World Enough and Time.

TV First of all, squee. Squee, squee, squee, squee, sequee, squee. Squee.  Next of all a brief discussion of canonicity in Doctor Who and the (ho, ho) genesis of the Cybermen. As anyone who's visited the Cyberpages on the TARDIS Datacore will know, the creation and history of the race is a narrative mess. Lance and Lars's AHistory, the chronology of the Who universe helpfully summarises that "DWM has offered two distinct origins, Big Finish, a third" and that co-creator Gerry Davies provided his own origin story which was published in David Banks's Virgin book about Cybermen.  Lance and Lars then decide that although these stories might seem to contradict one another the're going to spend a page reconciling them anyway, explaining, I shit you not, how the Voord from The Keys of Marinus and indeed Marinus itself could be the Cybermen and Mondas at some earlier point in history with Marc Platt's audio Spare Parts, up until this point the accepted origin for the old Who Cybermen set much later.

Assuming that Moffat is deciding to allow television to contradict Big Finish and everything else which has gone before that hasn't appeared on television ala George Lucas and the Clone Troopers, the simplest answer is the one I've always favoured and which in the past few years the showrunner himself indicated.  Time can be rewritten.  Mondas's history has been changed somehow and whereas before they might have been Voord or the Fifth Doctor became mixed up in their origins, now its something all the more complicated involving a colony ship and black holes and numerous Time Lords.  Presumably we'll discover next week what this has to do with The Tenth Planet.   David Bradley appearing as the First Doctor at Christmas can't be a coincidence.  Unless it is.  Either way for pedestrians who hopelessly dragged themselves through the wilderness years, or indeed people like me whose fandom was born in one of its stormy oases and cherish those stories, thanks to this being a time travel franchise and the existence of the Faction Paradox and what have you, all of this is fine.

World Enough and Time is a return to the Steven Moffat whose work is practically unreviewable in any meaningful way.  By which I mean it's so, so good, so unlike anything else which this series has had to offer that to try and talk about it in the usual sense of "is the story interesting?" or "how are the characters?" you're on a hiding to nothing.  Everything is impeccable.  The performance.  The set design.  The music.  The SFX.  The meticulous direction from Rachel Talalay who is really having a bonzer year between this, Sherlock and whatever acronym they're using for the DC TV shows.  But unlike Heaven Sent, which was also the best episode of its series, he's still working within the confines of a recognisable Doctor Who format, albeit poking it in the eye ("exposition and comic relief").  This week instead of Bill becoming separated from the Doctor by falling though a hole, it's because someone made a hole in her.  Sob.  So let's talk around a few things.

Anyone who's seen Interstellar will be aware of time distortions around Black Holes and its a clever way of introducing a similar two track narrative with Bill becoming another girl who's waiting (a deliberate callback?).  As Eddie Robson notices, during her captivity , it's as though she's watching 60s Doctor Who on the monitor ("rapt even though it was very slow") or as Clayton Hickman adds, from her point of view a series of telesnaps.  Bill's observations of the Doctor's behaviour are just the sort of micro-analysis which fans often conduct when they've exhausted all other avenues of discussion or the professionals when they're trying to distinguish each of the incarnations in prose.  They're the writerly equivalent of the fan versions of merchandise covers with Moffat suggesting some of the descriptions Terry Dicks might have used in a Target novelisation.

Speaking of Target novelisations, is this the final word on Doctor Who then?  Given that he once signed his name as such and the whole WOTAN business, it's really just a confirmation, but there'll still be some who'll question if it is needed.  But think of the benefits.  The Cushing films, TV Comic and annual stories now have some added canonicity for one and it does explain why the title of the programme doesn't include an actual question mark.  Like Ally McBeal and Veronica Mars, his full name is in the title.  The previous approach to this, in the Virgin New Adventures, was to create a figure called "Doctor Who" as a comment on those earlier stories in which the Doctor's characterisation was slightly "off".  But given how much the Fourteenth Doctor's changed in the past three years, the television Hartnell and the one in the comics isn't that much of a stretch even if it's nearly impossible to account for when they're set in his timeline unless he nipped off for a bit in the middle of The Romans.

Was John Simm's reveal supposed to be a massive surprise?  Some on the social medias say they clocked him from the publicity photos although I only realised after about his second appearance when I wondered why the actor was wearing make-up then noticed his eyes and how his voice sounded and so the fact he was John Simm.  How many people were genuinely that shocked when he ripped away the mask?  I have no memory of my original viewing of Time-Flight so I don't know how convincing it was to my young mind even with the Ainley version of the Master talking to himself in disguise.  But were many viewers giving it the full Yana when Simm dropped the accent here?  Despite the availability of the RTD era on streaming and shiny-disc, how many of them will remember he was a younger version of the character and his fate in The End of Tennant?  Having him remind us that he was once a PM was a nice touch.  Remember back in 2010 how we chortled that there'd be no way a meglomaniac like him could become leader of the free world?  Hum.

How did the Master survive whatever it was that happened to Galifrey back then?  Has Missy herself even explained?  Isn't it curious that she doesn't remember anything of these events ala Time Crash - a return of the meticulous Moffat who bothers to even mention something like that as part of the "reveal".  Is it something to do with her "death" and the reason she was in the vault?  Expect a "So you escaped from Castrovalva. I should have guessed" type conversation next week.  This an episode designed to generate questions - not for their own sake as happened towards the end of the last series but with all of the potential that there'll be answers.  There's still the nagging query about how much the Doctor remembers of Clara and if he and Missy have had a chat about that (cf, Eighth and Iris in the novels).  Would he be as quick to try and rehabilitate her given the business which happened at the end of season eight?  How much more tragic is it that yet another of his companions/assistants/friends finds herself in a state of between mortality and being part of the mortality rate amongst TARDIS travellers.

The tear.  Goddam.  How dead is Bill?  As seen in Torchwood, the survival rate for unconverting human's isn't too high.  Judging by the available technology, a brain transplant doesn't look likely ("Ianto? Ianto, it's me. It's Lisa. I'm human again").  Her reveal recalls the gut wrenching worst of The Age of Steel but with the old style Cybermen this even creepier with their sing song voices and human hands.    Plus that episode set alt.Jackie up to be something of a monster which meant we cared less about her conversation than we do about Bill whose clearly not the person who made that horrible joke in her first moments on the series eleven weeks ago.  Giving her the Danny Pink treatment is bold but she can't possibly stay this way.  Could the Doctorm utilise the properties of the ship somehow to drop in earlier in her timeline and save her, with a localised time distortion being outside the web of time as some kind of justification?  Why is she wearing the exact same clothes as in the minisode, Friend from the Future?

Which returns us to the start of the episode and the Doctor's regeneration.  Apparently, Moffat's original plan for the 2010 season if Tennant had decided to stay on was to have his regeneration in the opening teaser and then spend the rest of the season tracing backwards/forwards to the moment and explaining how he got there.  Is Moffat's resurrecting the idea here?  It doesn't seem like a fake out.  The Doctor looks physically older, broken, his jacket frayed at the edges, his hair even less unkempt than usual.  It's not unusual for the Doctor to enter this moment in defiance ("I don't want to go...") and given the setting, an icy world, it's entirely possible we're seeing the final moments of the Christmas special.  Although, I haven't completely ruled out the idea that in fact Capaldi is going to regenerate at the end of the series, but somehow return as an earlier version to help his new incarnation to find her vortex legs.  Imagine if they could pull off this reveal next week, finally making up for what didn't happen in 2005.

Which brings us to one of the more interesting conversations in the episode about the fluidity of Time Lord genders.  The Doctor jokes about not remembering if they were a woman in the past but unless this is some shocking tease from the writer taking the piss out of a section of the fan base, explaining the old Master to newbies, or the new Rani's a bloke, this has to be foreshadowing for when Romola Garai (or, I'll concede, whoever) emerges next week or at Christmas.  Moffat rarely writes this sort of scene without a reason.  He's apt to do this kind of introduction, to clear the air, to justify some new twist.  Another notable example is Eleventh's phone call in Deep Breath which was a way of reassuring fans who'd joined during his USA breaking tenure that it was OK, that the show would continue without him (even if he failed to mention that some of us would end up hating his successor within a few episodes).  All of which depends on lead times.  Did Chris Chibnall make his choice early enough for Moffat to write the dialogue and someone to film it?  Late pick-ups?  It's going to be Kris Marshall isn't it?  Sigh.

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