From Star Wars and Doctor Who through to Star Trek and The X-Files, these long-running sci-fi series have all had to evolve and grow over time. As one of the longest running sci-fi series on TV, Doctor Who has one such advantage in its ingenious idea surrounding regeneration. Originally established as having 12 different versions of himself as a timelord, Doctor Who quickly scrambled for a workaround in Moffat’s era, settling on a contrived but somewhat acceptable explanation for future regenerations. This episode however, changes everything we know about Doctor Who.
The season 12 finale of Doctor Who begins with the Master taking the Doctor through the portal into Gallifrey, just as the Cybermen ship arrives. He teleports her to the remnants of their home world, which lies in ruins. In the Citadel, The Master talks to the Lone Cyberman via comm link, inviting him to land his ship in Gallifrey. The Master locks up the Doctor in a paralysis field and tells her he’s sending her into the timestream to see the truth of their world.
Meanwhile, Graham and the others decide to head deeper into the cyber ship after evading some poor-aiming cyber troops, using their armour to sneak past the Lone Cyberman and his army as they await their arrival to Gallifrey.
The Doctor learns more about the history of Gallifrey including an explorer called Tecteun who found a child. That child fell to her doom but regenerated just like a time lord. The first regeneration on Planet Gallifrey. As the story continues, we see Tecteun test this child to find the key to regeneration, eventually testing the solution on herself. This code is what brought the time lords about. It also turns out the timeless child is actually The Doctor.
Meanwhile, Ryan and the others try to hold off the remaining cyber fleet that touch down on the planet. Thankfully they do and come face to face with Yaz and the others again.
The Master tricks the Lone Cyberman and turns it into a tiny figure, allowing the Cyberium to materialize infront of him. He requests an alliance with it before heading back to see The Doctor, where he finishes the story about Gallifrey and introduces the Cyber Timelords – a new batch that allows the Cybermen to regenerate.
Meanwhile, The Doctor meets the Ruth Doctor in the timestream and she gives her words of encouragement, allowing the Doctor to push through and break the barriers entombing her. As she does, she uses her psychic powers to lock onto the Master’s location as the companions join her in the citadel. Realizing that The Master is hell-bent on destroying everything, The Doctor decides to use the Death Particle on Gallifrey, with a makeshift grenade attached to the tiny figure of The Lone Cyberman. The Doctor is unable to use it though so Ko Sharmus arrives to save the day, blowing Gallifrey up in the process as our characters scramble away.
The TARDIS touches down on Earth, using the Chameleon Circuit to disguise itself as a house, while the Doctor uses another TARDIS disguised as a Tree to find her way to her own TARDIS. As she sits alone inside, the alarm goes off as Judoon teleport inside and advise her that she’s a wanted fugitive, transporting her to a prison ship where the episode, and series, ends.
It’s difficult to know where to start with this episode so let’s get to the good stuff first. The Master here was fantastic, with a flamboyant and pantomime-esque performance that perfectly befits his character. There are a few nicely implemented action sequences too and the actual ideas being thrown around for The Doctor being this timeless child is an interesting twist, lifting the veil on what we’ve known before.
The problem however, stems from the execution of this idea. The trouble with rewriting 50+ years of history in a sci-fi series stems from satisfying every question that things like this can bring about. I won’t divulge them all here as we’ll be here all day but suffice to say this episode, more so than any other, will divide the fan-base between those who like and those who loathe this new idea.
After two episodes of build up, The Lone Cyberman is wiped out in a blink of an eye in one of the more disappointing death sequences for quite some time – more so than Cersei’s demise to falling rocks in Game Of Thrones. The Irish sub-plot last episode – which I assumed wrongly was Ashad’s past – isn’t fully fleshed out while the trio of companions add absolutely nothing to the episode, or series, as a whole. It’s something that’s particularly problematic this episode given the Doctor spends almost the entirety of it in dream-land while The Master waltzes around running the show. That’s before even mentioning the idea of Cyber-Timelords.
With the TARDIS now seemingly fair-game for every species to teleport inside and a big cliffhanger at the end of this one, Season 13 is currently being filmed so there’s no danger of this being axed. Whether the show will see its ratings continue to tumble or not remains to be seen but this episode in particular will almost certainly become one of the more divisive in the show’s history, sparking numerous debates to try and patch up the half-baked ideas Chibnall has thrown around. Maybe this will all be explained in future episodes, maybe it won’t. One thing’s for sure though – Doctor Who has been fundamentally changed forever.