Saturday, June 24, 2017

Doctor Who: The Cruelest Downgrade

The day's wearing a bit thin. I spent most of it drinking and watching NXT Women's matches. If you haven't seen Asuka in action, you really should.

Spoilers beyond here.
This week's episode, World Enough and Time, which shares a title with a fan-produced episode of Star Trek famous enough to have its own Rifftrax commentary, certainly started with a hell of a teaser cold-opening, which was enough of a tease that it hardly needed the cliffhanger it gave us. A cliff-hanger which certainly didn't fail to deliver, but was still hardly on the level of the opener.
Seriously, how do you follow that opener? 
I have not been looking forward to these last few episodes. I've made no secret that Peter Capaldi has been an absolute revelation for me since Doctor Who relaunched in 2005. A cranky, grouchy old Scottish man who is completely out of touch and alien to the niceties of human society, a sort of "House in space" that sounds progressively more indecipherable the angrier he gets, he's been my hands-down favourite of the new series.

So last week's trailer definitely gave the impression we'd get a Missy solo/hero episode while the Doctor kicked back, much like the Doctor-Lite episodes of the RTD era, but it seems that wasn't the case, because as soon as things went pear-shaped in the 400-mile colony ship Twelve came bounding out of the TARDIS to save the day... only for Bill to die again. I swear, she's aiming to take down Rory's record for "Most times dying in a series". I did get serious shades of Red Dwarf from those beauty shots of the colony ship, though.

"Nardole, do something non-irritating." It's like Capaldi's reading my mind. 

The establishing scene was quite good, though, giving Missy a lot of time to show off. I was rather tickled by her early-series shout-out calling herself "Doctor Who" and referring to Bill and Nardole as "Thing One and the Other One" and "Exposition and Comic Relief." Missy seems as apt at breaking the third wall as Deadpool in this episode. 
Nice to see a familiar face. 
Science is pretty hard in this episode, what with the time dilation effect of the black hole the ship is trying to escape. I loved the little detail of the clocks telling two different times, one being only two days into the journey, the other being years, and the implication of the crew that went down to a lower floor never having reported back. For all we know, they're almost finished with their mission, but the bridge won't know for quite some time.

Erin says:  "Hard." Sure. Look, I like the nod to time dilation, but:
1) The clock said 365,200-something. 365,000 days is ONE THOUSAND YEARS. You expect me to believe that in a thousand years, the ship's engines kept going without breaking or running out of fuel? 
2) The engines are clearly spewing reaction mass OUTWARD with the nose of the ship pointing TOWARDS the black hole, and yet we're supposed to believe they're "reversing". 
Sorry, no. I'm not buying it. 

I know Erin had a problem with Missy not remembering the events of the episode, but I recall back to the ending of the 50th anniversary episode, where the War Doctor realized that, even though he'd tried to save Gallifrey, he wouldn't remember it, and would continue on to the PTSD-ridden Ninth Doctor when he regenerated, thinking he'd burned the planet in an attempt to stop the war. This is, of course, in reference the finale of the episode, where John Simm makes his return, sporting a glorious Master-goatee after his unmasking as Mr. Razor.

I readily admit that I was fooled throughout the entire episode, not realizing it was John Simm playing both parts. This was shocking, considering I'm a classic Who fan and should be used to the Master donning disguises for no real reason. The (Simm) Master is apparently unhinged from his own timeline (probably his own doing), leading to the meeting between him and Missy. My only question is where in his timeline is he? He mentions being Prime Minister, but his body was burned after the events of The Last of the Time Lords, and he didn't have the goatee when he returned in the specials. This must be after he forced Gallifrey back through the breach but before regenerating to Missy.

I think this qualifies The Master as a cosmic horror, as he is a thing that truly should not be, given that he's exhausted at least two regeneration cycles now: One during the classic series, transferring his conscious to another body in The Keeper of Traken, and again in the TV Movie, and then being resurrected by human ingenuity later on after refusing to regenerate. Keeping track of his deaths and timeline is something that's sadly even outside of my realm of ability. 
More sinister than you can pack in one picture.
The episode did a very good job of lulling us into a sense of false security with Bill, having her form a relationship with Mr Razor. Making us think she could be repaired after the prosthetics on her chest replaced her heart and lungs and then shocking us with the revelation that she was one of the first Mondasian Cybermen. For the uninitiated, Mondas was the planet the Cybermen were originally from. The majority of Cybermen that we've seen in the new series were offshoots of the Cybus Corporation from Pete's World. This may be the first actual confirmed appearance of the classic series Cybermen in the new series, and tying Bill into it makes it heart-wrenching, considering the telepathic "Wait for me" message the Doctor left in her sub-conscious. 

All in all, an excellent episode after last week's lull. A definite must-see. I am totally not looking forward to next week, as I don't want to lose Capaldi, but at the same time I can't wait to see what happens next. This is the first episode of the season that had me verbally going "No no no!" when the credits rolled. You cannot afford to miss this one.

Next week: "Will you stand with me?" 

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