Warning: contains spoilers for Doctor Who ‘The Power of the Doctor’
That was it! The Thirteenth Doctor’s story has finally come to an end. And what an end it was. No toys were left in the bag. UNIT, the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master, Rasputin, multiple Doctor incarnations, and a few old faces.
But with that many ideas being thrown at the screen at once, you can be forgiven for wanting to be clear on a few things. And so, here’s the necessary explainer.
How Did the Master Escape from Gallifrey?
So the last time we saw the Master he was standing on Gallifrey as it exploded, again. How could the Master have possibly survived that? When the Doctor asks, the Master says he survived through “magnificent attention to detail”. What does that mean?
We don’t know but we assume it involves a transmat, because it always involves a transmat.
What Was the Master’s Plan?
The Master has had some pretty whacky plans over the decades, but this was a whopper. As he described it, it was a “Master Dalek Plan” or “Dalek Cybermaster plan” or… Well, names have never been his strong point.
But let’s take it step by step.
Step One: Clone that broken, angry Cyberman that you used for your evil plan in “The Timeless Children”. Put him inside another Cyberman with a dimensionally transcendental interior, along with a whole Cybermaster army. Shrink the dimensionally transcendental Cyberman with the Tissue Compression Eliminator and send him to one of the Doctor’s old companions (addressed from the Doctor) so that she would keep him in her bag.
Step Two: Pose as Rasputin and infiltrate the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. This would allow him to do two things. A: It gives him a nice big room to deliver his evil plan exposition in later. B:…
Step Three: Vandalise the 15 most famous paintings in history with his face, and have his face instantly recognised as Rasputin’s by UNIT. At the same time he kidnaps 22 of the world’s greatest seismologists and reduces them to Games Workshop miniatures.
Step Four: Kidnap a space jellyfish that is an energy source that disguises itself as whatever the audience feels the urge to protect, and use it to power a massive cyber planet that is also powered by a TARDIS. Guard it with Cybermasters (Time Lord Cybermen from when we last saw him on Gallifrey – once again proving that blowing up Gallifrey just isn’t a very effective way of genociding an enemy army).
Step Five: Get the Daleks to start drilling to the Earth’s core – they love doing that.
Step Six: Tell the Doctor that you’re going to kill her, so that she walks right into your plan. Get arrested by UNIT, because if there’s one thing that evil masterminds love it’s getting arrested by SWAT teams from global paramilitary organisations and being held in maximum security while looking smug about it.
Step Seven: Have a traitor among your volcano Daleks summon the Doctor to the Dalek’s evil plan, then ambush and capture her, transporting her back to 1916 St Petersburg.
Step Eight: Have the shrunken angry Cyberman grow to full size, open it up and have all the Cybermen charge out and take over UNIT HQ, rescuing the Master in the process.
Step Nine: Pop back to St Petersburg 1916, and using the power from the Cyberplanet, force the Doctor to regenerate into the Master. So the Master is now the Doctoralek. Do this to the tune “Ra Ra Rasputin”. This is important: Do the dance.
Step Ten: Have the Master/Doctor like… travel through time and space doing evil plans to give her/him bad PR? This will destroy the Doctor’s legend forever. (Note to self: The Doctor has, on multiple occasions, tried to delete every reference to themselves throughout history. Will they actually mind their legend being destroyed? Never mind, I’ve bought the Boney M CD now).
Meanwhile the Daleks will set off a bunch of volcanos, the Cybermasters will convert everyone and the Earth will be destroyed.
What Was the Doctor’s Counter Plan?
But of course, a Doctor/Master story is a meeting of minds, two cosmically scaled geniuses of time and space matching each other in a six-dimensional game of chess. So obviously as the Master is working on his plan, the Doctor is planning a counter-strategy.
Step One: Low-jack all of her companions with nanotechnology programmed with a holographic AI version of herself.
Step Two: When you are absolutely, definitely, dead, dead, dead, activate those holograms to spur them on. (Note to self: Old companion’s memories may result in cameos from old Doctors resulting in touching reunion scenes).
Step Three: Have them work together to foil the Master’s Dalek cyberplan, kidnap the Master/Doctor and force him to degenerate back into the Thirteenth Doctor. Then she…
Step Four: Uses her TARDIS to jumpstart the Master’s TARDIS, and both TARDIS’ work together to transport the Cyberplanet from 1916 to 2022 and using its cyber conversion powers to turn all the lava from the Dalek volcanos into big metal statues. Then she tells the space jellyfish to channel all its energy back into the planet, destroying the planet and freeing itself.
Where the did the Doctor’s previous incarnations come from?
So when the Thirteenth Doctor faces a forced regeneration, she finds herself in a desert at the end of a cliff, next to a telephone pole. Here she encounters a stranger in a robe. A stranger in a robe who at various times is the first, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth, Doctors.
These were not picked at random – these were the ones who resisted their regeneration. The First Doctor, as we know, resisted his generation in Jodie Whittaker’s predecessor’s final story, “Twice Upon a Time”. At the same time – William Hartnell famously didn’t want to leave the role.
The Fifth Doctor died of Spectrox Toxaemia, the Sixth fell off an exercise bike, but also, notably, Colin Baker was the only Doctor to refuse to come back and do his regeneration scene (he had good reason). Seven was the incarnation of the Doctor that saw the series cancelled, and was shot to death, Eight only had a pilot that never got off the ground and forced his own regeneration in the 50th anniversary short, “Night of the Doctor”.
You might notice the absence of one regeneration-averse Doctor – the Tenth “I don’t want to go!” Doctor. We’ll get to that later.
What Killed the Doctor?
The Doctor returns to the Cyberplanet and releases the space jellyfish the Master was using as a power source. She tells it to direct its energy into the planet, to destroy it.
The Master, bitter that his plan is ruined, uses his all-purpose remote control to redirect jellyfish’s energy into the Doctor, blasting her to death. But not so to death that there wasn’t time for one last date with Yaz.
When she does regenerate, in a massive departure for Nu Who, it is outside the TARDIS, breaking a run of in-TARDIS regenerations that goes back to Hurt into Eccleston.
Did the Master Escape?
Last we saw of the Master he was lying under a bit of rubble on a planet that was about to explode. But it’s hardly the first time. He’ll be back. Maybe we’ll see him on Gallifrey?
What Happened to Yaz? And Who Was At That Final Meeting?
Some companions leave in anger, some are dropped off because the Doctor has somewhere more important to be, some die or have their memory erased. Yaz, doesn’t really seem to do any of these. She just sort of takes it as a given that the Thirteenth Doctor regenerating will be the end of their friendship/relationship?
The most we get is the Doctor saying, “I think I need to do this next bit alone”.
Afterwards, Graham and Dan meet up with her and take her to what looks like a “Companions Anonymous” meeting. As well as Yaz, Graham, Dan, Ace and Tegan, and Liz Stewart, we also see the meeting is attended by Mel Bush (companion of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors), Ian Chesterton, (one of the very first companions of the Doctor who was there from the very beginning). We also see Jo Grant (who reunited with the Doctor’s eleventh incarnation in The Sarah Jane Adventures).
What Are Thirteen’s Last Words?
The last words of any given incarnation can be a mixed bag, from the portentous “But the moment has been prepared for” from Tom Baker, to David Tennant’s devastating “I don’t want to go” (we will come back to that), to Colin Baker’s “Carrot juice, carrot juice, carrot juice”.
Honestly, Jodie Whittaker’s last words were one of the most inspired bits of this episode.
“Tag. You’re it”. Is there any better summation of the regeneration process in the end?
Except… it didn’t quite go according to plan.
What? What?! WHAT!!!
So yes. About that big twist. For months now we have been excitedly looking forward to Ncuti Gatwa taking over the reins of the TARDIS (and given some of the design choices made around the TARDIS console before, that might not just be a figure of speech).
There were rumours. Ridiculous rumours. Rumours nobody in their right mind would take seriously. And then the regeneration light show kicked in, and for the first time since Hartnell became Troughton, the regeneration brought about a change of clothes as well – and a new, but oddly familiar new outfit.
Yes, the Fourteenth Doctor is… the Tenth Doctor?
Of course, this isn’t entirely a bolt from the canonical blue. We already know, from the mysterious “Curator” that looks like Tom Baker in “The Day of the Doctor”, that at some point in their future the Doctor might “revisit some old favourites”. And the Doctor has already borrowed faces from Roman marble dealers and Gallifreyan palace guards.
And yet, there’s still a feeling here that something has gone very wrong. Particularly for a UK that is really nervous about certain people getting their old jobs back right now. The Doctor who did not want to go is back, the 60th anniversary special is around the corner, and Russell T Davies is back in the driving seat. Anything could happen next…
Some Unanswered Questions
So… are we going to mention the whole “Timeless Child” arc ever again?
How about that Rasputin’s life story is now radically different and that Earth had an extra moon for part of the Great War? Oh, and half the universe being destroyed. Are we ever going to deal with that? No? Okay. David Tennant’s back!
The Power of the Doctor is available to stream now on BBC iPlayer. Read our review.