After watching the finale of Doctor Who, Season 10, I felt compelled to write something about it. Steven Moffat’s finales have seen diminishing returns since he took over as showrunner seven years ago. After a cracking Season 5, the finale ‘Big Bang’ was a major disappointment. Things never improved from there. Moffat fell in love with his own mythology. He didn’t appear to care much about story or logic. Just watch ‘The Doctor Falls’ for a depiction of everything wrong with Moffat’s reign as Doctor Who showrunner.
Season 10’s first half was very, very good. There wasn’t a particularly brilliant episode, but they were all of a high quality (with the possible exception of ‘Smile.’) However, as soon as the Monks trilogy left us derailed the quality, things went downhill from there. There were plenty of terrible aspects of the Monks trilogy, but I’m not here to discuss those. I’m here to discuss the finale. As usual, Moffat delivered a very good first part (which was spoiled by the teaser reveal of both The Master and the Cybermen). However, the concluding part was a shambles. Of course, we’ve seen Missy using the Cybermen for an evil plot in another of Moffat’s finales. Could he do anything different from before? No!
First of all, that intriguing Master/Missy duality? Moffat played it for flirting and sexuality (implying that The Master even got an erection after Missy berated him). But apart from that and having the two Masters kill each other, what else did they contribute to the episode? The Doctor foiled The Master’s plan within five minutes of the episode. It left The Master and Missy very little to do for the remaining 55 minutes. No, they didn’t join forces to defeat The Doctor. No, they didn’t join forces with The Doctor to help him. Instead, the very vague story arc of Missy’s redemption came into play. Unfortunately, we haven’t been shown much of Missy’s redemption. As with most Moffatian plot threads, we are told plenty, but shown little.
It links in with the forgotten mystery of the Vault. Missy was in it all along. That was that. Moffat’s mysteries are always more interesting than the resolutions. Why not scrap the Vault altogether and have Missy travel with The Doctor so we could see her attempts at redemption, instead of being told about them? She would have contributed more to the TARDIS team than Nardole, who was only there for (allegedly) comic relief. It would have made her later betrayal of The Master much more potent. Instead, The Master and Missy were just there for most of the episode. The tale of Two Masters was a waste.
The Cybermen, like usual, were wasted as well. The body horror and reveal of the proto-Cybermen in ‘World Enough and Time’ were well done. If nothing else, Moffat has brought back true terror to Doctor Who (think of The Silence, the Weeping Angels, that ‘Listen’ episode, etc). But for the finale? They were often flung about by explosions. Of course, Bill as a Cyberman came into play. But haven’t we seen a companion turned into a Cyberman before? Well, he wasn’t exactly a companion, but Danny Pink was turned into a Cybermen in Season 8. We spent a while seeing Bill slowly understand that she was a Cyberman. Sound familiar? Yes, the same happened with Oswin Oswald, who didn’t know she was a Dalek in ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ (penned by Moffat).
Much of the episode seemed to be Moffat recycling his past ideas. The Doctor, isolated, stays behind to stop villains invading an anachronistic village? That happened at the end of Matt Smith’s reign as the Eleventh Doctor! A female companion being rescued from death by a space alien and being given the chance to travel the universe? It happened to Clara Oswald only last year, and it happened to Bill! Speaking of that resolution (when the water alien from ‘The Pilot’ ca,e to Bill’s rescue), by that point nothing could have redeemed the episode or made it worse. I suppose it was seeded, but wasn’t the resolution of ‘The Pilot’ based on the fact that the water alien had gotten over Bill? But, whatever, by that times I was all out of groans. The Doctor was just in the middle of a massive explosion which he’d just set off, yet had no major injuries. Cyberman Bill had avoided being blown to pieces as well.
Normal Bill opted to leave The Doctor’s dead body on the floor of the TARDIS and fly away with the water alien. Shortly after, The Doctor has flashbacks to previous companions calling his name. Funnily enough, Clara was one of them. Didn’t The Doctor have his memories of Clara removed? I think so…but Moffat struggles to remember what he’s done, so how can I keep up? And Moffat once again decided to plunge into The Doctor’s history by having the Twelfth encounter the First (presumably during the events of ‘The Tenth Planet’). Why does Moffat want to meddle with The Doctor’s history so passionately? He’s changed so many aspects of Doctor Who that it will be difficult for Chris Chibnall to start with a clean slate.
‘The Big Bang’ was disappointing, ‘The Wedding of River Song’ was baffling and terrible. The two finales of Season 7 were worse. The less said about ‘Death in Heaven’ and ‘Hell Bent’ the better. But ‘The Doctor Falls’ was worse than all of Moffat’s finales. Of course, nothing will ever topple ‘The End of Time’ for sheer poor quality. But at least that gave The Master a purpose and a plan. ‘The Doctor Falls’ wasted all of the potential of its preceding story, ‘World Enough and Time.’ It centred on endless talking about nothing rather than resolving something. The Master/Missy duality was a cop out. Bill’s fate turned out to be similar to Clara’s. The Doctor didn’t want to regenerate, so sulked about it.
There’s only one episode left of Moffat’s reign, and it can’t answer the many questions/mysteries that Moffat has raised and refused to answer. Probably because he didn’t have the answers when he raised the questions. I’m still trying to wrap my head around River Song’s convoluted timeline, let alone trying to figure out the identity of the Hybrid (has Moffat forgotten about that plot thread?). What was The Doctor’s name, and why was it so important? And what was the duck pond without any ducks all about? He brought back the Time Lords and Gallifrey, only to forget about them until the finale of Season 9. Now they’ve been forgotten about again.
Moffat’s become lost in his own mythology, and in that abyss he’s lost the ability to tell a coherent story. Like RTD, he’s focused more on emotions and characters than on story. But unlike RTD, he’s rarely able to twist the viewer’s emotions. So that leaves him with silly stories that scream out for the viewer to feel something, only for them to feel nothing.
VERDICT: 3/10. ‘The Doctor Falls’ may as well have been called ‘The Moffat Falls.’ He failed to deliver on his second to last episode. It encapsulated everything wrong with his era of Doctor Who. It was plodding and resolved nothing. We’ve seen it all before. Let’s hope Chris Chibnall does better…(it gets an extra mark for The Doctor’s speech about being kind…)
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(Click here for my review of Doctor Who, Series 9, Episode 12: Hell Bent)