So ends another season of Doctor Who, along with the regular season episodes for the cast and for Moffat. I think it was a pretty fitting send-off. Not perfect, not my favorite, but damn good. Since we’re saying goodbye to so many, I think I’ll address this episode in terms of who I’ll miss, from least to most.
Bill - Don’t get me wrong, I liked Bill, but not as much as some other companions. I feel almost as if we didn’t get enough time with her for me to really get attached. The season felt like it was more about the Doctor and Missy, and Bill and Nardole were just along for the ride. Her scenes as a Cyberman were touching, especially her response to being told not to get angry. The way she carried herself, subtle changes to her appearance, and her performance itself really convinced me that she had been trapped at the bottom of the ship for ten years and her farewell to the Doctor was pitch perfect. So, I do hope we’ll be seeing more of Pearl Mackie in the future on other projects. Also, man does Capaldi like to send off his companions in grand fashion. I’m not sure I like/buy the return of Heather from “The Pilot,” but I suppose it helps Moffat escape the internet’s wrath by not killing the show’s first openly gay companion.
The Master - Dude. I love me some John Simm Master, but this was not the character I remember. I really enjoy his Master when he’s powerful and maniacal, but for the most part, in this episode, he was more a petulant child than anything else. That’s fun too, but compared to what I’ve seen him do in the past, it was a bit of a letdown. I will say his refusal to help the Doctor was absolutely consistent with his character, that was nice to see. But this return should have been done better or not at all. The Cyberman plot would have worked just as well without him being the one who orchestrated it. But of course, his orchestration was all in service of the season-long arc for Missy, which we’ll get to.
Nardole - Not much to say about this character except I really liked him, better than the “proper” companion for this season, and he’ll be missed. Matt Lucas played a great straight man to Capaldi’s snark. I’m grateful to the show for giving him a good ending and I totally teared up at the moment when the Doctor convinced him to lead the survivors away to safety because Nardole is the stronger one. It was clever, touching, and well done. He’s another one I wouldn’t mind seeing again, and since he’s sort of an ageless character, I think they could even manage another run-in for him with a future Doctor. It’d be nice to see him recur with Captain Jack levels of frequency (the frequency we saw him in the Tennant era, I mean).
Missy - Oh Missy, you’re so fine. I’ve already waxed poetic about Michelle Gomez’s performance. I will miss it terribly. Every beat of her story this season has been note-perfect. I really bought her wavering back and forth between the Master and the Doctor, but it wasn’t over-dramatic. She made me believe in a version of the Master that could be good, if any of them could, as much as the Doctor did (and for a classic Whovian, that’s saying something). Of course I’m not pleased to see this character killed off (as if the Master will ever actually be killed off, in fact I’d put money on seeing John Simm in the role again), but very happy with how it came about. Though the last second change of heart was predictable and steered the episode towards the ending I’d expected, everything else about her final scene with the Master was perfect. I’ll forgive any weakness in his appearance in this episode for giving us that ending. I do wish, however, the show would get some goddamn rules for regenerating. Speaking of…
Capaldi - He has one more episode left, in the Christmas special, but since the show has already started his regeneration, it’s time to start saying goodbye. Like Dorothy’s Scarecrow, I’ll miss him most of all. I’m still mad about the previous episode’s flash forward to his regeneration. It added absolutely NOTHING, just foreshadowed a moment we already knew was coming. Getting there was quite something and his plea to the Master and Missy about who he is was really stunning. The Doctor is often willing to sacrifice himself to save innocents, especially in the face of a seemingly unbeatable foe. This time it was really interesting to see him do so, despite his downright refusal to accept the consequential regeneration. For a moment, when he spoke about not wanting to become someone new, already having known about the David Bradley cameo, they had me believing that he would regenerate back to his original incarnation. That possibility was eliminated once we had two Doctors on screen, but it does lead to what I think will be a really awesome Christmas episode. Multi-Doctor stories have always been a favorite of mine. There’s potential to overdo them, but that hasn’t been done yet, so I’m still really looking forward to Christmas (DUDE, I saw a set photo of 12’s TARDIS next to the first TARDIS and squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed so hard), even though it will mean saying goodbye to one of my favorite Doctors.
Thanks all for reading along all season and for your patience when I’ve been late. I’ll see you all at Christmas!