***MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD***
A friend of mine wrote on Twitter about this episode, “Holy $#!^. Doctor Who is off the chain.” And she was right! This episode is insane, but in a very, very good way. From Missy’s opening test to the final reveals — and there are like three cliffhanger reveals happening at once — “World Enough and Time” delivers the goods. This is probably the best Missy episode we’ve had since the character was introduced back in season eight, and her jokes about the Doctor’s real name being “Doctor Who” are surprisingly funny for such a touchy subject among fans. The 400-mile long spaceship where, thanks the proximity of a black hole, the ends of the ship are moving through time at different speeds, is a great idea and very well executed. The hospital where Bill winds up after she’s nearly killed is superbly creepy, and the design of the other patients is a sneaky treat to those of us who remember classic Doctor Who, in particular the very first appearance of the Cybermen in the 1966 First Doctor serial “The Tenth Planet.” When the episode ended, I was on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happens next.
My only wish is that the BBC hadn’t hyped the return of both the Mondasian Cybermen from “The Tenth Planet” and the John Simm Master. The news that they were returning in this episode left me waiting for both, and as a result I didn’t feel as surprised as I wish I had. In particular, I found myself guessing correctly that Razor was the Master in disguise, which left me not as excited by the reveal as I should have been. Also, I have to admit I didn’t fully understand why the Master bothered with a disguise. If the ship is from Mondas, they wouldn’t have recognized him as Harold Saxon, former Prime Minister of the UK. If the disguise is solely for Bill’s benefit, why did the hospital nurse show no surprise at “Razor’s” sudden appearance. Like the Doctor’s fake regeneration in “The Lie of the Land,” I suspect this was done solely for the audience, rather than for any story purpose, and when that happens it never feels quite authentic. On the other hand, the Master always did have a propensity for disguising himself, especially during the 1980s when he was played by Anthony Ainley. He disguises himself as the weird, alien mystic Kalid in the 1982 Fifth Doctor serial “Time Flight,” and the redheaded Frenchman Sir Gilles in the court of King John in the 1983 Fifth Doctor serial “The King’s Demons,” and he does both without knowing the Doctor would show up. He simply likes disguises, and I suppose I shouldn’t look for a reason he disguises himself as Razor in “World Enough and Time.” It’s just something the Master does.
Anyway, what’s going to happen to Bill now that she’s been turned into a Cyberman (Cyberperson?)? What’s going to happen now that Missy and the Master seem to have joined forces? Where has the Master been and how did he survive the cataclysmic events of the 2010 episode “The End of Time”? How will the Doctor stop the Cybermen, and will doing so lead to his regeneration, which is teased in the first few minutes of the episode? I want part two right now!
But since we have to wait, how about some good old-fashioned Doctor Who neepery? According to the classic series, Mondas, the planet where the Cybermen originated, is Earth’s twin planet, the tenth planet of our solar system (they were still counting Pluto back then!), which broke out of orbit somehow long ago. The inhabitants began to replace their organic body parts with mechanical ones in order to survive, which eventually led to them losing their emotions as well. They learned to pilot their planet like a spaceship and attacked Earth in the distant future of 1986, but the First Doctor defeated them in a taxing battle that, afterward, saw him regenerate for the very first time. The show seems to be playing with the origin a bit here, indicating the Cybermen were initially created on the lower decks of the spaceship in order to survive “Operation Exodus,” the journey back to the top of the ship. The Doctor knocks out the blue man on the bridge of the ship using Venusian Aikido, which is a martial art the Third Doctor used quite often back in the 1970s. But of course the best callback of all was John Simm wearing a goatee as the Master, the facial hair style employed by both Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley in the role before him!
Can I have part two now, please?