A car accident claims the life of Danny Pink. Distraught, Clara first asks the Doctor to take her to visit a volcano, and then to take her back in time to save Danny. The Doctor refuses since this would create a paradox, but Clara doesn’t give up. She finds all seven of the TARDIS keys and threatens to throw them all into the volcano unless the Doctor saves Danny. The Doctor refuses, and Clara throws in the last key… only to find that the Doctor has tricked her. They are not at the edge of a volcano and the TARDIS keys are on the floor of the ship. She has been in a trance so the Doctor could observe how far she would go to get Danny. Despite her betrayal, the Doctor offers to take her to find Danny. He has always wondered if there is an afterlife, and this would be a great opportunity to find out. The Doctor plugs Clara into the TARDIS’ telepathic interface, tells her to think about Danny, and to the Doctor’s surprise, the TARDIS sets off. The place they end up is, however, not at all what either of them expected. Something’s not right in Paradise–something that threatens humanity. And the person in charge is not all she seems to be, either!
SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!
As I’ve mentioned before, I get a little nervous when Doctor Who appears to tackle topics that could be controversial. But thankfully, it turns out “Paradise” is not at all the afterlife, at least not as Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others might conceive of it. Indeed, this is all a plot to harvest the souls of the dead and transplant them (minus emotions) into “new” bodies. Of course, these bodies are not new to us–they’re cybermen! That aspect of the story was a mild surprise. The promotional pictures (and last week’s trailer) already told us the cybermen would be in the finale, so we figured they’d play a part somewhere. The big surprise–at least to many–was the identity of Missy. Speculation has been rife for over two months as to who this woman is. All is now revealed: Missy is short for Mistress… or The Master, regenerated in female form!
I say this was a surprise to many, but I have to say, I kinda called this one. Not here, I don’t think, but on a Doctor Who blog back in August (see HERE–scroll down to see my comment). With all the fuss over whether the Doctor would regenerate into a woman, I could just imagine Steven Moffat thinking that no-0ne would suspect a female Master. It sounds so preposterous, few would entertain the idea. Which is why I thought that’s what Moff might do. As I mentioned last time, Michelle Gomez’ performance in the trailer did sound a little Rani-ish. But watching her last night, you could see the John-Simm-Master’s mania in the things she says and does: Telling her doctor to “Say something nice!” before killing him. Snogging the Doctor saying it’s part of the “welcome package.” All very 2008/2009 Master.
I’m not sure about other Whovians, but I’m totally on-board with this female Master. The fact that a Time Lord can regenerate into a different gender has often been talked about without objection, but this is the first on-screen evidence of the fact with a known Time Lord. And, as I said, Michelle Gomez did an excellent job conveying enough of the old Master so we’re on somewhat familiar ground, but also giving him her own “Missy” twist.
As for the rest of the episode, I enjoyed it. Clara’s reaction to Danny’s death was, I think, exactly what I would expect. Of course she would call the Doctor. Of course she would want to save the man she loves. The fact that he was on the phone with her at the time of the accident ramped up the heartbreak, too. I’m not sure what this does for my “something’s up with Danny” theory, but this was good storytelling. In the world of Doctor Who, what better, and more believable, way would there be to get us into “Paradise” than trying to find Clara’s dead boyfriend? (I don’t know if Moff intended it or not, but this seems to play a bit on the story of Aeneas visiting his dead father in the underworld; but I don’t think there were any cybermen in Virgil’s story.)
Once the Doctor and Clara arrived in “Paradise” the action slowed down and a lot of the time was spent exploring this world, finding out what’s going on. Some may complain about this, but we need to remember this is the first of a two-part story. One of the advantages of two-parters is you get to do a bit more world building and character development. I expect we’ll see much more action in the next part.
Again, great performances all around. The effects were good, and this was another good Steven Moffat story with lots of drama, tension, and humor (e.g., the Doctor not understanding why anyone would want to use “dark water” in a swimming pool).
I’ve just scratched the surface here and I’m sure there’s a lot more to talk about. What are your thoughts? What did you like? What did you not like? How do you feel about a female Master? Please comment!