch in Michelle Gomez, isn’t sustainable. Not even having two hearts gives you the license to be two people at once, and The Master’s unsurpassable stubbornness left him no choice – kill the competition, even if it’s you.
Only Nardole could make it out intact, but while he may still be everybody’s favorite razzing egg, what is life when you’re plunked into a space ship to wait for an inevitable fiery death?
Bill was given a beautiful send-off, ultimately transformed into something not quite so bleak as a Cyberman by her watery love interest from “The Pilot”. It was a nice touch and a dreamy, fairy tale route to a happy ending. Was it believable that she would forge a love connection that deep with someone she only met a few times? Perhaps; Bill is quite the romantic, after all.
Regardless, flying through space with some version of Heather certainly beats being a Cyberman. Or dead. And The Doctor’s prolonged regeneration is steeped in suspense with a dash of confusion, now that we know the First Doctor is milling about in the wings. I have absolutely adored Peter Capaldi in this role, and have no doubt he will outdo himself in his final performance as The Doctor, which should be all the more endearing with the addition of David Bradley. And now for the annual interminable wait until Christmas.
“Like sewage, smartphones, and Donald Trump – some things are just inevitable.” – The Doctor
“I don’t want to live if I can’t be me anymore.” – Bill
“I can’t keep on being somebody else.” – The Doctor, too, is very reluctant to change.
“Where there’s tears, there’s hope.” – The Doctor
BEST MOMENT: Missy’s/The Master’s bizarre suicide was a perfect exit for Michelle Gomez. Deftly executed, and with acerbic class to the very end, Missy ends The Master’s reign of terror. Naturally, The Master gets in one last blast, snuffing Missy out simultaneously. What does this say about good versus evil, exactly? That people who are truly rotten will never be able to exist as good? Either way, I found myself unconvinced that The Master is gone forever. That evil laugh down the elevator shaft left the door ever so slightly ajar for a return.
SERIES’ MVP: Pearl Mackie gave a phenomenal performance from start to finish. You’d have to possess the emotional range of a Cyberman not to tear up at least a little as you watched her come to terms with her new state of self. I’ve been a little critical of Bill this season, as she was sometimes written as almost clownish and less clever than her predecessors. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect genius from your run-of-the-mill chip slinger. Or, more importantly, perhaps we should focus on what The Doctor found to be exceptional in her – a brave and genuine kindness.
– Aside from a few stinker episodes, this season was pretty great. However, I still contend that an opportunity was sorely missed by not giving Missy and Nardole more screen time together, and that makes me sadder than having to sit through the Monks’ story.
– The Monks story does seem like a real easy way to revive people from the past. I suppose there’s always the possibility to claim pretty much anything was a simulation if the writers are so inclined. I hope that doesn’t happen.
– Nardole’s exit represents my least favorite aspect of The Doctor. I don’t care how silver-tongued or logical he is; I cannot stand it when his companions are cornered into living lives not quite their own (a la Rose Tyler).
– The Master’s creepy lasciviousness towards Missy produced some very uncomfortable mental images of how he entertained himself while marooned on that colony ship for all those years. I reckon there were mirrors.
10 out of 10
Series 10 Score: 7.5 out of 10
Before: “World Enough and Time”, here.