The Master falls into UNIT hands, and the Doctor wants answers. Why are there Cybermen in the streets of every town in the world? And what’s the Nethersphere? Meanwhile in the Nethersphere, Danny discovers there’s more to the afterlife than he bargained. Indeed, he’s going back to Earth. Same software, but different hardware. An upgrade, you might say. Clara has a near run-in with the Cybermen but is rescued by one that seems to want to keep her alive. But as the Master’s plan unfolds, the Doctor realizes the threat is even greater than he imagined. The dead are rising, upgraded, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to stop them…
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!
I have mixed feelings about the finale. The Cybermen returning was interesting, but they’re not the menace they used to be. I don’t know what it is, but there’s not the same sense of dread with the new Cybermen as there was with the old. Maybe its the design? The voice? Or just the stories…? And in this episode, they were completely upstaged by the return of the Master. And the fact the Master chose to use Cybermen for his plan–why? He’s never used them before, and the closest thing he ever came to an alliance with the Cybermen was back in “The Five Doctors.” It all comes across to me as if Moffat wanted to bring back the Cybermen and the Master so he wrote a story for them.
I liked the nod to the Brigadier, though I’m not sure his memory is well-served by the fact he ended up a Cyberman (albeit with black “leader” bars on his helmet–did you notice that? I didn’t at first, but a sharp-eyed friend pointed that out to me).
And we say goodbye to Clara… or do we? I’ve read she’ll be in the Christmas episode. We’ll see, I suppose. As you can guess, with Danny gone I’d like for Clara to make up her mind: is she on the TARDIS crew, or is she going back to life as “normal”–whatever that could be for her?
We also appear to say goodbye to the Master. Or do we? We know the Doctor’s arch enemy has a canny knack of coming back from the dead. But I think Moffat gave him an “out” in this story–at least if my memory serves. As far as I can remember, we saw Danny, Seb, and all those who died in the Nethersphere. The Doctor and Clara never met Seb and never entered the Nethersphere. But the Master did. Assuming I’m not mis-remembering, how was the Master able to be in the Nethersphere? Was this some kind of mental trick that allowed him to be among the dead, or was it his physical existence that was an illusion of some kind? One question I keep hearing is, “How did the Master escape the events of ‘The End of Time’?” As Moff correctly observes, Classic Who was never big on trying to explain how the Master “escaped” each brush with death, so it’s a question that he doesn’t feel like he needs to answer. But maybe he built the answer into this story–he didn’t escape. He’s dead… but sustaining an existence via the Nethersphere. This would mean that Missy isn’t a regeneration, but a stolen body…
One final quibble I have with the story: the way the whole concept of an afterlife, as believed in by millions of Christians, Jews, Muslims (to name but some) is written off as simply part of the Master’s evil scheme to harvest the souls of the dead. My objection is not just because, as a Christian, I take exception to Moffat using the show to patronize my faith. Knowing where Moffat’s coming from philosophically, I can dismiss his musings as part of the Doctor Who fantasy. But there’s the rub: all of a sudden, the fantasy overtakes the drama, and some of the magic of Doctor Who goes with it. The Doctor’s concern with Americans coming in and “praying” also shows an antagonism toward religious faith (and Americans) that is very uncharacteristic of the show, and pulls me out of the story. And as every novelist knows, the last thing you want to do is to remind your audience that this is just a piece of fiction.
To end on a positive, this was a good season. Peter Capaldi demonstrated himself to be a worthy successor, and the performances from everyone were superb. Some stories were better than others, and some concepts were a bit head-scratchy, but on the whole the quality of the story-telling was high. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be back for Christmas, and Season Nine.
That’s enough of my thoughts. What did you think? Love it? Hate it? Meh? The end of Clara’s time? The end of the Master? Share your thoughts!