Doctor Who – ‘The Doctor Falls’

Series 10, Episode 12, Part 2 of Finale


After the intense events of the previous episode, this episodes opens with scenes of a beautiful countryside with happy children playing. However, there is more to this idyllic picture. Look closer at the blue sky and its the ceiling of a metal spaceship. The sky is merely a hologram. The scarecrows are in fact Mondasian Cybermen!

There is an alert, and the children are told to hide under their beds while the adults shoot at the invading Cybermen. Then later, a small spaceship comes up from underground, and out of the spaceship comes a Cyberman carrying the Doctor!

We flashback to a slightly earlier time, and the Doctor has been caught by Missy and the Master. They are all on the roof of the hospital, along with Bill who has been converted into a Cyberman.

Missy and the Master both sadistically taunt the Doctor about Bill’s fate and the Doctor’s responsibility for it.

Missy says how Bill is “Doomed to spent an eternal afterlife as a bio-mechanical psycho zombie.” The Master adds that the Doctor “Ten years you spent up there chatting. You missed her by two hours”. Missy adds “[The Doctor] is internalising! I love it when he’s Mr. Volcano”.

The Doctor however says he’s sure how the Master ended up here in the first place. “You never could drive!”. The Doctor’s theory is that the Master’s TARDIS got stuck, he killed people and took over the city, but they rebelled and overthrew him, so he hid away in disguise. The Master doesn’t exactly deny it. The Doctor isn’t impressed about the Master’s role in bringing the Mondasian Cybermen into existence either. The Cybermen happen on many planets and many dimensions. It’s more like parallel evolution than design. He’s also managed to get one over on the Master/Missy, by changing details on a computer so that the Cybermen target Timelords as well as humans. The Cybermen are coming for all three of them, so the Master/Missy need the Doctor’s help.

The Master says he’d rather die than ask the Doctor for help, the Doctor replies “knock yourself out”. This does happen … quite literally, as Missy knocks the Master out! Missy tells the Doctor “I was secretly on your side all along, you silly sausage.” Ha! A likely story. She goes on to say “I’m in two minds. Fortunately, one is unconscious”.

Nardole then turns up with a rocket ship. A Cyberman also turns up and grabs the Doctor, but that Cyberman is killed by the Bill-Cyberman. The Doctor tells Bill he will be able to fix her and get her back to normal again, and the Doctor, Bill, Nardole, Missy and the Master escape the city.

It is two weeks later in the countryside we saw at the beginning of the episode. Nardole is getting the villagers to put up sandbags and arm themselves in preparation for a Cyberman attack.

We see Bill, who appears to have been restored to her true human self. She is asleep in a barn, but can’t remember the events of the last couple of weeks. A woman, Hazran (Samantha Spiro) comes up, and tells Bill the Doctor is injured and is being tended to. However, she also tells Bill that while the Doctor has told them that Bill isn’t dangerous she is frightening to the children, and Hazran herself is a little uneasy, but she doesn’t explain why. A little girl, Alit (Briana Shann) later comes in and tells Bill she isn’t scared to talk to her even if everyone else is. Alit gives Bill a mirror, and when she looks in, Bill sees a Cyberman in the mirror! This is how she is now, the Doctor hasn’t managed to change her back after all.

The Doctor arrives, and tries to explain to Bill what the Cybermen are: humans who have been technologically altered to survive hostile environments. The trouble is they see themselves as an improvement and want to change every human they meet into a Cyberman. Bill doesn’t remember the conversion happening. The Doctor says her mind has rebelled against the programming. All that time resisting the Monks mind control prepared her for this.

Bill is angry, but the Doctor tells her that anger is now a luxury she can’t have. Bill thinks she’s perfectly justified in being angry, as the Doctor left her down there for ten years and now this has happened to her. She’s right, but the Doctor’s also right, as now she’s a Cyberman, Bill’s anger shoots a laser beam which creates explosions.

The Doctor and Bill go outside the barn. Bill tearfully says people will always be afraid of her now. The Doctor wipes the tear from Bill’s eye. It is a real tear, which shouldn’t be possible for a Cyberman.

The Master arrives and tells Bill, in Razor’s voice, that she bored him all those years, but it was all worth it to change her into a Cyberman. Doctor tells Bill not to let the Master upset her. The Bill-Cyberman says she is not upset. The Master says “Well doesn’t that take all the fun out of cruelty. Might as well rile a fridge”. In reality though, Bill is incredibly upset, she just doesn’t want to give the Master the satisfaction of knowing that.

The Doctor says the Cyberman target children as they have smaller, fresher brains and smaller bodies mean, as the Master points out, there’s “less to throw away”. Bill remembers the Doctor’s promise that he could return her back to normal. He wasn’t lying, but he was wrong. Most of Bill’s body will have been burnt away.

Bill also knows that she can’t hang on mentally either, she will eventually have to give in to the Cyberman programming. If she’s going to live forever as a Cyberman she can’t rebel against that forever. “It’s like I’m hanging on in a hurricane”. She tells the Doctor “I don’t want to live if I can’t be me anymore”. It seems impossible anything can be done, but the Doctor says a Cyberman crying real tears is impossible too, so there might be some hope.

We find out why Missy can’t remember what happened here. As the timelines of the two different incarnations have crossed, the Master can’t retain the memories of this particular time, so therefore Missy can’t remember them. The Master and Missy find the lifts and call them up. Out comes a more advanced robotic looking Cyberman. The technology of the Cybermen in the city is advancing fast. The Doctor’s TARDIS is at the top of the ship, but going there in the lift would be pointless given the time difference. It would take thousands of years for the lift to get there, the Cybermen will have long figured out a way to stop them before then.

Missy tells the Master they could escape in his TARDIS, as that is at the bottom of the ship. Time passes quickly there and the Cybermen will most likely be gone by the time they get down. The Master tells Missy the TARDIS dematerialisation circuit is broken. Missy says a brief memory is coming back, it’s of this time, and it’s why she always remembered to carry a spare dematerialisation circuit. The Master then asks if it’s wrong that he’s a bit turned on by Missy right now. “Yes, very” she replies.

Meanwhile, Nardole upgrades the rifles to have the power of explosions. It is actually a virtual reality illusion, but then, so is the whole location. The Doctor says if it fools the humans here it should also fool the Cybermen, as they too have “monkey brains”. The villagers prepare for the Cyberman attack.

The Master and Missy tell the Doctor they are leaving. The Doctor says he intends to get at least some of the villagers up a level to the above solar farm. The Master considers this ultimately futile, as the Cybermen will keep following them. The Doctor says he isn’t doing it to win, or out of hate, or for fun, or because it is easy or even that it works. He’s doing it because it’s the right thing to do and the kind thing to do.

The Master doesn’t care and leaves. The Doctor asks Missy to fight with him instead of against him, that’s all he’s ever wanted. Missy says that all she’s ever wanted too. She still refuses, but thanks the Doctor for trying.

Nardole’s programming on a computer allows them to target the Cybermen on other parts of the ship and take a few out. But the Doctor points out that just defending themselves won’t be enough. The Cybermen were only coming to harvest people for upgrades. Now they will be coming to kill. The Doctor wants Nardole to evacuate the villagers to the upper layer on the ship, while the Doctor stays and fights the Cybermen. He tells Nardole:

“One of us has to stay down here and blow up a lot of silly tin men, and one of us has to go up there and look after a lot of very scared people day after day for the rest of their lives and keep them safe. Which one of us is stronger?”.

Bill says she will stay and fight too, feeling she might as well, as what future does she have now? The Doctor and Bill will attack from opposite ends.

Missy and the Master make it to the lift. Missy hugs the Master and says she loved being him. Then it becomes clear she has fatally stabbed him. The Master is actually quite impressed. Missy says he will be able to make it back to his TARDIS and regenerate into her. When the Master asks why she has killed him, she says that the Doctor is right, it’s time to stand with him, it is where they have always been heading. The Master shouts that he will never stand with the Doctor and blasts Missy with a death ray. He tells her she won’t be able to regenerate. Missy and the Master laugh at each other! The Master says that stabbing each other in the back was really where they’ve always been going.

The Doctor battles Cybermen in a forest. He kills a few, but one shoots him. The Doctor then blows the whole floor up. In the ash covered field, the Bill-Cyberman finds the Doctor’s apparently dead body, and begins to cry.

Then Heather (Stephanie Hyam) materialises out of a puddle. Bill looks back, and sees her Cyberman body fall down. Heather has turned her into the same species as her. They kiss. Heather takes Bill and the Doctor back to the TARDIS. She tells Bill she can turn back into a human (“It’s just atoms, you can arrange them anyway you like”). She can take Bill back home and she can live her normal life, or she can travel the universe with her. Bill tells the unconscious Doctor she doesn’t believe he is really dead, and while it’s a big universe she hopes she sees him again. Bill and Heather leave the TARDIS together.

The Doctor wakes up, starts to regenerate, but puts it off. The TARDIS drops him off in the snowy landscape we saw at the beginning of ‘World Enough and Time’, and he runs into his very first incarnation!

There are so many contrasts in the lower ground floor “city” and the upper level “countryside”. There’s obviously a countryside and city contrast, a peaceful, beautiful countryside and a polluted, industrial city. There is also something of a heaven and hell theme too, the countryside presented as blue sky, green fields and everyone being relatively happy and peaceful aside from the fear of Cyberman invasion, and the decaying city which has a sky of hellish, orange flame and black smoke.

The episode was quite psychological, in terms of perception versus reality (the fact that the people on the spaceship really think of themselves as living on a planet despite it all being a hologram). With the Master and Missy, there’s a lot about your past self and your future self. People might not literally regenerate into another body, but we are different people as we go through life. What would our past selves think of who we become, and what would we think if we were literally confronted with who we were in the past?

The Master says “Is the future going to be all girl?”. The Doctor replies “We can only hope”. Well, I think we all have heard by now that the next incarnation of the Doctor will be a woman, so this was almost certainly a reference to that.

There were moments of comedy, mostly came from Missy, the Master and Nardole.

The Master tells Nardole “The Doctor’s dead. He told me he always hated you.” Then Missy comes in and tells Nardole “The Doctor’s dead. He told me he always hated you.” Nardole replies “Yeah, heard you the first time”.

Alit gets an apple which she throws at the Cybermen. It’s actually a bomb. Nardole called it “the ultimate apple upgrade!”. Yeah, it’s a bit of a rubbish pun, but it still made me laugh.

Though the Master and Missy were also one of the most interesting and dark parts of this episode, especially during their final scenes. A literal murder/suicide! In ‘World Enough and Time’, the Master tells Missy “You would never be so self-destructive, but then again, neither would I”. This is very ironic considering what happens in this episode.

Interestingly the Master doesn’t seem to mind too much Missy killing him, in fact he seems impressed. Well, I guess for one he knows that he’s guaranteed to survive to at least one future incarnation. But he kills Missy before she can join the Doctor, and makes a point of doing it in a way which means she can’t regenerate. As he said, he never wants his future to be standing with the Doctor.

That said, I think it’s a safe bet that the Master will return in some form, maybe even as another Missy. Of all the exits, Missy was actually the one I was most sorry to see go. Michelle Gomez has been an amazing addition to Doctor Who. She was fantastic fun as Missy, especially when playing her at her craziest and rather like a wicked witch. But she also played her as a complex, multidimensional character, who showed a vulnerable side  and a conflicted one, that she was considering becoming good. A lot of fans seemed quite sad about her ultimate fate. I suppose, besides her being a popular character and Michelle Gomez being fabulous, it might be because she was just about to redeem herself, but because of her past self, she didn’t. Michelle Gomez has recently said she may be up for returning to the role at some point, but it is her final appearance for the time being.

Michelle Gomez and John Simm had brilliant chemistry, playing different versions of the Master.

Bill becoming a Cyberman and her struggle to hold onto herself were very emotional moments in the episode. Bill noticing her reflection as a Cyberman and us seeing the Cyberman version unable to believe it saying in her mechanical voice “That. Is. Not. Me. I. Am. Bill. Potts.” was sad to watch. It again was very similar to Oswin being turned into a Dalek in ‘Asylum Of The Daleks’, with the Doctor having to break the news to her that she had been converted and wasn’t a human anymore. Bill literally didn’t see herself as a Cyberman, and Oswin didn’t see herself as a Dalek. They had been trying to mentally hold on to their original human form, even if physically it had gone. It is heartbreaking, especially there can be parallels made with some mental conditions in real life with people who see themselves as something they are not or aren’t any longer.

I had expected Heather to return during series 10, but thought that by now they had left it too late, so her appearance in this episode was a pleasant surprise. It was such a satisfying and beautiful conclusion to Bill’s story that despite Bill being one of the best companions we’ve ever had, I almost don’t want her to return and possibly spoil this great ending for her, it is refreshing for a gay couple on TV to have a happy ending too. Her final words to the Doctor, even if he didn’t hear them, were bittersweet, a heartfelt goodbye but a hope of seeing him again.

There were fitting endings for Bill, Nardole and Missy. I’ve not said much about Nardole, but he was fine overall. He added a few laughs here and there and he was a decent addition to the TARDIS, but he was very much keeping in the background. It was a good ending for him, he ended looking after the villagers in the upper solar farm and possibly has a romantic interest with Hazran.

I remember a while ago seeing a comment online somewhere that it would have been better if Peter Capaldi had been cast as the Master and Michelle Gomez had been cast as the Doctor, and I always kind of agreed, but I think it worked out for the best in the end, and this episode in particular I think proved that. One of Peter Capldi’s best performances in the series, I think he embodied the Doctor, showing determination and his vulnerabilities.

‘The Doctor Falls’ wasn’t quite feature-length, but it was just under an hour-long, and had so much stuff it could easily have been a film. It was action packed, had humour, poignant moments and it looked great. Rachael Talaylay again deserves a lot of credit for her directing, I hope they continue to use her in the upcoming series.

I think ‘The Doctor Falls’ is one of the very best episodes the series has ever done.

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