World Enough and Time – Doctor Who Review

Peter Capaldi’s hair just gets better and better, doesn’t it?

Now, that’s obviously not the biggest takeaway from this episode, but it was my first takeaway. Beyond that, there was a lot of shock, a lot of surprise, and a bit of fury. It was a heart pounding, intense, and creepy episode, chock full of brilliant cinematography, atmosphere, and high concepts. But will ‘World Enough and Time’ be remembered as one of the great Doctor Who finale episodes?

Frozen Out

I was generally impressed with this episode, but I have to start by talking about something that irked me. Because I’m like that, I suppose. The pre-titles scene felt a little bit unnecessary. Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve seen the Doctor almost regenerate a few times now, it’s sort of losing its appeal. It’s becoming less special, almost. After a fake-out in Lie of the Land, glimpses in trailers, and not to mention all the times Matt Smith’s Doctor did it, regeneration seems to be coming along more often than ever.

Now, some of this may have to do with more of a meta issue. We, the audience, are pretty clear on the fact that the 12th Doctor is regenerating this year, so seeing the now familiar golden glow is almost to be expected. It comes as no surprise. Similarly, in the past, when there has been an ‘almost-regeneration’ such as in The Impossible Astronaut or The Lie of the Land, we’ve had an inkling that, no, we know he’s not going now.

Ultimately, regeneration is a big play in Doctor Who. It’s almost impossible to keep it secret when a new Doctor is coming, so if you tease it without an announcement, we probably won’t believe it. If an announcement has been made, then the regeneration comes as expected and we don’t appreciate the teasing beforehand so much, I feel.

Regeneration is a tool best used sparingly, I think. It’s a big, dramatic thing for the show. It changes something fundamental and often grabs the headlines. But when there’s a fake-out every other season, it cheapens it a little for me. Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I find it slightly irritating.

Time Enough

Putting that aside, World Enough and Time was generally one of Steven Moffat’s best Doctor Who episodes. What drew me in first was the high sci-fi concept of the black-hole time distortion. It’s the kind of idea that as soon as you hear it, story ideas fire up in your mind. What’s more, the pacing of the episode, the style and very ‘show-don’t-tell’ approach really lets you see what is happening and more importantly feel it.

When Bill is separated from the Doctor, the countdown begins. The audience sees the gap between them opening wider and wider. That builds a lot of tension as we also see Bill heading closer and closer to being converted. Perhaps having more parts added to her over the course of time might have hammered this home a bit more. But as it is, I found myself incredibly invested.

Pearl Mackie has really brought Bill to life, and it is a credit to her skills as an actor that she has made so many people care for her so quickly. I desperately wish we’d had her for the last few years – no offense to Olivia Coleman – as Bill has been an infinitely interesting and lovable character. That is what makes the tragedy of her fate so hard to bear. This was someone we had gotten to know and love, and then to see them taken is painful.

Master of Disguise

Another excellent part of this episode, and indeed this series, has been Missy’s development. While it might have been nice to have her along for the ride a bit more, learning and growing alongside Bill, what we’ve had has been great to watch. Michelle Gomez is a phenomenal actor and clearly pours herself into the role.

John Simm’s Master makes a return, and like a lot of people, I do wish it hadn’t been spoiled beforehand. The fact that I was looking out for him gave away his identity fairly early on. If not, the big reveal might have thrown me out of my chair. As it is, though, I still got a big grin on my face and almost cheered when he unmasked himself.

The Master donning ridiculous over-the-top character disguises for the sole amusement of himself is a long held tradition. Fans of the original series may remember ‘Kalid’ from ‘Time Flight’ as a precursor to this ‘Razor’ disguise. But what sets this apart is that, much like his Professor Yana persona, this Master is lovable, affable, and friendly. He makes a bond with Bill (and the audience) and becomes a trusted ally. Right up until the final moment.

It’s clear that the Master is doing this mostly to mess with the Doctor, to hurt him, to torture him. We can assume he is also attempting to stop Missy’s rehabilitation and that conflict will no doubt be a focus of the final installment and I cannot wait.

Bye Bye Bill

Again, we the audience had already been told that Pearl Mackie wouldn’t be carrying on into Chris Chibnall’s series. Which makes sense – new writer, new Doctor, new companion; a fresh start. However, there are plenty of parts of Bill’s demise (if this is her final demise) that make for uncomfortable viewing.

Many fans were celebratory of Bill, not just for her wonderful character and portrayal, but because of what she represented. Here was a young gay, non-white woman who was heading out on adventures with the Doctor! A positive role model, a well rounded and relatable person of whom young gay women could say ‘she’s just like me!’ And then she dies. Because that’s what happens to gay people – especially gay women – in media these days.

In isolation you might call this a tragic story, a heartbreaking story that has a twist ending. But in the wider context of the world, and a media landscape where this happens far too often, it’s deeply troubling. Yes, there’s still another episode to go, and things could work out in the end. But for now, it has me, and many others, feeling let down.

Plenty of gay viewers, and non-white viewers, are just too used to seeing themselves being gunned down on television, being cast away as a token of tragedy. Rarely do we see happy endings. Bill had a very bright future, and seeing it taken away, takes a little of the light from those who saw themselves in her. Again. That’s the biggest hit. It happened again. We saw someone like us, and they killed her. Again.

I’m sure Steven Moffat wasn’t thinking like that – people who aren’t in marginalised groups rarely have their perspective. But as a critique of wider meta narrative, this is a very valid and troubling point. We need to do better, as a society, and as artists.

The Final Countdown

I could say more about the Cybermen. I loved them, I loved seeing the originals back on our screens. The idea of seeing their origins fully fleshed out was very enjoyable.

Although having the somewhat odd occurance of the Master namechecking ‘Genesis of the Cybermen’ was just, well, odd. A reference to ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ of course, but in-universe nobody used that phrase it was just a story title. But this is a minor gripe, sorry.

Next week it looks like everything is blowing up. Hundreds of Cybermen, from every era and universe, all colliding in one epic battle. Can the Doctor defeat two Masters and an army of Cybermen, and save Bill?

I mean, yes, probably.


More reviews