The Doctor Falls followed a first part which concluded with a ‘next time’, making it look like Peter Capaldi would be leaving at the end of the series as he regenerates into a new Doctor, but he and Steven Moffat will still be around for the Christmas episode before that happens, so we know that can’t be the case… or did we?
Note: I will go into detail about this finale, so don’t read before you watch the episode, unless you don’t mind spoilers.
Before long, a small spaceship shot out of the ground, seemingly with a dead Doctor being carried by a Cyberman, but would they really kill him off? That’s never going to be the case while they have a franchise to sell. Anyhoo, that’s a scene which turned out really coming 15 minutes into the episode, as events then went back to what happened earlier, once we got past the opening credits.
Back then, The Master had sorted out an army of Cybermen to take over the world, but for all his cleverness, the Doctor still did a bit of the old switcheroo to update a computer by bashing a few keys (yeah, right!) so they head for any lifeforms with two hearts as well as one, so that includes The Master, Missy and The Doctor.
With a sneery “Knock yourself out” from The Master, Missy roundhouse-kicked him into unconsciousness. So she was on his side anyway… or was she?? Who knows – it’s making my head spin. Either way, Nardole’s turned up to rescue them all, in a scene which looked like a carbon copy of Back to the Future Part II as Doc rescued Marty from the top of Biff’s casino.
Since Moffat was making this up as he goes along with a random number generator, Bill was shown to be fine. Oh, no, she’s still in a Cyberman outfit… but she just doesn’t realise she’s in it until a kid called Alit hands her a mirror. So, we’re seeing Bill as she used to be only because she hasn’t fully registered how she looks now, thanks to her perception filter. As for that spaceship, she was on it for ten years before the change too place… which is how long the average Steven Moffat episode seems to last.
The trouble with going back and forth between Bill then and now is that she’s only been in one series and she’s one of the worst companions ever. Plus, we always knew she was going to only be in one series, so no-one was ever going to give a tuppency toss when she left – whether alive or dead.
Elsewhere, having both Missy and The Master apparently puts their timelines out of sync, and quite how the two of them ended up appearing alongside each other was explained away with a regeneration aspect, even though that didn’t really explain anything at all. Presumably it was the same way Matt Smith and David Tennant appeared together in The Day of the Doctor in November 2013. As for John Simm, he’s a very good actor, but in this brief return to Doctor Who, he brought nothing new to the role.
At one point, as Missy called the lifts from downstairs in the spaceship, leading to more Cybermen coming up (that ol’ Operation Exodus thing):
- Bill (in Cyberman form): “Stand… aside…”
Master (to The Doctor): “Is the future going to be ALL girl??!”
Doctor: “We can only hope.”
So, is he hinting at regenerating into a woman?
Either way, we learned time was not on their side, for a change. They couldn’t get back to the TARDIS, and due to the black hole, the baddies will have had thousands of years to figure out how to stop them.
As The Doctor gave a speech about “Where I stand is where I fall”, making it all teary, unlike in the trailer where it was said in anger (ah, misdirection), it was quite tedious to see The Doctor trying to convice the Master to have some kind of humanity when we know exactly what he’s like, so the baddie was never going to give a hoot about saving lives including that of the good guy.
So, was Bill going to spend all of eternity encased in metal? No, because Heather from The Pilot turned up free Bill of the Cyberman outfit and take her away…
- Bill: “How did you find me?”
Heather: “I left you my tears, remember?”
So, they were her’s and not Bill’s? Christ, and Moffat’s paid to write this?!!
It was nice to see Heather back – since she was well fit, even if it was for some bollocksy way to bring Bill back to life. Still, at least she took Bill away from us forever. The episode was hovering around a 2/10 at that point, but keeping Bill alive knocked it down to a 1. I wanted someone to KILL BILL! (ah, the twelfth and last time I’ll ever make that lame joke)
Oh, but why would Bill leave a near dead Doctor on his own, rather than nurse him? Surely that’s what a companion should do? That didn’t ring true at all.
Either way, the whole episode felt entirely devoid of emotion as all they had to aim at was a long lament to Bill getting ready to lave, but… no-one cares about Bill.
Thankfully, this appears to be the last Nardole episode, too (hurrah!) since it was either him of the Doctor staying with the villagers to look after them forever, whereas the other one is going to die whilst killing Cybermen… although the Doctor never dies, for reasons I explained earlier.
The door is left open, however, for both The Master and Missy, since the former escaped and the latter’s blown up before, in series 8’s finale – Death in Heaven, but never actually died.
We then got more misdirection with lots of flashback cries of “Doctor!” from previous new-Who companions, and Capaldi shouting David Tennant’s “I don’t want to go”, followed by “when The Doctor was me”, a truncated line from Matt Smith’s final words, “I will always remember when the Doctor was me”, throwing a nod back to past Doctors, same as when he offered Alit a jelly baby, the staple food of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor. So lots of ‘the boy who cried wolf’-type stuff going on which should really be reserved for a Doctor’s actual final episode.
“It’s starting. I’m regenerating.. NO!” and so he doesn’t. But he keeps starting to do so again, outside, but cools down once again.
All the time I was thinking – and call me a cynical old Hector – but we can only have a new Doctor once they’ve been announced to the public, surely, since in this age, people would see the filming going on and would spoil it on Twitter and Facebook. Long gone are the days when secrets could be kept.
So, who will be the next Doctor? Kris Marshall from My Family? Phoebe Waller-Bridge from the godawful Fleabag? Hope not, in either case. I would still love for David Warner to be The Doctor, but he’s almost 76 and BBC want a younger Doctor to make the show easier to sell and attract the ‘yoof’ vote.
Next time: Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and the original Doctor (albeit now played by David Bradley, as per An Adventure In Space And Time, since William Hartnell has long since passed on)
The Doctor Falls is available on the BBC iPlayer for a month.
Individual episodes can be bought in HD and SD here.
Director: Rachel Talalay
Producer: Peter Bennett
Executive Producers: Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin
Writer: Steven Moffat
Music: Murray Gold
The Doctor: Peter Capaldi
Bill: Pearl Mackie
Nardole: Matt Lucas
Missy: Michelle Gomez
The Master: John Simm
Alit: Briana Shann
Gazron: Rosie Boore
Hazran: Samantha Spiro
Rexhill: Simon Coombs
Heather: Stephanie Hyam
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.