We gave it an A-
“Where there’s tears, there’s hope.”
Well, considering I’ve shed a lot of tears in the last hour and a half, I’m now left with a whole bucket of hope, and more than a tinge of excitement for the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special. But let’s not jump ahead in time, and instead focus on the here and now.
Last week left us with an impossible situation: Bill is a Cyberman. This week’s hour-and-a-half continues that predicament as we see the Doctor sitting in a wheelchair where he’s being tormented by Missy and the Master, who are jokingly asking if he has any requests for how they should kill him, before revealing Bill’s Cyber-self has been behind him all along.
They poke fun at his missing her conversion by two hours (after keeping her waiting for 10 years). His rebuttal is questioning what happened to the Master after he left for Gallifrey. He guesses they managed to fix his “problem” before kicking him out, after which his TARDIS got stuck in this colony ship, he took over the city where he lived like a king until the Mondasian people rebelled against cruelty, and now he spends his days hiding out in a disguise.
Both Missy and the Master are excited about the Cybermen Foundries that have been created. But there’s a slight twist, as we see in a second flashback: When the Doctor was hit by Missy, he was able to change the Cybermen’s algorithm so the parameters for being human now involve having two hearts. The Cybermen are coming for them. The Doctor also notes that neither version of his frenemy is right. Cybermen aren’t created, they’re just part of parallel evolution. Here we see Missy knock the Master out and reveal she was on the Doctor’s side all along. They both now have the requisite bump to prove it.
As the Cybermen attack, Nardole manages to fly to the rescue in a shuttle. The Master and Missy both join him on board and try to convince him that the Doctor is dead, having been electrocuted by a Cyberman a few minutes ago. Nardole doesn’t listen so the Master tries to take over, but they can’t fly away. CyberBill is holding on to the ladder, having killed the Doctor-attacking Cyberman a few moments ago.
That’s how we get to what will become an iconic image of CyberBill holding an unconscious Doctor surrounded by fog. The shuttle crashed through to another floor — one with a “solar farm” where people have formed small communities and fend off attacking Cybermen, using them as “scarecrows.” They’re near a small abode that houses the children and keeps them safe. Among the rugrats is a young girl named Alit who Nardole now asks for help.
Two weeks later, we see that Bill is back, but she frightens everyone, including Hazran (the woman running that home where they’re all camped) and Alit. Here’s where director Rachel Talalay really shines as we have a Twilight Zone-esque moment where Bill finally looks in the mirror Alit gave her and sees she’s a Cyberman. As the Doctor notes, she hasn’t accepted the conversion yet. Her mind has built a partition from the programming. Kind of like why the Monks didn’t get her. This scene is amazing not only because it lets us see Pearl Mackie again (as well as her splendid emoting) but she also keeps running into little reminders of her new situation, like her shadow.
(Side note: I really thought the Monks would pay off into something bigger, but apparently that whole trilogy just led to… nothing really?)
After the Doctor explains to Bill what a Cyberman is — in what is probably the worst way to find out — she gets understandably angry, shooting a hole through the barn door. The Doctor warns her that she does not have the luxury of getting mad anymore because of that specific reason. She cries out of frustration, anger, and sadness, surprising the Doctor with a tear made of water instead of engine oil.
They then join Missy and the Master as they go looking for the “lifts” (a.k.a. elevators), which are camouflaged in the woods. On the way there, we see the Doctor fight his regeneration and explain to Bill why the Cybermen are after the children (young brains, easier to dispose of bodies). She asks if he can bring her back. He regrettably informs her that no, he can’t. But he points out: “Where there’s tears, there’s hope.”
At the same time, the Master questions Missy’s inability to remember any of this. She cites their combined existence messing with the time stream and not allowing him to even form memories, which means she doesn’t have memories to access. I didn’t actually need the explanation for any of this — beyond this being a long-running science fiction show that has put dinosaurs on a spaceship at one point — but I appreciate writer Steven Moffat giving us one.
The Doctor is trying to find the lift doors so they can evacuate the children to safety. Missy goes ahead and calls one, which is a big mistake, as the Doctor notes. Not only could it be full, but now the Cybermen know where they are.
When the elevator finally does arrive, and the doors open, a Cyberman — one we’re more accustomed to seeing — steps out. Turns out they’ve managed to get their suits a weapons upgrade.