Doctor Who - Episode 10.12 - The Doctor Falls - Review
Another season of Doctor Who has come and gone. This week marked the end of the last season Steven Moffat will write, and the second to last episode he will ever do. Read on to see more in depth thoughts on "The Doctor Falls". There will be spoilers below.
As I mentioned last week, part two of a finale can make or break part one. I used last years excellent "Heaven Sent" and mediocre "Hell Bent" as examples. I am pleased to say that this year avoided that same pattern. "The Doctor Falls" was excellent. It was one of the most beautiful and emotional episodes of the entire series. Moffat curbed his worst habits and it paid off making this two part finale one of the best ever.
I won't do a beat by beat recap here, but hit some broader strokes. Everyone received some well deserved character pay off. Let's start with The Master/Missy. I have seen some criticisms as to having Simm's Master return be a waste of the character; and while I see where people are coming from, I couldn't disagree more.
The whole season was spent wondering if Missy could be good. It was an internal conflict in her. Television is a visual medium and the best way to have an internal conflict on television is to show it. You can describe it in books but describing it on TV is lazy. Never say anything you can show. Usually, this would involve the trope of an angel and a devil on each shoulder convincing the person one way or another; or flashbacks to this or that. But this show is privileged in rich history. By bringing John Simm's Master back, it was a literal, physical representation of an internal struggle and it showed how self-destructive those can be. It was done really well, and laid out both sides of one brain fighting for control. The fates of both were left ambiguous, and that is because the show is continuing with someone new. The Master is everybody's character, not just Moffat's. So it needed to be ambiguous so Chris Chibnall can have some flexibility in using the character if he so chooses. Simm was a better Master here than he ever was previously, and Michelle Gomez was wonderful as usual. Simm was more reserved than in his manic RTD days, but no less evil. I hope Chibnall took notes on how to use both of them if Chibnall decides to show them again before casting his own.
Let's tackle Bill next. Pearl Mackie has been breaking my heart (in the best way possible) all season, but no more than this episode. But this is a Moffat companion we are talking about. In the first episode he ever wrote in season one, he made sure that "Everybody lives! Just this once Rose, everybody lives!" Well that was sort of true. Significant people died in Moffat episodes after that...but not really. Think about it. Season 2: Madame De Pompadour died of old age, even though it was only a few days for the Doctor. Season 3: Kathy Nightingale and Billy Shipton lived happily ever, just in the past. (They lived to death). Season 4: River's consciousness survives forever on the biggest hard drive in the universe. Season 5: Rory turns into a plastic Roman, but the universe gets reset and he survives. Season 6: Strax survives Demons Run in a mini-episode. Season 7: Amy and Rory get touched by an Angel. Season 8: Danny Pink dies, but he lives on as a Cyberman. Season 9: Clara gets frozen in the second before she "dies" and can see the universe with an immortal named Ashildr.
So while things looked dire for Bill I knew there would be a loophole. What I wasn't expecting was how beautiful and emotional that loophole actually was. It was amazing and tied the first episode together with the finale perfectly. Plus, it left it ambiguous (again) for her to return, whether it is in the upcoming Christmas special one last time, or if Chibnall decides to use her to pop in on the new team like how Martha did to the Doctor and Donna in season 4.
Nardole. Now, while we didn't get answers of what he is made out of how he got his body back, we did get a nice ending to his story. He actually got a love interest! That is the last thing that I ever would have guessed for him, and when they teased a romantic connection I assumed it would be Missy/The Master because Moffat couldn't resist the dialogue. His "ending" if that is what this is, leaves it open for him to return. I mean, if he returned after being beheaded he can return no matter what scenario he was in. I'm sure Chibnall has his own ideas and fresh characters and story lines to use but it is nice that he has the option of bringing back so many characters if the story calls for it.
What in the world did we do to deserve Peter Capaldi? He is an absolutely wonderful Doctor and will be sorely missed. He didn't always get the strongest scripts to work with but he elevated anything he was given. He has had many wonderful speeches throughout his three year tenure, but I think his crown jewel was his speech to the Masters. The way he said "because it's kind" had me rolling an actual tear. That is the essence of the Doctor and always has been.
I am glad we got that story out of Steven Moffat before he left. It deserved to be told. We have one more episode left to wrap things up, but we have to wait until Christmas to see it.
The Doctor is in a somewhat dark place at the moment. He lost everyone he cared about....again, and is all alone - again. He has been fighting off regeneration for a while now, and doesn't want to anymore. He just wants to die. We all know that won't happen, but the journey to get there should be interesting. Especially with the tease at the end. It seems like we are in for a It's a Wonderful Life style Christmas episode. (Though I hope it is still titled "Twelfth Night").
The Doctor returns for Christmas Day only on BBC America.