Sunday 25 June 2017

Doctor Who - World Enough And Time

Telos About Mondas

Doctor Who - World Enough And Time
Airdate: 24th June 2017

Warning: Yes, this one’s got big spoilers in it.

This review marks another little 'anniversary' for me. When I first started this blog the first Doctor Who story that aired live and which I wrote about at the time was the first Matt Smith story The Eleventh Hour (reviewed here) and since that first Doctor Who review I did, well... this is my 100th Doctor Who review for this blog (not including the odd book review and episodes of Torchwood and The Sarah Jane adventures, some of which you will also find here). And I'm very pleased to be still reviewing them now after all this time.

So, okay, this was a really great set up episode but, as has been pointed out by various critics over the last few years, Moffat’s really good at openings and really bad at endings... so we shall just have to see how the wind blows when the second episode of this two (maybe three) part story ‘sort of’ concludes next week.

This weeks episode, though, was a real humdinger...

World Enough And Time
started off with the lone Doctor, supposedly injured, stumbling out of the TARDIS and beginning his regeneration process. And then the credits play and there’s no more mention of this sequence and we are left to assume that the rest of the story is being told in flashback. I'm still unsure if he’s going to be completing that process at Christmas, as everybody says, or will be regenerating next week... perhaps he’ll do it at the end of next week but still make an appearance in the Christmas special. Who knows? Apparently.

So the next thing we have is Missy being the new ‘Doctor Who’ (in a somewhat distressing shout out for fans who are probably all, like myself, hoping that Moffat hasn’t decided to make that The Doctor’s real name) as a test to see how helpful she is and to decide whether she has turned over a new leaf. So they go to the aid of a real distress call and it’s Missy, Bill and Nardole answering while The Doctor watches their progress from the TARDIS as they try and figure out what’s going on with a starship which is slowly reversing away from a black hole... with the time at one end of the ship going very rapidly as opposed to the relative time at the other end of the ship.

And then we get our next big shock as somebody blows a big hole through Bill’s heart and she falls lifeless to the floor before a bunch of ‘heads covered in rags’ patients take her away to repair her at the other end of the ship... while The Doctor, Missy and Nardole are left to wonder what’s going on... a few minutes passing at what is a rate of months for Bill as she is somehow revived and her heart replaced with a big cyberchest thing. Oh yeah, that’s right... we knew the original, William Hartnell cybermen from The Tenth Planet (reviewed here) were back and, by the end of the episode, Bill is fully converted into... the very first cyberman. Or cyberwoman, I guess.

And there were some nice things about the episode which were really well written.  For instance, as Bill stands there in shock and we see a hole the size of an extra large fist punched through her body where her chest was, we flash back to point where Bill is warning The Doctor about this whole ‘trial run for Missy’ thing being a bad idea and asking The Doctor to keep an eye on her safety... so a nice poignant moment there. Although, I’m still not 100% sure that she’s not talking to a version of The Doctor who has already seen her die... but I’m guessing that this would be too inappropriately ‘timey wimey’ for Moffat in terms of the sense of gravitas purveying the episode... which is really atmospheric and scary, in all honesty.

Bearing in mind the Mondasian* cybermen are held back until the very end of the show as a surprise moment, one has to wonder why the BBC announced they were going to be on these episodes at all... if you’re going to have a surprise then have a surprise, for goodness sake. Although, truth be told, these new costumes, while scary, aren’t a patch on the original costumes from 1966 and have some very marked differences, it has to be said. As it was, though, we were all just sitting around assuming Bill would be ‘converted’ at the end of the episode. I mean, not even Murray Gold’s music gave the game away in that... he didn’t use his cyberman theme once, it seemed to me.  So, it’s like they were playing the episode completely for a big surprise and then just decided to tell everyone a few months before it happened. Bit of a silly thing to do, if you ask me.

And talking of surprises, we have John Simm back as the previous incarnation of Missy... The Master... and I’m assuming well be seeing him regenerating into her before the end of next week’s episode, maybe? Now, again, Moffat plays it really clever here and, aided by John Simm’s quite remarkable acting skills, hides him in plain sight for most of the episode. And that could have worked really well, again, if the BBC hadn’t let the cat out of the bag about him being in this final story. As it was, though, I was still fooled by the tactic up until only five minutes or so before he pulled off the prosthetics and revealed himself. At which point I exclaimed... “You don’t think that’s John Simm in disguise, do you?”... to the rest of the room and was told... of course not. However... it turned out it was.

Never mind though because World Enough And Time was still a smartly executed episode and, as usual, Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, Michelle Gomez and John Simm were all doing some marvellous stuff here. There was also a nice little moment where The Doctor performs Venusian Judo (for the first time in decades in the show, I suspect) which ties in nicely, kinda, to the reappearance of the character Alpha Centauri a couple of weeks ago (I think Jon Pertwee first used this fighting style in the story The Monster of Peladon, right?). In fact, coincidentally, I was only talking about The Doctor fighting using Venusian Judo on a train back from a concert the other week so, yeah, it’s nice to have the reference.

Other than that, though... well I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that Moffat doesn’t screw up the season finale next week. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the conclusion of the story and I really hope he doesn’t forget to tie up all the loose story threads which he dangled in the first episode of this season. Especially since Bill deserves a lot better than the fate she has been given, to be sure. So, yeah, a nice episode, well put together and hope they don’t all screw it up next weekend. Fingers crossed for that, then.

* From the planet Mondas, one of the two worlds of cyberman legend, along with Telos.

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