Doctor Who: What’s next after “The Eaters of Light”?


As Doctor Who heads into the final two episodes of season 10, several dangling plot threads remain. But none of them matter much next to the story of the Doctor and Missy.

It’s time. Doctor Who season 10 is nearly over. Which means that we finally have to face the fact that Peter Capaldi’s time in the TARDIS is almost done. (Sniff.) It also means that we’re probably going to get some closure on some of the season’s broader story arcs. Technically, season 10’s final two episodes aren’t being promoted as a two-parter. But it’s hard not to view them as such. Their story will ostensibly center around the season’s biggest plots, including Missy’s rehabilitation, the Doctor’s vow to guard the vault, and the future of their relationship.

But, let’s be honest. Come Saturday, almost none of us will care about those things. Because John Simm is coming back. Yes, “World Enough and Time” will feature Simm’s return to the role of the Master, and that’s kind of the only thing we’re thinking about right now. Sure, classic Cybermen are coming back too, blah blah blah. But that doesn’t feel as important – plot-wise or emotionally speaking – as Simm’s return.

No matter how the Mondasian Cybermen manage to come back, or if they try to conquer the Earth again or not, it’s likely that none of it will feel as important as the exploration of the Doctor and the Master’s relationship that this finale promises.

The Mistress

Though Missy has made only sporadic appearances this year (and one of them was a flashback), her story has dominated much of season 10. From the initial mystery of the vault contents to the revelation of her imprisonment, she’s been there all along this year, whether she was onscreen or not. And the question of whether the former supervillain can turn over a new leaf has dominated the past few episodes.

We’ve seen her cry over her former victims, rescue the Doctor and his friends, and almost radiate hope at the possibility of getting her old friend back (for real) after all this time. It’s been pretty amazing – not to mention a lot of fun – to watch. And, despite our best efforts and general awareness that the Master is probably not to be trusted, it’s difficult to not believe her, a little bit. Or even, to want her to be telling the truth.

Part of this is due to the fact that actors Peter Capaldi and Michelle Gomez have amazing chemistry together. Watching them, it’s easy to believe in this complicated, messy relationship. And they certainly bring out the best in one another, as the epilogue in “The Eaters of Light” makes clear. (See also: The brief scene in “The Lie of the Land” in which Missy pushes back against Twelve’s limited idea of the concept of being and doing “good”.)  Can the two restore their long-lost friendship? Is Missy capable of really changing?

The Doctor

Twelve’s awkward demeanor in the “Eaters of Light” epilogue spoke volumes about the character’s state of mind. He physically recoils from the possibility that Missy’s change might be legitimate, and expresses doubts about her sincerity. And yet, everything else – his words, tone and expression – indicates an almost desperate hope that it is. We forget sometimes, I think, that for a long time, the Doctor and the Master were all the other had, that they were bound in inextricable ways by being the last two Time Lords in existence. Sure, later on, we learned that wasn’t entirely true. But that fact doesn’t invalidate their previous experiences either.

The two share a long and complicated history, across many centuries and multiple physical incarnations. The Doctor has been betrayed by the Master multiple times. So it’s understandable that he believes Missy’s rehabilitation is a nefarious plot. It makes sense that he would doubt the sincerity of her conversion, particularly one caused by decades of imprisonment. But it’s also equally obvious that the Doctor wants to believe her. His line about hope being hard to resist is kind of the story of their relationship. He wants to believe the best of this person who was once his friend. He misses that friend. Will the Doctor’s messy personal feelings about the situation be a help or a hindrance in this story? It’s hard to tell. But it certainly feels like anything could happen.

Sidebar: Man, wouldn’t it be great if Doctor Who spent more time on this stuff? It’s not only fascinating, this relationship, but it’s clearly going to drive the bulk of the finale action. (Well, that and the Cybermen.)

The Master

This is the elephant in the room of this season. We all know former Master Simm is coming back to Doctor Who somehow. The BBC announced it weeks ago. We even got a quick shot of him (“Give us a kiss!”) in the next time trailer at the end of “The Eaters of Light”. It’s all happening, just like we knew it would. We just don’t know how. How does a previous version of a Time Lord pop up in a story that contains a future version of himself? (Well, at least without the appearance of a random time portal, a la “The Day of the Doctor”.)

It seems an obvious assumption to make, but we don’t actually know for sure that Simm’s Master is part of the main episode plot. Early promotional interviews all touted the fact that Gomez and Simm’s versions of the character would meet face to face. But that isn’t exactly the same thing.

For all we know, Simm’s Master could pop up in a Missy vision, a dream sequence or some other non-linear storytelling method. He could be from an alternate dimension. (Not for nothing, but his outfit DOES look … a bit different than the Master we remember.) At any rate, it’s certainly a big ask to sort out a way to get the previous Master into a story that currently involved a later version of him. Can the series do it? Certainly – but despite our efforts, it’s very unlikely that we’ll figure out how before the episode airs. But it’s fun to try, right?

Next: Doctor Who season 10, episode 10 review: ‘The Eaters of Light

Doctor Who season 10 continues Saturday, June 24 on BBC America.