Doctor Who - "The Doctor Falls"

Will the Doctor regenerate in the season finale of Doctor Who?

Contributed by
Jul 2, 2017

"The Doctor Falls" was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay.

Major spoilers ahead for "The Doctor Falls" because hey ... it's a TV Recap.

The Short Version: The Doctor regains consciousness to face the Master and Missy. As the villains dance and discuss the best way to kill him, the Doctor's main interest is Bill, who's still CyberBill. It doesn't take long for the Doctor to take control of the situation. He's reprogrammed the Cybermen to expand the definition of humans as having two hearts, so the Cybermen are after the Time Lords too. Luckily Nardole pops up with an escape shuttle. Even though the Masters are ready to leave the injured Doctor behind, Bill carries him out of danger and the lot of them end up on Floor 507, an idyllic country setting where the children have been hidden away to save them from the Cybermen. As the Cybermen evolve due to the time dilation of the black hole, the Doctor, CyberBill and Nardole help the humans plot a way to survive the coming attack. Meanwhile, Bill deals with her new reality and Missy and the Master make plans of their own.

The Good: A worthy finale, goodbye Bill and the first Doctor

In last week's part one of the season finale, "World Enough and Time," it looked like it might just be the end for Bill as we know her after she was turned into a Cyberman, and perhaps even the Doctor himself as he faced off against two Masters. I was ready to be disappointed with everything being left to wrap up in the Christmas episode in six months. Fortunately, "The Doctor Falls" is a terrific and satisfying finale that leaves some questions lingering, but only in the best way.

The episode kicks off with a little girl, who looks a lot like Bill, in the countryside. But this countryside has dangers and scarecrows that look like the half Cybermen-spooks Bill saw in the hospital. The adults are protecting the kids from the advancing half-Cybermen. Then a shuttle breaks through the Earth and Bill's mini-me sees a Cyberman holding the unconscious Doctor.

After that teaser we head back in time to find out how things resolved with the Masters. The Doctor wakes up after being hit on the head to find the Master and Missy dancing. After some creepy flirting, they discussing how best to kill him. Bill is a Cyberman, and Missy has joined the Master to turn the entire town into a "cyber foundry" to make Cybermen.

Of course the Doctor has a plot of his own. While battling the Masters he magically adjusted the Cybermen's code to expand the definition of human as having two hearts. That means all the Time Lords will be on the Cybermen's "menu."

They all end up on the run, but luckily Nardole has found a shuttle. The Doctor gets attacked by a Cyberman, and CyberBill saves him while the Masters run away. And that leads to CyberBill holding an unconscious Doctor on Floor 507 in what looks like an idyllic countryside in front of Bill's mini-me.

Two weeks later Bill wakes up in a barn. Everyone seems afraid of her, and she doesn't understand why. She sees herself as Bill, but she's a Cyberman. At this point we see Bill mostly as Bill, which works very well and gives us some more time with the Bill we've known this season. In one key moment, the Doctor realizes that Bill is crying, which isn't possible for a Cyberman. I really like Pearl Mackie and think her presence has given Peter Capaldi's Doctor the warmth he's needed.

A battle is coming for the folks on Floor 507, which is mainly a few adults who've been hiding the children from the Cybermen. Apparently Cybermen like kids because their minds are more susceptible to the Cyber programming and there's less to "throw away" when they are turned into Cybermen.

Bill's realization that she's never going to be human again is devastating to her. She tells the Doctor that the programming in her mind is taking her over and it's like she's "hanging on in a hurricane." She tells him she doesn't want to live if she can't be herself again. The Doctor touches her face and realizes that she shed a tear, something Cybermen aren't supposed to be able to do. He tells her there's still hope.

Nardole and the humans prepare for the attack, and he figures out a way to make the Cybermen think they have heavy artillery because they're on a spaceship and have access to stuff they wouldn't if they were actually in the countryside.

Meanwhile the Master and Missy are plotting their escape. We learn that the Master was in disguise to hide out from the ship's people and that he was stuck on the ship because his dematerialization circuit blew when he landed. Fortunately for the Masters, the one thing Missy does seem to remember is that at one time in her past a woman had insisted he always carry an extra dematerialization circuit, and she pulls one out of her pocket. The chemistry between the two is creepy and fun. John Simm's Master manages to be both perplexed by his famine future and turned on by it. As for Michelle Gomez's Missy, we learn that she's equally perplexed at joining the Master in his evil plan and following her path to redemption with the Doctor.

As the Cybermen are about to advance, the Doctor tries to convince the Masters to stay and help him. In a speech that will long be remembered, the Doctor tells them that he knows he's about to die, but he's not trying to win anything. He's just trying to do the right thing. They leave to go to the elevator that will take them to the Master's TARDIS. But Missy can't quite go. She stabs him and he blasts her, in effect killing his future self while the injured Master takes the elevator down to his TARDIS. "This is where we've always been going. We shoot ourselves in the back," says the Master. Missy appears to die.

As the Doctor convinces Nardole to take the humans a few floors above to save them, he and CyberBill stay behind. They say their goodbyes and separate to face off against the Cybermen. In an explosive battle the Doctor blows up as many Cybermen as he can and then he blows up the entire area, falling to the ground dead.

A damaged CyberBill finds the Doctor dead in the field and mourns him, crying over his body. Suddenly Heather, the water pilot from and Bill's first crush on the show, appears and Bill isn't in her Cyber body anymore. She's Bill again. WaterHeather has saved her and turned her into WaterBill, a celestial being. Bill's Cyber body falls over. Heather takes Bill and the Doctor's body to the TARDIS. Bill sheds one more tear, which strikes the Doctor's forehead.

Heather tells Bill she can turn her into a human again, or they can travel the universe together. Bill and Heather leave the TARDIS to go off on their new adventures. Then the place where Bill's tear fell on his forehead begins to glow. The Doctor wakes up and realizes he's about to regenerate. None too happy about that, he insists, "Never again. I can't keep being somebody else."

The TARDIS takes him to the frigid planet we saw in last week's episode, and he starts to glow. He throws his hands in the snow to stop the regeration. And then along comes a man who tells him he's not "the Doctor." He may be "a Doctor," but he's not "The Doctor." He knows that because he's the "original."

David Bradley (The Strand), looking just like William Hartnell's first Doctor, pops up in a surprise. As the two Doctors look at each other, it looks like it's going to be quite a Christmas special.

"The Doctor Falls" is a worthy prelude to Capaldi's exit and the new Doctor's entry. They've certainly set this up so the new Doctor could be a woman. That may not happen, but wouldn't that be a fascinating next chapter, especially after Missy's complex evolution as the Master?

I also really liked that the Doctor couldn't save Bill. And we now know that he still eats Jelly Babies and why he does the things he does. Because "it's right," "it's decent" and "it's kind."

The Bad: The Doctor's cyber plot, Duplicitous Masters

While there's not a lot to complain about in this episode, a couple things struck me. First we find out that the Doctor was battling both Masters and in a split second magically reprogrammed the Cybermen to "expand" the definition of being human to include two hearts. So why not just replace the definition with two hearts or zero hearts? And why didn't he do this in the past if it was so easy to adjust the programming?

It just seemed like a way for the writers to get the Doctor out of a jam and force the Master and Missy to follow along. Why didn't the Master have a way to readjust the programming?

And I still don't buy why the Master was using a disguise for 10 years, considering he's taking over with the Cybermen. Why would he have to hide out from anyone when he's in charge?

The other Master issue is a Missy issue. Why stab him? She could have just walked away and let the Master go off to his TARDIS. I believe the Master would kill his future self out of spite because it's in his nature. But Missy didn't have to stab him.

And one other note: While I liked seeing the Master and Missy go at it, they really weren't necessary for the episode other than giving the Doctor a good reason for his big speech.

Lingering Questions: The Doctor meets The First Doctor, that regeneration, and Missy

So Bill's off with Heather exploring the universe. Since the writers wrote Bill into a corner with her being turned into a Cyberman (something we'd already saw happen with Danny Pink), this was a satisfying place for Bill's character to go. And it leaves open the possibility that Bill could return.

As for Nardole, he's off taking care of the kiddies in the spaceship. The Cybermen are coming for them at some point, so it's likely we'll see more of Nardole to finish off this storyline.

But did Missy really die? And what will happen between the first Doctor and the latest one? Obviously Capaldi is leaving the show, so there will be a regeneration and a new Doctor. The biggest lingering question of all ... who will be the new Doctor Who?

Lines of the Night:

"We've been deliberating the best way to kill you." - The Master

"There's Bill. Dead. Dismembered. Fed through a grinder and squeezed into a Cyberman. Doomed to spend an eternal afterlife as a bio-mechanical psycho zombie." - Missy

"Like sewage, smartphones and Donald Trump, some things are just inevitable." - The Doctor

"I expanded the definition of humanity. Took them a while to update the net, but welcome to the menu." - The Doctor to the Master and Missy

"You know the stories. There's only one way to stop that many Cybermen ... me." - The Doctor

"We're not going to get out of this one, are we? I can feel it in my head, the programming. The Cybermen are taking me over piece by piece. It's like I'm hanging on in a hurricane and I can't hang on forever ... I don't want to live if I can't be me anymore. Do you understand?" - Bill

"Is the future going to be all girl?" - The Master

"Where there's tears, there's hope." - The Doctor and Bill

"You may be a Doctor. But I am the Doctor. The original, you might say." - The First Doctor

Best Line of the Night:

"I'm not trying to win. I'm not doing this because I want to beat someone, because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone. It's not because it's fun. God knows it's not because it's easy. It's not even because it works, because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it's right! Because it's decent! And above all, it's kind! It's just that … Just kind. If I run away today, good people will die. If I stand and fight, some of them might live. Maybe not many, maybe not for long. Hey, you know, maybe there's no point to any of this at all. But it's the best I can do. So I'm going to do it. And I'm going to stand here doing it until it kills me. And you're going to die too! Someday … And how will that be? Have you thought about it? What would you die for? Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall." - The Doctor