Discussing Doctor Who: The Doctor Falls

Doctor Who The Doctor Falls Bill Cyberman Doctor

The Doctor has fallen, but Kevin and I are still here to discuss the last episode of Doctor Who this season. We’ll be back next week with a season 10 review and in December after the Christmas episode.

Kevin Harvey is the author of All You Want to Know About The Bible in Pop Culture and a fellow Whovian who enjoys watching and breaking down the latest adventures of the Doctor. You can follow him on Twitter at @PopCultureKevin.

Previously this season, we handled “World Enough and Time,” devoured “The Eaters of Light,” rebelled against “The Empress of Mars” rebuffed “The Lie of the Land,” felt fine at “The Pyramids at the End of the World,” went to the extreme in “Extremis,” breathed in “Oxygen,” opened the door of “Knock Knock,” stepped out on “Thin Ice,” emoted about “Smile,” and navigated “The Pilot.”

The finale did not only conclude this season, but seemingly the story arcs of four significant characters, so let’s go through each one and how “The Doctor Falls” showcased them.

First, we should obviously begin with the Twelfth Doctor. What did you think of the Doctor this week and how does this complete his story—Christmas episode obviously excluded?

Kevin: After three years, I became a much bigger Capaldi fan than I thought I would be after his premiere in “Deep Breath.” The Matt Smith years were just so unbelievably good, I had pretty low expectations after the regeneration and a suspect premiere episode for Capaldi.

But then we saw his great humor showcased for the first time in “Robot of Sherwood,” and then “Listen” became an instant classic in my mind, showing just how great Capaldi’s range was going to be in his portrayal of the Doctor.

Overall, my only real complaint concerning Capaldi’s three years would be that they couldn’t convince Jenna Coleman to stay for one more year. Just like Matt Smith and Karen Gillan were a perfect fit, I thought the same for Capaldi and Coleman. So I think a lot of my beef with this 10th season would’ve been a non-factor had we still had Clara.

But to sum up this epic finale and Capaldi’s final(ish) adventure as the Doctor, I thought the script used all his ranges really well, capped off with one more great speech to his best friend(s).

For me, Capaldi’s Doctor will be remembered as the Doctor who cared about the one, even if that one is his longtime nemesis, the Master.

He so clearly wanted Missy to stand beside him in this final battle, and you could see in his eyes just how absolutely crushed he was for her to reject his final plea. If only he had learned that she did decide to take that stand with him …

Aaron: When we first met the Capaldi Doctor, he asked Clara, “Am I a good man?” Over the course of three seasons, he set about answering that question. In the final episode, he can answer clearly in the affirmative. Yes, he is a good man, a very good man.

Think back to that first season with Clara. There are so many conflicts between the two of them, due in large part to the Doctor’s disregard for her feelings or others with whom he interacts. He took on his current face because he needed to be reminded to save lives.

Now at the end of this season, he has arrived at the point where he not only tries to save lives; he is sacrificing his own life in a hopeless battle to give others a brief glimpse of hope. He’s even giving out “jelly babies” to kids (love the wink to the old Doctor). He may not even ultimately save their lives, but it’s the right thing to do.

His transition was so complete, he placed himself and his friends in danger in order to help Missy become good herself. He has seen the value of virtue and he wants others to experience it. The Doctor has become an evangelist.

To start his run, the Twelfth Doctor started off as an angry man wondering if he was good. He ended as a good man angry he couldn’t do more. Despite some stumbling stories this season, that is a brilliant story arc for Capaldi’s time as the Doctor.

Would it be a Moffat finale without the reversal of a companion’s death? Let’s talk about Bill.

Aaron: From Amy to Clara and now Bill, Moffat loves to put his companions into seemingly irreversible fates, only to have them escape in some unbelievable way.

The Weeping Angels sent Amy and Rory back in time together. Clara’s quest to become like the Doctor led her to the very second before her death before she was able to pause it all and run away on a TARDIS of her own. Now, we get Cyberman Bill.

It’s not quite a deus ex machina, as seeds (or seed) was planted early in the season, but it was, as some have dubbed it, a deus ex Moffata. It’s a Steven Moffat classic—use something seemingly insignificant introduced earlier to solve the big problem at the end.

While that type of storytelling can undercut both character’s arc and the broader narrative, I understand why Moffat does this. Doctor Who is a kids’ show, or at least a family show. They keep the violence to a minimum and they try to avoid having main characters actually die. Hope is valued and lauded. It aims for what could be, not necessarily what is.

Obviously, there is the issue of Bill’s sexuality, which we have addressed repeatedly here. But just as a story, I think it works. Bill began the season as a college student yearning for family and adventure, and she seems to have found both (within the show’s understanding of what those two words mean).

There were other strands that seemed to be ignored, but if this is the only season we have Bill, she made an impact. The switching back-and-forth between the Cyberman version and how she saw herself was poignant. As has been the case all season, Pearl Mackie was brilliant.

Kevin: If you want to have a laugh, go back and rewatch all the scenes in “The Doctor Falls” with Pearl Mackie and then picture a Cyberman saying everything she does. If ever a companion was going to turn into a Cyberman but remain her typical self, I think Pearl Mackie was the right one.

Assuming this is the end of Bill, I feel we are forced to look back at the last twelve episodes and ask, “What purpose did she bring? How did she attribute to the growth of the Doctor?” And honestly, I can’t really come up with anything. It’s almost as though Moffat simply wanted a homosexual companion before he left the show, so he gave us Bill.

Again, I go back to my previous comment about wishing Jenna Coleman had remained for this final year of Capaldi’s. But going through the difficulties of introducing to us an all-new companion, all the while knowing this was Capaldi’s final season, just made season 10 feel kind of like an interruption between the epic finale at Gallifrey last season and whatever story arc begins with the next Doctor/companion.

I did like Pearl Mackie a great deal, but like Donna Noble, I feel her character will be quickly forgotten.

How did Nardole transition from pure comic relief to a valuable companion?

Kevin: Missy nailed it last week when she called Nardole “Comic relief,” which was his main purpose for this season. I also believe another role he filled was easing the load a bit for the adjustment to a new companion.

I think it helped Pearl Mackie a great deal to have a second companion along for the ride. And the three of them together were usually quite great.

But “Comic relief” can’t be killed (unless you’re Wash from Serenity, I suppose), especially not in a family show, so it was necessary for his character to be given a proper ending. And this was probably as good as possible for a character we barely got to know.

He got to be the hero, the brave one, the brains, and presumably the lover. That’s about as happily ever after as you get on this show.

Aaron: Yes, Nardole was comic relief (and great at it), but added a lot to their team. It was fun to have a true three-person team again.

It was quite a progression to go from a decapitated employee of River Song to the savior and protector of a village (on board a huge spaceship near a black hole overrun with Cybermen).

There were several times where Nardole was the one making things happen behind the scenes. When the Monks took over and had the Doctor making propaganda videos, Nardole was working to find Bill and start the rebellion.

In the final story, everyone initially escapes the Cybermen because he commandeered a shuttle. Then he rigs up a way to fight off the Cybermen with explosives and blow up the entire floor.

He spent his whole life being a worthy sidekick and how he gets to live life as the hero to this town … at least until the Cybermen return and convert everyone?

Missy and the Master turned into Missy versus the Master. What did you think of how their season ended?

Aaron: I didn’t say this last week and I don’t know where else to put this, but I love that Missy apparently has a sonic umbrella. There’s something so twisted Mary Poppins about it that makes me smile. Anyway, on to the important stuff.

I could lament that there were not more scenes of Missy and Master wise-cracking and terrorizing together, but I don’t know of a better way to end their story (if this really is the end of the Master).

Simm’s Master is the quintessential Joker-type villain who simply wants to watch the world burn. He is driven by his hatred of the Doctor and simply wants to destroy him and everything that is good, which could bring the Doctor any moment of happiness.

Even when he realizes he needs the Doctor temporarily to survive the Cybermen, he derives joy from driving the knife deeper into Bill over her fate.

Despite her own doubts, Missy became a good person—in her own way. I mean, it involved her killing herself (?), but she was aiming to stand with the Doctor in a moment of self-sacrifice and realization.

He wasn’t her enemy; he was her ideal. The very person she had been trying to destroy was the very person she was meant to emulate.

What a perfect way to close her story. In her first season, she tempted the Doctor with an army of Cybermen he could use to rule the world. In her final season, she sacrificed herself in an attempt to help the Doctor defeat an army of Cybermen. That was beautiful storytelling.

Kevin: As I mentioned earlier, I only wish the Doctor could’ve learned that he had broken through to Missy. Michelle Gomez never ceases to amaze us; she is just so good in this role. I’m so glad the writers gave her the story arc they did this year—that of a wretchedly horrible person trying to become good.

All season, and throughout this episode in particular, we really had no idea which side of the net she was going to land on until her final moment, which is all due to Gomez’s amazing job.

I’m not sure if this is truly the end of the Master, as we were fooled once already when he supposedly refused to regenerate after his death at the end of “Last of the Time Lords” (if I’m remembering it correctly, that is—it’s been awhile). But it’s probably at least the end of John Simm portraying him, so I’m glad he had this final episode.

Your comparison of him to the Joker is spot-on. He’s just so crazy evil, that you think there possibly can’t be any hope for him. Yet along came Missy, and suddenly there was hope for one we had thought hopeless.

I loved the final scene with the Doctor, Master, and Missy, when the Doctor tells them, “You’re going to die too someday.” All the Master had to do was turn his head and be reminded how true that is.

Favorite quotes or one-liners?

Kevin: As I have the privilege of going first this week, let me fill my spaces up with some of my favorite lines from Peter Capaldi this week, in his epic sort-of finale.

“You should know by now when you’re winning and I’m in the room, you’re missing something.” — the Doctor

“You know the stories. There’s always only been one way to stop that many Cybermen. Me.” — the Doctor

“I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent. And above all, it’s kind.” — the Doctor

Aaron: This episode contained yet another of this Doctor’s fantastic speeches. I sure hope the next Doctor is able to deliver these types of lines with such conviction and force.

These types of speeeches could easily slip into eye-rolling territory without an actor who can carry the weight and lend the words significance.

“Who I am is where I stand.” — the Doctor. Now, that is a line.

“I’m not doing this because I wanna beat someone or because I hate someone or because I wanna blame someone.” — the Doctor.

“Without hope, without witness, without reward.” — the Doctor describing his efforts to save the village.

“Where there’s tears, there’s hope.” — Bill quoting the Doctor back to him

“You’re wrong, you know. I’ll never be able to find the words.” — Nardole to Bill on saying goodbye

What are some spiritual takeaways from this episode?

Aaron: As controversial as it may be, Moffat’s obsession with hope, as demonstrated by his refusal to allow Bill to remain a Cyberman, is telling. It reminds me of Joss Whedon saying that he sees no hope for humanity, but he wants to embed hope in his stories.

Even atheist writers or the nominally religious cannot help but be drawn to hope. We all want the bad things of this world to be reversed. Many tell stories in which this happens because they don’t think it will happen in this world. Little do they know, the hope they are describing is in their stories because it is in reality.

Our world will have its own eucatastrophe, as Tolkien called it. Victory will be unexplicably snatched from the jaws of defeat because Christ has already done so.

When darkness seemingly extinguished the Light, when the Creator was slain by His creation, when all hope seemed lost, Hope personified declared Himself found. Hope was not lost. Hope had come to find and redeem the lost—us.

Whether Moffat realizes it or not, his desire for hope and a happy ending are divinely given signposts to point him and everyone who enjoys a good story to the greatest story ever told.

Kevin: You discussed well the first of the two major themes for this episode: hope. The other is kindness. The Doctor told the little girl who brought Bill a mirror that it was kind to do so.

Then of course, we were given his great speech to Missy and the Master about how he does what he does, even though it will help very little and will bring about almost certain death, because it’s kind.

In Luke 6, Jesus told his disciples, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

That sounds like the Doctor to a tee. Expecting nothing in return, being kind to the ungrateful (a great deal of the people he has saved in his lifetime) and to the evil (the Master/Missy).

Jesus gives us no exception to being kind. Love your enemies? Be kind to the evil? That sounds ludicrous. But the reward he speaks of is not to be found here on earth, which is why we initially think it’s so silly to love such people. But it’s to come in eternity, beyond this world.

The Doctor was willing to sacrifice everything by being kind to ungrateful people, to evil people, and to people who could never possibly reward him. But he did so because it was the right thing to do. As it is for us also. Being kind is always the right thing, even with our enemies.

1 Comment

About Author

Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.