12 Notable Moments From The Doctor Falls (Part 1)
Mark McCullough makes his choices from the final episode of Series 10.
Colours to the mast early and credibility out the window, The Doctor Falls was phenomenal, easily the best finale to date and surpassing last week to claim the spot of best episode of the show for me. I’m also breaking my usual habit by writing this without having re-watched the episode (had to fit a graduation in there somewhere too), so the advantage of that is a lot of the post-episode euphoria and initial reaction should translate over to here. So for the last time this series let’s get cracking with the twelve moments that have been the hardest to pick to date!
12. The Masters on the Rooftop
The episode re-joins the cliffhanger from last week’s outing in style placing the focus on the Master duo framing them as the antagonists. It is revealed that the Simm Master was responsible for the genesis of the Cybermen and runs the city as a Cyberfactory. There’s a bit of information dump, but it is necessary here and the script serves both Gomez and Simm well allowing them to showcase their talents with the Master’s hammy dialogue. Two things are evident from this scene: the meticulous planning Moffat has put in here, with Simm unable to remember the circumstances of his regeneration suggestive of his fate later in the episode. The more pertinent theme however is the one of subversion that underpins this entire narrative. Such was the promotion of the finale that many were expecting were expecting a Doctor vs Master showdown, however with an umbrella to the face, Moffat puts that notion to bed early in the episode.
11. Bill Saves the Doctor
On the topic of subversions, we come to another. In the kerfuffle in the conversion theatre, the Doctor is able to alter the coding of the Cybermen, expanding the definition of human to include two hearts (in an episode that preaches kindness, this is surely a symbolic fact) thus placing himself and the Masters in danger. The result of this is the Time Lord trio coming under attack from the Cybermen which leads to the Doctor sustaining a fatal injury at their hands. Nardole returns having acquired a ship and rescues our protagonists (a term for this article) which is expanded to include the Masters). The Masters being fundamentally self-preservationists leave the Doctor behind as he will only slow them down, a sentiment we were privy to from the Doctor himself in Series Eight’s Into the Dalek. CyberBill steps in to save the Doctor and carries him to safety leading to the shot which will become iconic of her holding him, itself a subversion of the Doctor holding his companion often seen in promotional material.
10. Bill Realises she is a Cyberman
Building on the body horror that was so successful last week, we see a more in-depth exploration here as Bill learns what has happened to her. Massive credit has to be given to director Rachel Talalay here for the exceptional framing of this scene using the surroundings to convey the situation with mirrors (The Pilot thematic throw back) and the use of shadows. The decision to show Bill in her human form is one that paid dividends allowing Pearl to showcase the full extent of her talent. The in-narrative explanation for this too is a logical one that fitted nicely with the themes of the series building upon The Lie of the Land. Much of the emotional impact of the scene comes from how others react to Bill, showing fear and later in the episode actually shooting her. There’s a scene too where the Master is particularly cruel that is used to convey a very powerful message: just because someone says they’re fine and looks fine doesn’t mean that they are underneath. This is evident as we see Bill in tears but the Doctor unaware of this fact, you could also suggest that this scene offers a subtle thematic tie in with the Veil imagery of Series Eight and also echoes Nardole’s sentiments in The Pilot about the Doctor never noticing the tears. Another parallel worth pointing is the Doctor telling Bill that she doesn’t have the luxury of anger anymore, a direct call-back to his own comments in Thin Ice.
9. Bill Contemplates her Future
There’s a really wonderful scene early in the episode where Bill discusses her situation with the Doctor. The moment where Bill questions him about him saying he could fix it is the first of two very good character moments. This one highlights their relationship, how she knows him and calls him out on things, whilst also showing his care for her and reluctance to admit defeat. The scene is made all the more painful by contrasting with the one from World Enough and Time sat on the bench where Bill asked him to promise not to get her killed. His inability to do this offers a new parallel in light of how events transpire, with Bill and Heather’s promise never to leave each other. The other strong moment from this scene touches on the euthanasia debate as Bill states that she doesn’t want to be saved if she’s not herself. The agency this gives the character is enough that I would have been happy if they killed her off that way, however what we got instead was so much better and so much more necessary.
8. The Doctor’s Speech
A feature of Twelve’s era and the Moffat era as a whole has been the Doctor speeches, so it’s very fitting that we get another here at the end. This one is right up there with The Zygon Inversion as the best of the best and is essentially a character description of the Doctor. The first part examines the character’s motivations for doing what he does, it’s not out of hatred or desire to be seen as someone special, it’s not because he enjoys it (but we all know he does really). He goes on to recognise how difficult it is to do, and that he isn’t always able to help. He does what he does because it is kind, because it’s the right thing to do, even if the difference he makes is minimal. It’s just such a beautiful message, and amazing that it’s the most alien character that can deliver the most fundamentally human message. There’s a metatextual element to it too in the comments about making a difference. In scripting such a message, Moffat positions himself in the Doctor role, delivering this commentary because it is the right thing to do. There’s also a bit in the speech referencing the fact that the Master must die someday, with the Doctor questioning what the Master would die for. Little did we know that this would be answered moments later.
7. Nardole says Goodbye
I love Nardole. He’s been one of the biggest highlights this series with him, Bill and Twelve probably my favourite TARDIS team to date. This episode was a particular highlight for him allowing Matt Lucas to shine in the role. With limited number of moments to pick in this article the one to choose had to be his final scene with the Doctor. They’ve been together long enough that Nardole knows the Doctor is about to do and offers to do it in his place citing that the last thing he wants to do is take on the Doctor role with the survivor. There’s a bit of hinting at the character’s backstory, but it’s minimal which is effective as he works best as an enigma, but we learn enough to know that he hasn’t exactly always been above board. There’s lovely moment between the two where the Doctor makes him realise his is strong enough to be the hero, and he tries to convince Bill to come with him. There’s one last moment of the humorous relationship they have shared as Bill tells him that he’ll probably come up with the right words later. This is flipped into one of the most poignant scene of the episode as he retorts that he never will find the words, a sentiment I am echoing here about the sheer quality of this episode.
To be concluded…