December 3, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Doctor Who “The Doctor Falls”

The Doctor says goodbye to his friends as he fends off a Cyberman attack.

Well, it’s the end of the road for another Doctor, but that also means the end of the road for the supporting cast more often than not.

So, how about that?

Yeah, the previous episode showed the Doctor starting to regenerate in the cold open, and then ended with Bill transformed into a Cyberman prototype.  There were two versions of the Master, and things looked grim.

However, it’s worth noting the Master, for all his (or her) self-proclaimed brilliance, often loses out mostly out of tripping over his (or her) own hubris.  There’s a running theme where the Doctor doesn’t really get along with himself, but what happens when multiple versions of the Master meet up?

They actually get along pretty well, possibly because the male Master seems smitten with his future female incarnation Missy.  She doesn’t quite remember what happened before, something about the two of them being together messes with memories, but it doesn’t much matter as the Master’s (and Missy’s) sense of superiority means the Doctor can get around them both rather easily when he has to.  Sure, they smack him around while Nardole makes a run for it, but just a few seconds by a computer keyboard, something Missy may or may not have planned since this final episode of hers is all about whether or not she can be reformed, allows the Doctor to reprogram the Cybermen to recognize the two-hearted Time Lords as humans needing to be upgraded.  That plus the fact that Bill is strong-willed enough to still be herself means that when Nardole shows up with the only possible escape vessel that can go to an upper level of the colony ship.  Granted, that’s traveling through different time flows, so they can only go so far, and that means a solar farm level that has been picking off Cybermen to protect the residents in there, especially the kids.

Yes, each Master claims after boarding that the others are dead and the ship needs to leave immediately.  Yes, Nardole doesn’t believe either of them.

Ultimately, in the end, the Master and Missy’s efforts to get themselves away keep making things worse.  Summoning the elevator lets the Cybermen know where they are.  Setting the Cybermen up in the first place makes things worse, even though the Doctor knows for a fact that Cybermen always appear and that they aren’t necessarily a terrible idea, but they always go viral.  And, in the end, the Doctor’s speech, a good one, about how he doesn’t do what he does to show off or win but simply because it’s right and he could die at any time doesn’t have any effect at all on the Master.

But Missy?  Yeah.  She has changed, and she wants the Doctor’s friendship back.  That means a double-cross, setting up her death and the Master’s regeneration, presumably to Missy.  And while both of them did betray the other, they also both have a good laugh about it because of course the Master would also betray himself (or herself).

From there, the Doctor falls fighting off the Cybermen as Nardole leads the farmers to a safer upper level.  Bill stays with the Doctor, and she herself is returned to her human form (sort of) when her almost-girlfriend Wet Heather returns and makes it so.  Those two can travel the universe now, leaving the Doctor, shot up by Cybermen energy blasts, to presumably die.  But no.  He’s starting to regenerate.  Except, he really doesn’t want to.  He’s tired of constantly turning into new people every so often.  It’s exhausting.  He’d rather just stay himself.

Which would make it a good time for the TARDIS to drop him off somewhere for a good chat with…David Bradley’s First Doctor?

I’ll have more to say about that for the next write-up, plus some final thoughts on this Doctor, but this is the last go-around on the show for Missy, Bill, and Nardole, so I have some thoughts on them first.

I’ll start with Nardole because he’s mostly a blank slate.  I suspect he’s there because Matt Lucas is a funny guy and probably a bit recognizable in the UK.  That’s fine.  He wouldn’t be the first actor added to a show like this for that reason.  But as much as Nardole was basically just a resourceful guy, handy with computers, much of that characterization came about in the last couple episodes.  He spent much of his time grousing about the Doctor not fulfilling his oath, and in the end here, he suggests he’s a shady guy who will commit scams without a strong influence to watch over him…to which I say, “What?  When did that come up?”  I mean, he’s generally been an all-purpose assistant in his every appearance.  I don’t know what he’s like on his own, so he drops that bomb?  I actually like Nardole, but he’s not the best developed character compared to Bill and Missy.

Speaking of Missy, yes, I bought her redemption.  Even if she did some of it for the usual self-aggrandizing reasons, it still worked.  The Master’s turning good has been a goal of the Doctor for quite some time, and there have always been hints it could happen only for the Master to, time after time, turn away at the last minute and do something for himself instead.  That this incarnation, set up as the last (though I know better) finally does seems appropriate.  That she does it without the Doctor ever finding out also seems appropriate.  Michelle Gomez tended to hit the right degrees with the character, going from daffy to sinister as the story needed, a character who, in her first appearances, was unsuspecting enough to slip past the Doctor but then turned full on ham like the Master usually does.  I mean, they call themselves “the Master” for a reason, and consistently go for universal domination.  This is not a subtle character.  I think it helps that the Doctor who gets through to her in the end is one who just plain had trouble relating to other people.  It’s like having a Doctor who can’t relate to people very well means he may be more inclined to relate to his own kind, and the only one he may be on speaking terms to right now is Missy.  So, yeah, she made a good sparring partner and eventual ally.

As for Pearl Mackie’s Bill, man, I wish I got more of her.  She was smart, asked good questions, helpful, kept the Doctor on his toes in a good way, and I never wondered why he liked her as much as he did.  Yeah, this is a companion who would be headstrong enough to resist Cyber-conversion, for a while anyway.  And she’s playful enough that she will stop, before a final battle with the Cybermen, to ask the Doctor if he is aware she prefers women her own age in such a way as to suggest she fell for the Doctor, only to turn around and say it was still true and she wanted to make sure he knew that.  The downside to Bill is after three years with the Twelfth Doctor, I only got one of them with Bill, a companion who actually seemed helpful and not just someone left over from a previous Doctor.  So, really, it took them long enough to find the right companion for this particular Doctor.

And yes, I am well aware the actors (other than Gomez) do appear one last time, but these were the last moments for the characters, and I feel it’s right to say something here.  As for the Doctor as he (unwillingly) prepares to regenerate…well, wait for that for next time, hypothetical reader.