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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Doctor Who: A Final Reprieve

Spoilers.
So here we come at last, the mysteries having been unraveled. The Doctor Falls, for the first 42 minutes or so (the average length of an episode) is, no doubt, very good. The clever flashbacks of the Doctor outsmarting both Masters while tied to a wheelchair and the house under siege were all very serviceable, with the stand-out moments being the cognitive dissonance of Bill barely holding her personality intact inside of a Cyberman body to the point which she still only sees herself while everyone else is skittish and fearful around her, and the Doctor showing shame for the first time since choosing to not save Davros in last year's premiere episode.

But I don't want to talk about that. I want to talk about the extra innings. The last 20 minutes or so.

From the moment Missy and the Master approach the elevator onwards, the episode ramps up to full speed and delivers one blindsiding knockout blow after another. The unanswered question of why Simm's Master regenerated; Missy's change of heart and loyaties; the mutual backstabbing -- Missy with an Assassin's Creed style wrist knife, Simm's Master with a laser screwdriver blast and the implication that she won't regenerate from it.

Make no mistake, though: I completely believe that Missy is not dead, and the trick she pulled earlier in the episode proves it. That woman who told him a long time ago to always carry a spare regeneration circuit,? That was Missy telling him that then. But when did she actually tell him? She'd have to have gone back earlier, as obviously wasn't carrying one then.  No, Missy made it off that forest floor somehow, I firmly believe that. Besides, The Master's been far more dead than just a body on a forest floor. 
Master, Rule Thyself
And in that vein, I'd also like to take note that Michelle Gomez and John Simm have downright astounding chemistry. Capaldi and Gomez have chemistry, but I'd like to think that Ainley and Delgado,  if they could see Simm and Gomez, would have been proud of how well they chewed the scenery together. It was simply amazing watching them work side by side in what I believe to be the first multi-Master story. The hints of Ten's sad motifs were a nice touch in the opening scenes as well. contrasting neatly with Missy's motif of eerie chanting just before the assassination.

Also, Missy's umbrella is sonic. I adore that.

Bill's story is also neatly wrapped up with a season-long Chekhov's gun (something that Moffat is getting progressively better at) as her grief summons Heather, aka The Pilot from the first episode of the series, and turns what could have been a throwaway line into a completely justified Deus Ex Machina and giving her a properly modern outfit for once.

I've been dreading this season for one reason and one reason alone: Peter Capaldi quickly became my favourite Doctor, rivaling even my childhood hero of Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor. The Pilot's final act of compassion allows him to begin the regeneration process as he staggers about, flashing through his previous lives, before Twelve's innate stubbornness kicks in and he refuses to regenerate. His words echo in my heart as he proclaims he never wants to change again. I, too, would keep Capaldi for as long as he's physically capable of playing the role. But I know that isn't possible. 
"When the Doctor was me..."
It was at that point that I was granted the most wonderful gift I could possibly imagine. Twelve manages to stop his regeneration and is confronted by a familiar face: himself.

His first self, the cantankerous white-haired visage of the First Doctor, played by none other than the man who portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Time and Space, an excellent docu-drama the BBC made about the creation and filming of the beginning of Doctor Who. With this being the last episode of the series, it can only mean one thing: the regeneration won't happen until the Christmas special, and it's going to be special indeed.

The parallels are perfect. The First Doctor fell, "wearing a bit thin" as both he and the War Doctor said, after turning back a Mondasian Cyberman invasion in The Tenth Planet. The implications of this absolute cracker of a blindside means that One is going to be there to ease Twelve through his regeneration, and it'll mark the first time the First Doctor's properly been in a story since his final one. His previous appearances have all been stock footage, filmed separately (due to illness in The Three Doctors), and played by Richard Hurndall who, while decent, is blown away by David Bradley's portrayal. I wonder if this has anything to do with the Caretaker's remark about re-visiting familiar faces... 
I *did* warn you about spoilers.
You absolutely, positively, cannot miss this episode. The episode alone is on par with my previous favourite of the series, The Lie of The Land, but the addition of Missy and The Master and the surprise appearance of the First Doctor tip the scales heavily. I have never so much been left on edge waiting for an episode that's still six months away.  

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