The season 10 finale of Doctor Who airs this Saturday. Can one episode answer all the questions we still have about this season? Maybe.
The season finale of Doctor Who is upon us, which means it’s almost time to say goodbye to Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi, as well as Mistress Michelle Gomez, and current showrunner Steven Moffat. But the episode actually has an awful lot of narrative work to do, besides just giving us all a tremendous case of the feels.
The second half of a two-parter, “The Doctor Falls” must tie up a whole lot of loose ends from Season 10. That not only includes plot specific issues left over from “World Enough and Time”, but bigger season-long themes such as the fate of the vault mystery, and Twelve’s attempt to rehabilitate his former arch-nemesis. Here are a handful of the biggest issues that the season finale must deal with this Saturday.
(And it’s rather a lot. So good thing that the episode will have an extended run time this week.)
How will the Doctor save Bill?
The finale has several big questions to answer. But the biggest probably concerns the fate of companion Bill Potts. When last we saw her, Bill had been converted to a Mondasian Cyberman, albeit one that seems to have some sense of her old self still. While this is a shocking twist – it’s one which we know probably won’t stick. Moffat has become rather famous for creating these massive emotional storylines, and then undoing them in rather short order. He loves a good timey wimey reset button, after all.
So of course the Doctor will save the day. That’s what he does, and what we all believe he will do here. The real question is, of course, how will the Doctor undo it? Will he sacrifice himself (again) for his companion? Somehow use the power of the black hole? Rewind time to prevent her conversion? There’s always the possibility that one of the Masters might be involved somehow. Perhaps saving Bill will serve as Missy’s ultimate redemption?
Don’t get me wrong. Bill is a fantastic character, and certainly deserves a better fate than to spend the rest of forever as a Cyberman. So when the inevitable undoing of her fate comes, I won’t be upset about it, as far as that goes. Rather, I’ll just mourn the show’s use of another cheap narrative trick to build emotional tension that isn’t deserved. We literally just did this with Clara. There are other ways to tell impactful stories without constantly threatening viewers with losses that don’t really mean anything.
Whose side will Missy choose?
The other big surprise of last week’s episode was, of course, the revelation that Bill’s friend Mr. Razor was John Simm’s Master in disguise. Apparently, Missy’s turn toward good so disturbed Simm’s Master that he felt the need to intervene to prevent it going any further. Which leaves us with roughly a thousand questions.
How did Simm’s Master even get involved in this? If he’s from earlier in his own timeline than Missy is – as his dialogue suggests – then how does he even know about her attempt at rehabilitation? And, come to that, how is a massive paradox not happening right now? (I assume the answer to that last bit has to have something to do with the proximity of that black hole they’re living near.) At any rate, Simm’s Master raises an interesting dilemma. No matter how much Twelve wants to believe in the possibility of Missy’s redemption, can he forgive her for what “she” did to Bill? It’s true, technically, that she didn’t actually do anything. But, she also sort of did, because she is also still that version of the Master somewhere inside. Maybe. (It’s complicated, clearly.)
To be fair, the Master’s argument is kind of flawed. Because you could make the argument that it’s ultimately the Doctor who causes Bill’s death and subsequent conversion. After all, he’s the one so desperate to prove that Missy can change that he sent her and his companions off to investigate the colony ship in the first place. But at the end of the day – he might not actually be wrong. Despite the fact that Simm’s Master seems confident that Missy will leap at the chance to embrace her mad, evil self again, she hasn’t actually done it yet. We don’t know what side she will choose in the end – maybe she’ll side with Twelve against the Cybermen. Maybe she’ll be the person who ends up saving Bill. Or maybe she’ll betray everyone and break the Doctor’s heart. Anything’s still possible at the moment.
When and/or how will Twelve’s regeneration happen?
In the prologue to “World Enough and Time”, we saw what looked like the beginning of Twelve’s regeneration. (I mean, we do know that Capaldi filmed it at some point this year. He said so.) But, since we’ve already seen one fake regeneration as part of season 10, it’s hard to know whether to trust this one. It’s difficult to imagine how a situation might require the Doctor to try and pull off another fake out in that snowy scene we saw. But you can’t really rule anything out on this show.
On the flip side, pretty much everything about that scene does point to a legit regeneration. And, more than that, the scene calls back to a pretty classic Doctor Who moment. First Doctor William Hartnell regenerated into Patrick Troughton in a 1966 episode entitled “The Tenth Planet”. That episode saw the Doctor travel to the South Pole and face off with the original Mondasian Cybermen as they attempted to take over the human race. In a season that’s been full of references to classic Doctor Who moments, it seems that this can’t possibly be a coincidence.
It could be a nice gesture to the series’ past. Or maybe it’s a nod to outgoing Doctor Capaldi’s intense love of this particular period in Who history. Possibly it’s a hint that those rumors about a certain Adventures in Time and Space actor appearing in the season finale are true. But it definitely seems like too many connections to not be on purpose in some way. We just don’t know how yet.
Doctor Who season 10 concludes Saturday, July 1 on BBC America.