The Two Masters

Story: The Doctor Falls
Written By: Steven Moffat
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

Best finale in years. The episode picks up where the previous episode left off, with Bill now converted into an original Cybermen, and the Doctor caught i nthe trap of the Master (the John Simm version), who has brought back a bit of the bad of the Missy version of him/herself...she had been slowly developing a better side throughout this year, but seeing her old self gives her a bit of a split between those two sides.
The Doctor, while being beaten by the Masters, manages to quickly change one element of the Cybermen's definition of humans, adding an extra heart, which then puts himself and the Masters in danger. So they escape to another level of the ship with Cyber-Bill in tow (in a shuttle that Nardole finds).  Not before the Doctor is electrocuted by a Cyberman, thus setting up his constant fighting back of his regeneration.  Once they move on, The Doctor then does his best on the next few floors up to prepare for the inevitable coming of the Cybermen (who being further down in the ship can evolve in their upgrades faster than where the Doctor and co. are).

The heart of the episode is really the performances.  Capaldi is at his Doctory best here, Mackie gives a fantastic performance as the tormented Bill trapped Cybersuit (we see Mackie as she sees herself for most of the episode, but she is seen as a Cyberman by everyone else), and both incarnations of the Master are fantastic fun to watch.  It is great to see Simm back, I like Gomez, but Simm was a Master I just loved a lot, whether he was being over the top and a tad campy or silly, or his more reserved menace that was seen mostly when he was one on one with the Doctor or by his self.  All of them are great in this, and they elevate the material to the next level.

The Masters rapport and strange relationship with each other is a lot of fun, and their mutual demises by each stabbing/shooting each other in the back was great.  Missy decides to leave the Master behind and go back to stand with the Doctor...choosing her emotional growth over reverting back into her old self, so she stabs the Master in the back, knowing that it will most likely lead to his regeneration into her (which, as established earlier in the episode, she is a bit fuzzy on the memory of how that all came about, and seeing as their being together puts timelines out of sync, it makes sense why she can't quite recall it).  And as she leaves him, the Master shoots Missy in the back.  He claims that she won't be able to regenerate due to giving her the "full blast,"  but we all know that is some lies, because the Master always finds a way to survive.  Time will tell is we see a him or her again, but chances are Gomez made her final appearance in the show...and she was a fine addition.  She had major recurring roles in both Capaldi's first and final years, and even showed up at the beginning of his second year for the big two part opener.  She is Capaldi's Master, his main foe really...I doubt she will be returning for a new Doctor.  Anything is possible, but I am sure if (or when) the Master returns?  It will be with a new face again.

In the end, Nardole gets a fine send off as he helps evacuate the floor and help lead the survivors on another floor, believing the Doctor and Bill to be dead after all the Cybermen are blown to pieces (presumably with the Doctor and Bill with them).  Bill and the Doctor both survive however, and Bill is soon visited by Heather, the girl with a star in her eye from the opening episode of the Series, and it is revealed that she has never truly let go of Bill, and that the reason Bill as a Cybermen was still able to cry, was because of the residual connection to Heather. Bill is then relieved of her Cyber-conversion, but she is now a water based space traveler like Heather, and the two can now travel the universe together, as a couple.  It is a lovely farewell for Bill, she gets a happy ending that feels earned and satisfying, and it was a bit of a relief to know she didn't have to live out her days as a Cyberman or end up genuinely dead.  And unlike the ending Clara got, in which she was killed because of her presumptions and her own willingness to take a leap...but then that theme that was hammered in all year was thrown out the door as Clara gets revived and gets some semi-happy ending where she goes on adventuring in a TARDIS before he inevitable demise...Bill's survival feels more legit to me. At least it doesn't feel so much like having the cake and eating it too. Clara's ending didn't feel earned. It made her death a little cheaper and lose impact upon revisiting the episodes, whereas I don't see Bill's ending as doing the same. Because she never truly died.

Then we come to the Doctor's fate.  Bill and Heather take his incapacitated body back to the TARDIS, and Heather (being "The Pilot") flies it off the ship, and then the two leave the Doctor and the TARDIS beyond, to travel the universe together.  Bill leaves a tear behind on the Doctor, so there is always a chance they will meet again.  The Doctor again shows signs of regenerating, and awakes a little scrambled and repeating old final words of some past incarnations...but again he fights off regenerating.  He doesn't want to change, and yet again be somebody new. He walks out of the TARDIS, which has landed in a snowy landscape, and he almost regenerates again, and again he holds it back and rails against the notion...but then someone else shows up in the snow saying they will not change...The First Doctor!

It will be a bit hard to wait for Christmas and see Capaldi teamed up with David Bradley as the First Doctor, who is sort of reprising the role, having played William Hartnell in the bio-drama "An Adventure in Time and Space" from the 50th anniversary, but now he is playing the Doctor proper.  Will be fun to how it all plays out for the two...a Multi-Doctor Regeneration story this Christmas? An interesting choice.  Usually, I would think that a Doctor should stand on his own for his final outing, but this two-parter really did that, Capaldi stood tall and proud as his Doctor...and his regeneration is already sparked...so why not a visit with his first incarnation before he finally departs his latest body.  Could be fun!

NEXT TIME: The End of the Moffat Era

Project Exodus

Story: World Enough and Time
Written By: Steven Moffat
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

Man oh man...what an episode.  The Doctor wants to test Missy, see if she truly can be good, so he decides to put her into a Doctory situation, and see how she handles it.  Unfortunately, it doesn't go too well.  They land on a 400 mile long ship, which is attempting to back away from a Black Hole.  A panicked member of the ship's crew wants the only human dead, to avoid the monsters on the ship coming up to get her, and the only human is Bill.  In his panic, he shoots Bill right in the heart, and the monsters come to take her away and "fix her."
Bill wakes up with an electronic device on her chest keeping her alive, but she is at the back of the ship, and time moves much slower than at the top of the ship where the Doctor and company are.  So she waits patiently for the Doctor to arrive, which takes years for them to just get to the elevator. She spends her time with her only friend down there, Mr. Razor...and has to live amongst the creepy creatures in hospital gowns and masks who seem to be forever in pain.

Of course if you have seen a trailer for this series, you know what is coming...but boy did knowing not hurt the tension of this thing for a second.  I knew the creatures were going to be the original Mondassian Cybermen, the ones from their first appearance in 1966 with the creepy cloth masks...and I knew very quickly that Razor would end up being the John Simm incarnation of the Master...but where Bill's part in this was leading kept me on edge.  Would she really end up converted?  Would the Doctor get there in time?

And then it happens.  The Master reveals him self to Missy (and then the Doctor), and then we learn the fate of Bill...she has been completely converted, telling the Doctor over and over that she "waited for him."  It's a wonderful ending, just a hell of a cliffhanger, and I cannot wait to see how it plays out over the next episode...as well as the tease of the upcoming regeneration which I am certain will be not playing out in it's entirety until Christmas, making this a big of a three parter (I am assuming).  Oh what fun!

NEXT TIME: A Variety of Cybermen!

The Guardian of the Gate

Story: The Eaters of Light
Written By: Rona Munro
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole land in Scotland in the 2nd Century, mostly to settle a bet between the Doctor and Bill about what exactly happened to the lost Ninth Legion of the Roman Army.  Of course, with a set up like that it usually means an alien did it, and of course it does!  The alien in question is like an inter-dimensional beast that eats light and sucks the life out of people, and it did so to practically the entire legion of Roman soldiers.  But now the Doctor and co. must team up with what is left of the Roman soldiers, and the Pict tribe that unleashed the beast in order to put it back before it causes more harm and more beasts escape the portal they come from.
I liked the atmosphere and the character stuff in this one, the guest cast coming across with a little more depth and humanity in this one than the cast of the last episode "The Empress of Mars."  Those soldiers seems one dimensional, and while I won't claim these characters were top notch, they just fared a little better in my view.

There's some good stuff to be found here: a good supporting cast, good bits for our main players, a solid script, a new monster, and a nice little end bit for Missy to set up the upcoming two-part finale that will most likely wrap up her arc for the year, which we've clearly been building towards since the word go.  For me, another solid winner in this solid season. Capaldi's era is shaping up to be quite consistent and entertaining!

NEXT TIME: Missy's Test

Iraxxa

Story: Empress of Mars
Written By: Mark Gatiss
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

I have given "The Empress of Mars" a couple of watches, and I have to say it just doesn't thrill me. I don't hate it by any stretch, I just found it kind of by the numbers and I think my own general disinterest in the Ice Warriors leaves me a bit cold (pun absolutely not intended).  There are things I like, the juxtaposition of Victorian soldiers on Mars is neat, and the way that people were curled up into balls whenever the Ice Warriors shot them was fun.  The whole idea of it seems more entertaining in theory than it ever does for me in execution.
That all said it is probably on the higher end of Mark Gatiss episodes, below his previous Ice Warrior entry ("Cold War") for me, but not as fun as "The Crimson Horror." In a way this almost seems like a cross between Gatiss' two Series 7 entries, with the Victorian fun stuff mixed with the Ice Warriors...I just didn't think it did anything terribly special with a premise that is, admittedly, kind of fun.

I don't hate it, but the Ice Warriors are always lower tier Classic Who monsters for me, so when they return it doesn't fill me with excitement.  If you are a fan of the Ice Warriors, no doubt this will entertain and excite, and if you are a fan of the Peladon stories (of which I am most definitely not!), then there is a nice little treat for you at the end.

Passable entertainment, but of this series so far, I'd rank it near the bottom of my list. 

NEXT TIME: The Ninth Legion

The Monks Have Always Been Here

Story: The Lie of the Land
Written By: Toby Whithouse
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

The conclusion to the "Monk Trilogy" showcases the Earth as completely taken over by the Monks, not only do they have complete control of the present, but they have also changed history and/or done some mass brainwashing to make the populace believe that the Monks have always been there and cared for them, which helps in preventing too much resistance...any resistance shown or anyone spouting the truth that the Monks only arrived 6 months prior gets them quickly arrested and sent to jail.
Nardole returns to Bill and helps her track down the Doctor, who has only been seen on the TV presenting the Monks' propaganda.  Bill is convinced that the Doctor is only biding his time to take down the Monks rule. But is really?

The episode is a solid conclusion to an arc I personally think has been great Who. This final entry has fairly relevant topics of derision, much as "Oxygen" seemed quite critical of extreme capitalism and making people pay for basic bodily functions, this episode takes on the topical world problems of fascism, propaganda, and the so-called "fake news" issue.  It also solves it all in a fairly Doctor Who fashion, with love triumphing over all.  While some may decry that the ending was too easy, I think the setup of the Monks only being able to take over the world with the pure thought and love being destroyed by such made sense...and the fact that Bill's mom and her love for her lost parent have been set up and played into the background throughout the season make it all work out nicely for me.

If only we didn't have to now end this lovely run of episodes with next week's Mark Gatiss penned return of the Ice Warriors. I don't care for his scripts usually, and the Ice Warriors have never been terribly interesting.  Can't say my hopes are too high. 

NEXT TIME:  Lady Ice Warrior

Consent of the Monks

Story: The Pyramid at the End of the World
Written By: Peter Harness & Steven Moffat
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

Another excellent episode, the Monks are proving to be a great foe for the Doctor. The previous episode was really just a message from a virtual Doctor to the real Doctor, warning him that the Monks have been planning their takeover of Earth for some time and may be ready. Now they have arrived, coming in style in an Ancient Pyramid, their plan consists mostly of a warning that the world will come to an end regardless, unless someone with power consents to giving them the Earth, and they will stop it...but the Consent must be made out of Love alone.  Easier to control for a lasting time under Love it seems.
So the Doctor must figure out what will actually cause the Earth to be in ruins, in order to prevent it and thus ruin the Monks plan for takeover.  He and Nardole eventually narrow it down to being a life-destroying bacteria created by mistake in a lab, and all he has to do is blow it up and escape...but to escape the lab he needs is eyesight (to see an analog combination lock), and of course he is still blind.  Bill decides that what the Earth really needs is the Doctor, so she consents to the Monks out of love for the Doctor (platonic love nerds...), in order to give him back his eyesight. The results of which probably won't prove too good for Earth.

It is a fun episode, with a great evil plan that preys on love as a weakness, and Bill's decision to help save her friend and cure the Doctor's blindness has dire consequences...as based on the trailer for next week and just the context of the episode, the Earth is no longer the Earth we know for now.  So far I am really enjoying this "Monks Trilogy" in the center of the this season. Let's hope the big ending for the storyline is as fun and exciting as the last two have been. 

NEXT TIME: The Monk's Reign

Veritas

Story: Extremis
Written By: Steven Moffat
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

"Extremis" is top notch Doctor Who. It not only plays with this new reveal that the Doctor is currently blind, and thus a little out of his depth, but it also just plays with the show's format in a clever way, all while revealing more of the Vault Arc this season has been setting up, as well setting up the next episode's villain.   In every way I enjoyed this episode, and it was among the top episodes of Capaldi's run so far in my opinion.
The Doctor, struggling with his new-found blindness, receives an e-mail on the Sonic Sunglasses (with their new need they seem less stupid and annoying as they did in Series 9), and we next see him interrupting Bill's date by bringing the Pope into her bedroom.  The Doctor brings in Bill to assist him (along with Nardole) in his attempt to read a book called the Veritas in the Vatican secret library.  Of course the Doctor can't read due to his lost eyesight, but only Nardole knows that.

As the episode unravels the creepy monster Monks that chase the Doctor and his cohorts turn out to not really be invading the Earth...yet.  Slowly it is revealed that the entire episode takes place inside a hologram, not even the Doctor or Bill are real.  At first this was mindbending and I wasn't entirely sure when the hologram bit began, has the whole season been there?  Then it clicked...the e-mail at the beginning of the episode, that was the start of the recording, being sent to the Doctor from his hologram counterpart, to warn him that the Monks were not only practicing to invade, but were currently ready. It is great set up for next week, and done in such a new and clever way that proves that even though Moffat has been around a while, he still somehow has a few tricks left up his sleeve.

Also revealed in this episode is that Missy is indeed, at least as far as the episode made clear, inside the Vault.  As the Doctor was at some point meant to execute her and guard her body in the vault for 1000 years, but he chose not to kill her (because he is the Doctor and Nardole came post his last night with River to give the Doctor a bit of a kick to do the right thing in River's name), and has just kept her locked up alive, still keeping true to his word of guarding for 1000 years, just with the caveat that she isn't dead.  And in the end of this particular story, the Doctor seems to be thinking of using Missy's help to fight off this new enemy..should be an intriguing episode next time!


NEXT TIME: The Monks' Pyramid