How are we already at episode 11 of Doctor Who’s tenth season? Just yesterday, we were meeting Bill Potts and now we’re on the brink of saying goodbye to the Twelfth Doctor. With this two-part episode and the Christmas left, there’s so much to do and very little time. Let’s get on with it then.
The episode begins with the Doctor stumbling out of the TARDIS onto somewhere snowy. His hair is at full floof, and he’s got the golden glow of regeneration in his hands and face. But he’s not ready to go. He shouts, “No!” at the sky, Darth Vader style.
Skipping back an unspecified time, the Doctor lands the TARDIS on a colony ship that is trying very hard to reverse away from a black hole. It’s the perfect setup for Missy to try out being a hero instead of a villain. She exits the TARDIS with “Thing One” (Bill) and “Two” (Nardole) also known as by their nicknames, “Exposition” and “Comic Relief.” What should’ve been a simple deductive exercise and maybe rescue op turns tense when a blue alien shows up pointing a gun and demanding to know which of them is human.
The Doctor intervenes. He tries to reason with Jurj but there are three elevators speeding up to them containing some hostile entity that’s drawn to humans. Bill admits her species and gets a huge whole in her chest for her bravery. Cue flashback!
Before half-heartedly agreeing to the Doctor’s next step for Missy rehabilitation, Bill had repeatedly reminded him it was a bad idea. But he’s got his hearts set on the idea because Missy was once his best friend (and “man crush”) and she’s very similar to him. If she can be good, that makes him good as well. Bill agrees but on the condition that the Doctor promises she won’t die. Companions really ought to leave instructions for one another in the TARDIS or something. Rule 1: The Doctor lies. Rule 2: Don’t ever ask him to promise you won’t die because then you probably will.
The unfriendlies from the elevators emerge. They’re wrapped up like patients, their faces covered in gauze. Saying they’ll “fix” Bill, they take her body but not before the Doctor tells her to wait for him. When she wakes, she remembers the message and not much else. Her heart has been replaced with a metal box. I’m disappointed there’s no Iron Man reference at all but oh well. While wandering, she sees other patients further along in the “conversion” process and they’re all in terrible pain and wishing for death.
Thankfully, Bill makes a friend in Mr. Razor who works at the hospital. He keeps her safe and prevents her full conversion. He also explains the mechanics of their situation. Because of the black hole, time is much slower for those at the bottom of the ship than the top. There’s an entire city in the bottom of the ship but everyone is sick because they have no access to clean air or real food. “Operation Exodus” is meant to upgrade everyone so they’re healthy enough to go up to the higher floors.
In Mr. Razor’s room, he has a monitor displaying the top of the ship. Over the years, the pair watch as the following scene very, very slowly unfolds. The Doctor explains the black hole problem and that the people living at the bottom of the ship are the descendants of ship’s initial crew. Then he takes out Jurj. He, Missy, and Nardole get into an elevator to go retrieve Bill. It’s only been ten minutes for them but years have passed for her.
Excited to finally be rescued after years of waiting, Bill has Mr. Razor take her to the elevator. Instead, he leads her to the operating room where she’s to be upgraded to a Cyberman. They’ve even got the headgear to make her “stop caring” about the pain, though she’ll still feel it.
Once at the bottom, Missy is put on tech support while Nardole and the Doctor look for Bill. But they find a fully operational and complete Cyberman. When they hear the ship originated from Mondas the Doctor realizes these are Mondasian Cybermen. Basically, they’re like the prequel to the Cyberman we in the new series are used to. And this particular Cyberman is Bill. She tells him she waited for him but he never came.
While this is happening, Missy is having a bit of crisis herself. Mr. Razor has found her who teases her and briefly threatens her with a gun, which she brushes off with annoyance. But he’d never hurt himself. Oh yes, Mr. Razor is the Master (John Simm), sporting a goatee and slightly giddy at meeting a future incarnation of himself.
The two Masters confront the Doctor together and reveal Operation Exodus is actually the genesis of the Cybermen.
- As it’s been one of his biggest and most talked about wishes on Doctor Who since his tenure began, I can only imagine that Peter Capaldi geeked out the entire time he was filming with the Mondasian Cybermen.
- Missy: “You’re probably handsome aren’t you? Congratulations on your relative symmetry.”
- BBC publicity is yet again the best and worst thing for Doctor Who. Imagine if we didn’t know John Simm was coming back and it was a surprise reveal. Instead, because he was in the preview for this week’s episode, it didn’t take much to figure it out.
- Bill: “Time Lords, a bit flexible on the man-woman thing then?”
The Doctor: “We’re the most civilized civilization in the universe. We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes.”
Bill: “But you still call yourselves Time Lords?”
- Missy: “His real name is Doctor Who”
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