The end of Peter Capaldi’s reign as the Doctor is nigh. And yet, in the end, everybody lived. Even Bill.
Last week, I was enraged at the killing off of Bill. I couldn’t believe the production would actually be so stupid. After all, there was no way the Doctor would be able to solve this. And the production acknowledged that, about halfway through the hour. The Doctor swore to Bill he would fix this. But despite his insistence that something would come through, she recognized the truth. He wasn’t trying to lie, but he wasn’t right either. He could not fix this.
The Doctor: Knock yourself out.
Missy: Your wish is my command.
But to assume because the Doctor could not fix it meant there was no hope was to underestimate Bill.
When we saw Bill as herself in the barn, for a hot sec I thought the Doctor really had produced a miracle. But no. It was the same trick that Moffat used back when we first met one of the Claras–Oswin. (Remember her? From the Claras who were strewn across The Doctor’s timelines, back at the beginning of Season 7, before Amy and Rory left for good?) There, Oswin-Clara was a Dalek, but her mind was so strong, she forced a projection of herself at all times, seeing her Dalek casing as a spaceship where she baked endless souffles. Bill was doing much the same from inside the body of the Doctor’s other inhuman enemy, not seeing her Cyberman casing, but herself as she should be.
Nardole: I’m still empowered to kick your ass.
Bill: Well, you’ll have to go back downstairs and find it.
Turns out, it must be nice to have a Cyberman on your side. Bill’s new blowing things up skills came in quite handy, both in the saving of the Doctor, and in the saving of the humans. Her ability to hang on to herself, which she learned during the Monk’s invasion, was beyond what we could have imagined. When it was time to sacrifice herself along with The Doctor, it was good to see him have the best fighter he could be his side.
Even Nardole had to admit in the face of that team, he should be the one to go shepherd the humans, maybe even take a wife and settle down five floors up, until the cybermen regroup and return in a few hundred years. It didn’t look like a bad life, all told. And not killing off Nardole felt good.
Nardole: I should probably tell you I’m not human.
Hazran: I’ll try anything once.
Especially since we did seem to have one finalized death — The Master/Missy. Last week’s reveal felt weak, since we knew it was coming. But once that was out of the way, and the two of them free to indulge in their narcissistic self-love and self-loathing, the fun really began. Until it ended. Turns out she was bullshitting about not remembering this adventure. The Master regenerated into her… because she stabbed him in the back. What she apparently didn’t recall was that in return he shot her back, at full blast, so that she couldn’t regenerate. Somehow the Master committing double suicide-homicide seemed the sanest way he could ever go. Exactly how another showrunner will retcon this in order to bring back the character down the line? We’ll have to wait and see. But until then, RIP Missy. You were magnificent.
Unlike the Master/Missy murder, it was hard to watch Bill consign herself to her fate. Once again, Pearl Mackie really just brought it, on every level. She is, in all seriousness, one of the best companions we’ve had, and a stunning actress. All of her scenes had me in tears. Her rage at the Doctor at realizing what had happened. That horrid moment of shock as she digested that her body had been thrown away. Her request not to live once she lost her mind. Their goodbye as they went to either side of the farmhouse to die. Her performance, paired with Michelle Gomez, John Simm and Peter Capaldi as a trio made this an episode for the ages. Mackie needs her own lead in a BBC show, stat.
The Doctor: It’s not because it’s fun and God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it’s right. Because it’s decent. And above all, it’s kind.
Capaldi’s performance by the way? I mean, I know I go on about his ability to monologue. But lord that scene between him and the Master and Missy, before the final showdown. Here he stands, indeed.
Since Moffat was recycling ideas he’d used before, it seemed likely, once the Cybermen were defeated and Bill’s machinery hulked towards the Doctor’s body that Bill would pull a Danny Pink (or The Brigadier) from a couple of seasons ago. She would be Cyberman who sacrifices themselves to save their loved one, and get the Doctor back to his TARDIS to regenerate.
The Master: Is the future going to be all girl?
The Doctor: We can only hope.
It turned out none of that would be necessary. Bill wasn’t the only one hanging on to her humanity with tears. Heather, who puddled away at the end of episode 1, also hung on via those same tears. She was just waiting for the right time to come pick up her passenger. (Did anyone see that coming?)
Bill didn’t need the Doctor to be saved. She already had a backup plan, and a partner who loved her waiting, and she didn’t even know it. To keep going with the Clara comparisons, she ended her run on the show by stepping out of the TARDIS as her own Doctor now — ready to show adventures to a watery companion, one who can helpfully fly any ship and rearrange any molecules. One hopes they might find themselves somewhere soon walking into an odd diner planted in the middle of nowhere, with a girl who insists her name is Me hanging out, while a waitress with a knowing look in her eye serves them up a soda. There’s a Doctor Who spin-off that won’t crash and burn like Class.
The Doctor: I am The Doctor. The Original, you might say.
As for the Doctor, his regeneration has begun, but he’s doing whatever he can to prolong it. That is, until the real Doctor, the Original, comes walking out of the snow. With the promised introduction of our newest version as well in the holiday special, it’s going to be a Triple Doctor Christmas this year.