In the eleventh and penultimate episode of the tenth series of Doctor Who, the trio arrive on a 400-mile-long spaceship that’s slowly pulling away from a black hole, only to discover a terrible secret on the opposite end. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
I’M NEVER GOING TO FORGIVE ALL OF YOU FOR THIS. I truly, truly did not recognize John Simm the entire time. (That was him as Razor, right???) I didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. AND IS THIS FINAL? Is this it? Oh my god, what time period did this happen in? If this is the genesis of the Cybermen, then is this the past? Did the Master create them in the future and THEN bring them back? WHY IS EVERYTHING SO PAINFUL.
I do have some thoughts on that, particularly as it pertains to Bill and what this show is willing to do to her. This is an immensely difficult episode to watch, and most of that is intentional. The script, the cinematography, the music… all of it lends such an oppressive, frightening tone to this episode. The context is deliberately held from us throughout; we don’t know what is happening to the people who have been “converted.” We don’t know what conversion means. Who is the nurse? Why is Razor allowed out and about? Why hasn’t he been converted? Why was Bill only partially converted? These questions are meant to frustrate us, to make us uncomfortable, to obfuscate the real nightmare that is unfolding before us.
So, I’d argue that the format of this episode is important: Bill has to “die” for her to gain access to the lowest level, for her to wait for the Doctor for so long that his words become tragically ironic in the end. But did we actually need to see that graphic shot of her, post-shooting? I found that wholly unnecessary and almost too much for a show like this, one that barely shows blood and certainly avoids gore. So why now? We could have just seen Bill crumple, she could have woken up with that device in her chest, and the episode would happen exactly the same otherwise. I don’t think this was a conscious decision, but there seems to be so much of this series devoted to making Bill hurt, so much so that I’m hoping she at least gets a good, happy ending after all of this. (I have no idea if she is in series eleven, so no spoilers!) Because holy shit, this is so fucked up. Bill’s been converted into the first operating Cyberman, right? They have to be able to save her.
I say that because unfortunately, there is a trope within fiction (of all genres) of writers enacting more violence upon non-white characters than on their white characters. And to be more specific, you can see this a lot with Black characters and even more with Black women. Which isn’t to say that violence can’t happen or that bad things can’t happen either; but what happens to Bill is just SO violent, you know?
Anyway, I understand the story need for Bill to “die.” I imagine I’ll also understand this a bit more once I see the second half of this story and how Missy ties into it all. I was so utterly thrilled by the device used here to “test” Missy’s goodness. Missy is a glorious, glorious mess here, and watching her work out this scenario while also making as much fun of the Doctor as possible was A PERFECT TREAT. I swear, I will never tire of watching Michelle Gomez play this character.
But also, isn’t this the perfect test? The Doctor, despite every sign, believes that at heart, Missy is a good person. And don’t we want to believe the best of our closest friends, even when they mess up? Okay, granted, Missy more than “messed up.” She is SIGNIFICANTLY worse than that phrase implies. But after her near execution, was she sincere about her promise? Could she actually become good? I felt like she was trying. Maybe she was cracking jokes the entire time, and maybe she relied on her sarcasm as a defense mechanism. But she was attempting to figure out what was happening here. Was it out of intellectual interest? Look, I don’t know, but like the Doctor, there was the tiniest sliver of hope in me.
And then the Master arrived.
I still don’t understand how. I DON’T GET IT. How is he alive? Is this another timeline? The past? What trick possibly kept the Master alive after his “demise” during Ten’s time? Look, I’m sure that the show will come up with something, just like it did to explain Missy’s appearance. But… this is Missy’s past, right? HOW THE FUCK DOES THIS WORK?
The logistics aren’t that important, though, at least not for me. Because this is the temptation: Missy is being asked to change, to become a better person, and what’s the worst thing that could happen? MEETING THE PAST VERSION OF HERSELF. Here’s someone responsible for so much suffering, who would never care about being good, and now, Missy has to make a choice. Does she give in to her more violent, cynical tendencies? And even if she does, was “Razor” right? Will the Doctor refuse to forgive her after Bill’s conversion? (PLEASE LET IT NOT BE FINAL.)
This is too much. I’m UPSET.
The video for “World Enough and Time” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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