Hello there! I hope you’re having a lovely day, maybe you’re getting the snow Seattle is so desperately lacking.
When I started writing this, it was 92 degrees inside the house, Canada was on fire and the my entire house smelled like curry, which isn’t exactly normal to say the least. I put this post on hold because I didn’t feel like I had the time to sum everything up correctly.
Now, with Doctor Who Christmas Special coming up in 4 days, I think it’s time to finish this.
The Season 10 finale aired this summer, and I have to say, compared to the rest of the season, it was pretty meh. I liked most of it, but the overall plot felt mediocre and a bit unsatisfying in a whole lot of ways.
Now, I’ve loved Doctor Who ever since I saw my first episode when Matt Smith was the new Doctor. The series is witty, intelligent television, sci fi with the heart of a fairy tale, holding a cup of tea and wearing a bow tie made of corny low-budget action sequences. It’s hope in the face of ever-increasing danger, a dream amongst nightmares, and I’d be lying if I said the reboot hasn’t been one of my favorite TV shows of all time.
Unfortunately, the first time I watched the finale I didn’t find it to be one of the highlights of Capaldi’s tenure. As always, I had to go back and rewatch it, and having done so I actually quite like it. There are lots of really good moments in the episode, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t applaud the acting; Capaldi has perfected exactly what his Doctor should be like, Michelle Gomez is always great as Missy, and was especially entertaining working alongside John Simm as the Master, and Pearl Mackie is so fabulous and believable as Bill.
Still, I feel that the season as a whole introduced many elements that it didn’t bring to their natural conclusion. Season 10 was actually my favorite season with Capaldi, and I see a lot of potential that was left untapped.
So, in honor of a wonderful show with a bright future, I’m going to continue this new trend I’ve started of rewriting the endings to stories I liked.
Let’s get started, shall we?
*Beware of SPOILERS for the last two episodes of Season 10*
The first episode of this two-part story arc actually set things up really well for an appropriately explosive ending. Allow me to set the stage for the finale.
The TARDIS, the Doctor’s time machine, is at the top level of a 400 mile-long space ship that is trapped but stationary in the pull of a black hole. Because it’s on the closest level to the black hole, time moves much slower there than it does at the opposite end of the ship.
Bill, a normal college-age girl, has been traveling the universe with the Doctor. She was taken to the lowest level of the ship where the Cybermen, an army of emotionless cyborgs bent on converting, or “upgrading,” all life into Cybermen, are upgrading the crew. Bill has been turned into a Cyberman/woman, but somehow can resist their mind control, because plot devices. Because she still has her personality, we see her as human for most of the episode.
The Doctor is the Last of the Timelords, aliens with the ability to regenerate into a completely new body when they’re about to die. He’s just arrived at the lowest level with Nardole, the comic relief robot-that-might-as-well-be-human.
And then there’s Missy and the Master, the other Last of the Timelords. They’re the same person at different points in time and different regenerations. The Master was the Doctor’s longtime nemesis, but Missy is an older incarnation and is trying to change her evil habits. For the moment, the Master controls the Cybermen and thinks Missy has joined him in trying to kill the Doctor.
Steven Moffat, the current showrunner, is being replaced after the Christmas Special coming out this year, and in order to give the next guy a clean slate, he decided he was going to get rid of all the supporting characters and have the Doctor regenerate.
Now, in the finale, the Doctor and everyone else escapes to a mid-level of the ship with no Cybermen, just a vaguely-sized agricultural community that hadn’t been captured yet (I say “vaguely-sized” because the Doctor says there are several hundred people, but we only ever really see 15 adults, so the stakes in saving all of them never seem very high). Basically, the Doctor sees no way of getting back to the TARDIS without being intercepted by the Cybermen since time moves faster at the lower levels, so instead of devising a clever plan to save everyone, he decides to sacrifice himself to save a few adults and about 20 children. Nardole is designated to lead them up a few levels to be stuck living on the ship, hopefully safe on another level.
And that’s it. Most of the adults die and the Doctor blows himself up to defeat some of the Cybermen. The Master escapes to his TARDIS on the lower level with a stab wound that causes him to regenerate into Missy, and the last we saw of Missy she was fatally wounded before the battle, the Master having somehow prevented her from regenerating. It’s just Bill alone crying over the Doctor, when suddenly her love interest from the first episode, Heather (AKA a water-alien called The Pilot that merged with Heather) swoops in, turns Bill into an alien like herself, puts the Doctor in his TARDIS, and then disappears with Bill to explore the universe.
I deeply respect Moffat’s skill as a writer, but this Deux Ex Machina is as lazy as it gets. The justification for the Pilot showing up when she did was her basically telling Bill “I left part of me in your tear ducts so I could find you when you cried” (the Pilot being composed of about 99% water). The timing of her arrival doesn’t even make sense because, at the end of the previous episode, we very clearly see Bill crying through her Cyberman mask, yet the Pilot didn’t show up then. It’s adorable, but a little too convenient for my taste.
That being said, there are only a few changes that I think are necessary to bring the finale that much closer to absolute brilliance.
Variations on the Theme
The Doctor’s sacrifice was the thing that made the least sense to me. While the finale can be seen to represent the futility of war and the importance of helping people even in hopeless situations, it really bothers me that the Doctor just decides that he has no chance of surviving. While valiant, his lack of self-preservation blatantly contradicts his aggressive desire to not regenerate at the end of the episode. I think the writers wanted to show that the value of saving lives is always worth the sacrifice, no matter how few you save, or for how long.
But some sacrifices are too great, and there’s almost always a better way to save people and be kind. Therefore! I contend that the Value of a Single Life is what you do with it, or in this case who you sacrifice it for. In fact, that’s a major theme throughout the entire season: finding out what one’s life is worth, and how that value is decided (the Doctor literally has a speech about it in the third episode). I’ll get to why this idea is important in a moment.
First, here’s how things could have been different.
The Season Capaldi Deserved
Let me say this outright: this season is about the relationship between the Doctor and Missy.
Or it least it should have been. She was literally the mystery inside the big box in the first episode, but she didn’t actually play a role until the final three episodes. Missy herself wasn’t even present before then, even though the mystery box was a huge deal. If I had things my way, she would have been released earlier so she could tag along with the Doctor for a few adventures. We’d get to see how she slowly learned to be good, and how she and the Doctor would react to suddenly being on the same side again (they were best friends when they were young).
By the finale, she would have almost become comfortable with the idea of being the selfless hero. She and the Doctor could be an inseparable and unstoppable duo. I would give anything to see that! It would all culminate in Missy literally facing her past demons in the form of the Master. It’s brilliant, and it almost happened! But alas, ’twas not so executed.
Doctor Who usually has great season-spanning story lines, but here they missed an ENORMOUS opportunity to do something cool with the elements they introduced.
The Finale Capaldi Deserved
So, going back to the Value of a Single Life, there’s one simple thing that would to speak to this idea and also make the Doctor-Missy relationship paramount:
Have the Doctor sacrifice himself for Missy.
Have that lead to Missy sacrificing herself to save everyone else. I originally thought it rather poetic that the Master and Missy killed each other, but Doctor-Missy complementary sacrifices is a lot more epic and impactful on so many levels.
Picture this: the Doctor is mortally wounded while saving Missy from being killed by the Master. In turn, this persuades her to sacrifice herself to save the humans from the Cybermen, thus concluding her redemption arc from evil nemesis to best friend.
That simple change alone would make the episode better, and if the entire season had included Missy more, then at least there would be some sort of season-spanning plot.
I have a lot more to say about the finale, but this is the most important change in my mind. If you want to read my full reimagining of the season finale, click here. If you like Doctor Who, I really suggest checking it out, it includes a lot of ideas that I’m really excited about.
To sum all of this up, there’s one quote in particular that seems rather appropriate for Capaldi’s time as the Doctor, and for the idea of the Value of a Single Life. It’s from a Halo TV miniseries, spoken by a former Spartan super soldier:
“Death will come to all of us. Especially soldiers. It will come, inevitable as the sun. It is only to be feared if you fear what is on the other side of it, if you see darkness in your soul rather than light. In a way, I suppose soldiers are gods. You give your life away so others will live in peace, even if it’s only fleeting. The ones who live carry parts of you with them, your deeds become seeds for theirs. The sacrifice carries forward. And in their final moments as a soldier, you know they will have to answer the same question you did in yours: with your life, would you only create death, or with your death would you create life? That is my question to you, Commander Locke, how will you die? And for what?”
– Spartan Randall, Halo: Nightfall, Chapter 5
The Doctor is a warrior, through and through, except he fights with his brain and his hearts rather than a gun. If there’s anything the Doctor stands for, it is the life that one can save with one’s own life. And if there’s anything Capaldi’s incarnation of the Doctor stands for, it’s the idea that everyone is worth saving.
That there is value in every a single life.
Before I go, I just want to appreciate Peter Capaldi for being a wonderful Doctor, and Steven Moffat and everyone involved in Doctor Who for making the show something truly special. They’ve done a wonderful job, and I’m as excited as ever to see what comes next with Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall as the new showrunner.
Now, all there is left to do is wait for the Christmas special! If you have any thoughts at all, feel free to comment down below.
Hasta la vista, muchachos/as. Happy Holidays and whatnot!