We gave it a B+
Well, here we are. Almost at the Doctor Who season finale. And it’s a big one. Not only will we be bidding Peter Capaldi goodbye (sniffle), but we’ll also saying farewell to showrunner Steven Moffat — a.k.a. he who has given us episodic gems such as “The Girl In the Fire Place,” “Blink,” and even season 8’s “Listen.” As Mark Gatiss said a few weeks ago, “It’s the end of an era.”
So, of course, in grand Whovian fashion, the Powers That Be decided to end this season, like the last couple, with a two-parter. Having wrapped this week’s episode, I’d say it’s a smart decision. We’re going to need the additional week to process some of this hour’s big reveals — because, boy, are they big — and possibly, to mourn. But first, we open with a spot of levity. The TARDIS is aboard a large colony ship (400 miles long, 100 miles wide) that’s trying to reverse away from a Black Hole. (Smart thinking.)
With the Doctor to guide her through their spot of “My Fair Time Lady,” Missy must save the day, along with some help from Bill and Nardole, whom she nicknames “Exposition” and “Comic Relief.” Thanks to our second “Doctor,” we learn that perhaps the Doctor’s name has been “Who” all along. It’s one of Missy’s attempts to bait Bill and while riffing on the many “Doctor. — Doctor Who?” exchanges we’ve had over the years. Then things take a dire turn. A blue humanoid alien named Jurj, (like our friend Dahh-Ren back in “Oxygen”) joins them, panicking because there’s a human aboard.
This gets the Doctor’s attention. He springs into action trying to convince the man to remain calm. But with three elevators speedily making their way to this cockpit, that is nowhere near happening. So Bill admits she’s the human, and despite the Doctor’s speech (which I’m pretty sure he also gave in “Oxygen”), ends up with a big hole in the middle of her chest as she gets shot by Jurj for her honesty. Right before she falls (in slow motion, because director Rachel Talalay really wants to stick this knife in), she reminds the Doctor that this had been a bad idea.
Cue flashback: Bill isn’t onboard with the Doctor’s decision to test Missy. He wants them to ride around in the TARDIS scoping out distress calls. She’s his oldest friend (and “man crush,” though the Doctor isn’t sure what gender either of them were then), and the only person even remotely like him. That’s when Bill gets it. He wants Missy to be good so that he’ll have some confirmation that he’s good. She makes him promise her that she won’t die (sigh) before agreeing. It’s reminiscent of his whole “Am I a good man?” debate in season 8, which after 3 seasons of Capaldi, and 10 seasons of Doctor Who in general, I’m comfortable saying, “Yeah. Dummy.”
That’s when 3 American Horror Stories with face masks who’ve emerged from the elevators — which, by the way, I’ll be calling “lifts” for the remainder of this recap — say they’ll “fix her.” The Doctor doesn’t try to stop them (probably in shock), but leaves Bill a message in her subconscious, saying he’s coming for her.
Eventually, Bill wakes up to this creepazoid doctor (who looks like he’s straight from a Bond film) who tells her he didn’t go through with the “full” conversion. She’ll need it, but for now, he repaired her heart. It’s a cruel joke considering the Doctor had commented on humans only having the one. That’s when she meets “Mr. Razor” who looks like Igor by way of The Hobbit.
They quickly become friends after he covers for Bill during her initial exploration (now with a weird heart chest box) around that floor of this hospital. She discovers a whole room full of patients who repeatedly say they’re in pain, and that they want to end their lives. As her new friend explains it, they’re at the bottom of the colony ship which, thanks to the gravity bending features of the Black Hole, means time is moving at a different pace down here. He also has a monitor displaying what the Doctor, Missy, Nardole, and My Least Favorite Member of Blue Man Group are up to, but they appear frozen thanks to the “wibbly wobbly timey-wimey-ness” of this whole sitch.
As the years go by, Bill and Mr. Razor become closer and he tells her that the bag-faced things she’d seen are the future. There’s a whole city of people down here, but thanks to artificial air and no access to the solar floors (they’d sent a team to explore), they’re all dying and in pain. So they’re embarking on Operation Exodus, which sees them getting that kind of conversion treatment so they can all become strong enough to storm the top floors together. Bill’s chest hurts because she’s been away from the hospital, so she and Razor return.
Bill eventually notices that her friends will be boarding a lift and heading downstairs. Excited, she asks Mr. Razor to lead her to their entrance. He dons a burglar’s mask and sneaks her into the Operation Theater. But it turns out to be a trap. She is to undergo the full conversion procedure now. She argues that everyone who’s gotten the procedure is in pain. That’s when Dr. Truly Evil shows her the rod-like headgear they’ll be adding as part of this “procedure” to help with that (“Won’t stop you feeling pain but will stop you caring about it”). It confirms what’s been hinted at all along… Bill’s going to be turned into one of the Cybermen.
Back all the way upstairs — and technically in the past — the Doctor’s figured out that Jurj is only a janitor (“good job”), and that 20 of the 50 crew members on board disappeared when they went downstairs. Now, he’s the only one left. Also, there’s been a population explosion downstairs, which the Doctor explains as being the descendants of his former crewmates.
When Jurj tries to stop the Doctor from sonic-ing the lifts, the Time Lord puts on a display of Venusian aikido and knocks him out. So he, Nardole, and Missy board the lift and head downwards. Once there, Missy is put on computer duty, despite that being Nardy’s job. Meanwhile, the Doctor and his remaining companion head off to try to find Bill.