The Good: Very well-plotted, Decent acting, Good effects and direction
The Bad: Light on theme
The Basics: "World Enough And Time" opens the final arc of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor by killing Bill . . . only to resurrect her in a new form of danger!
As Peter Capaldi's tenure on Doctor Who rushes towards its end, there is something ironic about the resurgence of Missy in the narrative. Missy is the latest incarnation of The Master and replaced the John Simm version of the character. Simm played The Master during the final arc of Russell T. Davies's run of Doctor Who before Steven Moffat took over as showrunner. So, with Moffat's run winding down, there is something ironic about both Missy and The Master, as portrayed by John Simm, returning to the narrative in "World Enough And Time."
"World Enough And Time" follows on the events of "The Eaters Of Light" (reviewed here!), which put Missy on the TARDIS in the role of Chief Engineer. While Nardole and Bill do not trust Missy, The Doctor has decided to take a chance on her and he is working actively on rehabilitating her. "World Enough And Time" is a proper Missy mission for Doctor Who.
Opening with The Doctor, with much longer hair, landing the TARDIS in an ice field, then coming out to collapse into regeneration, "World Enough And Time" flashes back. The TARDIS lands on a four mile long colony ship that is holding station near the mouth of a black hole. Bill and Nardole accompany Missy out of the TARDIS; The Doctor has Missy on a test run for being decent and not killing. Unfortunately, no sooner has the team stepped onto the colony ship's command center than they are addressed by someone elsewhere on the ship and a moment later, a blue man appears on the bridge. The alien holds Missy and her Companions at gunpoint and demands to know which of the group is a human. When Bill admits that it is her, The Doctor rushes out of the TARDIS to try to defuse the situation. Unfortunately, the alien shoots Bill and kills her.
Moments later, the lifts arrive on the bridge and mysteriously-wrapped humanoids come for Bill. They claim to be able to fix Bill and before they can be stopped, they take Bill's corpse away to the furthest reaches of the colony ship. There, Bill wakes up with a mechanical heart in her chest and she is told by the roguish Mr. Razor that she has been recovering there for weeks. While Bill explores the mysterious hospital and the polluted world of the bottom of the colony ship, horrified to discover humans are being altered in a hideous conversion to evolve them to survive the trip to higher levels. Meanwhile, The Doctor, Missy and Nardole figure out how the colony ship is experiencing time dilation and they prepare to make a journey to rescue Bill.
"World Enough And Time" is a set-up episode and it puts a big burden on the next episode, though it is astonishingly good in and of itself. In fact, the issues "World Enough And Time" has in the larger continuity of Doctor Who need not be addressed in this episode given that they work to place the important characters in the story, as opposed to trying to place the episode in the larger continuity. That said, "World Enough And Time" starts as a lively Missy episode and they quickly turns into a Bill episode whereby she is put into an increasingly dangerous situation and she comes to understand the nature of the setting that The Doctor and his team are walking into.
Missy reaches the logical point in her season-long character arc as The Doctor takes a chance on her redemption and the idea that Missy has spent more than a thousand years in isolation make her fuzzy memory in the episode work. "World Enough And Time" marks the return of the familiar and delightful Missy; she is crazy, witty and fun to watch for almost her entire time on screen.
Bill, sadly, is killed early in the episode and the mechanical method of her return is well-foreshadowed even for those who did not have the revelation spoiled by the episode preview last week. Bill waits and waits for The Doctor while she slowly comes to understand how the people on level 1056 are dying and just what Conversion is. It is a slow descent into horror for Bill's character and it is hard not to feel bad for the brief Companion when she is shot clear through her chest. The viewer easily feels worse for her by the episode's end, though in this way the larger continuity of Steven Moffat's tenure of Doctor Who becomes a little bit of an issue; Moffat created a virtually identical reveal for Bill's fate at the climax of his first real Missy episode.
"World Enough And Time" takes time to explain the gravitational physics of time - though the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Blink Of An Eye" (reviewed here!) did something very similar - near the black hole and that keeps The Doctor and his team out of much of the narrative. Instead, this is very much Bill's episode as she gets to know Mr. Razor, who seems quirky and like a weird lifeline for The Doctor's Companion.
"World Enough And Time" is well-directed and clever, even if it is light on any sort of themes. The episode is plot-heavy and works on multiple character revelations, but it is insular within Doctor Who; it is not making any form of larger statement, which is a hallmark of great science fiction. But for the first time in a long time, Doctor Who delivers a truly solid and truly great episode, even if it is somewhat limited to being essential only to fans of the series itself.
For other works with John Simm, please check out my reviews of:
"The Sound Of Drums"
"Last Of The Time Lords"
"The End Of Time, Part 1"
"The End Of Time, Part 2"
For other Doctor Who episode and season reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!
© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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