[NB: This review contains some spoilers. Even if they were both in the trailer for this week’s episode.]
They sure like teasing that regeneration, don’t they? It was only a few weeks ago that ‘The Lie of the Land‘ faked us out with a well-promoted moment, and in many ways sewed the seeds for the start of this two-part finale. It’s a good episode, maybe even a great one, especially if you’ve somehow avoided all publicity before now.
Missy (Michelle Gomez) is given a short-leashed trial run as the ‘hero’ when the TARDIS lands on a space station orbiting a black hole. When Bill is promptly shot and dragged away by creatures to the other end of the ship, where time moves at a vastly different speed, she spends years waiting for The Doctor to rescue her. Of course, it’s only a matter of minutes for the Time Lords, and to paraphrase a previous one: “Minutes? That’s ages. What if I get bored or need a television, couple of books. Anyone for chess?”
As a showcase for Pearl Mackie, apparently featuring in her last few episodes of DOCTOR WHO, the tight-quartered episode lets her shine. Bonding with hospital everyman Mr Razor in the claustrophobic nightmare ward, their relationship becomes a tragic one on reflection. As such, we suspect that this is one of those outings that is going to get better on replays, as you go back to see if and when writer Stephen Moffat has tried to trip us up anywhere.
The two major reveals of this episode, namely the reveal of the Mondassian Cybermen and the return of John Simm as The Master, were majorly undercut by the BBC’s gleeful spoilers in their promos. This issue has plagued the show for several years now, where the desperation over a perceived drop in ratings has led to a policy of showing us everything in advance. Perhaps in an Internet age we are all expected to become as numb to these constant spoilers as if we were also Cybermen. Of course, then we’d be like the MTV generation and feel neither highs nor lows.
Nevertheless, both are a delight to see back on screen. Trust Moffat to take the dodgy costumes born out of 1960s limitations and turn them into a major continuity point in 2017. (It’s almost as fun as the “We do not discuss it with outsiders” line from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Klingon retcon in ‘Trials and Tribble-ations.’) Simm is a far cry from the manic Master of his previous appearance, bringing him back down to Roger Delgado levels of sophisticatedly sinister. He’s even got the beard.
If there is one thing Moffat has done well since 2010 it’s endings, and as far as penultimate episodes go, ‘World Enough and Time’ is up there with some of the best. We know that this year’s regeneration is going to be “different” somehow to the rest, and the identity of the 13th Doctor is still one that is yet to be confirmed. Maybe it was a throwaway line, but we couldn’t help but notice that The Doctor made a point of saying that Gallifrey is “billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender.” Our bodies are ready for the finale next week, and it seems as though it will be packed with story points if nothing else.