World Enough and Time kicked this year’s two-part series finale off with the return of John Simm’s Master, Bill’s conversion into a Mondasian Cyberman and even a glimpse at the Twelfth Doctor’s regeneration – just your typical low-key episode of Doctor Who, then. Read on to find out what our team thought of it all…
World Enough And Time had a lot to live up to. Mondasian Cybermen, the return of John Simm’s Master and the start of Capaldi’s finale. Fortunately, Moffat pulled it off.
The episode starts with a tease of Capaldi’s Doctor starting to regenerate. After seeing teases of a regeneration in the trailers and the fake regeneration in The Lie Of The Land, this pre-titles sequence didn’t really have much of an impact.
We then see Missy having a go at the Doctor. While this is a great concept, it doesn’t really play out that well. The whole ‘my name is Doctor Who’ routine feels like Moffat having one last in joke, breaking the fourth wall unnecessary. Although I must admit I smiled at the description of Bill and Nardole as ‘exposition’ and ‘comic relief’.
We then witness Bill’s supposed death. Quite early on, this comes as a surprise, but as it’s Moffat we know she won’t stay dead for long. The flashbacks during Bill’s ‘death’ did distract a little from the emotion of the scene, feeling thrown in to make up for a lack of build up beforehand. However, it is still a powerful scene. Bill later being turned into a Cyberman was a brilliant twist. I hope Moffat sticks to it and doesn’t try to reverse it, as this would be an incredible exit for a companion.
The idea of time being slower at one end of the ship is a great idea that allows for some interesting back and forth. Whilst Bill takes over Amy’s mantle of the girl who waited, we get to see more of Razor and explore the evolution of the Cybermen.
The Mondasian Cybermen have been one of the most talked about elements of Series 10 and for good reason. Their design is beautiful and the nostalgia is heavy. With the story being set near Mondas and covering the genesis of the Cybermen, there is an obvious parallel with the Big Finish audio drama Spare Parts. Whilst I enjoyed the audio, I felt it didn’t really give much new insight into why the Cybermen came to be and the transition from human to Cyberman. However, World Enough and Time covers this perfectly. We learn that they need to upgrade in order to survive living conditions and we see the tragic initial effects it has on the converted, to the point where we end up feeling sorry for one of the most prominent and evil villains in the show. The outfit is explained – the handles masking the pain for example – and really gives us a proper origin story.
Then we come to the other major draw to this episode: The Master. I’ll admit I didn’t guess until about 5 minutes before the reveal and I’m glad about that, because Moffat and the team achieved their aim. The Master hiding in an actual disguise and then revealing himself was proper old school Master. Whilst John Simm isn’t my favourite Master, I’m actually quite excited to see why he’s there and how he will interact with Missy next week.
The whole feel of the episode was very impressive. Everything including direction, set design, lighting and music was spot on, adding tension to every scene and creating one of the strongest episodes in a long while.
After seven years as showrunner – and even longer as a Doctor Who writer – it’s quite frankly inexplicable that Steven Moffat should still be turning out scripts as extraordinary as World Enough and Time. Ambitious, innovative and compelling throughout, it’s certainly the standout episode of the series so far, and is maybe even right up there as one of the finest episodes since the show’s 2005 return.
For World Enough and Time has it all, starting with the way it so skilfully plays with time. The time dilation experienced by the colony ship is a solid and engaging sci-fi premise, smooth scene cuts and Mr Razor’s little black-and-white monitor really hammering home the futility of Bill’s situation. Non-linear storytelling is also employed to great effect, with the conversation between Bill and the Doctor on the university roof adding to the pathos of the former’s ‘death’ in a way it simply wouldn’t if seen beforehand. And then there’s that startling flashforward pre-credits scene, leaving us in no doubt that the beginning of the end for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor starts here.
But that’s not the only thing that starts in World Enough and Time; we also get a televised origin story for the Mondasian Cybermen. The hospital scenes are some of the creepiest that Doctor Who has seen of late, successfully steering the perception of the Cybermen away from the robots of the modern era and starkly reminding us that these are converted humans. Some of it makes for genuinely disturbing viewing, such as the horrifying realisation that the ‘patients’ are not receiving anaesthetic in response to their cries of pain, but are instead being silenced with a volume control. Equally chilling is the introduction of the metal tubing around the Cybermen’s heads, used not to stop them feeling pain, but to stop them caring about it. It’s a level of body horror usually unseen in Doctor Who, and goes some way towards re-establishing the Cybermen as a uniquely macabre creation, supported by Nicholas Briggs’ impressive recreation of their eerie, singsong voices.
Emphasising the original nature of the Cybermen in this way also serves to makes Bill’s eventual fate in World Enough and Time that much more harrowing, as does the fact that it comes about due to someone she has grown to trust. Mr Razor is an oddly endearing character for most of the episode, with some of the funniest lines and an easy rapport with Bill. Such a shame, then, that the news of John Simm’s return was broken in advance. With some remarkably convincing prosthetics complementing a sterling performance from Simm, the eventual reveal had the potential to rival that of Professor Yana’s in terms of shock value. As it is, Razor’s true identity is surely guessable fairly early on by a section of the audience – I picked it up around the time he was complimenting Bill on her ‘shiny’ new heart – reducing the impact that the episode’s cliffhanger is no doubt supposed to have.
For, as all of Moffat’s penultimate episode cliffhangers are, it is sublimely executed. The separate story strands laid throughout World Enough and Time interweave effortlessly and build up to a breathtaking climax, with Peter Capaldi perfectly playing the Doctor’s shock as he is confronted not only by Cyber Bill, but by two Masters. World Enough and Time certainly does its job at raising expectations sky-high for the concluding part of this series finale, and if The Doctor Falls can stick the landing, this pair of episodes may go down as some of the most stunning of Capaldi’s and Moffat’s eras of Doctor Who.
My goodness, we got a remarkable shift in mood and feel from the rest of Series 10 in this penultimate episode. I think it should be noted just how much the background music set a truly morbid tone and accompanied the chillingly dark and twisted plot with some real ‘shiver down the spine’ moments and sound effects.
This episode had unique moments like the jumping back and forth in time to and from the shocking event, and indeed image, of Bill’s apparent death. We come to learn that The Doctor has hatched a plan to turn Missy – ‘the only person even remotely’ like himself – into a good being. His plan to allow her ‘off the leash’ backfires tremendously and by the end of the episode we are tested hard as to whether ‘The Master’ has pulled a blinder on The Doctor and outwitted his long standing compassion in spectacular style. It would seem The Master has generated a plan so drawn out that his most up to date incarnation has forgotten its origins!
What I loved best about this episode (and there is so much to like!) is how real science plays a great part. The Doctor explains they are experiencing ‘Superman gravity’ so strong that the TARDIS cannot be piloted accurately. They are at the top of a 400 mile long space ship reversing from a black hole, and seconds translate as years from one end of the ship to the other – the nearer you are to gravity the slower time travels. The Doctor and Missy quickly collaborate to assess Bill’s plight as she descends to floor 1056.
Whilst this quick fire conversation is happening, Bill awakes to find herself ‘repaired’ with a Cyber heart. Whilst wired to a drip feed she painfully explores her desolate surroundings, realising she is in a secure medical facility. Despite the horror Bill feels at the fully bandaged patients permanently in a state of pain, Bill is led to believe she is being given special treatment by Razor, who says she is ‘dear to him’. He shows her glimpses of kindness and even helps her track the Doctor, but of course Razor will shockingly reveal his true self in a masterful twist (forgive the pun) during the final moments of the episode. The Doctor’s final subliminal words of ‘wait for me’ come back to Bill so this is what she knows she must do, although the stereotypical ‘cold’ Matron figure wastes no time in making Bill’s existence miserable as she awaits an unknown fate.
To me, the scariest ‘unknowns’ in this episode are the devilishly smooth talking human scientists who Razor betrays Bill to. The callousness and ruthlessness ooze from these ‘men in white coats’ as they prepare to convert Bill. Naturally terrified as those she has already seen modified are in terrible pain, Bill is shown a metallic device that won’t take away the pain but will stop her noticing it. It really couldn’t be any worse for Bill, a character who I think it’s fair to say we have all become very endeared towards throughout Series 10. She thought she was en-route to be re-united with the only man who can save her, but instead has come to the end of the line.
Once Missy, Nardole and The Doctor arrive at Bill’s dimension, we are showered in shock and sorrow. Razor reveals himself to Missy as a prior incarnation of herself, at a time where it seems the genesis of the Cybermen is happening. The Doctor, more desperate than ever, finds Bill tragically bandaged and cyber converted, a single tear giving us all some human hope as Cyber Bill looks at the distraught Doctor and robotically utters ‘I waited for you’. At first glance it appears the two Masters hate each other, but what they have planned we just don’t know…!