This episode – the eleventh and penultimate of Series 10 – by rights should have been subtitled, “Or, When A Scenario Isn’t Just A Scenario.”
Forget what you saw in the pre-credits sequence. That was a tease. (Spoilers, sweetie.)
The real heartbreak here comes after The Doctor decides now is as good a time as any to drop Missy into a scenario to test how good she’s becoming. Michelle Gomez is brilliant, as usual, and pops off her lines with comic zest.
The ship the TARDIS lands on is 400 miles long and 100 miles wide. “Big, even for a colony ship,” The Doctor says. It’s reversing away from the gravitational pull of a black hole, and our heroes are responding to a distress call.
A blue-skinned man races into the control centre, wielding a gun, demanding to know which of those gathered are human. The presence of human life signs on the ship triggers elevator loads of unknown creatures. Look. We’ve all watched enough Who over the years and let’s face it, this is probably not the type of movin’ on up that will lead to anything good, and it ain’t a piece of the pie that these things are looking for. So, God love her, of course Bill cries out, “Me! Me! Me! I’m human. I’m the only one. Just… just me.”
The Doctor begs the Blue Man to put down his weapon. He can shield her from their detection systems. Blue Man says nuh uh, Bill has to die to make the creatures stop advancing. I damned near threw my crocheted Poké ball at the TV screen, cursing her name, as she says, “You know what Doctor, I said this was a bad idea.” And before The Doctor can finish his speech to the Blue Man, offering his services, Blue Man has blown a hole the size of a volleyball through the middle of Bill’s chest.
We are then taken back to the university, presumably a day or two prior to The Doctor’s experiment, and Bill is adamant that anything involving Missy won’t end happily. The Doctor isn’t listening, or at least isn’t trying to come across as pretending not to. “She’s the only person that I’ve ever met who’s even remotely like me.” Well, yes, she is the only other living Time Lord, so there’s that.
After The Doctor ruminates about Gallifrey and how terrific things were between him and Missy back when they were young, Bill cuts to the chase: “She scares me. She really scares me.” Hey, us too, Bill. I’m old enough to remember all of Missy’s previous incarnations. The Master makes the Marquis de Sade look like a rank amateur in comparison. The Doctor winds up promising Bill that he will try to keep her alive, “within reason.”
Cut back to the ship. The elevator doors open and out shuffle ghastly creatures in white, pushing IV poles. Her death doesn’t faze them:
“Stand away. She will be repaired.”
When do you bring her back?
“We will not.”
The Doctor clings to the closed elevator doors and hisses, “Wait for me. Wait for me.”
And wait, she does, for ten years. Which is actually only a couple of days at the uppermost level of the ship, but time moves more quickly 400 miles down, where the wild things are. She’s been repaired, if a piece of stereo equipment filling the gap where her sternum and lungs and heart had all once been constitutes physical improvement. She manages to attract the attention of a Filch-like man named Mr Razor who keeps her company, even providing her with a live video feed of The Doctor, Missy, and Nardole; before he delivers her to the team that will effectuate her conversion to a Mondasian Cyberman.
Trust me when I tell you, it’s anything BUT an upgrade. These early era Cybermen are more than capable of feeling emotions and pain. There’s no morphine or Demerol delivered post-op here. All they’re going to get when they press the call button on their IV poles is a Nurse Ratched-type figure who will just turn down the sound volume – notably out of the reach of the upgraded – so that no one has to hear their plaintive moans.
So who is Mr Razor? And how did he know that The Doctor, Nardole, and Missy were linked with Bill? Hold onto your hats, kids, because this is where the game really changes. The Master (John Simm) is back, and he’s concerned for his future.
Next week: The Doctor Falls. Last episode before Christmas and the Big Reveal of the Thirteenth Doctor
Rating: 9.5/10 Time Lords Not Remembering Who They Were When They Did What They Did