“The Doctor Falls” is episode twelve of season ten of the new Doctor Who and the season finale.
Given that at the beginning of the previous episode, “World Enough and Time”, the Doctor had been seen stumbling from the TARDIS emitting regeneration energy, it is natural to assume that this is Peter Capaldi’s last outing. However, in “The Lie of the Land”, he had faked a regeneration, which does confuse the situation slightly.
Whilst testing Missy to see if she could be good, the TARDIS had ended up on the bridge of a 400 mile long colonisation ship that was trying to reverse away from a black hole. Due to the time dilation caused by the black hole, the bridge was experiencing time much, much slower than the far end, where a repair team had been sent but never heard from again. They had multiplied and strange things were happening to those at the rear, and they were ‘improving’ themselves to survive in the hostile conditions in the rest of the ship. The ship was from Mondas, Earth’s twin planet and the home of the original Cybermen, and the improvements were turning people into primitive Cybermen (actually, they were close to the design of the Cybermen when they were first seen in “The Tenth Planet”). Bill had a hole shot through her chest and, by the end of the episode, had been turned into a Cyberman herself.
As well as Missy, there was another incarnation of the Master (the one portrayed by John Simm) on board; the Doctor has appeared on screen several times with other incarnations of himself, but the Master never has. Calling this episode “The Two Masters” would have been a bit of a giveaway. Simm’s Master is apparently concerned where Missy is going with his future, and is incidentally sporting a beard of evil rather reminiscent of both Roger Delgardo‘s and Anthony Ainley‘s portrayals of the Master.
So, this episode opens with a horse and cart going through a countryside with various white-clothed figures hanging on crosses. the figures are some of the partial Cybermen seen in the previous episode and there are children in the cart. In the sky above, beyond the clouds is a ceiling with a huge number on it – this is still the Mondasian spaceship. That night, an alarm sounds and the children are told to get into their beds. The woman who told them this goes outside with a gun and starts shooting at new figures, which they call scarecrows, to be joined by more armed people.
One of the children, a girl, is walking through a field the next day when a small shuttle craft erupts out of the ground before crashing back down again. A later stage Cyberman comes out of it, carrying the Doctor. The Cyberman is presumably Bill.
It then goes to the Master and Missy speaking to the Doctor, asking him how many times he has died. They want to know if he has a preferred option for how he dies. It seems that, following the appearance of CyberBill, the Doctor was overpowered whilst Nardole escaped. Missy looks like she’s turned towards the dark side again. Or has she? Even Missy seems a little uncertain as to her true position. The Doctor is fastened to a chair whilst the Master is flirting with him/herself. They then gloat about CyberBill, and say that the Doctor was at the top of the ship for ten years and he only missed Bill by two hours. After the Doctor goads him, the Master does a bit more gloating, but both he and Missy are disturbed when the Doctor doesn’t seem as bothered about the former’s gloating about creating the Cybermen. That’s because the Doctor has altered the Cybermen’s definition of humanity. It now includes Time Lords, and these Cybermen simply seek out new humans for modifying. This means that the Master needs the Doctor’s help. In the ensuing confusion, the Doctor gets injured by a Cyberman but is saved CyberBill.
CyberBill is still in denial about the whole ‘Cyber’ part, and is still seeing herself as being human. Despite sounding a like a sick Dalek when she talks as a Cyberman. The question is, will the Doctor be able to find a way to restore Bill (this may be a bit unexpected), and how will the Cybermen be stopped? They are several hundred floors below and evolving much faster as a result of the time dilation, becoming more like the original Cybermen.
There are a number of popular culture references as the Doctor talks about the true nature of the Cybermen, and how it’s an idea that has a tendency to go viral. The Master and Missy interact in some amusing ways, and the former seems to have trouble accepting that he chooses to become a woman, and Missy has trouble deciding whether or not she is good.
There are references to previous material, such as the Doctor offering a jelly baby and the names of lots of planets the Cybermen ‘upgraded’, and Nardole proves rather effective. Unfortunately, the music drowns out the dialogue at times and there is also a really unexpected cameo for what may be an interesting Christmas special.