10.12 The Doctor Falls
First things first: spoiler free here means spoiler free. It means you won’t find clues hidden in here, or much in the way of plot given away. Our levels of caution and spoiler-protection have been cranked way up, even higher than usual, for this final episode. And this is the only paragraph of what you’re going to read that was penned before we saw the episode.
That said, it was always clear that The Doctor Falls had a few things to juggle: the spaceship itself, the Cybermen, CyberBill, Missy, The Master and the impending threat of the Doctor’s regeneration. As it’s a part two of two, The Doctor Falls addresses at least some of those as you might expect, but it does some better than others. If you’re expecting the whizz-bang action finale that was teased in the next time trailer, you ain’t going to get it, although I found that a positive personally. Outright big action set pieces are thin on the ground.
Instead, The Doctor Falls from the off is a far more sombre affair, continuing the sense of something unpleasant around the corner that World Enough And Time expertly harnessed. The tone is pretty bleak, and director Rachel Talalay sets a very effective mood, and sustains it. She continues to prove herself the absolute star right now of Doctor Who’s very impressive roster of directors.
Steven Moffat, meanwhile, pulls back on the comedy elements this time – save for a couple of good lines, and Matt Lucas again in strong form – and instead continues to utilise his excellent science fiction premise. The spaceship where time is moving differently in different places gives him a sandbox and a half to play with, and the production design realises his ideas expertly. I’d have happily had an entire series on this ship, in retrospect, given the breadth of options it’s offered, story-wise.
What’s surprising is that for a series finale, The Doctor Falls feels a bit more contained, and a little bit smaller than you may be expecting. That’s not a criticism per se either, rather an acknowledgement of the slightly different approach that Steven Moffat has chosen to take. Some parts of the episode work better than others, and I don’t think this is at the level of World Enough And Time. But then I think World Enough And Time sets a high mark.
Did I like this one? On the whole I did. I’ve got reservations, but there are moments here that land exquisitely, and some brilliant performances too. Countering that, I think The Doctor Falls takes much longer than I was expecting to get going – it spends quite a bit of time settling once the opening credits have rolled – but there’s little doubt that Steven Moffat and his team know what they’re doing here. How well some of their choices go down remains to be seen.
I wouldn’t class The Doctor Falls as an entirely successful series finale, but I do think it’s an interesting one, and an hour of television not without real impact.
One final note: thank you for the kind comments across the run of these reviews, and for your patience in the spoiler-free write-ups being utterly bereft of plot. I know that’s frustrating for some, but it seems the only fair way to do it.
The spoiler-filled review will follow on Saturday…