I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a review of World Enough and Time; after all, it’s the first episode of a two-part story written by the same guy and therefore by the precedent I’ve set it should be reviewed together with next week’s The Doctor Falls..
But I felt I needed to.
Why? For one thing, because the trailer for next week looks like an episode so utterly different in theme that it could completely change the tone of a joint review.
And for another, because – and pardon my language – this was just too fucking good not to.
Doctor Who – World Enough and Time Review: What’s This One About?
The Big Finish audio Spare Parts done better than RTD managed in 2006.
Thoughts – The Spoiler Effect
If you’re a long-term reader, you’ll remember I went off on a rant about the BBC’s use of spoilers to attract viewers in the 2015 season of the show, and specifically how they ruined Clara’s ‘death’ in Face the Raven.
There was no need for it, especially considering she was in the subsequent three episodes, and it totally ruined what would have been a massive shock to the viewer.
I bring this up because a recurring theme I’ve noticed from viewers and reviewers last night is “Wouldn’t it have been so much better if we didn’t know John Simm or the Tenth Planet Cybermen were going to be in it, especially since the last 20 minutes of the episode were devoted entirely to building up that surprise”.
To that I say yes…and no.
Surprises are great and living in a spoiler free world is usually far better when it comes to watching TV shows. For the life of me, I do not understand why my brother – who considers himself a huge fan of the show – seems to want to seek out plot details in advance of every episode from people who get review copies of the show. I think his dream is that I get access to the BBC’s advance review site so he can see things as early as possible. As a reviewer of the show I could easily do that; everyone else does. But I don’t want to. I want to watch it for the first time on a Saturday night or on Christmas Day in its complete form – and bear in mind that review copies of this episode left out the pre-credits sequence – and enjoy it for what it is.
As much as possible I don’t want to know anything about what I’m going to watch and even avoid the name of the episodes I haven’t seen. It was only for the purposes of the introduction to this review that I looked up what next week’s episode is called.
So yes, if I didn’t know that the Master or the Tenth Planet Cybermen were going to be in it then it would have been a massive and welcome surprise.
The fact it was made common knowledge in advance of the season starting meant months of anticipation and excitement for when they did show up.
I looked forward to last night’s episode more than any since The Day of the Doctor, and unlike that episode – where the build and excitement was let down by the lack of appearances from most of the past Doctors – this one delivered on it.
I watched the initial hints of the Cybermen knowing full well what they were and it cranked up the tension.
I watched the first shot of Mr Razor and said “That’s John Simm”, then enjoyed every subsequent scene knowing that it was going to end with his reveal, and it did.
And I still loved every minute of it.
For me, this episode wasn’t about shock factor, it was about loving the tension of seeing the characters on screen realising what was happening when I already knew.
It was just brilliant.
And whether it had been spoiled already for some or not, I also didn’t know that Bill would be shot and turned into a Cyberman, so that was shocking enough. Whether that sticks or not though, I don’t know. I suspect that somehow or other she’ll get out of it next week.
Spare Parts Retold
Moving away from the surprises, this was also a top episode in general. It was creepy, atmospheric and mostly paced well. I do think it lagged just a little bit in the middle when Bill was downstairs with the Master, but that’s only a minor issue.
While I can’t vouch for the science of it, the idea that time is moving at dramatically different speeds at opposite ends of the ship makes sense and works well within the structure of Dr Who. Well…it makes sense except for why they don’t just go back up to the top floor in the lift, but I’m assuming – unless I’ve missed something – that it’s simply a case of the Master being the only one who knows what’s going on and he just doesn’t want to tell anyone.
It also pays homage to the classic Big Finish audio Spare Parts better than the two-part story from 2006. In some ways – specifically in atmosphere and setting – this is Spare Parts retold, and that’s cool.
Which is better? Well they both have their strengths.
Spare Parts is told at the pace of the classic series and assumes knowledge, but then why would anyone without knowledge of Dr Who buy a Big Finish…
World Enough and Time meanwhile is maybe less about the Cybermen and more about the other characters and that’s good too.
So it’s a difficult call, but then I think the acting was better in this one.
Possibly the best part about the story – beyond the coolness of having Tenth Planet cybermen of course – was the stuff with Missy at the start. Without question this is the best Michelle Gomez has been as Missy and the way she was able to take the piss about the whole concept of the show was great.
In particular, the Doctor Who joke tickled me.
In a way, despite the way it was a pisstake, it actually made a lot of sense.
If I was a bit…you know…I’d also say “Oh my god, that makes sense of why WOTAN called him Doctor Who” but then I’m not a bit…you know.
It’s a shame next week is apparently her last stand, but arguably she works best with Peter Capaldi anyway.
The Regeneration Scene
And what about the beginning of the episode?
Wow that was intense.
I’ve watched it a few times now – because despite not being that much of a nerd, I am still a bit geeky – and it just gets better.
I’d be very surprised if Peter Capaldi doesn’t go out in the most blazing of glories.
- While I loved the costume and the voices, I didn’t like that the full Mondas Cyberman still made that clunking noise when walking. It really shouldn’t, based on what it was wearing.
- Similarly, my heart did sink a bit on seeing the ‘regular’ Cybermen in the next time trailer. They suck.
- It’s cool that they brought the Master back to his roots of being a man who loves a disguise.
- I also thought that John Simm put in a much better performance than in the past because he toned it down.
- People often remark that Doctor Who is a kids show, and like I said, the previous episode felt like it. This didn’t. At all. This was grim as grim could be, with men in hospital wards begging for death. Don’t have nightmares, children.
- The explanation for the head apparatus – that they’ll still feel pain but won’t care – was especially grim.
- I loved the costumes. They are far better than pretty much any Cyberman costume since the 1960s. It’s what they should be.
- The Missy stuff is interesting. Is she really a reformed character or will she go back to her evil ways next week? If I was a betting man I’d predict that she will sacrifice herself to try to save the Doctor, much like Roger Delgado was originally supposed to.
- I also don’t think Nardole is getting out of this alive.
- Peter Capaldi is looking especially bouffant in the opening scene.
- The middle section where they go back to explain how they got there – with Bill asking the Doctor to promise not to get her killed – was very well done.
- The name of the episode is apparently a reference to a book. I didn’t get that reference but I don’t really care.
Doctor Who – World Enough and Time Review: Final Thoughts
Next week’s episode looks like it might go the way of episodes like The Last of the Timelords and go for a bells and whistles big budget war. I hope it doesn’t because it would fail to properly capitalise on what we’ve seen here.
But even if it does, it won’t spoil the best episode of the show in a long time.
This was fantastic and if Steven Moffat can maintain this level for the remaining two episodes of his tenure, then I won’t be disappointed.
More Doctor Who Reviews
Remember that you can read a select amount of my Doctor Who reviews on this blog and all of them in my two ebooks, available here from Amazon