Oh, there's a lot to like about this, I don't know where to start. Transcript of the episode here.
The opening... "No! No!"... and he's about to regenerate. Which probably means that we won't see him regenerate, because they haven't actually figured out who they're going to cast for the new Doctor? I can't help feeling that, while the obvious assumption is that the Doctor is saying "no" because he doesn't want to regenerate... I wouldn't put it past Moffatt to re-cast the meaning of it by the time we get to the end (like what happened in "The Magician's Apprentice"/"The Witch's Familiar") I think they did the regeneration-at-the-beginning scene because everyone knows that this is Capaldi's last story, therefore there was no point in trying to make it a surprise.
Brilliant idea to use the time-dilation near a Black Hole to drive the plot. Love it! Mind you, there's probably all this physics stuff which is being violated at the same time, such as "why is the ship still in one piece?" and "why aren't they feeling the effect of increased gravity at the front of the ship?". Antigrav? And really well-built ship? (whatever, handwave, handwave). "Those lifeforms were descendants of the crew..." Though it begs the question of why the expedition sent to the back of the ship never tried to come back... yes, we know that some of their descendants tried to go back, but why didn't the originals?
I was having flashbacks to the Big Finish episode ("Spare Parts") which was the Big Finish version of the origin of the (Mondasian) Cybermen; chiefly the overbearing matron, the cobbled-togetherness of it all, and the motive of it all being "survival". There are obvious differences between the two stories, of course. One big difference being the reason why the cybermen in each case needed to become "emotionless"; I'm not sure which reason is the more creative one. But the Big Finish episode was more poignant, with a lot of good supporting characters.
There are two things which are full of horror about the creation of these Cybermen:
- That the Nurse doesn't do anything to help them, she just turns their speakers off because she finds their noise annoying.
- That what the surgeon does is an extrapolation of the same: he doesn't cure the pain, he just silences their complaints by making them not care.
I was so caught up in what was happening, I'd forgotten to remember the trailer that indicated that (someone who looked like) Simm!Master was supposed to be turning up, so it took me completely by surprise that Razor was Simm!Master, even though it shouldn't have. I have the sads, because I sort of liked him, at least the way he and Bill appeared to be becoming friends. The puzzling thing is, why didn't Missy remember having done all this as her former self? Then again, memories can get tricky when one crosses one's own timeline...
Looking back on the episode now, knowing that Razor was the Master, I can surmise a few things:
- The Master could well have been there all along, and prevented the original crew from going back. He's long-lived enough that he could have been there from the beginning, probably.
- Even if he hadn't been there from the beginning, he could have engineered the situation from whenever he did arrive (though why he would would have turned up there at all, I don't know). Thing is... even if he didn't engineer the situation as such, he could easily have steered it in the direction of cyberization, getting people to think that that was the only way, even though it wasn't the only way. He could justify it (if he even bothered to "justify" it) as "helping history take its course".
- Note that Razor's role in that society is unclear: the Nurse said that he works for her, but he basically seems to do what he wants.
- Note the inconsistency, that Razor said that there had been an expedition to floor 507 which had never come back (and thus it was too dangerous to go) and yet the group who took Bill had easily made it all the way to floor 0000.
- I wouldn't be surprised if he himself killed the expedition to floor 507.
- Note that Razor keeps on saying that cyberization will make them "strong", but it's really doing the opposite, considering that the cybermen are crippled with pain, and just shuffle around when they can move at all, not to mention that their machinery stops working when they leave the hospital! (Or is that just the non-fully-upgraded machinery? Still, not a helpful thing.)
- Note that Bill was taken to undergo full conversion as soon as it was clear that the Doctor's party were going into the lift. It would be just like the Master to let her live in hope for as long as possible, and then destroy her at the last minute.
- The technology was very crude, if the cyberization was causing so much pain. Because that much pain would indicate (a) nerve damage, (b) misfiring pain signals, (c) actual incurable damage; none of which would happen in any well-made cyborg tech.
- We know that the Master is well-versed in cyberization technology, since he invented the Toclophane, who were basically brains-in-a-jar with antigravity and weapons. And it's not like there were a lot of resources at the end of the universe, so one couldn't use "lack of resources" as an excuse. So he could have improved their cyborg tech, but he chose not to. Why? Possibly because he's a sadist.
Now... Missy. And the Master.
"Hello, Missy. I'm the Master, and I'm very worried about my future."
(Also: goatee! goatee!)
We don't know what happened next. And in the next scene, we don't know what's going through Missy's mind. Yes, she does seem to be all cosy with Simm!Master, but we have no idea whether she would lie to her former self, or, indeed, whether her former self would be able to overpower/control her. So far as I know, this is the first time we've had two Masters together at the same time. The other interesting thing is that we don't know when Simm!Master regenerated into Missy, because when she turns up she's all "Yes, I'm not dead, what did you expect?" I don't know if that means that we're going to see Simm!Master regenerate in this story; depends whether it serves the plot, I expect. Though if he did, it might explain why s/he had forgotten what happened just beforehand, since regeneration can sometimes mess with one's head...
"I waited. I waited. I waited for you, Doc-tor." Oh Bill.... Talk about a fate worse than death. Because I don't think that one can be de-cyberized once it happens. That's been pretty consistent all through Who. So she's basically dead. Which, as Lizbee pointed out, makes a pretty bad track record for Persons-of-Colour in Doctor Who. Though I can't forget what happened to Donna, either. I'm not sure which one is worse, so far as "a fate worse than death" goes. No, Bill's fate is worse, because she's going to suffer until she dies.
Regarding the Doctor's reminiscing about him and the Master as children, and him wanting to reform her...
DOCTOR: She's my friend. She's my oldest friend in the universe.
BILL: Well, you've got lots of friends. Better ones. What's so special about her?
DOCTOR: She's different.
BILL: Different how?
DOCTOR: I don't know.
BILL: Yes, you do.
DOCTOR: She's the only person that I've ever met who's even remotely like me.
BILL: So more than anything you want her to be good?
Now, Lizbee pointed out "What about Romana?" but I admit that didn't occur to me. Yes, Romana is a fabulous foil to the Doctor, but she isn't a natural rebel; she had to learn that from him. And seriously, the first thing I thought of in relation to the above bit of dialogue was the whole arc in Twelve's first season, where Missy was trying to prove that the Doctor was just like her. This is the mirror of that; the Doctor is afraid that if he can't reform her, then he really is "just like her", and that he will go the same way. After all, he's touched darkness more than once; he's not so sure of himself as he was before the Time War.
Mind you, I love it when they work together.
DOCTOR: Those things are going to repair her, so clearly she isn't.