Reviewed By: Mercury
Review Date: 7/6/19 10:34 am
3 out of 3 found this review helpful.
This is the excellent second part of a two part story following on from World Enough and Time which most people loved but I found rather flawed. I did enjoy WEaT but I saw flaws in the plot in terms of contrivances and lapses in logic which is all sadly typical of Moffatt era stories. This episode does not have those flaws and marks a great end to Moffatt's final series in charge with only a Christmas special left after this. I reflect on his time as Showrunner with appreciation of his service to the show and a lot of quality but with sadness that so much potential was often missed due to his lack of logic and obsessive repetition of weak plot contrivances such as bringing companions back from the dead. In this episode we YET AGAIN have an apparently dead companion get improbably rescued as Bill is turned into a water alien to roam the universe instead of dying as a Cyberman. This is far too reminiscent of other Moffatt companion send offs but is actually a fitting end for Bill which overcomes my feeling that the Doctor had failed her in the previous episode. The episode also features Moffatt's usual spectacle which often gets overblown and takes stories too far but here is well balanced bringing some epic excitement without getting out of control.
Despite often falling short for me, Moffatt has presided over some truly great episodes in his era that are in my top 100 stories of all time, some which he did not personally write (Flatline, Vincent and the Doctor, Mummy on the Orient Express, Amy's Choice, The Zygon Invasion, Cold war, The Doctor's Wife) and some of which he did write himself (The Day of the Doctor, Heaven Sent, The Pilot, The Zygon Inversion, The Magician's Apprentice, The Witch's Familiar, Listen, The Name of the Doctor, The Night of the Doctor, Oxygen). For me, this episode and the following special Twice Upon a Time are up with those best Moffatt episodes. This rises above the plot flaws of the good but not great World Enough and Time and manages to be a thoroughly enjoyable and impressive episode. The cop out (but nice) companion rescue is a reminder of his flaws and a couple of other scenes are a tiny bit heavy handed but this is overall superb quality and among Moffatt's best and really has to get a 10/10.
Peter Capaldi is given some strong material to show off his brilliance in the role (if only he had more of these great episodes to work with than he did) and Pearl Mackie who returns despite having been converted into a Cyberman is simply stunning. Bill is one of my favourite companions and certainly the best of the Moffatt era. Matt Lucas gets a meaty role as Nardole too and shows his comedic qualities as well as some tougher and more serious emotional sides. Michelle Gomez, in what seems to be her finale, gives possibly her finest performance of all as Missy. This series more toned down and 3 dimensional Missy with depth, pathos and gravitas among the humour and wickedness is fabulous and Gomez acts it to perfection. We get the treat of her sparking off with John Simm's Master who is also toned down to a more Delgado type Master. His cold cunning and cruel plotting are marvelously delivered with relish by Simm creating some screen magic as the 3 Time Lords spar verbally and physically together.
We also get the Mondasian Cybermen with their wonderful voices and retro look as well as 2 modern versions. I love Cybermen and they are a great threat in this episode. The tension and action is strong and the direction from Rachel Talalay is great.
There are clear influences/references from the amazing cinema classic The Night of the Hunter with the Doctor sitting on the porch, shotgun in hand, guarding the children from a terrifying threat outside and there are Western themes too with the humble homesteaders threatened by raiders. The Western theme from A Town Caled mercy is used to evoke this Western feel.
There is some sparkling dialogue, some movingly emotional scenes, some menacing baddies, some exciting drama and some funny humour. Then we get the finale between Missy and the Master which is gripping and leaves us on a cliffhanger as to the character's fate.
Finally we get the awesome ending where the 12th Doctor, trying not to regenerate, meets the 1st Doctor played beautifully by David Bradley in place of the long departed William Hartnell. Stunning ending.
Those qualities and dramatic highs make this just about a full 10/10 for me although as an overall 2 part story with the 8/10 WEaT my average story rating is 9/10.