Doctor Who – S10 E11: World Enough and Time – Reviewed

"Care for some meta jokes about the
title of the show? I've got a few..."
So here we are... the first half of a very sad event indeed: the two-part finale of Peter Capaldi's final season as The Doctor. Seeing a Doctor leave the role is always an emotional experience, and at least as much as ever, I find myself really not wanting Capaldi to go. In fact, I think I want him to stick around for one more season even more than I did for the past couple Doctors, as much as I loved both of their reigns. This is because – while I was a big fan – series eight was a highly polarizing one, in which his very hard-edged and abrasive characterization rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and perhaps as a result (or perhaps because a gradual softening and becoming more human was what they had in mind for his arc all along) he changed more dramatically between his first and second season than either Matt Smith or David Tennant. Given this gradual and dramatic character development, it felt like series nine was where Capaldi truly became the Doctor he would be for the rest of his era, and as a result his era has somehow felt shorter than Smith's or Tennant's, despite having nearly as long an episode count. If ever there was a Doctor who really deserved a fourth season, surely it is him. But alas, it is not to be, and World Enough and Time is the first half of the story where we start to say goodbye (to his regular era on the show, anyway – he presumably will be back for the Christmas special, in some capacity). Fortunately it appears that his finale will be every bit as excellent as he deserves; at least, if this first half is an accurate indicator of the quality that is to follow. This is a really, really good episode of Doctor Who: one of the best in a strong but uneven season, even if it is just a part of what is to come.

This is also a really hard episode to talk about in a spoiler-free context – and even more than most, it deserves to be seen spoiler-free. Don't even watch any ads for it, or look up anything about it; just watch it on its own terms. Since so much of it is a slowly unfolding mystery setting up the end of the season, very little can even be said about its central premise, as much of that is meant to be learned as the episode goes on, in a series of revelations and surprises. Suffice to say that the episode involves The Doctor trying to test Missy's alleged re-learned goodness by finding a ship's distress call so that he can drop her into a crisis situation and see how she handles it. But the situation on the ship they chose turns out to be far more dire than The Doctor anticipated, and soon he, Missy, Bill, and Nardole are trapped in a dangerous predicament way above and beyond the usual wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff that The Doctor specializes in...

"Aah, I see they went with the Pretty Hate Machine color scheme in here..."

The writing in this episode is excellent: a truly unique take on the time-paradox concept which actually manages to do something with the idea that the show has never done before (a rarity, after a cumulative 36 seasons). The premise itself feels loosely inspired by a fan-favorite entry in the Big Finish Productions Doctor Who audioplay series, which starred Fifth Doctor Peter Davison (although I can't say which one, as that would be a spoiler – I'll talk more about it in next week's review). The execution, however, is quite different, and while it is always nice to see the Big Finish audios – which kept the series alive during its years off the air – get an homage, it is even nicer to see this superficially-similar episode take the idea in such a different direction, and stand on its own so well. Moffat's very strong script is directed just as excellently by Rachel Talalay, who has set herself quite impressively apart as one of Doctor Who's best directors. While Talalay's early-1990s film career leaned heavily towards goofy and campy genre fare like Tank Girl and Freddy's Dead: the Final Nightmare, the intervening years have seen her grow into a very confident, stylistically strong filmmaker, and every episode of Doctor Who that she has done has not only been excellent, but guided with a sure-handed artistic vision. Doctor Who seems to be for her what Game of Thrones has been for Neil Marshall: a place for a director with a troubled cinematic career to show just how great they can be, and still are, behind the camera. And so soon after Patty Jenkins' much-talked-about hit with Wonder Woman, Talalay is another great example of why more female directors need to be given the opportunity to direct high-profile stuff like this.

A spaceship on Doctor Who...
What could possibly go wrong?
The cast is likewise excellent. It is Bill and Missy who get the most to work with this time around, with Bill taking on the primary role of exploring the episode's strange world, while Missy explores her own long-corrupted moral center (or lack thereof). Pearl Mackie continues to strike a wonderful balance of dramatic and comedic as Bill, this time leaning decidedly towards the dramatic. And seeing Michelle Gomez's Missy as an antihero rather than a villain is a fascinating reversal which I hope we get to see more of. There are also a couple notable guest-stars who likewise give excellent performances, including one who very nearly steals the show.

World Enough and Time is truly an excellent episode, which makes unique use of the possibilities of the show's time-travel premise with highly compelling results. It is easily one of this season's best episodes, even without its second half. If the finale follows its examples of quality, then Peter Capaldi's final regular-season story arc will truly be one for the ages, which is exactly what he deserves. I still am very much not ready for Capaldi to leave the role of The Doctor; he really has grown into a great one, and his era could greatly benefit from one more year. But if he must leave, he needs to leave on a story arc worthy of classic status, and while it may be too early to say if the second half is worthy of that title, this first half absolutely is.


- Christopher S. Jordan

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