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A baby is adopted. A baby is loved. A baby is treasured. A baby cannot die. So, what is this baby?
That's the question I asked last week about what I thought was the Lone Cyberman. The answer? I was asking about the wrong baby.
Warning: Spoilers within for the season finale of Doctor Who.
The Master promised us everything would change. And it did. The Doctor is even more than we knew — in uniqueness and volume alike.
As she's pulled through the boundary into the decimated remains of Gallifrey, the Doctor — separated from her fam, with only her greatest enemy, who has more hate for her than usual — finds herself in a paralysis field, dropped into the matrix of the whole of Time Lord knowledge and history, forced to face a past she doesn't remember. The Master has postured and hinted and previewed all season. Now it's time for the story of the Timeless Child. And it starts as all stories do: Once upon a time. Rather ...
Tecteun, an indigenous woman on Gallifrey before the Time Lords came to be, finds the boundary, essentially a portal to another world, whatever that world might be. Next to it is a child, a little girl, alone and abandoned. Tecteun takes this child as her own, ostensibly loving and caring for her but actually experimenting on her and prodding her for answers about her origin. When the little girl falls off a cliff in a devastating accident, we see that all-too-familiar burst of golden energy from her outstretched arms and neck and that's it — the first regeneration on Gallifrey. After that, Tecteun's experimentation becomes even more insidious. The child repeatedly regenerates, presumably because their adopted mother is repeatedly killing them. The child's genetic makeup is used to create the race that we would come to know as the Time Lords, with Tecteun capping their regenerations at the 12 we've long heard about and hadn't discovered exactly why the Doctor was unaffected by.
Now we know why. She's that child. She is the being from which all Time Lords were created. Her essence was used to create power, to literally lord over time. Regeneration after regeneration, life after life, has been lost to her, her memories hidden away, like Ruth/the Doctor in "Fugitive of the Judoon."
And that is why the Master is so angry, so broken. For lifetimes, he saw the Doctor as his other half. Now he knows she's more than he could ever be. In fact, she's part of him, the biggest part of him. And he hates that with every beat of his hearts.
While she reels, our fam take matters into their own hands. Yaz and Graham, still separated from Ryan, who is planet-bound with Ko Sharmus, share a lovely moment, then climb inside the human-stained husks that are the Cybermen suits to blend in and make it back to Ryan. Ryan throws a big ball of splodey at the Cybers, and it's the cutest moment of his entire run on the show. SWISH. The group reunite, make their way to Gallifrey, and attempt to retrieve the Doctor.
But the Master's plan was by no means limited to "f*** with the Doctor." He killed the remaining Time Lords. And he kept the bodies. Now he wants an alliance with the Cyberium, the silver Alex Mack goo that contains the consciousness of the Cybermen. He will turn the bodies of the Time Lords into Cyberlords, unkillable creatures who will regenerate rather than die. He will be a god.
These attempts never work out for him. This time is no exception.
As frankly happens more often than it should in this show, the Doctor is faced with the necessity of violence and a human pops in at the last moment and does the dirty work for her, both freeing her conscience and getting things done. Humans are forever sacrificing themselves for the Doctor, based on at times the flimsiest misdeeds requiring their lives as penance. At some point, the Doctor must reconcile with that. Here, Ko Sharmus, who was part of a resistance effort that sent the Cyberium back in time (not far enough, evidently) triggers the death particle and re-destroys Gallifrey and — seemingly — the Master. But that cat is never gone. His 12 lives are not yet behind us.
The questions this episode elicits are big and may have far-reaching consequences. Where is she really from? How many lives has she had, and for how long? And how will she free herself from Judoon custody?
That last question will be answered in "Revolution of the Daleks" come Christmas. As for the rest, we'll just have to wait and see. But one thing is true: She's more than we know.