Doctor Who Series 10, Episode 11
“World Enough and Time”
Posted by Sage
In another time stream, this episode went down a lot differently. No one ever got a photo of John Simm on set, so the BBC didn’t have to include him in the series trailers. I can’t stop thinking that it would have been the most magnificent rug-pull of Steven Moffat’s entire tenure as showrunner, if we hadn’t known to expect that the Master from Tennant’s run was coming back in this episode or indeed, at all. I just feel cheated by the whole thing. Didn’t we almost have it all?
Because when I rewatched the episode, I felt differently than I did watching it in real time. The second time around, it’s clear that the entirety of “World Enough and Time” is leading up to that reveal – it’s “the whole point of this ridiculous exercise” – and that’s not a great look when your audience knows what’s over the rainbow already. I can guarantee that Moffat would have preferred secrecy – what writer wants their surprises spoiled? None of us got to watch the episode under ideal conditions, so there’s a bit of an asterisk on this one for me.
Even with that unfortunate foreknowledge, the relationship between the Master/Missy and the Doctor is still one of the strongest aspects of the episode. The Doctor will never be objective about this person; their tragically and pathetically co-dependent relationship has plagued all of space and time for 1000+ years. (One – me – wonders what would happen if they just… released the tension in some way. Hm.) The fact that he “more than anything” wants her to come back to the light is like so much static in his brain, obscuring reality and causing him to make really bad decisions, like sending his companions on a mission with Missy leading, while the Doctor watches them from the TARDIS, calling plays and eating crisps. “She scares me,” Bill tells him earlier. And the Doctor just ignores that fear. He sends Bill into danger with a genocidal maniac as her captain. Of course there were going to be consequences. (I’ll get to that.)
It’ll be interesting to find out from whence in time Simms’ master came. Introducing him – the ex – to Missy allows the show to present two sides of the Master personality at one time: him, the demented show-off who wants to burn every thing the Doctor loves; and her, the old friend who has killed enough and just wants to be back in the Doctor’s good graces. What’s a conflicted optimist to do? It’s not like the Master will EVER run out of chances with the Doctor – we all have that one friend – but bisecting his/her character like this makes it easier for him to compartmentalize. Boys only want love when it’s torture.
As one of your friendly neighborhood Whouffaldi shippers, I can’t help but notice how differently the Doctor explains Missy to Bill than he did to Clara. He barely explained her to Clara at all. (You know why.) Bill gets the whole sad story, over chips under the stars that the Doctor wants to show his best friend. (Pour one out for Rusty the Dalek, by the way.) Bill may not understand it, but it’s a good reminder for us. It’s not Missy/the Master being another Time Lord that makes this friendship so singular and all encompassing. It’s that both of them felt – and still feel – like the other is the only person who completely understands them. They felt that way even when they were amongst their own people. They’re both dreamers and rebels, not suited to the regimented Gallifreyan lifestyle. They’ve never stopped trying to get and hold one another’s attention. Missy/the Master is the love of the Doctor’s life. She’s right – everything else IS just “cradle-snatching.”
(If Time Lords don’t care about gender, why can’t the Doctor just say “crush”?)
Poor Bill knows a toxic relationship when she sees one. She flat-out begs the Doctor not to make her do this, which makes everything that comes after that request even harder to defend. Yes, the Doctor’s companions are always at risk, every moment that they’re with him, and every moment that they’re not. But Bill is a queer companion of color, and that MUST be taken into account in the storytelling. I was deeply uncomfortable watching Jorj point a gun at her while the Doctor pleaded him to be level-headed and disturbed when he took the shot and left her with a GAPING HOLE IN HER CHEST. We don’t do this on Doctor Who. We prefer our wounds to be emotional — Rose getting stuck in an alternate universe; Donna having her memory wiped; Amy dropping out of the Doctor’s timeline to be with Rory. I do believe that the show will attempt to undo this in the finale, but saving Bill cannot erase this image. It’s irresponsible and shortsighted. And – aside from the bowling ball sized hole in her torso – it’s also a rehash. We’ve DONE the waiting thing. We’ve sentenced companions to interminable purgatories before. We also made a person of color into a Cyberman, not three years ago. I didn’t learn anything new about Bill because of what she was forced to go through. And I can GUARANTEE I won’t learn anything new about the Doctor when he inevitably blames himself for her conversion – AS HE SHOULD. Fridging – even if it’s not complete and permanent – is old fucking news. And it does expose the hierarchy of character. Think of all the manpain the show could wring out of taking the MASTER out for good. But it never would, because it’s so much more prudent to keep her alive. In two forms, even.
Is it FAIR that Bill’s character has to be handled with more care than others? Of course not. If there were as many of her in the show’s canon as there are straight white women, the stakes would not be as high as they are. That’s not Steven Moffat’s fault – it’s never the fault of any single writer. But they inherit these problems, and it’s just not an option to ignore the significance of inflicting the kind of physical violence that isn’t even the norm in this show on a black body. None of this is fair, but that’s the way it is.
Timey Wimey Observatins:
- Look at this meta gif of me watching Nardole:
- This was still cute, idc.
- “Is this the emotions you humans call spanking?”
- “Because if somebody kills you who’s not me, we’ll both be disappointed.”
- As many before me have said: IF THE DOCTOR UNDERSTOOD HOW FAST TIME WAS PASSING FOR BILL, WHY DID HE STOP TO EXPLAIN? Also, did Bill AGE at the bottom of the ship?
- “What horror?” “Mainly the tea.” How British.
- “You are my dearest person.” Okay but what if this was just the TEENSIEST bit real?
Are you even ready for tonight, friends? We’re here for you. Feel free to rage against the treatment of Bill Potts in the comments section while we wait.