Following on from “Ascension of the Cybermen,”the epic Doctor Who Season 12 finale delivers thrills, home truths and revelations that will impact our understandings of the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her race forever.
Pulled through the boundary by the Master (Sacha Dhawan), the Doctor is separated from her companions. They arrive on the decimated Gallifrey. She asks the Master if doing this quenches the rage inside but it does make him happy.
Elsewhere, Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) are still trapped aboard the Cyber war-craft. Graham gets a grisly idea to hide from the Cybermen by wearing their armour. As the surviving refugees get to work removing human remains from inside the Cyber-suits, Graham and Yaz share a heart-warming scene about bravery. It’s a touching moment in an episode where the companions have little to do.
Meanwhile, the Lone Cyberman is aware of their presence. Unable to locate them he is more interested in the Master’s offer of a working partnership. Legions of Cybermen are sent down to the beach to take out the humans as the war-craft makes it through the boundary. Yaz, Graham and the refugees are able to reunite with Ryan (Tosin Cole), Ko Sharmas (Iain McElhinney) and Ethan (Matt Carver).
Back on Gallifrey, the Master traps the Doctor in a paralysis chamber, where she is unable to move. His consciousness meets hers in the Matrix, a Time Lord database which stores all their memories. The Master monologues the story of the beginnings of Gallifrey. We see an indigenous woman, Tecteun (Saylan Baxter), first explored the universe.
That’s when she came across a portal to another dimension, but at the bottom of this gateway was an abandoned little girl, just like the Doctor had seen previously this season. Tecteun adopted this girl. However, when the child was playing on a cliff side with a friend she fell backwards to her death. Just like Brendan did last episode.
Tecteun comes to her side, but the child regenerates. The first ever person on Gallifrey to do so, recites the Master. From there this child is experimented on throughout its adolescence. We see it taking male and female forms in multiple races. Finally, Tecteun is able to test her work on herself, regenerating.
Gallifreyan society then develops in a glorious montage of what appears like a miniature model city. The Gallifreyans now include Time Lords, the top position of Gallifreyan social status. But who was that Timeless child? Well, perhaps not to everyone’s surprise it was the Doctor.
Dumbfounded, she later decks the Master for more information, a wonderful outburst played by Whittaker. She is shown a scene in which (she) the Timeless Child, and her adoptive mother (now in male form), start secret work for “The Division.”
We see rapid flashes from last week’s episode with Brendan and his father in the police station, and the pieces start to fit together. The rest of this history is redacted from the Matrix. So, there are still many questions left yet to explore in Season 13 and onward.
As the Master’s consciousness taunts the Doctor, his physical self meets with the Lone Cyberman. Dhawan steals every scene he’s in with his captivating persona and unhinged madness. It’s a joy to watch him onscreen. The Lone Cyberman tells him that he holds a device, The Death Particle, that will destroy all organic matter. He wants to use it to create a new Cyber race, with no humanity.
The Master warns that’ll make them just robots, so he shrinks the Lone Cyberman down. This releases the Cyberium, to whom the Master invites to take him over as its new host. This deluded genius now decides to utilise the recently deceased Gallifreyans he slaughtered. He tortures the Doctor with new creations. An overly camp mashup of Cybersuit and Time Lord regalia, Cyber Masters, with the innate ability to regenerate.
But the Doctor’s still trapped in the Matrix too. After an appearance from the Ruth Doctor (Jo Martin) she is encouraged to try and escape. We see a glorious montage of the Doctor’s life: every face, foe and companion. Including her new history. When she wakes, she is greeted by her companions who came through the boundary, but knows she has to get them to safety.
She discovers the Master’s plan, and sends the humans in a swanky new Tardis back to present-day Earth after destroying the Cyber war-craft. This did not feel like a farewell to the companions so we’re sure to see them at least one more time.
In the final showdown, the Doctor confronts the Master but she’s unable to destroy her home planet. Cue flashbacks to “The Day of the Doctor.” But just in the nick of time, Ko Sharmas has stayed behind. He assures the Doctor this is his fight, as it was his resistance that sent the Cyberium back in time to begin with.
The Doctor escapes Gallifrey as The Death Particle is detonated. We don’t see what happens to the Master, so let’s hope this wasn’t the end of Dhawan’s incarnation just yet. Back on her own Tardis it’s clear the Doctor is rocked by these revelations, but she barely has a second to process.
A fleet of Judoon have finally located their fugitive, the Doctor, and in the blink of an eye she is transported to a prison cell in a maximum-security facility. So, as season finales of old have ended, the Doctor can only ask “WHAT?!”