The Doctor Falls.

TV First of all, squee. Squee, squee, squee, squee, squee, squee, squee. Squee. Squee. Next of all, an even briefer discussion of canonicity in Doctor Who and the (ho, ho) genesis of the Cybermen. It's true. All of it.  When the Doctor says, "They always get started. They happen everywhere there's people. Mondas, Telos, Earth, Planet 14, Marinus. Like sewage and smartphones and Donald Trump - some things are just inevitable,"  In a single line of dialogue, Steven Moffat simplifies the next edition of Lance and Lars's AHistory (apart from having to explain Trump in the US presidents entry) by making every origin of the Cyberman canonical across all media including the DWM comic strip, by suggesting that every society has the potential for biomechanics which you could infer on Skaro led to a pepperpot shape but on the planets the Doctor lists and countless others a humanoid shape, with or without the capacity to clench their fist and say "Excellent."

Like Asylum of the Dalek, The Doctor Falls allows the costume department to amortise  their stock with the return of the most recent thinner models alongside the more robust Cybus Industries models of Cybermen alongside.  One could theorise from this based on the Doctor's speech that not all of the appearances of these versions were necessarily sourced from Pete's World, but developed independently somehow.  I wonder if any consideration was made to bring in versions from other eras, The Invasion model or whatever was happening in Silver Nemesis.  What makes the Mondasians so chilling is that like the Borg you can still see elements of their human in the costume just as you did throughout the classic era.  The nuWho versions have always been too much like b-movie robots.  We only know their used to be a human inside because we're constantly told.  With the classic era models we can see it.

Much like last week's episode, this episode is pretty unreviewable in the normal way.  Somehow managing to cram all three of the franchise's key tropes, an alien invasion within a base under siege rolled around a pre-destination paradox, plus body horror and a whole lot of regeneration, you could take the view that there's nothing especially new here, that we might as well have read a Michelin iSPY Book of the Documents on Steven Moffat's Hard Disk.  But repetition is a key feature of Doctor Who and as fans we only really complain when we're not entertained, when we feel like there's a point to choosing some of these old favourites other than desperation.  I can think of a host of reasons why I might have taken against the episode in another mood, but was instead enthralled, excited, shocked and boggle eyed throughout.

The underlying story is extremely simple.  House full of kids need protecting from the hoards, a miniature Helms Deep with sandbags instead of elves.  Even this has echoes in other Cybermen stories like Nightmare in Silver (rarely has an episode title reviewed its contents so well).  Samantha Spiro finally appears in Who as the head of the household and even if, in keeping with supporting characters in the rest of the series, her character is pretty barebones, her presence creates some much needed layers even to the point of making me smile when she takes a liking to Nardole.  Turns out Nardole really has only existed to give Matt Lucas something to do because the production team  like him. I'll admit to him being less objectionable here than usual and it is poignant that he's stranded in a BDO waiting for his certain doom once the Cybermen have evolved again.

This impossibly huge colony ship will remain one of Moffat's most evocative ideas, large in scope and fiendish in the jeopardy it generates.  There's a brilliant episode of Star Trek's Voyager, Shattered, in which various aspects of the ship's history exist simultaneously so version of characters from different eras can interact but everything is reset by minute 40 via some spoiler juice.  Not here.  The Doctor et al could theoretically get on the lift up to the TARDIS but due to the time dilation even if they get there the Cybermen could have evolved in such a way as to have beaten them to it and they can't take the chance.  Which means that he also can't use the TARDIS to simply pull the colony ship out of the path of the Black Hole which it presumably would have been capable of considering it pulled the Earth back into orbit in a previous final episode.

Until the final deus ex machina, or rather apud amicam conlectus, Bill's fate is gruesome, just as gruesome as Oswin Oswald's in Asylum, but with the extra horror that she experiences the magnitude of the change for much longer, the distrust and fear of others for someone who otherwise views themselves as kind and benevolent.  Pearl really sells the duel physicality of her status, stiff and artificial in battle, crumpled  and emotional otherwise and there wasn't any other choice that could be made other than to present Bill as human for much of the episode, the on-set camera allowing us access to her thought patterns.  Given that the Doctor had Kroton as his companion for quite some time, not to mention Handles, there was always a chance their travels could have continued.  But having to explain her status every time they landed might have become increasingly limiting.

So she had to go.  In her exit, like her predecessor Bill finds herself in a new state of being and being whisked across the universe (albeit on a less platonic basis) with the Doctor unaware of her fate, in this case, perhaps, assuming she's dead.  Heather's return was a good surprise fully in keeping with Who's approach of bringing back something entirely unlikely which we've probably forgotten about to save the day.  Including the potential for Bill to return to Earth should she want to is a nice touch too.  Up until the Moffat era, tv companions from a contemporaneous to broadcast time period have tended to find themselves back there (Ian, Barbara, Dodo, Polly, Ben, Jo, Sarah Jane, Tegan, Martha and Donna all ended up where they started give or take a year) so it's nice to think once she's finished jaunting about the nebulas she might decide to try and finish university.

Having brought John Simm's Master back we discover much of his villainy happened off screen years before even meeting Bill and he's not really given an awful lot to do other than die amusingly.  But he exists as a counterpoint to Missy, to keep us guessing as to whether she would indeed help the Doctor, in the end, or simply follow the path of most villainy.  And indeed, as expected, he inevitably ends up breaking the promise that's usually fundamental to the Doctor's being.  The Master is always cruel and cowardly, laughing at Bill the cruelty he's wrought on the human and cowardly in once again saying SOD U LOTT when trouble descends.  Notice that we don't actually see him regenerate into her.  As ever Moffat doesn't want to give us any absolutes, wants to leave the door open for future creators.  Plus there probably wasn't the budget to show him fighting to get back into his TARDIS.

One of the big tragedies of the episode is that because of the Master treachery, the Doctor will never know that he was right about Missy.  In the end she passes his test even if in her own way, the Simmcarnation having missed the Doctor's advice about never trusting hugs.  "Because he’s right. Because it’s time to stand with him, it’s where we’ve always been going, and it’s happening now, today. It’s time to stand with the Doctor."  It's a beautiful line, beautifully played.  But is this supposed to resolve the whole vault business? The physical evidence still exists.  We're left to wonder what the employees of St Luke's University back on Earth are making of two member of their faculty, a lecturer and a student, having gone missing at the same time and the presence of a dimensionally transcendental hole in their basement wall.  Perhaps the next showrunner will sort this out.

Chibnall was about the only reason I didn't quite buy that the Doctor would actually regenerate here, because introducing the new Doctor before Capaldi's official end date would have made the handover process especially weird with Moffat presumably writing the new incarnation's first lines or having to share a writing credit on his final episode.  A Time Lord deciding not to regenerate isn't unheard of - Simm's Master used it has his "final" revenge in The Last of the Time Lords - but it is if they want to keep walking around too.  Giving him all the elements of a regeneration scene even if they were hand me downs, from the montage to quotes from both of of his previous incarnations death sequences along with some visual homages did sell the idea that this could be it, increasing the power of his decision to fight back the energy.  "NO!"  Rest assured I was still clutching myself in anticipation.

Then Moffat commits his final coup in mirroring Matt Smith's own final series episode with a surprise early visit from one of the Doctor's previous selves in this case the original (you might say) (Oh God, that's amazing).  The original first meeting the first in a new regenerative cycle.  David Bradley, is one of countless actors to play the first Doctor (depending on your point of view) and like the other original (you might say) Richard Hurndall, Edmund Warwick (60s stand-in), John Guilor (from Planet of the Giants dvd and Day of the Doctor), Geoffrey Bayldon (alt.1st.Doctor at Big Finish) and William Russell (who covers for actual Bill at Big Finish along with Peter Purves), all Bradley can do is offer a semblance of Hartnell although he's somewhat aided by having had to play the actor himself to marvellous effect in 2013 (which is what led to his welcome return here).  Judging by his attire perhaps we're supposed to be in Antarctica in December 1986 just moments before his regenerations but he seems surprisingly well considering the events of The Tenth Planet.

Despite adoring the episode, I do wonder how much of it was comprehensible to newer viewers.  We probably had the same fear during Journey's End, but here the objections are more nuanced.  As has been noticed elsewhere, some viewers are under the impression Bradley is playing Capaldi's replacement and having been through the Morrissey wars of 2009 when otherwise perfectly intelligent people thought he was going to be the next one after Tennant (not helped by the title of the upcoming episode), I can't judge them too harshly.  Even if you know what the first Doctor looked like, unless you're aware of the metatextuality and had seen Adventures in Time and Space, you might not necessarily know who this new person was.  John Hurt was heralded by a loud non-diegetic caption.  The usual social media channels were quick to provide the necessary explanation, but I wonder, yes, I wonder.  Hmm?  Chesterfield?

Which brings is to the end of another year in the life of Doctor Who.  Looking across the Capaldi era in total, there's probably been the usual balance of brilliant, average and rubbish episodes with this series offering the most highlights.  But like the Doctor being a dick arc in season 8 and the futile Me nonsense in season 9, the Monk trilogy was ultimately compromised by poor narrative definition.  Oh and bloody Nardole never quite gelled (to put it lightly).  Yet it also contained some of its best moments.  The first on-screen LGBT+ companion, scripts which confronted society head-on and Peter Capaldi finally being allowed to be the Peter Capaldi on screen that we know in real life.  If nothing else, in this actor, the show's had one of its greatest ambassadors and for that at least we should be extremely grateful.

New York, New York.

Film A brief break from my blog hiatus (I'm catching up on some reading and watching documentaries about films if you must know) because this supercut of shots from New York movies, which after sci-fi tend to be my favourite movies, is too good not to embed here. Gothamist has a list of most of the films included of which I've only not seen Devil, Madagascar and Escape from New York (of all things).