Had we but world enough and time, this coyness, lady, were no crime. We would sit down, and think which way to walk, and pass our long love’s day. – To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell
The Cybermen have always been one of Doctor Who’s most horrifying foes. They have always represented a dark future for the human race, a small glimpse of what we might become. They are also my favourite monster. So for them to truly emerge as the most horrifying monster in perhaps the most terrifying episode of Series 10 was truly a triumph.
This episode really spun a whole new look at the Cybermen, focusing more on the psychological and body horror aspects of the fearsome creatures. Steven Moffat made an interesting addition to the canon by implying the Cybermen’s emotional inhibitors don’t turn off emotions, but instead stop the Cybermen caring about them. This led to some truly chilling moments with the partially converted Cybermen without inhibitors seen in the hospital all chanting variations of “Pain” and “Kill me”. It really reinforced how pitiful the Cybermen really are. It’s also one of the few stories to explain exactly why the people of Mondas would choose Cyber-Conversion willingly; when faced with sickness, famine and no sign of things getting better, an option of living without having to worry about those things ever again must be mighty appealing. Seeing Mondasian citizens willingly enter the hospital to be converted was truly a pitiful yet chilling sight. The prototype Cybermen seen throughout the episode were also truly terrifying. Being neither human or Cyberman, but somewhere inbetween, the Prototypes were creepy and effective. They were perhaps one of the best additions to the Cybermen canon seen in ages, showing just how desperate the Mondasians had begun.
The Conversion Hospital itself was a house of nightmares, with distant sounds of saws and lasers sparking horrifying thoughts of what is happening to the Mondasian volunteers, even worse when we realise we can’t hear the screams because the hospital staff mutes them! Steven Moffat and Rachel Talalay are to be commended for bringing such a horrifying vision to the screen. The Conversion Hospital is perhaps one of the scariest locations seen in Doctor Who for quite a while and will certainly linger in the nightmares for many years to come truly cementing the Cybermen as one of Doctor Who’s most terrifying creations and Steven Moffat as a master (no pun intended) of terror.
These horrors however was nothing compared to what poor Bill had to go through. Has there ever been a companion who has had to endure something so horrific? Not only is Bill shot through the chest, leaving a gaping hole there, but she is then converted into a Cyberman – the first Cyberman. Like Bill or not, you can’t deny that this is a fate she does not deserve. Companions have come and gone, some have suffered horrific fates, but none has ever had to suffer what Bill has. To be converted into a Cyberman is something that no one should have to suffer, never mind a beloved character. With the Doctor, Nardole and Missy taking a backseat this episode, this was Pearl Mackie’s time to shine. And boy she did. If Bill’s fate is permanent and isn’t going to be reversed, then this might perhaps it’s fitting that Mackie’s final performance as Bill should be her best. Mackie truly managed to endear Bill to audiences throughout the series and if this is to be her last appearance, it’s a shame to see her go. But she will have left us with the most horrific Companion departure and one that will be remembered as an iconic moment in the show’s history. “I am Bill Potts. I waited. I waited. I waited for you…” will certainly become an iconic line.
This episode saw the return of the original iconic Mondasian Cybermen. The design, having not been seen in the show since 1966’s The Tenth Planet, is still as effective as it was back then. Distinctly alien, but yet also recognisably human, the Mondasian Cybermen are THE definitive Cybermen and seeing them make their long awaited return in their original design has been worth the wait. If the Mondasian Cybermen are to become the main Cybermen designs going forward, I certainly won’t be complaining. And Nicholas Briggs managed to capture their chilling voice perfectly.
World Enough And Time also saw another long awaited return; the return of John Simm as the Master. True to form, the Master hid in plain sight throughout most of the episode. A true “Master of disguise”, I doubt many managed to pick up that new character Mr. Razor was the Master in disguise well ahead of the reveal. It’s almost a shame BBC revealed Simm was returning ahead of time; imagine the surprise had we not known Simm was returning. The disguise added a whole new level of wickedness to the character, spending years befriending Bill and giving her hope only to rip it all away by happily handing her over to be converted into a Cyberman. Simm slipped back into the role of the Master with glee, delivering a more restrained performance than seen in his previous time in the role but still delivering some of the Master’s trademark humour (see the Master’s face when he realises the innuendo of “very fast bottom”). While we hardly got to see Simm interact with Michelle Gomez and Peter Capaldi this week, hopefully next week’s episode will deliver more on that front.
Another shining star this week was Doctor Who’s long term composer Murray Gold (who has been composing music for the show since 2005). The score for World Enough And Time was excellent, perhaps the best score of the series so far. The orchestral piece playing towards the end of the episode, as the cliffhanger comes into play, was beautiful. I hope BBC release a soundtrack album for this series soon.
World Enough And Time, being Steven Moffat’s last two parter, had an absolutely cracking script. Beginning with a tease of the Doctor’s regeneration, the episode delivered shock after shock, each one more shocking than the last; The Doctor is regenerating? Bill is dead?! BILL IS A CYBERMAN?! Dialogue was snappy, there were scares, there were laughs and there were tears. The script was one of Moffat’s best, being quintessential Moffat in every respect delivering everything Moffat excels in. If there’s one thing this episode did, it reminded me exactly how much I’m going to miss Moffat when he departs the show alongside Peter Capaldi this Christmas. Moffat has done a lot for the show and has undeniably made an impact. And who can deliver cliffhangers like Moffat can?
World Enough And Time was the perfect first part to a two parter. It set up the story, it delivered surprises and left us wondering how the Doctor can possibly get out of this fix. And there’s no easy answer to that. The episode also showcased a wonderful performance from Pearl Mackie along with perhaps one of the most shocking moments in Doctor Who history. And this isn’t even counting the most effective use of one of Doctor Who’s most iconic monsters. World Enough And Time may be no Heaven Sent, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a truly chilling episode that deserves every ounce of praise it gets. Here’s hoping The Doctor Falls can live up to or even exceed it.
Trivia and Speculation
This is the first ever Multi-Master story in the history of the show; with two incarnations of the Master appearing together – Missy and “Harold Saxon”.
The Master refers to having to disguise himself because he looks like the “old Prime Minister”. The Master, in his Harold Saxon guise, became Prime Minister of Great Britain in 2007’s The Sound of Drums. This the second time the Master has had to disguise himself due to this; the Master previously dyed his hair blonde in The End of Time in an attempt to hide but this disguise was incredibly ineffective.
This is the third televised story to see the Master in an alliance with the Cybermen; following 1983’s The Five Doctors and 2014’s Dark Water/Death in Heaven.
The Mondasian Cybermen mark the return of their original design. However, the Mondasian Cybermen have in fact been present since 2010’s The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang as, according to Steven Moffat, the Mondasian Cybermen assimilated the Cybus Cyber-Men from the Parallel Universe. The Mondas Cybermen have been the Cybermen to appear since then.
The Master namedrops the name “Genesis of the Cybermen”. Genesis of the Cybermen was the name of an unproduced story featuring the Fifth Doctor which was later reworked by Big Finish into the acclaimed Audio Serial Spare Parts. Genesis of the Cybermen was also a working title for this episode if rumours are to be believed. It is also a shout-out to the fan-favourite story Genesis of the Daleks, another story which saw the Doctor travel back in time to the origins of one his greatest foes. That story also saw the first appearance of Davros who last appeared in 2015’s The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, which conveniently is the last time we saw Missy before she started her path to turn “good”.
This is the third finale in a row and the fourth story overall in the Peter Capaldi era to focus on the death of one of the Doctor’s friends. Danny Pink and Osgood died in the Series 8 finale Dark Water/Death in Heaven, Clara Oswald died in the Series 9 finale Face The Raven/Heaven Sent/Hell Bent and the Doctor and River Song had their final night together before she went to her death in the 2016 Christmas Special The Husbands of River Song.
With her earlier incarnation converting Bill into a Cyberman, Missy is now responsible, either directly or indirectly, for the deaths of four of the Doctor’s friends; she arranged the events leading to Danny Pink’s death and converted him into a Cyberman, She killed Osgood (one of them anyway) and brought the Doctor and Clara together to fulfill the Hybrid prophecy which lead to the Time Lords trying to stop it and starting the chain of events that led to Clara’s death.
The Doctor regenerates in the middle of the snow. The First Doctor would regenerate in the Artic during The Tenth Planet, an episode which also saw the first appearance of the Cybermen.
Is the Doctor’s regeneration a flash forward to this year’s Christmas special? Or to next week’s episode?
Could the Doctor save Bill by somehow making the ship fly closer to the Black Hole, which might make time reverse?
Will Missy abandon the Doctor and join forces with her earlier incarnation, or will she stick to the development she has shown and help the Doctor bring him down?