DOCTOR WHO Episode 11 is Delightfully Meta and Nostalgic

Be warned! The following contains spoilers for Doctor Who Series 10, episode 11, “World Enough and Time.” We highly recommend you watch the episode before reading this. It’s a good ep, so you’re only hurting yourself if you don’t.

It was about three minutes into Doctor Who Series 10, episode 11, “World Enough and Time” that I really realized longtime showrunner Steven Moffat was about to take his final bow; the episode is populated with so many lovely inside jokes and meta references for fans, while getting to bring back villains from years past (ages past, in some cases) and do several things that nobody in the series’ history has done to date. If that’s not Moffat all over, I don’t know what is.

Oh, and it all starts with the Doctor regenerating…umm, WHAT?! Surely, given the uber-poofiness of Peter Capaldi’s hair, this opening sequence was filmed during the Christmas special taping, and director Rachel Talalay gives us tantalizingly little else besides what might well be the Twelfth Doctor’s final moments. Gah! But, we’ll deal with that next week, or in December.

There are many excellent premises in the episode proper, and they begin with Missy (Michelle Gomez) acting like the Doctor on a mission to prove to the real Doctor that she can be good. Flanked by Nardole (Matt Lucas) and a very reluctant Bill (Pearl Mackie), Missy–and Moffat, putting words in her mouth–breaks down so much of the Doctor Who lore and convention that I had to rewind a few times to get the full breadth of how funny and great it is.

First, she calls herself “Doctor Who,” which has long been a point of contention for people. You get most fans in the column of calling the character “The Doctor” but the show Doctor Who (even though he was credited as “Doctor Who” for a long time), classic series producers calling him “Doctor Who,” and even Capaldi calling his own character “Doctor Who.” Moffat throws all of this at the audience, making Missy use it both as a shorthand for the “Doctor who?” question that so many people ask when they meet him and an excuse to once again open the “Is his name ‘Doctor Who’ debate.” When Missy says “Plus, it is his real name,” Bill reacts just like most of us… “What?!”

So we have this hilarious debate about Doctor Who the Doctor’s name, but that’s not the end of it. Perhaps my favorite moment in the entire episode came when Missy refers to Bill and Nardole as “Exposition” and “Comic Relief.” On top of deriding the very idea of “companions,” she literally breaks down the exact function of most companions in the traditional sense. Nardole’s objection and assertion that they aren’t just functions is met with “they’re genders, darling.” Boom! Another bulls eye. Traditionally, the female companions are used for exposition, while the few-and-far-between male companions have been there for laughs. So frigging smart.

Also smart was the fantastically science-literate conceit of having a 400 mile-long colony ship slowly escaping the gravity of a black hole, which would mean time would pass much slower at the top of the ship than it does at the bottom. This allows for the Doctor to be literally years behind Bill when she needs him the most, and she’s forced to watch months of him moving incredibly slowly as he figures out what’s going on. While this hearkens back to “The Girl Who Waited,” it does it much differently in execution.

After the shocking moment of Bill getting a hole shot through her chest, we have two realizations about the inevitability of what’s about to happen. We knew from the promos that this episode would feature both the Mondasian Cybermen and John Simm’s version of the Master. So when she’s taken by cloth-faced invalids who speak using an electronic keypads, we’re already twigging where this is going, but when we see her new “friend” in the bottom of the ship, we’re even more sure of the truth. After all, nobody should really have been fooled by the wig and the makeup and the accent. It’s heartbreaking to see the scenes of Bill admitting she’s afraid of Missy only for her only ally in the infirmary be that very person at a different point in his existence.

By episode’s end, we know the truth: the Master signaled the Doctor to come to this strange, Mondasian ship, knowing full well that it would be–as he show wink-winkily says–the Genesis of the Cybermen. This, of course, is a very direct reference to “Genesis of the Daleks,” the episode which, after 12 years, showed audiences in 1974 where the Daleks came from, and their creator, Davros. We’ve never actually seen the Cybermen’s creation, and it seems as though their version of Davros is that scientist fella who fixed Bill in the first place, though it’s also possible the Master himself fills this function.

We didn’t get a ton of Master and Master action in this episode, and I think the earlier iteration’s presence is to juxtapose a goodening Missy with the ever-evil Simm Master. This is by far my favorite performance by Simm on the show, so I hope that continues into the finale. We’ve had many a multi-Doctor story in the annals of the series, but we’ve never had a multi-Master story until now, and I think this is Moffat again pushing the bounds of what he can do. So far, it’s pretty terrific.

“World Enough and Time” is a great set-up to the finale, and didn’t try to ask too many questions it couldn’t answer. The gut punch of Bill being a Cyberman is one we definitely saw coming, but I think it’s still entirely up in the air whether she’ll remain one or not, though I sincerely hope she does not. Man, “The Doctor Falls” is going to be a massive Cybermen explosion…and I thought “Death in Heaven” was the most Cyber action we’d get.

The Doctor Who Series 10 finale will air on BBC America on Saturday, July 1, at 9/8c. Let me know your thoughts on “World Enough and Time” in the comments below!

Images: BBC America

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor and the resident Whovian for Nerdist. Follow him on Twitter!

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