This Week on TV, July 8, 2017

Spoiler Alert!

Well, I suppose that’s it then.

The season ends, and so does my commentary, at least until something on my lineup comes back in two or three months.

It’s been quite an interesting season, too, hasn’t it?

Grimm and The Vampire Diaries both concluded after some stellar runs.

Once Upon a Time had an odd finale that paves the way for a “soft reboot” next season, but I dropped it several episodes earlier.

Though I dropped The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow from the lineup last season, and never followed Supergirl, I followed Arrow in honor of it’s fifth and potentially final season. Speaking of, I will certainly comment on next season’s premiere, but I’m uncertain if I’ll go beyond that. I’m inclined to drop it after we learn the fate of our heroes. (I’m guessing they survived)

Agents of Shield had a magnificent season. It won’t return until next January, leaving the slot open for the premier of Inhumans this fall. The trailer has me a little on the fence about it, but I’ll give it a fair shot and comment on it until the season ends and Agents of Shield begins.

Gotham has taken a turn or two I dislike, but it remains firmly on my lineup.

Finally, the season finale of Doctor Who. It was a longer episode, though not the two-hours I was expecting, and, really, it felt plenty long enough. It was pretty different, and rather unique in the entire series. It also leads straight into the next Christmas special. So, while I will most certainly keep following the Doctor’s adventures in my commentary, it looks like we are left hanging for a little while

So, as of this fall I will have… two shows from my lineup airing, and a third that will need to make one heck of a case. Hmmm, I may need to consider adding a little to my lineup, eh? But that’s for later. For now, I present the season finale of Doctor Who, and wish you all a pleasant few months until we meet again! 🙂

Doctor Who

10.12 “The Doctor Falls”

That was… rather “meta,” wasn’t it? Is that the right word, meta?

It was certainly unlike any finale, or any Doctor Who episode, we’ve yet had. Most finales are about the rising action and overcoming the threat. This one was more about the individual characters, their development and eventual departure, and it just happens to involve the crisis.

Last episode begins with us seeing the Doctor about to regenerate, and ends with a cliffhanger. So what does this one, the season finale, do? It begins by fast-forwarding a bit past the cliffhanger and ends by taking us back to when the Doctor is about to regenerate, right back where we started.

Episode opens: it’s a lovely little farming community we see, except for the Mondasian Cybermen strung up like scarecrows. Apparently, the humans can’t simply kill them, so they permanently restrain them instead. They’re going about their lives every day, but keep their children in one place every night, and defend it from dusk to dawn, when the Cybermen come to try and take the children. Just after one such assault, in the early hours of the day, the adults are tying up the latest scarecrows, and a girl wanders off, just in time to see a shuttle craft come bursting up through the ground. From the smoke emerges a Cyberman, carrying the limp form of the Doctor.

Backtrack: the Master and Missy have the Doctor at their mercy. There was a brief struggle, Nardole escaped, the Doctor did not. Right now, on the roof, they have him bound and they’re gloating like the madmen they are. How to kill him, they wonder? There are so many fun ways to go about this, but they also want to be economical about this just in case it takes awhile.

But while they’re gloating, the Doctor, bound and helpless, is already winning.

When Missy struck him, and let herself and the Master be distracted for just a moment, the Doctor fell onto a keyboard and quickly made one alteration to the Cybermen’s programming. All he did was include in their search-and-convert parameters a little something about people having two hearts instead of just one. So, while the two of them were having fun, they almost didn’t notice the Cybermen massing against them, not until the enemy was practically on top of them.

Cue the Doctor’s advice. As it’s only a matter of time until the Cybermen get up and add the Time Lords to “the food chain,” they now need all the help they can get. And who better to turn to than the man who always defeats them, the Doctor? Nardole arrives with the shuttle craft, which the other two scramble up, leaving the Doctor to die, but Bill the Cybermann does not allow this.

Bill, the Cyberman who was not obeying the programmed directive, and was not attacking the Time Lords, defends the Doctor and rather forcibly holds the shuttle in place until he is safely on board.

I think this is at least the third time in the series we’ve had rogue Cybermen in play. The first I recall was when the former director of Torchwood held the retreating Cybermen at bay long enough for the Doctor and Rose Tyler to send them and the Daleks into the Void. The second time was Danny Pink, the one who did not obey Missy, and protected Claire Oswald by leading all the Cybermen to blow up and burn the sky. Both times were due to decisions and duties that transcended emotions, but Bill still has hers somehow. She still cries.

It’s a tricky transition for Bill. Her very existence has become Hell itself. Her “self” is all but gone, and it’s a wonder that anything of her remains. Like the first incarnation of Claire Oswald we met, Oswin, she has been taken by the monsters, and is barely able to keep their madness at bay, still believing she’s a normal human. She doesn’t remember much after being taken to the Conversion Theater, which is a small mercy. Now, however, she has become the great outcast, hanging on by a thread as Cyberman programming advances on what is left of her mind. And one thing, she knows: she will not live like this.

If Bill cannot be “Bill,” then better to be dead.

I think I agree with that decision. Of course, I would make one last stipulation: if it’s time to die, then die doing some good, helping people, and striking down the enemy who did this to her, but outside that detail… yeah, I can’t really disagree with her decision. Something even more precious than her life has been violated and stolen. There’s no getting it back, not ever, and it’s only a matter of time before she becomes a danger to those around her. Just holding on now is a remarkable feat.

The Doctor believes it’s because she’s strong. Her time enduring the monks, retaining herself, prepared her for this, he believes. She held onto herself once, and now she’s doing it again. She will fail and fall, but not just yet.

While Bill and the Doctor are getting back on their feet, Nardole is leading the farmers in preparation for the coming Cyberman invasion. He really is quite the amazing man, isn’t he? So unassuming in his appearance, and he’s often been the comedic relief, but he kicks ass. He can lead people in a fight for their lives, he can stand on near-equal terms with the Doctor, he is firm when he needs to be, he’s clever, he’s braver than he sometimes lets on, and he won’t hesitate to kick either Bill or the Doctor’s butt if need be. I didn’t expect to, but I’ve grown rather fond of him.

A lady among the farmers does too, in an entirely different way. Small wonder.

Meanwhile, Missy and the Master, being rather invested in their own survival, are working on the escape plan. Defense is good, but they’ll never manage to win the day, so they need to get the heck out. Now.

They find the lift, the elevator. It’s certainly the simple, obvious way out, but, small detail, it will never work. As the Doctor points out, the further up the ship they go, the slower time moves for them, and the faster it moves for their tenacious, unstoppable, clever enemies. Minutes might pass for them in the lift, but that’ll give the Cybermen years to figure out how to stop it and catch up to them. They’ll make it five floors, at most, and that is a long ways away from the front of the ship.

So, simply escaping is a physical, mathematical impossibility. It can’t be done.

Which, would have been good to know before Missy pressed the button bringing the lift up from the bottom, with a much more advanced upgrade of Cyberman in it. They kill it, with three sonic screwdrivers and Bill’s laser all working together on one Cyberman, but now they’ve given the Cybermen their position. The invasion is coming pretty much right now.

The Cybermen simply fly straight up, literally through each level of the ship, until they emerge on the right level.

So, time for emergency plans.

Nardole figured out how to make spots of the ship explode, supposedly caused by the common bullets the farmers fire, an illusion which will buy precious time. The Doctor copies Nardole’s programming onto his sonic screwdriver and makes ready to cover the farmers’ escape. The plan is for them to go through an opened corridor in the wall, reach the lift, and head up five floors. No idea what to do after that, but it’s a step in the right direction, which is sorely needed right now.

Nardole objects rather strenuously to the Doctor’s plan. Or, at least, to the part where the Doctor is the one to stay behind and blow the entire level, taking out as many Cybermen as possible, preferably all of them. If anyone is staying behind to get blown up, it’s Nardole! He can’t be the one to lead the people, after all. He has too many flaws in his character, he says. But the Doctor chooses Nardole to go, and convinces him by asking which of them is stronger. Which, really… he has a point. It takes more strength to live and lead than it does to commit suicide.

Nardole goes, leading the farmers, especially their children, to safety.

The Doctor stays, to die. As does Bill, standing by his side.

Missy and the Master do not stay. They find an escape route. If they can’t go up to the Doctor’s Tardis, then they need to go down to the Master’s. Problem: Cybermen in the way. Solution: they’re all up there now, leaving the lower levels unguarded. Problem: missing a key component. Solution: Missy tells her past self to always carry that part with her, and she happens to be doing so. So, they have the method and the opportunity, and they certainly have the motive, wanting to escape.

The Doctor tries to stop them, but they were only hanging around to ask what the Doctor’s thinking. He can’t win, he can’t save them, he can’t succeed, yet he’s doing all of this anyway. What they’ve never understood is the why of the Doctor. And the Master never does. The Doctor explains it all, at length, and the Master simply doesn’t care about anything he just said. Missy follows the Master away, no matter the Doctor’s pleading. They who do wrong are set to keep living, for awhile, while the one who does right is set to die then and there.

But Missy chooses differently, at the last moment. She gets close to the Master and stabs him, a wound that will kill him until he regenerates. He’ll make it to his Tardis, fix it, become her, and she will then make her own long journey towards this moment, the moment she says they’ve always been moving towards: standing with the Doctor.

The moment she turns her back, the Master strikes with his own weapon, sentencing her to death, without the chance to regenerate. The two faces of Gallifrey’s most insane Time Lord laugh at each other as they kill each other and die. This is what the Master believes they were always heading towards: stabbing themselves in the back.

Missy falls back, the life going out of her, just when she’s made the right choice, and just before she could really do anything about it.

While the Master, laughing, descends into the darkness below.

So it’s just Bill and the Doctor against an entire army of Cybermen now on their most lethal settings. Bill guards the back door, and the Doctor walks out the front. He speaks an unofficial mantra: “Without hope. Without witness. Without reward.” That is how he intends to die now. Virtue in extremis.

That’s how Missy just died, isn’t it? Her dearest friend will never know that she chose to come back to him.

And so the Doctor fights, alone, holding the line and destroying Cybermen on all sides until, at last, the time comes.

He is hit. He is dying. But, interestingly, he seemed to begin regenerating earlier in the episode, but held it back. Now, again, he holds it back. He holds it back, and sets off the explosion.

The last we see of Nardole, he’s upstairs, hoping that the Cybermen have at least been slowed enough for the humans to think of something. Either way, he’s with the farmers now, looking after them, and he doesn’t hold out any hope for his friends ever coming up the lift.

Down below, in a blasted landscape, all the Cyberman are dead. And hopefully that really is all of them, or the Doctor just managed to buy time with his death. Either way, his body lies amidst the ruin of a veritable Cyberman slaughterhouse. They’re all dead.

Except for one, staggering forward with human determination, to his body. Holding him in her metal arms, Bill weeps. Alone.

…except, she isn’t. Someone else is there, someone familiar, with a star in her eye.

Heather! It’s Heather, from the season’s first episode, “The Pilot!” Well, if that isn’t a surprise, and one more welcome than I’d have ever thought! Bill’s certainly happy to see her, her own angel come to pick her up.

All at once, Bill is free from the Cyberman body she was trapped in, restored to her old self… well, perhaps not in a human body, anymore, but herself, and free. It turns out, those were Heather’s tears Bill was crying. Heather has always known where she is and when she’s crying, so now, in her last moments, Heather comes and saves her. It turns out, it wasn’t just Bill’s tenacity keeping her going, it was Heather too. The Doctor was more right than he knew: where there’s tears, there’s hope.

And she could go back home again, be a perfectly normal human again, that’s well within Heather’s capabilities, if she wants. But Heather has an entire universe she want to share with Bill, a universe filled with wonders.

Oh, and there’s that kiss. I’m sure that has nothing whatsoever to do with why the two of them want to see the universe together. 😉

First, though, just before they leave, they take care of the Doctor. They take him back to the Tardis, which Heather can pilot. Bill sheds a tear, which she refuses to wipe away, sharing his words back to him. She says good-bye, and hopes they can meet again.

And then the two women step out into the stars.

I’m going to be honest, this was getting to be pretty darn emotional for something that did so little with the tension of it.

Finally, to top it all off…

The Doctor begins regenerating, with the sounds of his previous companions (in the modern series) all ringing through his head. They didn’t include Rory, an oversight omission I rather dislike, but they haven’t done this collection of past friends’ voices in his head for several regenerations now. Bill said someone was going need him, and the universe itself might be calling to him through his past loved ones. He wakes, regnerating. He holds it in, trying to stop, trying to stop changing. He can’t continue changing, he says, which is a not-so-subtle way of addressing how the show can keep going on while changing the lead actor again and again and again. The Doctor is refusing.

At last, we come back to the start of last episode, as he stumbles out into the snow, screaming, “No!”

And who should be there, waiting for him, but the Doctor. The “first” Doctor. Which, they certainly put quite a bit of effort into getting a strong physical resemblance to the original actor who played the Doctor over five decades ago, but I digress.

Wow.

Just… wow.

I have no idea what they’re thinking, but they’re just not letting up, leaving us in suspense all the way until the Christmas episode, which looks to be pretty darn interesting. We’ll be phasing Capaldi out, bringing a new one in, and going back to the real start of the series, and having another adventure with multiple Doctors involved.

Wow.

So, to summaraize:

Nardole already outgrew the Doctor, and now he lives a mostly domestic life with farmers on an old, battered ship, waiting for the monsters to come and get them. If we ever see him again, or we ever learn that they made it out all right, it will be a tremendous relief. But I don’t think we will.

Missy will never be known for it, but she transcended the Master, and now she’s simply gone forever.

Bill nearly suffered the worst fate of all the Doctor’s companions, becoming a Cyberman, but has now become the companion of another traveler of time and space, one whom she loves and who loves her, and left him behind.

Everyone has outgrown this Doctor. I think that’s a first. Usually, association with the Doctor has come at a terrible price for his companions, at least in the modern series. But now Claire, Nardole, Bill, and even Missy grew into something more than they were before. All that’s left is him, as he is trying to hang on to his current self, but now it is time for the Doctor to grow and change as well.

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