Doctor Who – Season 10 Episode 11
“World Enough and Time”
Doctor Who builds to the end of the season with a ship where time works differently in different sections.
The episode begins with a really engaging cold open with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor spilling out of the TARDIS while undergoing the beginnings of a regeneration. He’s clearly distressed by it and doesn’t want it to happen. It’s a tense scene full of mystery and urgency. The episode doesn’t return to it but it’s a great hook to begin the episode.
In terms of the surface level plot this episode is interesting as the Doctor is initially sitting on the sidelines. Missy claims to be reformed so he decides to test that by letting her take point on an adventure. As far as he’s concerned it’s fairly by the numbers but an ideal one for Missy to prove herself.
The Doctor is sure that it’s a good idea because of his long history with Missy. He wants her to succeed and gives her every opportunity to do so. Bill and Nardole don’t believe that she’s capable of change at all so they are less than enthusiastic about going along with the idea. They do to support the Doctor but are constantly resistant to the idea.
A conversation between Bill and the Doctor delivers some excellent insight into why he believes that Missy is capable of change. He tells her that in all his life she is the only one he has ever encountered that is remotely like him. My familiarity with the old series isn’t extensive but I understand that the Master was conceived as the Moriarty to his Sherlock Holmes it has been established since the show relaunched that they were once very good friends. That history is there even if it has never been explored so it makes a lot of sense that the Doctor would want to have that friendship back rather than be in constant conflict. Bill can’t understand what the Doctor sees in Missy because he only sees her as a murderer but this scene makes it believable that she is willing to give the Doctor the benefit of the doubt even if she doesn’t trust Missy. Nardole’s job is mainly to point out how bad an idea the whole thing is.
The scenes where Missy acts like the Doctor in the situation are really well done. Introducing herself as Doctor Who and seeing her generally make a mockery of the whole thing makes for really fun viewing. Introducing Bill as exposition and Nardole as comic relief was a nice touch as that broadly describes their functions in given stories assuming you strip away everything else that defines their characters. Nardole points out that they aren’t merely functions but Missy doesn’t see them as anything special. It shows that her perspective hasn’t changed much even if she is reforming somewhat.
Missy taking on the Doctor role for a brief period also gives us a different spin on starting the story off. Instead of the Doctor observing things and commenting on them Missy does it and the way she delivers things is very different. It has the same outcome but goes about it in a very different and memorable way.
Naturally the mission can’t be by the numbers because this is the finale story and things have to go completely awry. This begins when a huge hole is shot in her and she’s taken away to be repaired. At this point the really interesting part of the episode kicks in. The use of the black hole allows the episode to play around with time. Time passes differently at the front and back end of the ship so 10 minutes for the Doctor is 10 years for Bill. The episode plays with this really well by focusing on the Doctor and Missy doing the usual problem solving thing while Bill waits for rescue. Keeping the focus on the Doctor while delivering the highlights of Bill’s time with Mr. Razor is a clever touch as it is made clear that Bill’s existence is fairly mundane while she waits for the Doctor to rescue her.
Arguably, agency is all but removed from Bill in this situation as all she is doing is sitting waiting for rescue but I wouldn’t say that there is any loss. Her situation is a difficult one since she is told that leaving the hospital would mean her death. Considering she knows very little about the technology that’s keeping her alive there really is no other option but to wait.
The scenes between Bill and Mr. Razor in the hospital were really interesting as it essentially amounts to two characters bonding over a very long time. Even though their interactions effectively boil down to a few minutes of screen time there’s a lived in quality to their relationship that makes it feel worth investing in.
In many ways the BBC are their own worst enemy with this episode. Showing John Simm in the promotional material for the season and this episode itself meant that the twist lost a lot of impact since it was easy to figure out what part the Master would play once we got far enough into the episode. The reveal itself would have had much more impact without knowing it was coming. I personally do my best to avoid anything that could be construed as a spoiler but this was impossible to avoid which meant that I wasn’t as shocked by the reveal as I otherwise would have been.
This is no way the fault of the episode or how it was written so I can’t count it as a sin caused by the episode. If it hadn’t been known that John Simm was returning then the reveal would have worked brilliantly. The scene itself was really well written and performed by both John Simm and Michelle Gomez. I imagine the Master removing a disguise is a deliberate reference to the show’s past.
Prior to the reveal, John Simm does an excellent job playing Mr. Razor. It’s not obvious that John Simm is playing the character and his dialogue is very carefully written to take advantage of Bill’s vulnerable state while also seeming compassionate. He’s a casually manipulative person but that only becomes clear in retrospect once his true identity comes out.
The implications of the reveal are fascinating from a character perspective. We’re at a point where the Doctor is trying to trust Missy again but now he will have to deal with the fact that a past incarnation of Missy earned Bill’s trust when she was at her most vulnerable, protected her and convinced her that Cyber-Conversion was a good idea even though rescue was very close by at that point. It’s unclear whether the Doctor will blame Missy for that or see them as two completely different people.
I also find the fact that Missy doesn’t seem to remember the Master being in this situation interesting. There’s precedent for this that I’ve seen from the 50th anniversary special where the David Tennant and Matt Smith incarnations don’t remember the adventure even though the John Hurt incarnations memories should be part of them as well. As the Doctor is so fond of saying, this lapse in memory for Missy could be explained by “wibbly wobbly timey wimey“. If the Doctor does decide to blame her then the fact that she apparently can’t remember it suddenly becomes irrelevant since he will see them as the same person.
The Master makes reference to being worried about his future which is something I hoped would happen. If Missy has truly reformed and I sincerely hope she is then there’s lots of scope for the Master to be disappointed by what he is destined to become as well as Missy being almost ashamed of what she used to be. This conflict between two different versions of the same character could be fascinating. I suspect there will be some ambiguity over whether Missy will go back to her old ways or not next week which is probably unavoidable but I would like everything to appear genuine and have Missy overcome her darker impulses.
I found that the reveal that the ship originated on Mondas to be a mixed bag. As I’ve said my knowledge of the original series is somewhat limited but I do know about Mondas. I suspect the same won’t be true of viewers who started watching sometime after the series was revived. As reveals go it would fall flat to a large number of people because the name Mondas means absolutely nothing to them. It’s treated as a big reveal but it would leave large chunks of the audience scratching their head. Sometimes it feels like Moffat assumes the rest of the audience are as big a fan of the show as he is. I’m not saying that Mondas shouldn’t be referenced but it definitely shouldn’t have been treated as an impactful reveal. It would have worked much better as extra information delivered to the audience in some other way.
The actual reasoning for people consenting to upgrading themselves works really well. It is clearly shown how horrific the conditions are at the bottom of the ship and how bleak life is on a constant basis. I find it very believable that the upgrade seems like a really good idea and it’s something that people look forward to as a way to relieve themselves of the endless suffering. The iconic handlebars being advertised as something to stop people caring about the pain is a great example of how desperate these people are.
Having Bill converted to a Cyberman is a solid cliffhanger as well though I can’t imagine a scenario where it won’t be undone. If the decks are to be cleared for the new showrunner and Doctor next season it would make sense for a new companion as well but having Bill end up as a Mondassian Cyberman is a really bleak ending for this character though it might be effective.
It isn’t a major issue but this episode does feel a little too weighted towards set-up. Not a lot actually happens and some scenes drag on a bit to pad out the running time. Bill’s story could have been condensed and the episode itself takes a little too long to get going.
A great set-up for the finale that starts off with a great cold open that isn’t resolved yet but really grabs the attention. Having Missy acting as the Doctor as a way to prove that she has changed is an interesting way to get the plot moving and the way she goes about the problem while showing disrespect and contempt for the Doctor’s companions is entertaining to watch. The time difference between the two parts of the ship is handled really well with an organic and live in relationship between Bill and Mr. Razor that helps the reveal stand out as being more impactful. The reveal itself is handled really well and has lots of interesting implications.
The reveal that the ship is from Mondas and not Earth isn’t as good because the percentage of the audience that will understand the significance has to be fairly small. Mondas should have been referenced in a far more subtle way. The actual reasoning for people wanting to upgrade themselves is nicely handled as the conditions seem so bleak that it looks like a sensible option. Bill as a Mondassian Cyberman is a solid cliffhanger but I can’t see a scenario where it isn’t undone.
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