As the brief cold open crashed into the opening credits, my heart was warmed by the thought of hundreds of bitter, angry Whovians, who were only hate watching the episode to stoke their rage about Missy’s reveal last week, doing a hilarious spit take at Clara’s declaration that she, in fact, had been the Doctor all along (even going so far as to alter the title sequence). Of course, it was all a bluff to escape Cyberdeath but it also made Moffat’s plan very clear.
Season 8 has been his version of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’. The whole season has been a massive ‘up yours’ to the haters, and when it comes to haters, Who fandom is rich indeed. A slow start and a couple of missteps (especially “Into The Dalek” and “In The Forest Of The Night”) aside, this episode capped a wonderful season of Doctor Who for me. Capaldi owned the role from the first moments, assimilating quicker that maybe any other Doctor has in the series’ long and distinguished history. Thematically, the season holds together better than any of his previous attempts and at a time when he is ever more criticized by a vocal minority, Moffat is growing ever more confident and innovative.
In common with many “Doctor Who” episodes, the cliff-hangers are resolved quite briskly, the Doctor being rescued by one of UNIT’s Deus Ex Machinised units and Clara’s fan baiting bluff sorts her out for a while. Oddly, Danny Pink’s dilemma – the least interesting cliff-hanger – doesn’t really get resolved, it just moves on which makes it all the more baffling that it was quickly cut to before the end credits last time. Speaking of fan baiting, Clara’s brief synopsis of the Doctor’s family history (married four times (all deceased), children and grandchildren missing, and a nice nod to Jenny) is sure to set off a thousand flame wars in forums across the world.
The episode throws up some fantastic and iconic new Cyberman imagery (my favourite is the Cyberhand pushing away the bricks of a tomb) and our old metallic nemeses have had a bit of an upgrade. Although some of their new features are likely to have Tony Stark reaching for the phone to call his patent lawyers, the Cyber rain is a fascinating new gimmick too, bypassing the tired trope of explaining nanotechnology and going for something just as pervasive but more understandable.
While the ‘Boat One’ Protocol appointing the Doctor to the office of President of Earth is a bit twee but it’s used to start bringing the thematic threads of the season together. The Doctor is now the supreme commander of all the soldiers on Earth. The plane sequences allow for a lovely nod to the Twilight Zone episode ‘Nightmare At 20,000 Feet” and also give the Doctor an action sequence that Jon Pertwee’s 3rd Doctor would have given his eye teeth for.
There’s been plenty of love for the 3rd Doctor’s era throughout the season and there are some more nods here, including the controversial use of a beloved character in a grisly new way. Michelle Gomez makes a beguiling and ruthless adversary with her incarnation of The Master proving to be one of the most murderous yet. Given Moffat used to be routinely criticized for avoiding deaths, there’s plenty of collateral damage here, including some surprising character deaths. Of course, there are still last minute reprieves for a couple of characters and a saccharine sweet redemption for Danny Pink who – as Cyber Danny – is a million times more interesting than he was as the guilt ridden ex solider turned dull maths teacher. The Mistress’ ultimate plan is actually a brilliantly conceived scheme, aimed at trapping the Doctor in an ethical and moral trap. The idea that she has been travelling up and down the Doctor’s timeline collecting the people who have died due to the Doctor’s actions is deliciously macabre. The eventual resolution of the plot is satisfyingly clever and only the most naïve of viewers will believe the Mistress has perished
Taken as a whole, this season has had an unbelievably ambitious, character-driven arc and for once the themes have come together in a fascinating and satisfying way. The Doctor’s character has been examined and he has passed the test, although not without some scars along the way. His relationship with Clara has been forever changed and tinged with darkness but as the mid-credit teaser suggested, they have unfinished business between them. The season ends on a high, and I for one cannot wait for the Christmas Special when the Doctor meets Santa Claus. Santa f**cking Claus. In a Doctor Who episode. What an age we live in.