Rule Number One: The Doctor lies.
No, Rule Number One should be Stephen Moffat lies!
There is so much to unpack with this episode penultimate episode of Doctor Who that I’m going to have to do this bullet point style. And of course there are massive amounts of SPOILERS that need to be addressed in order to tackle everything in this episode, so until you’ve seen it, don’t read this!
Everyone settled then? Ready? Here we go.
* First and foremost, credit to director Rachel Talalay for directing the episode with a surprising amount of stillness. Take for example the confrontation between the Doctor, Missy, and Dr. Chang. Each time the cameras cut back to Missy you see the tank behind her drain ever so slowly. Also, major kudos to the art direction and set design for this episode. Managing to hide visual cues (from the 3W logo to the windows in the Netherspere to the “Delete” key on Seb’s iPad) about the Cybermen all over the set was pretty amazing and so subtle that you don’t notice it until the Doctor says that he’s missing something. Even the visual humor of having a naughty Mary Poppins type on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral was cute; not only as a callback to that song, but the finale was a shot for shot callback to the great lost storyline “The Invasion,” which also featured the Cybermen on the steps of St. Paul’s.
* Also kudos to show runner Stephen Moffat, who did several amazing things with this episode. For as grim as this episode was (and make no mistake it is one of the grimmest in the history of NuWho) it managed to be laugh out loud funny (“You have iPads in heaven?” “We have Steve Jobs.”) (“It’s all right everybody! It’s just another ranting Scotsman. I didn’t realize there was a game on!”) without letting up on the terror (“You know the great tactical disadvantage of Earth? The dead outnumber the living.).
* Speaking of laugh out loud funny, Chris Addison (best know for his work in The Thick Of It) is appropriately humorous and creepy as Seb, the Nethersphere’s most efficient admin. His obtuseness in front of a disbelieving Danny Pink was nothing short of hilarious.
* Speaking of Danny. Samuel Anderson was absolutely wonderful as the recently deceased Danny. And while we all could have seen the appearance of the child he killed as a soldier it was still handled with grace thanks to Anderson’s commitment to Danny’s utter heartbreak, especially when Clara consigned him to hell by not believing him on the other end of his phone call.
* While we’re on the subject of heartbreak it was heartbreaking to watch Clara descend into desperation over the course of the episode. From her genuine confession of love to Danny, to her dazed heartbreak with her Gran (and chiding his death by being “ordinary” and feeling she is owed more), to the shocking lengths she will go to get Danny back – up to and including coercing the Doctor into going to hell after him by holding the TARDIS hostage. That entire opening scene was a wonderful testament to the work that Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi have been doing as Clara and the Doctor. From Clara’s betrayal to the Doctor’s resigned kindness and tough love (“I don’t deserve a friend like you.” “Clara I’m terribly sorry, but I’m exactly what you deserve.”) it was a dark look at how dark the Doctor / companion relationship can be. The question is this: Even though this happened in a dream state, how is the Doctor going to deal with Clara’s betrayal?
* And then we have the return of the Cybermen, but also the return of the Master… sorry, the MISTRESS! As I said at the top Stephen Moffat swore up and down that the Master would never return. But over the course of his tenure he’s established that Time Lords can change gender in the regeneration process, so the return of the Doctor’s greatest, most personal enemy as a woman is a fantastic development. There have been rumors that Missy might regenerate into a man and frankly I really hope not especially since Michelle Gomez’s Missy is so balanced between chipper, psychotic, and genuine evil that it’s something I want to see for a long time. Moreover, Ms. Gomez has made Missy one of the funniest characters in the Doctor Who universe without shedding one ounce of the terror that the Master invokes. (“Hello. How may I assist you with your death?”) Now if Mr. Moffat can explain how the hell the Master has survived… Regardless, Ms. Gomez is wonderful and nails her scenes with Capaldi and I want more of them together!
Speaking of which…
Oh yes! Let the fan fiction begin!
NEXT TIME: No trailer this time but we are promised the return of U.N.I.T., Kate (Lethbridge) Stewart, Osgood and her massive scarf and inhaler, and Clara doesn’t exist?!?!?
Photo Credit: BBC