Yes, There’s an hour left in this season which could turn this whole story on its head. However, given the history of Doctor Who season finale stories I it will be gratifying for about 24 hours before our brains catch up, view it a second time and start asking ourselves what the hell we watched.
I’m disappointed in the revelation of the episode that Missy was The Master. It was one of the more common theories online given the obvious play on words. This alone led me to believe that Moffat threw it in there as a red herring. He even hinted at it being so with the whole “I’m an android” gag which I thought pretty amusing. But then we get kissy-kissy, double-hearts and an evil Mary Poppins.
My issue is not that The Master is now a woman. The Doctor can be a woman, too, if the show had the courage to do so and could write stories and characters to make it work. But that’s not the point of my problems with Doctor Who as a show. The point is that in all of time and space the biggest creative decision the show could make was to recycle yet another villain.
I was THRILLED that Missy is a Time Lady. I was excited that there was another Gallifreyan on the show because for just a brief moment, it suggested that the Time Lords were coming back! The idea of a Nethersphere bringing the consciousness of humans (or their souls, however you see it) into the bodies of another race – – Great Googly Moogly, it would have been such a glorious and dark way to re-introduce the Time Lords to the Doctor Who universe!
Imagine that the Nethersphere is really a TARDIS or some similar vehicle of Time Lord design, like the Chrysalis used by the Daleks to escape the Time War in “Army of Ghosts/Doomsday” – but the down side is that only the bodies of the Time Lords made it out intact; their souls or consciousness were somehow erased in the process. (It was a prototype. The Daleks were about to win the war…there was no time to test it, etc.)
Now, place The Doctor in a position where he sees a million of his own kind, alive but vegetative, unable to regenerate without a living soul inside them. And introduce Missy as their caretaker who presents the Doctor with a choice of sending a million members of the precious human race into eternal whatever-it-is, restore the most recently deceased (who are shown to have never really died but are in some Whovian tech-tech hyper sleep thing), or transplant the souls she’s been harvesting into their bodies to save his people.
Imagine that this Arc-TARDIS was hidden inside the Doctor’s TARDIS ever since the events on Trenzalore when the Time Lords granted the Doctor with a new cycle of regenerations. Ever since, the TARDIS has been used to help harvest the souls of the recently deceased on Earth. Missy needs The Doctor’s help to complete the process. As a Time Lord, all he needs to do is concur with her order and the process is complete.
If he does, it means that Danny Pink’s personality will not survive the transplant into the Time Lord’s body. If he doesn’t, it means Danny Pink would be lost but so too would the Time Lord. That puts a face on the dilemma for The Doctor and the audience. Add some of children from The Time War to remind The Doctor what he fought for all those centuries (on Gallifrey and Trenzalore) and you have a deep, moral conundrum for The Doctor that speak to the heart of his question “Am I a good man?”
How cool would that have been?! THAT plot would have justified the return of The Master, a Time Lord used by the High Council to do bad things for good reasons. Of course, the Master would have be coerced into helping the Time Lords, but it’s been done before. Bringing back another Time Lord we haven’t seen since the original run or letting Michelle Gomez build her own new nemesis; an awesome new, insane and amoral Time Lady character worth watching.
Instead, we get recycled Cybermen suits and Dark Mary Poppins.
The Master has been an underwhelming scene-chewing adversary who inevitably falls victim to his own arrogance and who concocts these plots so ridiculous and impractical that you wonder if he ever really intended to succeed but just wanted to play with The Doctor in a sandbox full of human beings. The last time we saw The Master, he had mutant super powers and some hair-brained scheme to turn everyone on Earth into…him. Long gone are the days of Roger Delgado playing off Jon Pertwee in their space opera James Bond pastiche. Gone, too, are the campy Anthony Ainsley stories that made no sense to anyone outside the Scooby Doo universe. The Master of the RTD days played itself out in a ridiculous, but ultimately complete story arc. While it might seem refreshing to have a new take on the character, I wish the writers would open up the universe for even more Vastra/Jenny, Daughter Jenny, Sally Sparrow, Jack Harkness, River Song characters – but VILLAINS.
Like the Daleks, there is great nostalgic value in these reunions, but they quickly turn boring. Cybermen, by themselves, are boring. The Doctor blew up an entire fleet of them just to send a message and Rory Williams trashed talked a room full of them into handing over secret intel. Not the most intimidating of enemies.
It may sound like I’m contradicting myself in asking for new characters while hoping the resurrected were Time Lords. Well, the whole point of the 50th Anniversary episode was to put The Doctor on his course HOME, to find Gallifrey. He almost did and the rift opened at Trenzalore. It would make sense for this new Doctor to reset the universe a bit as he did with his newest incarnation which is 50% New and 50% all the other Doctors rotating through his personality. Time Lords would present a new realm of intrigue and the unbalancing of power in the universe, complications with a ripple effect through the space-time continuum. The down side would likely be more Dalek stories. But if we’re required to have them, let’s make them interesting again.