The following review contains spoilers for this week’s episode of Doctor Who.
The end is in sight for Peter Capaldi. We ended this week’s episode of Doctor Who with the Twelfth Doctor facing down a coalition of his greatest foes – and his companion Pearl Mackie trapped within the metal body of a Mondasian Cyberman. It was a memorable climactic moment for an episode that was one of the strongest of what has been a very solid final run for Capaldi, who has been victim to some shoddy writing throughout his tenure as the Doctor. Unfortunately, this episode’s best moments were spoiled months in advance – leaving its successes to ring a little hollow.
We met the TARDIS crew with Missy (Michelle Gomez) playing “Doctor Who” and answering a distress call, with Bill and Nardole (Matt Lucas) as reluctant companions. The Doctor, who was munching crisps in the TARDIS, soon had to inject himself into the situation when Bill appeared to be shot dead and was shipped away by mysterious people in white. Bill found herself trapped at the other end of the ship which, due to its proximity to a black hole, experienced time differently. There, mysterious “conversion” operations were underway and it eventually transpired that this facility was turning human beings into Mondasian Cybermen.
More than any episode this series, ‘World Enough and Time’ felt like it was confidently laying building blocks for the episode to come. It was an elegant story in its own right, focused admirably on Pearl Mackie’s increasingly impressive companion, and one that set up a tantalising finale for the series, and indeed for Capaldi, who only has next week’s episode and a Christmas special before he hands in the TARDIS keys for good. Mackie’s investigation of the bizarre medical facility, with many nods to Steven Moffat two-parter ‘The Empty Child’/’The Doctor Dances’ was a fun premise and one that built to a number of effectively spooky revelations. The Cyber-conversion process has always been grim – and here that darkness was felt keenly.
‘World Enough and Time’, though, was an episode that suffered enormously as a result of sabotage from its own marketing. The two biggest surprise returns – John Simm and the Mondasian Cyberman – have been widely reported for months. As a result, the patient build-up to these revelations felt a little odd. We knew the strange creatures were Cybermen and we could be pretty certain that the slightly odd man in weird prosthetics would be revealed as the Master. Thankfully, the direction from returning helmer Rachel Talalay was strong enough to maintain a sense of tension, even leading up to the inevitable.
This episode featured a selection of remarkable performances from main cast members who have become incredibly comfortable in their roles. The slightly bizarre treatment of Missy throughout this series finally culminated in a virtuoso performance from Michelle Gomez, balancing her character’s inherent evil with the seeds of good that have begun to grow in her personality. The episode suggested that Simm’s arrival will put an end to any niceness and things look equally bleak for Bill. Mackie was wonderful here and Capaldi gave his trademark eyebrows real expression as he dealt with the horror of the macabre final revelation.
In a parallel world, we could have been talking about ‘World Enough and Time’ as one of the best Doctor Who episodes. Nobody would’ve expected Simm’s return and the Mondasians would have been a shocker of a returning monster. Indeed, that reveal of Simm’s smug face could have been one of the greatest moments in the history of the show. However, there’s enough in the episode even without those surprises to make it one of the most satisfying stories of this series – and it’s not even finished yet.
Next week: It’s the series finale and the Doctor’s greatest foes have assembled against him. Things are looking pretty damning for Twelve – and regeneration is on the cards.
Doctor Who is airing on Saturday nights on BBC One and is available on BBC iPlayer.
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