Last night ought to have been some of the most memorable television this year. Notwithstanding some highly cringe-worthy self-indulgence in the opening five minutes (more on this later) Steven Moffat succeeded in building a tense and grim adventure, with not one but three twists lying in the last five minutes. This should have been a triumph of story-telling. The reason it was not can be summarised in one simple word: Spoilers …
On paper the story should have ticked all the right boxes. The Doctor giving Missy a mission to test if she is really good? Check. Landing on a mysterious spaceship caught in some distress? Check. Bill getting pulled into peril? Check. A very clear and evident mystery in the background that needs solving. Check. A brooding, intense, and sinister atmosphere. Check, double check, and home run. So far, so brilliant.
The problem being that all along, you knew the twists coming. The shocking revelation that the space-station was linked to a planet named Mondas, last seen disintegrating in the last story to feature original Doctor William Hartnell? Not a shock; not after the BBC released publicity photos featuring the very first Cybermen to appear in Doctor Who. The revelation that John Simm’s Master was the evil genius behind the scheme? Revealed not long after the broadcast of The Pilot earlier this year. Just about the only surprise kept was the ultimate fate of Bill, and even that was diminished by fan speculation.
In short; Doctor Who fandom has proceeded to deliver the second biggest self-inflicted wound of 2017 since Theresa May called a General Election. So eager have sections of fandom been to find out what’s happening (because they must know, and they must know now!) that these wonderful surprises are not surprises any more. They leaked out, as fans stalked the production team and used their phones to tweet pictures of cast and crew, leaving the BBC no choice but to limit the damage. There are no words for how great a pity this is. Notwithstanding a few concerns, World Enough and Time was absolutely great television. And due to the immaturity, impatience, and self-importance of a section of fandom, we were deprived of what should have been three shocking reveals.
Not that the episode was perfect. In the first five minutes, Missy proceeds to make a series of self-referential jokes about the series that wore very badly. Worst of all, the show begins with a scene not evidently related to the episode, and reputedly from the Christmas special (currently being filmed) which depicts the apparent regeneration of Capaldi’s Doctor. As I observed of the regeneration that was not in The Lie of the Land, one of the major failings of the Moffat era is the extent to which he knows he is playing to the stalls. The complete lack of subtlety is not an attractive look, and I sincerely hope that new producer Chris Chibnall dials it down for Series 11.
Having said all that, on balance I really enjoyed the episode; I think the sequel promises to be sensational; and I think anyone new to the show would also enjoy the episode very much. My top tip if you want to enjoy episode 12 is therefore very simple: stay off social media and avoid spoilers!