‘Doctor Who’ delivers an urgent message for the Trump era in its season finale
The 12th Doctor faces the Master and Missy in Saturday’s finale episode.
There are a dozen very good reasons why you might have stopped watching Doctor Who. Maybe you’re a holdout from the classic series, which ran from 1963 to 1989. Maybe you loved Christopher Eccleston in the role and couldn’t stand David Tennant; maybe you’re a die-hard Ten fan who loathed Matt Smith.
More likely, you’ve been turned off at some point in the Peter Capaldi era. No doubt you love the grumpy old Scot himself, but showrunner Steven Moffat’s increasingly twisty scripts, reset-button endings and preference for jokes over satisfying plot points have left many former fans with Who fatigue.
But I am here to tell you, brothers and sisters in the TARDIS, that it’s time to come back. With the stunning final two episodes of Season 10, Doctor Who has once again become must-see geek TV.
Better yet, you need not devote hours and hours of a holiday weekend to catching up on the rest of Season 10. Just dive right in with last Saturday’s incredible episode, "Worlds Enough and Time."
Though there have been several satisfying self-contained stories this season, none are necessary to understand what’s going on here. The opening minutes of "Worlds Enough" are pretty much designed to bring non-attention-paying fans up to speed.
(Okay, you probably should have seen Episode 1, "The Pilot," for an introduction to the Doctor’s delightful companion Bill Potts and the circumstances in which she found and lost her girlfriend, but otherwise you’re golden.)
Don’t worry about the spoilers, either. It was announced months ago by the BBC that John Simm would be returning as the Master alongside his current incarnation, Missy (Michelle Gomez). In the end, it doesn’t matter that he’s returning, it matters how the return was handled.
And the one-word, spoiler-free, groan-inducing but accurate answer is: masterfully.
If you’ve already watched "Worlds Enough and Time," then first of all, I hope you managed to survive the last week without the repeated word "pain" becoming your nightmare soundtrack. Secondly, you’re probably wondering whether the next episode can live up to the promise of that cliffhanger.
Unusually, the BBC withheld the finale episode screener from journalists until Friday, so I’d spent the week anxiously wondering the same thing.
We’ve been here before, after all: at the end of Season 9, Moffat gave us a two-part finale where the first ("Heaven Sent") was easily one of the best stories in all 50-odd years of Doctor Who. Then the second ("Hell Bent") was a scattershot shambles. It not only threw away the promise of its predecessor, it also came close to destroying the ethical basis for the Doctor’s character. The iconic hero to millions of children, the man who uses words, not weapons, was shown shooting a fellow Time Lord.
I can’t reveal any spoilers from the finale, nor would I want to if I could. This is one you just need to watch all the way through. But I can tell you this: with only one episode (the Christmas one) left to go in his tenure, Moffat has finally figured out how to restrain his worst impulses. And he has made up for the "Hell Bent" travesty by utterly nailing the character of the Doctor.
There’s no bouncing around between plotlines, no twisty-turny confusion, no shoehorning in clever ideas. Just a succession of affecting, raw, emotional beats. There will be tears: real, human tears. And where there are tears, as one character says, there is hope.
It also isn’t a spoiler to say that this is the hour of television we most urgently need right now. It mentions Donald Trump by name — in passing, don’t worry — and it also contains a speech about kindness. I don’t think these two things are coincidental.
Be kind: in 2017, this is the message our leaders seem to have completely forgotten, and it’s a message our favorite Time Lord is delivering without distraction, without artifice.
As John Simm’s Master put it many years ago: what this country needs, right now, is a Doctor.