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Doctor Who - The Doctor Falls - Review: "The Last Stand"

© BBC Pictures
Episode: 10.12 "The Doctor Falls"
Directed by: Rachel Talalay
Written by: Steven Moffat
Air date: 1 July 2017

Reviews so far:
Episode 10.01 - "The Pilot"
Episode 10.02 - "Smile"
Episode 10.03 - "Thin Ice"
Episode 10.04 - "Knock Knock"
Episode 10.05 - "Oxygen"
Episode 10.06 - "Extremis"
Episode 10.07 - "The Pyramid at the End of the World"
Episode 10.08 - "The Lie of the Land"
Episode 10.09 - "Empress of Mars"
Episode 10.10 - "The Eaters of Light"
Episode 10.11 - "World Enough and Time"

Before we get to the story and my impressions, let's start with the recap. The Doctor is trapped by the Master and Missy who try to decide what would be the best way to kill him. He uses his one chance to turn the Cybermen against them and all three are forced to run. While the Master and Missy quickly join Nardole in the shuttlecraft he's found, the Doctor gets electrified by a Cyberman and is saved by Bill, not yet aware of her conversion. The group escapes to a higher floor on the ship and stays with a small human community for a while, learning them the ways to survive the upcoming Cybermen attack and planning a way out. Bill finds out about her fate but remains in control, not letting Cyberman programming to turn her against the Doctor and others. The Master and Missy figure out how to return to their TARDIS, back at the bottom of the ship and easier to reach than the Doctor's. Meanwhile the Doctor begins to experience the first signs of regeneration but delays it to fight the Cybermen and to save the encountered community. He asks Nardole to stay with the people and take care of them, so after a short exchange Nardole says his goodbyes to the Doctor and Bill, who chooses to take her last stand with the Time Lord. Missy betrays and stabs the Master, choosing to return and help the Doctor but the dying Master refuses to let her and shoots his future self, preventing her from regeneration as they both die laughing at their actions. The Doctor fights the Cybermen and destroys the entire floor where they're at, killing them and severely hurting himself. After Bill finds him, her mourning and tears bring back Heather who transforms Bill into an entity like herself. Together they bring the Doctor back to his TARDIS, hoping for him to get better but deciding to leave and explore the universe, starting a new life. The Doctor regains consciousness and tries to hold back his regeneration, refusing to change again. In the final minute of the finale he's approached by a man who is revealed to be the First Doctor.

Such a powerful, intense and emotionally draining episode! I spent half the time wondering whether there’s a chance that the Doctor will regenerate at the end and the other half trying to accept everyone’s departures. It was quite a lot to process and I’m sure I’m going to need to re-watch the hour a few more times before I’ll be able to decide just how much I enjoyed it. But I most certainly did. I have to say, I’m very glad that this season turned out to be this great! It seems like such a fitting goodbye to Twelfth Doctor and Peter Capaldi did an especially fantastic job with his portrayal this year. When I started watching the show six years ago it was already Eleventh’s run, so when Twelve arrived it was the first time I’ve been following the change with everyone else. And yes, it wasn’t easy to adjust to a completely new Doctor at first, it never truly is, but I’ve grown to really love this new incarnation and I don’t think I’ve realized just how much until this very hour. Just watching how hard it was for him to let go made it seem real and imminent. There’s still a few months till Twelfth’s last episode but I’m sure I’m still not going to be ready then.

In this season finale we got a number of great references, between the Doctor’s fight with the Cybermen, the Master vs. Missy and the flashbacks with a glimpse of the Doctor’s former companions (I miss everyone!). But more importantly there’s also a few parallels which I didn’t expect, but somehow made all the sense in the world. Starting with the Doctor. Despite the fact that his death was so sudden Nine’s goodbye was a peaceful one. He wasn’t afraid, he wasn’t alone and while it’s never easy, it looked like he was ready for a new start, after the fight that seemed to be the end of the Time War. Eleven’s goodbye was a (very) long one, emotional but also hopeful and heartwarming, once again, with a friend by his side. But Ten… it wasn’t like that at all for him, he was tired and broken, but he wasn’t ready to let go. His departure felt all the more heartbreaking because of it. Truly like a death. Especially considering the completely different state of mind Eleven was in when he first appeared. It was the biggest shift in the show for me, almost like a new story, a new series, complete with the new showrunner and the cast. And that’s exactly how Twelve’s end is starting to look like. A brand new life to the show, but a tragic, lonely ending for the old one. It also made me realize just how similar Ten and Twelve can be at times and it was both surprising and beautiful discovery.

The Doctor: “Even if I change it still feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away... and I'm dead.”

There’s still an entire Christmas special ahead of us, so things might still take a different turn, set another tone for the final story, but for now, I’m getting ready for how it seems at the moment. Twelve is refusing to regenerate, he doesn’t want to die, he doesn’t want to change, not ever again. And that’s when he encounters the most extraordinary man – the original, the First Doctor. As much as I try to avoid the spoilers for the show, unfortunately I’ve heard about this one, so it wasn’t as much of a surprise as it could be, but I’m still truly excited to see these two interact. I’ve only ever seen one episode with First Doctor (the first one of the show) so I can’t say I know too much about him. I’m very glad we’re getting this opportunity to get to see who he was back before all of these things happened, the man he was born to be, to realize how much he’s grown and changed, and yet how much of his true self is still there in Twelve. There’s so much potential in this story that even though I’m sad to see Peter Capaldi’s exit, I can’t wait to see the episode with these two Doctors. Brilliant idea!

The parallel between the current and former Doctors is not the only one that’s significant in this season finale. After the tragic turn that Bill's story took last week it's time for her to adjust to the new reality as a Cyberman. Pearl Mackie was the absolute wonder in all her scenes, especially as she's beginning to learn and understand the news of Bill's change. It was brutal, heartbreaking and powerfully done. But as much as I've been enjoying her character this season, I think I was hoping for a better ending of her story. I'm glad she got a second chance in the end, despite all the odds I do always hope for the best for these characters, but I can't help but see the similarities between her and Clara. While Bill's unshaken faith in the Doctor often made me think of Amy, it's the Cybermen story that truly highlighted what's familiar in Potts' ending. First, her strength, the will to help the Doctor, even while being locked away and conversed into his enemy - sounds so much like Oswin. It was a breathtaking reveal the last time and very differently done in Bill's case but the heart of it remains the same. Just like with the death. Despite actually dying, there's not only a second chance for Potts but the continuous journey through time and space awaiting her, same as in Clara's story. And the Doctor doesn't know... In his mind, he's lost them both for good and it's him that ends up with the most cruel fate and unbearable pain of loss. Not sure about you but I was thinking about Heather before watching the finale, I remember how much it seemed back in the premiere that we'll be returning to her at one point and I was wondering whether it's the plot that will be mentioned again. To my surprise she was far more involved than I expected and her brief history with Bill helped save both her and the Doctor. Important thing to consider here, Bill got a chance to be human again and she turned it away, instead choosing to join Heather in her adventures. I wasn't quite sure about how easily she just left everything behind until I've realized - there wasn't really anything awaiting her back on Earth. She was never grounded like any of the other companions we have met, her home wasn't a place or a person. She embraced the stars and the travelling with the Doctor very quickly and in the end I think it made sense for her to go on like that. Her departure didn't necessarily feel final, though, so there's always a chance for her to come back and I would certainly be happy to keep Bill around.

And then there's the last member of TARDIS crew of the season - Nardole. It's both strange and comforting to see what he's become. He's a genius who seemed quite detached from everyone at the start of his story, only focused on the mission and the Doctor's promise, and yet ended up the one taking care of everyone, the ordinary people, the children who were put in harm's way. He might have been a comic relief at times but there's so much heart in Nardole's story and it's clear in his goodbye with the Doctor and Bill how much he's grown to love their adventures and care about these two. His presence might not have been as significant as it could be in this season but the truth is, he was always there when it mattered. The second we see him run away in the episode's opening minutes we know there's a reason and he gets quite a great entrance later when he comes to the Doctor's rescue. There's always so many good lines and bits with Nardole, like in the moment when he's explaining to the people why the Cybermen will be afraid of their guns or his fun interactions with Hazran. Though his ending comes in the place endangered by the Cybermen there's a feeling that he'll be alright. He did turn out to be a pretty great character, I enjoyed his time on the show far more than I expected and once again, I'd be glad to see him back at one point.

Finally, the Master and Missy. What an acting masterpiece these two were! There's something unique in the characters that can make you laugh out loud ("welcome to the sisterhood" or the Master trying make-up) in one moment and appear truly terrifying in another. The Master played by John Simm always seemed cruel, insane and entertaining, and that's exactly how he meets his end. It was already fitting to see him die at his other incarnation's hand, but his choice to end his life entirely was somehow both surprising and so very much like him. Missy's decision, on the other hand, to stand with the Doctor, was beautifully done. It didn't seem sudden or out of character. Her change, the Doctor's hope, did matter in the end and I truly wish the Doctor could know this. Missy was the Master who finally realized that all the destruction and deaths he caused took a real toll, that while they couldn't quite bring themselves to care about people, there was a meaning in the Doctor's actions. And most importantly, I think Missy truly missed her friend. After years and years of fighting it was the time for them to finally stand together and I would have loved to see them run side by side in the future. The scene when the Doctor confronts the Master and Missy, trying to convince them to stay, is such a great one. It speaks volumes about their shared history and it highlights one of the most important things about the episode for me - what the different incarnation can truly mean for the Time Lord. The Doctor, even with different look, likes and dislikes and behaviors, somehow always seemed like himself. The promise of his name was his ultimate goal, the attempt and drive to become the man he's always wanted to be. His constant. Missy and the Master, on the other hand, prove what can happen when there's no real constant left, when the pain of one is gone, the insanity. While there's obviously a number of similarities between them, their fundament, the choice of whether to stand or oppose the Doctor truly splits them apart. I do wonder whether seeing them is one of the reasons the Doctor has such a hard time letting go of his current self... Regardless, now knowing Missy's fate and her final choice, I can honestly say that her arc in this season was one of my favorites for sure. Michelle Gomez will be greatly missed, as was/will John Simm. All the stories Twelve and Missy could have told... Such a truly emotional hour to watch. I'm sure it will remain one of the most memorable season finales of the show. Kudos to the wonderful cast & crew for all their incredible work on the season!

Whovian notes and questions:
1. How did you feel about that twist in Bill's story? Were you expecting Heather's return? Would you prefer an ending more different from Clara's? Would you like to see Bill return in the future episodes - as human or this "pilot" entity?
2. What did you think about Missy's and the Master's end? Did you like the fact that Missy's change turned out to be real? Would you like to see more of their confrontation, or a fight against the Doctor? Do you think/hope there's a twist in the story that will still allow for the character's return in the future?
3. So many references, where to start... All the battles with Cybermen, flashbacks to the Doctor's former companions, all the quotes ("I loved being you", "Where there's a tear, there's hope"), the other regenerations... Any favorites?
4. Do you think it's the last time we're seeing Nardole? What are your final thoughts on the character? Would you like to see him back anytime soon?
5. The First Doctor! Were you spoiled before watching or did it take you by surprise? What are your hopes and wishes for Twelve's final episode?

Memorable quotes:
1. Nardole: "You’re wrong, you know. I’ll never be able to find the words."
2. The Doctor: "You may be a Doctor. But I am the Doctor. The original, you might say."
3. The Doctor: "I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone, because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone. It’s not because it’s fun. God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all, it’s kind! It’s just that… Just kind. If I run away today, good people will die. If I stand and fight, some of them might live. Maybe not many, maybe not for long. Hey, you know, maybe there’s no point to any of this at all. But it’s the best I can do. So I’m going to do it. And I’m going to stand here doing it until it kills me. And you’re going to die too! Some day… And how will that be? Have you thought about it? What would you die for? Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall."
4. Nardole: "I’m gonna name a town after you. A really rubbish one!"
5. The Doctor: "Without hope, without witness, without reward."
6. The Master: "Missy, seriously, why?"
Missy: "Oh, because he's right. Because it's time to stand with him. It's where we've always been going, and it's happening now, today. It's time to stand with the Doctor."
7. The Master: "The Doctor's dead. He told me he'd always hated you. Let's go."
Nardole: "No."
Missy: "The Doctor's dead. He told me he'd always hated you."
Nardole: "Yeah, I heard you the first time!"

What did you think about "The Doctor Falls"? Any favorite scenes, quotes or theories? Feel free to let us know in the comments. Stay tuned for the press release & promo for the Christmas special. As always, thanks for reading!

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