Extermis took us on a trip backwards and also was a story of might have been. As much as I liked it, there’s the inevitable onslaught on Twitter. ‘Too complicated’ ‘Moffat had to spoil things’ etc.
The issue from fans being that after 5 straightforward and relatively linear tales to establish Bill and the premise of the vault and the Doctor staying on Earth, the episode had artificial reality and flashbacks.
At its most simple, the Doctor has his back to the vault, blind and unsure. He receives an email through his Sonic Glasses, which he reads and it also triggers a recollection about saving Missy.
The email came from a virtual reality version of himself within a simulation created by an alien species that want to invade Earth. His recollection of Missy’s near-execution and the phrases written by his wife, River Song and delivered by her servant, Nardole.
Linear stories are fine and good and I understand where the traditionalists or such viewers and whovians are coming from.
But the Doctor is a Time Lord travelling in time and space and in a television age where ‘flashbacks’, ‘sideplots’, ‘subplots’ are all prevalent even in conventional contemporary dramas. I’ve recently seen theories that ‘Line of Duty’, a BBC police procedural drama might have a story seeded in its first series.
Doctor Who is sci-fi with aliens and space travel, what sets it apart is the ability to go back and forward in time too. I think producers and showrunners have usually kept things pretty simple. TARDIS shows up, Doctor and his assistants/companions help someone and bad guy gets defeated.
The Doctor rarely crosses his own time stream, he doesn’t usually use the TARDIS to go backward slightly from his situation and resolve things merely by time travel. He has met on occasion his previous incarnations, at its most complex and ‘timely-wimey’, the Doctor had a broom and a fez so you could follow his escape from the Pandorica.
So, Extermis wasn’t complex in my view and although different in narrative to the previous five episodes it was very enjoyable. At some point the vault and its occupant had to be explained, at some point, the how’s and whys of Nardole and ‘the Husbands of River Song’ needed an explanation.
I think we’re set for the series last episodes, the Christmas special and the regeneration.
In speculation, names are appearing on the new Doctor and I’ve even seen a convincing but unexplained teaser trailer clip for the new Doctor. We know through the media about a big spoiler as they saw a clip of The Master in the promotional videos for the new series. The fan websites are speculating on the pictures of River Song and Susan Foreman on the Doctor’s desk. Clara has been mentioned too. We’ve had speculation on Bill dying and not being around for Series Eleven.
We can reckon on the creepy alien monks, we can speculate on cybermen.
I’ll throw my thoughts in below.
I’d love to see River Song, she can’t be dead insofar of her timeline crossing and weaving through the Doctor’s in any case and I wonder if Steven Moffat might have been tempted by a River vs Missy confrontation.
I’ve missed Vastra, Jenny and Strax, but Christmas special could be best hope, on that Christmas special, it might be Capaldi’s last episode but it could be like the Tennant specials in being longer and more involved. If the leaks on some involvement or meeting with the First Doctor are true, then I’ll look forward to it.
In terms of regeneration, there’s a still of the Doctor with arms out regenerating doing rounds so far, but my feeling is that it might be episode eight and may only be to save the Twelfth Doctor’s sight. I’ve seen a theory that the Doctor has spent his regeneration energy (Davros series nine) and that Twelve’s death and regeneration is somehow botched.
On other regeneration news, if it is Kris Marshall as ‘Thirteen’ then fair enough, his time in Death in Paradise combined drama with comedy and his character was slightly eccentric. I think he can carry the role and I think he’s a push closer to Tennant and Smith in age but probably with more experience. I think we may see Thirteen earlier than expected, given some of the quotes and chat in the press and that the regeneration might be a complex one.
I recently saw a Seventh doctor DVD and the tribulations involving the casting of Sylvester McCoy were included as a feature and his ability to be a comic shambles whilst convingly put across The Doctor in his first dramawas interesting to see. I’ve also seen again some of the 1989 series where his Doctor is darker, scheming and manipulative using the pleasantness and humour to screen his doings. There’s certainly an opportunity for a comic actor in the role and certainly Marshall fits that whilst also having creditials of carrying a show and replacing a previous lead too.
We’ll see when the next Doctor is confirmed as the time frame for filming the Christmas Special is now narrowing.
Obviously, in the next few episodes we’ll see Missy in the here and now rather than flashback.
She won’t have ‘went good’ as suggested at her ‘execution’, she’ll help the Doctor if it suits her. She’ll inevitably betray The Doctor, but given how he dealt with a scheming Davros previously, I think we can expect the Doctor to have considered that.
We’ve seen Nardole blossom. He was almost Doctorlike with Bill in Extermis and huge praise for Matt Lucas in patiently building the role. I think there’s more to come and that he will again somehow save the day.
Pearl Mackie has been tremendous as Bill, but I guess will take a step back for The Doctor for the last six episodes. She’s now an accustomed traveller in the TARDIS, and we’ll see if she is key in the overall arc for the series. If she wants to stay as companion for Thirteen, she should be given the opportunity. I don’t know if a complete blank slate for Series 11 is a good idea or not.
Capaldi has been tremendous as Twelve he deserves a memorable finale and I hope the next six episodes starting tonight are as good as the first six.
I’ll post on ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ later.