The World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls – Critical Review

Doctor Who fans can mostly, certainly not always, be defined by either their love of stories involving monsters, bases under siege and running through corridors or their love for David Tennant and floppy haired Matt Smith. My own personal love of the show stems from the fact that at its very heart is a show about ideas and telling stories. From this angle, I personally believe that the ‘Moffat era’ of Doctor Who is the greatest in the shows history. Therefore, I’ve decided to look at The World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls and explore some of the concepts within these episodes and how they relate to various concepts throughout the ‘Moffat era’ and the history of Doctor Who.

The idea to set The World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls on a 400 mile spaceship teetering on the precipice of a black hole whilst encountering time dilation is actually a brilliant one. Infact, you could quite easily have based a whole season around this concept. It’s that good. Season 10 has been essentially a disappointing one, for reasons we will tick off as we go along. A lot of the season has felt thrown together at the last minute on a number of levels, a lot of aspects of these episodes didn’t strike me as being developed enough as they could have been throughout the season to be fully paid off. This even includes The Doctor’s relationship with Missy. We only have to look at the 2016 Christmas special and the subsequent niggly retconning of The Doctor and Nardole following that episode to see that the idea of Missy being kept in a vault was clearly a last minute one. Nardole’s whole season has up to these episodes been mostly underpinned by a steadfast determination to keep The Doctor in Bristol, it’s difficult on the surface from his characterisation to see where jaunts to New York and ancient Mesopotamia fit in with that. Still, we’ll leave it as a niggle.

I love Michelle Gomez’s portrayal of Missy and her menacingly playful take on playing Doctor Who is a joy, as is her explanation of The Doctor’s name. I’m actually happy to accept that The Doctor’s real name is infact ‘Doctor Who’ and by the way, I will not accept Bill Bradley portraying William Hartnell’s Doctor in the upcoming Christmas special if it is anything other than Bradley portraying a cranky old man who thinks he’s from the 59th Century. I also expect him to at least have the decency to cantankerously abduct someone for relatively ambiguous reasons. I digress. Missy’s flirtation with decency is interesting and wouldn’t have been harmed by some more development.

Her scenes with Capaldi’s Doctor have been some of the most interesting and dynamic of the past three seasons. From this, we get to see a little of The Doctor/Bill/Nardole relationship leading into this episode. I’m not entirely sure how necessary this was, but it doesn’t hurt the pacing of the episode, which is frankly excellent and seems to fly by. Bill is shot by a scared blue meanie who, well, has absolutely no reason to be scared at all actually, as he firmly states and it is firmly shown that the creepy prototype Cybermen are only interested in humans, which he isn’t, so yeah, that makes absolutely no sense.

The macabre nature of the hospital scenes is excellent. The volume control is also a nice Moffat touch. The next point of contention is that on the whole, the scenes of Simm in disguise could be viewed on one hand completely unnecessary as the BBC stupidly decided to ruin the whole reveal. Moffat just about gets a way with this one in terms of the actual episode itself as a) The Master has a precedent for using disguises, b) The Master was PM on Earth’s ‘twin’ Mondas, which made me smile and is a cute nod to the RTD era and original series and c) because John Simm is just really, really good to watch and it’s kind of fun watching him to pretend to be Razor. There in a nutshell is The World Enough and Time, which gleefully sets up the pieces for the finale.

In terms of the modern series, Moffat is the only one who has actually mastered the ‘two parter.’ Part of this entails starting the second episode off from a completely different point to where we left off with the first. So if the first part was Frankenstein meets Interstellar meets Genesis of the Cybermen meets The Day of The Master, then the second part was obviously going to be… Little House on the Prairie with creepy scarecrows.

Missy has decided for the time being that she has absolutely no interest in being good and as a result, we spend the first few minutes after the credits watching her and The Master gleefully ponder how to kill The Doctor. Ever notice how much John Simm’s Master likes tying The Doctor to chairs? I’m sure Tumblr probably will have. A few minutes of this, The Cybermen turn against The Master/Missy and we’re onto our next set piece of Little House in the Prairie.

How Moffat has decided to portray CyberBill from here on in is interesting. Moffat has Bill rejecting the programming in a manner not too dissimilar to how he introduced Clara in Asylum of the Daleks, obviously this also allows the wonderful Pearl Mackie a chance to shine. I found it pretty interesting that in the first scene where we see Bill rather than CyberBill in this episode she’s shown as a black woman who the children are scared of. Given that we’re now in Little House on the Prairie, this probably deserves a critique in itself. CyberBill will also later be shot by the same scared white woman. Capaldi and Pearl Mackie however really are good. (It’s disappointing that we’re not going to get another season of Bill as she’s a wonderful character who is an absolute joy to watch.) Also really, really good is The Master’s taunting of CyberBill. “Didn’t you used to be a woman? I’m going to be a woman soon.” At this point it is already hands down my favourite episode since Hell Bent, just for Simm’s performance.

The pacing again is absolutely fantastic. Moffat is at his best just delivering line after line of quality exposition and concepts at break neck speed. It’s just great to watch. We seamlessly flow from Simm putting on eyeliner, making erection jokes with Missy which are entirely inappropriate for Saturday evening television, to a little girl blowing up legions of Cybermen with an apple, which is a classic Doctor Who idea.

The Doctor delivers his big speech which is cruelly dismissed by The Master, although received a little bit more receptively by Missy. Are we going to actually have Missy redeem herself… well yes and no. The only way The Day of The Master was ever going to end was with both The Master and Missy after 45 minutes of flirting, (read: Master-bation) literally stabbing each other in the back.

The Doctor makes his final stand along with CyberBill to an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack from Murray Gold. Gleefully blowing up Cybermen. On first watch I actually thought it was Bill who shot him. That would’ve been dramatic. The Doctor defeats The Cybermen and it’s time for the de rigeur season ending piece of deux ex machina. This time it’s puddle girl. This is a truly lovely scene and I’m pleased that Bill gets a happy ending. I think this also the first time I’ve ever seen two lesbians get together on TV without one of them being killed. Well, actually, they’re both technically dead, but they’re getting a happy ending where they’re both alive, so this can only be read as a victory for Bill, Puddle Girl and LGBT representation on TV, so huzzah. I’m kind of pissed off only in the sense that this would’ve been so much better if Puddle Girl had at least got a cursory mention at some point between the season opener and the finale, but still. Despite the fact Puddle Girl is essentially an immortal, omnipotent being, Bill decides she is going to Billsplain the universe to her…

As for The Doctor, despite being electrocuted, shot and blown up, he decides that he can’t be arsed with regenerating and we get to see him one last time in an adventure with the only person more cranky than he is at Christmas, so to finish off in true Moffat style, please return to paragraph three.