While I’m not planning to go into a lot of plot details, it’s likely that the random mutterings that follow will reveal some things you might prefer not to know if you haven’t seen the episode yet, so in my usual way, I’ll include this warning:
OK, I’m going to combine this into one post because of the way it all fits together, and indeed how it relates to the preceding episodes. And because that’s how I want to do it and it’s my site, so there.
When an episode opens with the Doctor just about collapsing out of the Tardis onto a snowy landscape, glowing with regeneration energy and indicating a general reluctance to actually regenerate, you know something strange is happening.
And when this scene is abandoned for a flashback of Missy emerging from the Tardis and introducing herself as “Doctor Who”, followed by an explanation that (a) it saves time as it’s what everyone says when the Doctor introduces himself and (b) it’s his actual name anyway, you might start getting a little confused, so it’s possibly just as well that we’re flashed back to a scene explaining how we got to the flashback.
This series has really been all about one thing: the Doctor’s attempt to guide Missy to redemption. She’s been showing signs of remorse, and seeming to want to change, so the Doctor decides on a test – drop her into a situation and see how she behaves.
And so, it’s Missy, Bill and Nardole who exit the Tardis and find themselves on a rather large spaceship in a very awkward position – balanced just outside the event horizon of a black hole, leading to some entertaining time dilation effects. And that’s what causes most of the trouble. When Bill is taken to the lower levels, where time passes much faster than at the top level where the Tardis has materialised, things go a bit wrong. Well, to be fair, they went a bit wrong when a scared crewman ever so slightly shot a great big hole through her, which looked to be moderately fatal. But hey, it’s OK – the strange masked people from below are going to repair her.
And so they do. It’s a bit hard to work out what they’ve done, but there are some flashing lights behind her hospital gown. It’s all a bit disturbing down in the hospital level, what with masked patients who seem to be in constant pain, and only the eccentric, not to say slightly bonkers Razor to keep her company. And it’s just as well that there’s someone to talk to, because all that time dilation means that it takes the Doctor a bit longer than he might have planned to get to her, what with some hand-waving reason that he couldn’t use the Tardis.
It’s even more unfortunate that Razor is even more eccentric than he appears, what with him luring Bill to an operating room. And being in disguise. And being the Master. And having arranged for Bill to be converted to a Cyberman, of the first generation cloth-faced, Mondassian Tenth Planet variety.
Having introduced himself, he’s a little surprised to find that Missy has no recollection of these events. And the Doctor is suitably horrified to be presented with his friend in newly upgraded form, and two Masters. Err, a Master and a Mistress. Or something like that.
And that was just the first part.
Much confusion follows, with Missy apparently siding with her earlier self before apparently taking the Doctor’s side
I’m in two minds. Fortunately the other one’s unconscious.
And everyone heads for another level of the massive ship, which is a farm with a suitably fake sky and a slight problem with proto-Cybermen trying to capture the local kids for conversion.
Bill’s a little confused, not quite grasping that she’s not quite the woman she used to be. The Doctor’s not doing to well, having been partially zapped by a Cyberman, but he tries to persuade his old friend/enemy (both of them) to help him. The Master is having none of it, and Missy appears to take his side, only to poison him, leaving him just enough time to get to his Tardis and regenerate into Missy. But being the treacherous chap that he is, he shoots her with his laser screwdriver in an apparently fatal “don’t bother trying to regenerate” manner. All of which leaves the Doctor, Nardole and CyberBill to deal with the Cybermen, who thanks to the time dilation fun and games now come in fully upgraded armoured versions.
A bit of hacking with the ship’s systems enables the Cybermen to be fought off while Nardole leads the innocent locals to another level of the ship, and the Doctor near to death.
CyberBill is rescued from an eternity of being a Cyberman by her old flame Heather, who we last saw in The Pilot in a rather watery form. Seems, in a suitably deus ex machina way, that she’s been able to link to Bill via her tears, and so offers her a whole new life of a non-Cyber version, which she accepts, pausing only to leave the apparently dead Doctor in his Tardis somewhere in space.
Of course, the Doctor isn’t actually dead, and with a glow of regeneration energy he gets back to his feet. And he’s not at all happy. He’s had enough of changing. He doesn’t want to regenerate into someone else, not again. The Tardis is obviously concerned about this and promptly lands somewhere.
The Doctor staggers out, into that desolate snow-swept landscape where we saw him earlier. A man appears out of the blizzard. The Doctor introduces himself, which seems to amuse his new friend, who tells him he can’t possibly be the Doctor, because that’s who he is
The original, you might say
And so it is. It’s the First Doctor. Which is as good a lead in to the Christmas regeneration special as you’re likely to get…
No doubt some people will be thinking that saving Bill was a cop-out, but not saving her would have been far too brutal. Though the Doctor may never know she’s been saved, so he’ll be suffering quite nicely. His reluctance to regenerate (he even borrows the Tenth Doctor’s “I don’t want to go” line) is interesting, and will no doubt be the main hook for the Christmas special, which will lead to a regeneration into… well, who knows? The identity of the next Doctor has been kept under wraps – there’s lots of rumour, some people are quite confident that they know who it is, but people have been wrong before, so I’m not getting into that.
It’s been a fun twelve weeks – Nardole was lovely, Missy was fun, Bill was an excellent companion, asking all those awkward questions that won’t ever be answered, and the Doctor was as good as he’s ever been.
That Christmas special is going to be a big one: the last to star Peter Capaldi and the last to be written by Steven Moffat, so we can be quite sure of major drama and major trauma all round. Then it’ll be over to new showrunner Chris Chibnall and a new Doctor.
 Sorry, I can’t bring myself to say “season”