At long last, after ten weeks of adventures across creation, it’s finale time on Doctor Who. Moffat’s last, Capaldi’s last, Pearl’s last, Gomez’ last, it’s a lot of lasts (though not THE last, given we have a Xmas special to go.) And we have the double promise of the return of both Mondasian Cybermen, all the way back from 1966’s Tenth Planet (One’s swansong), and John Simm’s manic, grinning incarnation of the Master.
All this, wrapped up in a story where the Doctor decides to try out Missy being ‘good’ by investigating a ship stuck near a black hole. Things go from worse to terrible when Bill is shot and taken into the ship’s lower levels by white clad figures, claming they can ‘repair’ her. So, the Doctor goes to rescue her, right? Well, there’s a snag: the two ends of the ship are at different speeds of time, meaning a few minutes at the top with the Doctor can equals years for Bill at the bottom.
Like Extremis, this does play like a ‘Greatest Hits’ compliation of Moffat tropes and stories (playing with time, making the mundane frightening, quesitons about life, death and mortality), though the story it most immediately recalls is last season’s Heaven Sent, where a main character is isolated and forced to go through psychological hell, just swapping the Doctor with Bill. While a little irritating, as it doesn’t exactly deviate from welltrodden ground, this section is actually the best part of the episode, and dare I say it, a step up from the last few weeks. Part of this is Mackie’s sublime performance, completely selling someone straining for hope against all odds, and part of it comes from the setting: the darkened hospital is an immediately eerie and atmospheric setting, like the castle in Sent, and creates a sense of hopelessness and impending death.
It’s then, a bit of a shame, that the elements surrounding this are just very average: the opening with Missy trying to be the Doctor has some amusing moments but it’s way too meta for its own good (”Doctor Who”), and quickly goes from charmingly quirky to tedious and irritating. Indeed, this wonderfully bonkers idea is more of an excuse just to get us to the main portion, leaving Missy feeling a little bit wasted in the story up until Simm is revealed. The opening would’ve played the same with just the regulars.
The rest of the cast, small as it is, are all uniformly solid but it’s firmly Mackie and Simm who steal the show. Rachael Talalay’s direction is as strong as past finales, laying on a sombre atomsphere in the bowels of the ship that ratchets up the tension and fits the Cybermen to a T. Thought the cloth Cybermen couldn’t be frightening? Well, she does a heck of a job proving that notion wrong. Plus, the exterior of the black hole ship is easily some of the best CGI this series and has a nice weathered quality to it, making it feel more like a real craft.
Naturally, two parters are hard to judge without its concluding chapter, but World Enough and Time is a very pedestrian opener, elevated by a great middle act and lead actress. Not quite up to Extremis’ standard as far as creating intriguing questions and thoughts, but it certainly has enough set up to make me intrigued to watch next week and see how the Doctor will survive against two Masters and the many incarnations of the Cybermen.