Mastering His Destiny
♦Our man in Los Angeles, Robert Cave, takes a look at the eleventh episode of Doctor Who Series 10, World Enough And Time, on last Saturday on BBC1 in the UK…
Director: Rachel Talalay
Writer: Steven Moffat
Stars: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas
Wow. A lot happened in this week’s episode. Old villains returned, a companion was placed in dire jeopardy and the Doctor’s impending regeneration was tantalisingly teased. But what struck me as interesting was that so many of the details had been revealed in advance.
We knew, for instance, that the original Cybermen from Mondas would feature in the last two episodes, as would the return of John Simm as the Master. We even knew that Peter Capaldi along with pretty much everyone else working on the show, will be leaving at the end of the season in advance of incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall.
There are still surprises of course, and the shooting of Bill (Pearl Mackie) is properly shocking in the same way that Danny Pink’s death was in “Dark Water,” but the knowledge of forthcoming big reveals only heightens the anticipation. Likewise the slow burn reveal that the ship and its crew are from Mondas, a home planet of the original cybermen.
But before we get too much further we should probably discuss the seeming non-sequitur of a pre-title sequence in which the Tardis lands in a snowy landscape in a tattered costume that seems to be, in the words of the First Doctor “wearing a little thin” – he’s also positively seething with regeneration energy, although he appears desperate to hold it back. Both the locale and the regeneration seem to me to be call backs to “Tenth Planet” which was both the first story to feature a regeneration and the first to feature the Cybermen. But whether or not the scene it depicts will be played out in next week’s episode or possibly even the one that follows it at Christmas remains to be seen.
Post-title the story moves at a swift pace. The Doctor is testing Missy (Michelle Gomez) to see if she truly can become a better person by sending her out with Bill and Nardole (Matt Lucas) to investigate a distress beacon on a massive colony ship that is slowly reversing away from a giant black hole.
The plot is very engaging and moves at a cracking pace, but what a sizable chunk of the audience is looking for is any indication of The Master. It is a testament to the make up department that Mr Razor’s disguise is so good that you really need to be looking to spot John Simm under it all. The near anagram, (well, if you pronounce it in a West Country accent) is probably what tipped most avid fans off to his Master’s presence. And so we have it, another first in the show’s long history – a multi-Master story.
If the Doctor’s timeline is complicated, the Master’s is even more so, not least because despite appearing in so many stories, we know comparatively little about the character’s past life cycle. The first version of the Master audiences encountered was played by Roger Delgado in “Terror of the Autons.” After the actor’s unexpected death in 1973, the character also disappeared for a few years returning in 1976’s “The Deadly Assassin,” this time played by Peter Pratt in a much more decrepit form.
Eventually it was revealed that the Master was at the end of his life cycle, and was in dire need of a new body. He stole a few of non-Galifreyian forms before seemingly being gifted a new regeneration cycle by the Time Lords as part of the Time War. The Master then ran away to the end of the universe disguising himself as Professor Yana/The Master (Derek Jacobi), who then regenerated into Simm’s Master in “Utopia.” We last saw this version of the rogue Time Lord in “The End of Time Part Two,” but never got to see him regenerate into Michelle Gomez’s Missy on screen.
Both Gomez and Simm are really great actors and it is a joy to watch them on screen together. They are positively fizzing, bouncing off of each other, Missy’s mercurial nature against what seems to be the Master’s more practiced malevolence. Their dialogue seems to imply that the Missy is the later incarnation, but there is nothing the definitively states she is.
And then we have those other much-anticipated returning villains, the Cybermen, and they do indeed look awesome in in their original 1966-style form their debut story “Tenth Planet”. Their retro design flows beautifully from their inspiration; an amalgamation of mechanical repairs to damaged and bandaged humanoid bodies. The moment when the surgeon brings out the helmet thingy as a means of making patients ignore their own pain is chilling as is the reveal that Bill has been fully converted. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. I really like Bill. I wish she’d been given more episodes like “Thin Ice” in which to shine, but I have a nagging feeling that she won’t be getting a happy ending.
I really hope I’m wrong, not least because I’d love to see Mackie playing against whoever has been chosen to play the next Doctor. I’d also like to see a whole series of the Doctor and Missy travelling the universe together too, but that is probably something I’ll have to wait to see in the form of a comic from Titan.
Whatever actually does happen, I’m already eager to see it.