Friday, 14 July 2017

TV Review No. 66 Doctor Who: The Doctor Falls (S10, Ep12)

Strong Points:
A circular arc
Great acting
The final reveal
More time-travelling 'Inception' ideas
An overwhelming feeling of hopelessness
Nardole's retorts
The Master's and Missy's relationship

Weak Points:
The big reveal of Bill having become a [redacted] lost its impact as we already knew from last week
John Simm's Master was less methodical in his madness
An overwhelming feeling of hopelessness
A little bit of Deus Ex Machina

In-depth Review:
So, The Doctor doesn't really fall this episode, we have to wait for the Christmas special for that, but he did stumble. Peter Capaldi's time as The Doctor's coming to a close, with The Doctor beaten and bruised, as is Moffat's time as the show runner, and they've really delivered their best this past season and this episode is no exception.

We open with the end and a tease that The Doctor may regenerate this episode, an exciting prospect in any Who series. As is always the problem with these structured seasons, however, I knew that The Doctor wouldn't really regenerate this episode (or any earlier as they had previously teased as well) due to still having the Christmas special to look forward to. Overall, the ending paid off and I'm excited but we could have not done with a flash forward to what always seemed like half an answer.

Back to present time though, in at least this floor of the ship that is, and The Doctors been captured by Missy and The Master, who are debating the best way to kill The Doctor. Again, I didn't really believe they would kill The Doctor (although they'd get incredibly close) but it was an enjoyable sequence nonetheless especially with the black and white disorientation sequence and another classic Capaldi Doctor line - 'when you're winning, and I'm in the room, you're missing something'.

While a bit unsettling at times, especially if you stop and consider what the subtext seems to be telling you, I overall enjoyed the little relationship of Missy and The Master and Michelle Gomez and John Simm played off each other well. Culminating in a great scene which saw them stabbing each other (themselves) in the back, which if The Master has to go, seems to be the most believable way of ending him/her.

Talking of The Master I always remember John Simm's Master as being deranged and sadistic but with a purpose, like Heath Ledger's incarnation of The Joker. This episode though brought more of a Jared Leto's Joker vibe to The Master, making him crazy for the sake of it and not allowing the character to benefit from John Simm's acting ability as much as he could. It's also a shame we only got the one, albeit longer episode with The Master and Missy together, it could've been interesting to have a couple of episodes with them being the alternate Doctor and his companion.

Creating partnerships similar to The Doctor seems to be a staple of Moffat's past couple of seasons and we have it again this episode, although with slightly more success and believability than Clara and Me's American Diner TARDIS. Heather's back, following Bill across the universe and through all manner of evils to get to her and be with her. Aww. Now, this is a difficult twist to comprehend because on the surface it shouldn't work, but, in a variation on the usual Moffat twist, works below the surface. We already know that The Pilot can transform into anything and travel anywhere, as shown in episode 1 where she gets to the other side of the universe at around the same time as the TARDIS. We also know The Pilot can transform anyone, so Bill getting taken out of the Cyberman and remade back into Bill is also comprehensible. Really the only non-explained bit is that Bill just left The Doctor in the TARDIS but even then she left a tear just like Heather to find him. So it all works, even if it seems like it shouldn't.

If the twist of Heather was good, The Doctor meeting the first incarnation of The Doctor (now played by David Bradley of Harry Potter fame) was great and unlike with The Master, wasn't blasted about in advertisements before the episode aired, just like a twist should be dealt with. The entire idea of Capaldi's Doctor not wanting to go and forcing himself to not regenerate was a good one - The Doctor's in unknown territory in terms of the number of regeneration's he's had and who knows what's going to happen.

We also didn't really know what was going to happen with everyone else this episode. Similar, again, to Interstellar in that the biggest enemy is time, the general atmosphere of this episode conveyed hopelessness, an emotion which is incredibly difficult to get right and I commend them for it, but it also makes the episode mildly difficult to watch, especially as we still don't know what's happened to the rest of the farm people. I mean, Nardole's there (another great performance by Matt Lucas), and they escaped to another floor but then what? Do they have to just keep running, slowly upwards, with the further they go, the longer the Cybermen have to prepare (as they're further away)? And to see The Doctor seeming to truly believe there's no way out (and his monologue against The Master about how trying is the kind thing to do) was heartbreaking to see - remember it's easy to go down but difficult to go up, as per the time travelling rules (The Doctor really needs to get a remote caller for the TARDIS).

I got to the end of this review and realised I hadn't actually mentioned the scene where Bill realised she was a Cyberman, as, like the episode, I wanted to keep you waiting. I really liked this scene, and Pearl Mackie gave one of her best performances in it, however, as we'd already seen that Bill was a Cyberman in the last episode, it definitely lost a lot of its tension. Imagine the great payoff if we'd found out that Bill was a Cyberman the same time she did, after being led to believe she'd survived down the bottom of the ship for 10 years without changing. Alas, we did not, but it was a good scene nonetheless.

Conclusion: overall, a great finale to the season and while not the final send off for Capaldi, Moffat and probably Mackie, if it was, it definitely did them justice.

Rating: 88%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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