This week’s official part one of the Doctor Who season finale opens up with a haunting monologue from the Lone Cyberman himself. We see dead Cybermen body parts floating around in space before we zoom through the eye of a Cyberman’s head, beautifully transitioning to the opening titles. A wonderfully inventive way to kick off the episode.
Picking up from last week’s “The Haunting of Villa Diodati,” the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her trio of companions track down the signal to the Lone Cyberman. At the edge of humanity, a tiny group of refugees remain on a desolate outpost.
The Doctor, Ryan (Tosin Cole), Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) all attempt to defend the perimeter, but the kooky-headed Cyber drones are able to quickly wipe them out. Enter the Lone Cyberman and his cronies of 2006-era Cybermen.
The Doctor, with perfect delivery from Whittaker, continues with her darker and grittier tone, snapping back at her companions for stating the obvious. Unfortunately, the quartet is swiftly split up as the few Cybermen move on with the defensive.
Yaz and Graham are stuffed into a rickety old ship along with some of the refugees. They’re able to make their getaway. The Doctor, Ryan and young survivor Ethan (Matt Carver) run rings around the Cybermen and are able to escape in one of their ships.
Split up across the universe, Yaz and Graham convince the group of survivors to use their rust bucket of a ship’s last remaining power to thrust them over to a drifting ship they spot. This ship, the group later discover, is a Cyber war carrier. Said ship is hosting thousands of dormant Cybermen ready for battle.
Elsewhere, the Doctor is greeted by a projection of the Lone Cyberman aboard his ship. He tells his story of how he was a human trapped in a Cyber internment camp, rejected by the conversion. He now believes he has a greater purpose, to bring the Cyber race to a higher plane of existence. It’s very obvious that there’s still some human part of him left.
The Doctor and crew then make it to Ko Sharmus, what the Doctor believes is a location. Instead, Ko Sharmas is not a place, but a person, played by the lovely Iain McElhinney. Ko Sharmas is the keeper of the boundary, a portal that transports people to another unknown part of the universe. It’s a risk survivors are willing to take to evade the Cybermen, and it’s where Graham and Yaz’s new friends want to get to as well.
As all this is playing out another side story is unfolding. In early twentieth-century Ireland a young man comes across an abandoned baby. Later he and his wife adopt the boy and name him Brendan. Brendan grows up to become a police officer. When confronting a thief he is shot and falls backwards over the side of a cliff.
His police chief rushes to his side, but by surprise Brendan wakes up unharmed. Years later, Brendan is an old man retiring from the force. He is given the gift of a clock, and as he leaves the station, he is confronted by the police chief and his father. Mysteriously, neither seemed to have aged.
They lead him back inside and without much resistance they erase Brendan’s mind. What’s going on here? Are they Time Lords in hiding? Hence the clock? Are they aliens? With the brief return of Captain Jack (John Barrowman) and all seasons of Torchwood being uploaded to BBC iPlayer last week, could this be an early version of the secret organisation? In the series it was common for members to use retcon, a drug which erases short-term memory.
These questions remain unanswered within the episode, as far too much else is unfolding. The Cybermen troop aboard the war craft are awoken and descend upon Graham and Yaz. The future of both actors on the show is yet unknown for next season, so in a rare case for Doctor Who, their fates are unknown.
On the beach with Ko Sharmas, the Doctor stands before the boundary. A great oozing portal. Beyond she sees the destroyed Gallifrey, but before she can get a closer look the Master (Sacha Dhawan) appears. In a gloriously campy entrance, which he notes himself, his reappearance isn’t necessarily a surprise but a highlight of the episode just as the credits roll.