August 18: "World Enough and Time"

Promo pic for "World Enough and Time" (from BBC One - Doctor Who,
Series 10, World Enough and Time) ©BBC
The opening of "World Enough and Time"279 (the first of an explicit two-part story), with the Doctor starting to regenerate, makes it very clear: we are reaching the end of Peter Capaldi's tenure as the Doctor.  And so what follows does have a bit of a sense of finality to it, even though we know on an intellectual level that he's got one more story after this one to go.

But after the credit sequence we shift gears a bit.  The back half of this series, they've been teasing whether or not Missy has been reformed, and so here they kick it up a notch, with Missy taking the place of the Doctor for an investigation of a distress call from a massive colony ship, currently trying to avoid falling into a black hole.  "Hello," she announces.  "I'm Doctor Who.  And these are my plucky assistants, Thing One and the Other One."  There's a bit of business about whether his name is actually Doctor Who, with an almost Ford Prefect-like suggestion that he chose the name because he thought he would blend in (although ultimately the evidence seems to suggest against that being his name at all280), and then the huge shocker, with Bill getting a very big hole blasted clean through her chest.

But that's OK, since, if you'd been paying attention to the publicity surrounding this episode (and series 10 in general), you'd know this is a Cyberman story, so Bill can be repaired.  And not just any Cyberman story: this features the return of the original design of Cybermen, the ones all the way back from Hartnell's swan song, The Tenth Planet.  (This was reportedly done as a favor to Peter Capaldi, who had maintained that the Tenth Planet Cybermen were one of his favorite monsters.)  And so, after some near misses and almost-rans, we're finally getting a "Genesis of the Cybermen" story.  (Well, sort of; we'll pick this up next time.)  But not before we get a bit of a sad flashback, to the Doctor telling Bill that he wants to believe Missy is still good because she's his oldest friend.  ("She's my man-crush ... Yeah, I think she was a man back then," the Doctor comments, in a way meant to remind viewers that Missy was once male -- but which also, in hindsight, looks like them preparing the way for the thirteenth Doctor, Jodie Whittaker.)

But the other clever thing that "World Enough and Time" does is finally deal with relativity, particularly in relation to black holes.  (See "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit", in case you need a reminder of how far we've come.)  This is therefore a story that actually grapples a bit with the idea that the end of the ship furthest from the event horizon is moving much faster temporally than the end closest.  (Although one can't help but wonder if it was the 2014 film Interstellar, which dealt with relativity in a similar way, that's ultimately responsible for the basic idea here.)  Ultimately, this means that, once Bill is taken down to the bottom of the ship for surgery, time moves much faster for her than for the Doctor, Nardole, and Missy -- and so consequently, this becomes her episode.  She gets to see the slow process by which the Cybermen are created (not that she knows that -- or even that we do, technically, although the clues are all there), and we get to see the subtle ways she's changed as time has passed for her.  She's accompanied by a strange, charming little fellow named Razor, who seems quite kindly and who wiles away the years (because it definitely seems like she's down there for years) with her.  Razor rather reminded me of Zathras from the show Babylon 5, with the slightly silly accent, the hair, and the hunched, shuffling-yet-lilting walk -- which may be why I didn't realize who he really was until he went and found Missy.

The Doctor confronts a Cyberman. ("World Enough and Time")
Because yes, Razor is in fact John Simm, the Master himself (hence the need to remind the audience about a male Master, near the top of the episode).  Sadly, this surprise was spoiled by last week's "next time" trailer (as well as independent publicity), which showed that he was back (and sporting a fetching goatee, just like the Masters of old (Simm's idea, apparently)).  Because imagine the surprise if we hadn't known.  That's a hell of a reveal, and Simm pulls it off really well, with Missy a bit distracted by the fact that this ship is from Mondas (home of the original Cybermen!) until he removes the mask he's been wearing.  "Hello, Missy," he says.  "I'm the Master, and I'm very worried about my future.  Give us a kiss."  And then combine that with the horrific reveal that Bill (who'd been partially cybernized, thanks to the hole in her chest) has in fact been fully converted into a Cyberman, much to the Doctor's horror.  "I am Bill Potts," we hear in that wonderful weird old-school Cyberman voice, and the camera shows us Bill's eye behind the mask, just in case we thought it might be a trick.  That's awesome.

So this is an incredibly successful first half, one that not only allows Steven Moffat to play with time once more and throw in a creepy Cyberman development story, but also provides an impressive showcase for both Pearl Mackie and John Simm.  This is ultimately their episode, and both of them seize the opportunity eagerly.  I would have happily watched the two of them do an entire episode of just them waiting, that's how good they are here.  And with a hell of a double-cliffhanger, it looks like series 10 is going to go out very firmly on top -- so long as they can keep up the momentum, that is...

279 The title comes from an Andrew Marvell poem, "To His Coy Mistress" ("Had we but world enough, and time,/This coyness, Lady, were no crime"), which is why it tends to pop up in various places, including the third part of Big Finish's second volume of The Diary of River Song, as well as an episode of the fan production Star Trek: New Voyages, which is notable not only for guest-starring George Takei as Sulu, but also for being nominated for a Hugo Award in 2008 -- an award it lost to Steven Moffat's "Blink".  Which means Moffat might have been subconsciously already aware of the title when he named this episode...
280 So yes, obviously there's The War Machines to consider and the various early Troughton episodes where he calls himself some suggestion of this (Dr. W, Dr. von Wer), but even setting that aside and just considering his reaction in this episode, where he decides he likes the idea of being called Doctor Who, the implication is that, yes, Missy is indeed winding Bill and Nardole up.