***THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS***
It’s the beginning of the end as Peter Capaldi’s last series finale kicks off in style. But does The Twelfth Doctor have World Enough and Time to save the day…?
First things first, let’s get the glaringly obvious out of the way. It’s written in big bold letters at the top of the page: this review contains major spoilers. If you haven’t yet seen World Enough and Time and you don’t want to know anything about it, click away now. We’re blowing this one wide open.
Now, if you’re still reading, we assume you’re in for the long haul…
(You absolutely sure? Last chance…!)
Well, here we go. Don’t say we didn’t warn you…!
Had We But World Enough and Time
Blimey, Series 10 has a real thing for regeneration teases doesn’t it? First there was *that* fake-out trailer shot from The Lie of the Land, and in the opening seconds here we (presumably) get a glimpse of the real thing. If that snowy setting doesn’t scream “scene from the Christmas special”, I don’t know what does. The Doctor staggers out of the TARDIS, falls to the ground in a golden glow, and gives his best Darth Vader “Noooooooo!” impression. But before there’s even time to process what’s going on, the titles kick in and so does one of the finest 45 minute outings in modern Doctor Who.
The Missy rehabilitation arc reaches its peak as The Doctor sets her a final ‘test’, answering a distress signal on a 400 mile long spaceship. The problem? It’s reversing away from a black hole, and time runs eons faster at the bottom than it does at the top. The Doctor observes from the TARDIS (while eating crisps) as Missy and her “disposables” (Bill and Nardole) investigate. The episode is positively oozing with meta humour, from the “his real name is Doctor Who” debate to the companions being referred to as “Exposition” and “Comic Relief” respectively. It’s perhaps a little too on the nose and laboured out for some, but in fairness this is Moffat’s last ever finale – it’s understandable he’d want to toy around while he’s still got the chance. But, playfulness aside, it’s not long until things get serious – and the TARDIS crew are in for a whole load of problems.
This Coyness, Lady, Were No Crime
Or, rather, we should say a ‘hole’ lot of problems – for Bill, at least. Despite The Doctor’s promise to keep her safe, her chest is ripped apart by a gun shot and she’s left for dead. Swiftly, some surgeons take her below decks to be “repaired”. Unfortunately for Bill, we all know what that means. The scenes in the hospital are truly harrowing and push the boundaries of what the show can get away with. Never has Doctor Who been this horrifying, at least since “don’t cremate me!” from 2014’s Dark Water. Steven Moffat and Rachel Talalay sure know how to make the Cybermen creepy. The “Pain. Pain. Pain…” scene especially sent chills down our spines.
As for the long-awaited Mondasian Cybermen themselves, they’re incredibly effective. In terms of sheer horror factor, this is the best the Cybermen have ever been in the revived series. The balaclava design may look shoddy at first glance, but in context it’s eerily uncomfortable. The slow transformation we see from human to Cyberman is terrifying and it makes you wonder why this iteration hasn’t been seen since 1966.
Now completely removed from the other heroes, Pearl Mackie shines as Bill comes to terms with her new surroundings. Among the brutality, she finds herself a new friend: Mr Razor. This beardy-weirdy fills her in on what’s going on, and they even sit down to watch Doctor Who on TV together. Literally. They form a nice bond and there’s lots of witty dialogue. Our favourite gags include the good/bad tea and “when you hug me, it hurts my heart”. It’s a welcome juxtaposition to the otherwise gruesome backdrop taking place around them in the “fast bottom” (ahem) of the ship.
We Would Sit Down and Think Which Way
But of course, Mr Razor isn’t quite what he makes out to be. It really is a crying shame that we live in a world where nothing can be kept a secret. The eventual unmasking would have been oh so sweet if we didn’t already know about John Simm’s return. As it stands, the (intentionally?) dodgy disguise doesn’t quite hide the renegade Time Lord in plain sight. But for those worrying we’d see Simm in a quick cameo at best, fear not. Simm’s Master actually gets even more screen time than Missy! He’s clearing having a ball as Mr Razor, and he’s soon back to his deliciously evil self as we reach the cliffhanger ending. We don’t know exactly yet how or when this fits into his timeline, but it’s just good to have him back.
Unsurprisingly then, The Doctor and The Master’s enduring relationship is at the heart of this story. Though not really given much to do, Peter Capaldi gives as good a performance as ever. Michelle Gomez, meanwhile, is also having a lot of fun in her penultimate outing as The Mistress. It seems the weeks of build-up weren’t just a ploy – she really is trying to turn good. It’s fascinating to see this new side to the character and it’s a fitting scenario for the impending climax of the Capaldi/Gomez era. If we’re being really nit-picky, we’d have liked to have spent a bit longer with the Time Lords than Bill in this episode. But there’s still another 60 minutes to go, and we’re pretty sure things are about to get explosive next week.
To Walk and Pass Our Love’s Long Day
So, as we reach the end of this sci-fi rollercoaster, the stage is set for a grand finale indeed. World Enough and Time might not be the most ‘epic’ of episodes in itself, but it’s chock-full of big moments from start to finish. Twists and turns come thick and fast, and frankly anything could happen now – including the “Genesis of the Cybermen”! It’s going to be an agonisingly long seven days until Series 10’s last outing, and we’re left with so many questions. Will Bill stay as a Cyberman forever? Has The Master turned Missy back to her wicked ways? Will she side with The Doctor in his final battle? Where do the 2006 and 2013 Cybermen fit into all of this? And just what on Earth (or Mondas) is going to kick-start The Twelfth Doctor’s regeneration?!
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait another week for those answers. But for now we can at least be sure that, yet again, Steven Moffat and Rachel Talalay have brought us a barnstorming Episode 11. Some may say it’s too similar to the last Master/Cyberman finale, Dark Water, but there’s easily enough here to make it stand out on its own. We’re just relieved to see Peter Capaldi receive such a well-deserved and high quality start to his farewell. Let’s hope the remaining two episodes of his tenure can match, if not exceed, the lofty expectations set by this. If The Doctor Falls and the Christmas special are anywhere near as good as World Enough and Time, The Twelfth Doctor is in for one hell of a send-off.
World Enough and Time is an astonishingly strong episode that begins Peter Capaldi’s goodbye with a bang. Full of shocks from the start, this mash-up of Masters and Mondasians is as memorable an episode as they come. With razor-sharp wit and nightmarish imagery, this is easily one of the best that Series 10 has to offer. Next week has a lot to live up to, and it can’t come soon enough!