One day I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. – The First Doctor, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, 1964
Well that was really something. Steven Moffat seemed to throw in everything and the kitchen sink for what was perhaps one of the most thrilling episodes of the series. Two Masters, lots and lots of Cybermen, epic action, regeneration AND the First Doctor? Say what you will about Moffat, at least he knows how to throw a party.
The Doctor Falls was one of the best series finales the show has ever done. Magical, tear jerking, funny and action packed. It delivered everything and was perhaps the most powerful episode of the series.
The episode framed itself brilliantly around the concept of “denying change”. The Doctor, slowly regenerating, refuses to change. Bill has to struggle with her change into a Cyberman and her refusal to continue living as such. Missy was struggling with her slow change to good while the Master was adamantly against any such change. It was an interesting idea to build the episode around and it worked brilliantly; providing a satisfying ending to most of the character’s arcs. If this was to be the final ever episode of the show, if you remove the cliffhanger, it would have been perfect.
Missy’s character arc was particularly perfect. Missy’s main goal throughout most of her appearances over the last few years was to get her “best friend back”. In Series 8, she tried giving him an army of Cybermen as the means to right all wrongs in the universe for his birthday. In Series 9, she tried to bring the Doctor round to her way of thinking by trying to trick him into killing Clara. And finally in Series 10, when faced with death as the only other option Missy decided to try another way; to try the Doctor’s way of thinking even if it meant eternal imprisonment. During the series, Missy has slowly discovered empathy she never knew she had; such as crying when she remembered the names of all the people she’d killed. Like a true addict, Missy struggled with a return to her addiction. But that spark of good deep inside her worked its way and finally, Missy gave in. she endeavoured to return and help the Doctor only to be shot in the back by her previous incarnation. Missy died, without hope, without witness, without reward, having finally decided to try and live another way. And the Doctor will never know. Michelle Gomez has implied that if the Master is to return, she likely will not meaning this may be Missy’s final appearance. And if it is to be so, I can’t imagine a better way for Michelle Gomez to make her exit. Gomez has played the character perfectly, emerging as perhaps one of the finest actors to ever play the role. If this is the end, she will be sorely missed.
As for Bill, it’s hard to judge as such. We still don’t know if this is actually Bill’s ending or not (as of writing, Pearl Mackie has not been confirmed for either the 2017 Christmas Special or Series 11). But if this was to be Bill’s ending, it’s a satisfactory one. We all know that Bill was never going to be killed off for good nor remain a Cyberman forever. There was always going to be a way for Bill to survive. And as it goes, this was a nice one. It brought the series full circle in a way and Bill going off on a journey to see the universe with Heather leaves things plenty open for Bill to return in the future. If this is Bill’s end however, then Pearl Mackie leaves with a triumphant performance delivering perhaps her best of the series tied with World Enough and Time. Pearl has been a joy to see on screen week on week and she has left very big shoes to fill for whoever takes her place.
John Simm meanwhile slipped back into the role of the Master with ease, like he’d never been gone. While Simm didn’t get too much to do in this episode (his role was to help further Missy’s character arc), he did leave a strong impression as one of the best parts of the episode. Simm was hilarious and managed to be one of the best things in each scene he was in. And when you share the screen with Peter Capaldi and Michelle Gomez, that’s no easy feat. And of course his chemistry with Michelle Gomez was delightful. Seeing two Masters on screen was fantastic and the two actors delivered perfectly. Is it wrong to ship someone with themselves? “Yes. Very” says Missy.
Matt Lucas meanwhile was great as Nardole, even if he didn’t get too much to do which has been a very real issue this series. It raises the question as to why Nardole returned if he was going to be so underused and almost feel like an afterthought in ever script. It’s almost as if the decision to bring back Nardole was made every late in the writing process. While Nardole has been a joy on screen, I am a little disappointed that Nardole didn’t get much to do. However his farewell scene was incredibly touching.
But of course, the real star of the show was Peter Capaldi. Capaldi has always been magnificent in the role of the Doctor and I don’t think anyone would disagree with me if I were to say he’s the best actor in terms of talent to take the role. Capaldi has never, ever phoned an episode in and this one was no different. I’d even argue that this episode ties with Heaven Sent as Capaldi’s best performance. The Doctor as seen here was emotionally raw, internalising everything (“I love it when he’s Mr. Volcano” Missy quips) and trying his best to put on a brave face for Bill and Nardole. To see the Doctor slowly dying, but doing his best to save even just a few people was awe inspiring. The scene where the Doctor runs through the woods, blasting Cybermen to pieces and giving that epic line of dialogue “I am the Doctor! The original, you might say!” was perhaps one of the episode’s most memorable moments alongside the Doctor’s impassioned plea to the Masters to stay and help.
All of this would not have been possible without a wonderful script from Steven Moffat. With this being his final finale, Moffat gave it his all and it emerged as one of his best. Snappy dialogue, incredibly touching drama and some really bold ideas really elevated The Doctor Falls. I hope Moffat releases the script for this episode online, because I bet it’s as amazing to read as it is to see on screen. While we have one more Moffat script to look forward to at Christmas, I for one am definitely going to miss his writing.
Rachel Talalay meanwhile was a fantastic director for this episode, delivering yet another brilliant episode. Talalay has proven herself to be a fantastic addition to the Who team over the last few years and with her directing the Christmas Special, I can only hope she’ll be sticking around for a long time to come.
The Doctor Falls defied all the odds and emerged as an excellent finale to the series. Full of action, drama, humour and tears, it delivered everything I wanted and more. It’s hard to describe just how much I loved this episode, but for me at least, it’s an instant classic and a fitting finale for Moffat’s era on the show. Now when is it Christmas?
Trivia and Speculation
David Bradley portrays the First Doctor in this episode’s closing moments. Bradley previously portrayed William Hartnell in the 2013 Drama An Adventure in Space and Time, charting the early years of Doctor Who. Bradley had previously appeared in Doctor Who as the villainous Solomon in 2012’s Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (coincidently written by the next showrunner Chris Chibnall).
David Bradley is the third actor to portray the First Doctor in the show, following William Hartnell who departed the show in 1966’s The Tenth Planet as well as making a brief appearance in 1973’s The Three Doctors and Richard Hurndall who played the character in 1983’s The Five Doctors, made after Hartnell’s passing in 1975.
The First Doctor appears in person for the first time since The Five Doctors. While the First Doctor has appeared via archive footage since then, this is the first time he has appeared in the flesh in over 30 years!
There are several references to previous regeneration stories; the Master appears (Logopolis, Doctor Who The Movie, The End of Time), the Doctor fights the Cybermen (The Tenth Planet, The Time of the Doctor), He defends a small farming community from invaders (The Time of the Doctor), he hallucinates his past companions before he regenerates (The Caves of Androzani) and quotes the final lines of his tenth and eleventh incarnations before finally arriving in Antarctica just before the regeneration of his first incarnation.
The Doctor sees images of his past companions; Rose, Martha, Donna, Jack, Amy, Vastra, Jenny, River, Clara and Bill. This implies the Doctor’s memories of Clara have been restored.
Missy mentions that the Doctor has died by falling. The Fourth Doctor died while fighting the Master by falling from a tower in Logopolis.
Missy reveals that the reason she has no memories of the events of this story while she was the Harold Saxon Master is that her timeline is out of sync. This is the official reason used in Multi-Doctor episodes for why only the most recent Doctor will remember.
The Harold Saxon Master ties the Doctor up and pushes him around in a wheelchair. He has now done so in all three stories he’s appeared in; Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords, The End of Time, World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls.
Series 10 Rankings
1. The Doctor Falls 10/10
2. World Enough and Time 10/10
3. Extremis 10/10
4. Oxygen 8.5/10
5. Thin Ice 8.5/10
6. The Eaters of Light 8.5/10
7. The Pilot 8/10
8. Smile 7.5/10
9. The Pyramid at the End of the World 6/10
10. The Empress of Mars 5/10
11. Knock Knock 5/10
12. The Lie of the Land 4/10
Series 10 Average Score: 7.6/10