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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

167 Comments

  1. Chris Gerrard
    June 26, 2017 @ 9:22 am

    I really don’t understand the grand appeal of this one. It’s certain well done, but as you say without the second part, it’s very hard to get a feeling of what the point of this was.

    My main issue was the absolute lack of characterisation of any of the sigh Mondasians involved with the conversions. Are they just evil, are they callous and heartless (the Trumpcare solution) or do they genuinely believe turning people into cybermen is the only solution? With no-one but Razor (who’s lying the whole time) getting any scenes about them, it’s very hard to get involved.

    Also the odd looking man with a foreign accent who pretends to be nice but is underneath it all evil seems a very misjudged move for Dr Who 2017…

    Reply

    • mr_mond
      June 26, 2017 @ 9:38 am

      “Also the odd looking man with a foreign accent who pretends to be nice but is underneath it all evil seems a very misjudged move for Dr Who 2017…”

      I didn’t think of it that way, but it’s a very valid observation. Perhaps a redemptive reading of that could be “a man who pretends to be ‘one of us’, but really has ties to the ruling elite, betrays a working-class, queer woman of colour”?

      Reply

    • Przemek
      June 26, 2017 @ 10:12 am

      But that’s just it. What’s evil about this man is not his foreign accent. It’s the fact that he’s actually a white British former Prime Minister.

      Reply

      • Chris
        June 26, 2017 @ 10:59 am

        That’s a fairly good save. Especially with his blonde, aryan-esque look.

        It still strikes me as something that wasn’t considered though, that shoving the Master in a King’s Demon’s style outfit was the thought-process, with a slight lack of consideration to the possible implications either way.

        Reply

      • Kaan Vural
        June 26, 2017 @ 11:19 am

        I’d argue that it’s still problematic in that the story chose to have Harold’s disguise be a shifty comedic foreigner stereotype when it could have been, say, anything else. I mean, that’s unironically the intended source of the character’s “charm” right up until the reveal, 95% of the way through the episode.

        Reply

        • Przemek
          June 26, 2017 @ 11:47 am

          Interesting. Not being from UK or the US, I didn’t recognize this character as a foreigner stereotype. Ours is different.

          Reply

          • Kaan Vural
            June 26, 2017 @ 2:02 pm

            I’m not from the UK or US either – but perhaps the Slavic stereotype sticks out a little less to Polish viewers?

          • Harlequin
            June 26, 2017 @ 7:34 pm

            Zathras never struck me as Slavic 🙂

          • Kaan Vural
            June 26, 2017 @ 7:49 pm

            Not familiar with his character. But Mr. Razor’s accent is pretty clearly a Slavic one, or intended as such. (Note the pronunciation of “command” as “kom-yend”.)

          • Harlequin
            June 26, 2017 @ 10:42 pm

            As Roderick T. Long linked earlier:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v79fYnuVzdI

          • mr_mond
            June 27, 2017 @ 7:17 am

            Polish viewer here, and I definitely read him as a “funny Russian” type. But then I never watched Babylon 5 and I have no idea who Zathras is.

          • Przemek
            June 27, 2017 @ 8:35 am

            Also Polish viewer here, I didn’t recognize the accent (or the stereotype, or B5 reference) at all. To me he was vaguely foreign, but that’s pretty much it.

          • Dave
            June 27, 2017 @ 2:59 pm

            Clearly, he had to have an accent of some sort to disguise Simm’s real voice.

      • Bob Dillon
        June 26, 2017 @ 3:43 pm

        There is definitely world and time enough here, after all “Cannot run out time. There is infinite time. You are finite. Zathras is finite.”

        But noone ever listens to Zathras

        Reply

  2. mr_mond
    June 26, 2017 @ 9:27 am

    It worked for me as an extended mood piece – like you said, all the important stuff will probably happen in The Doctor Falls, so I’m perfectly happy to get a penultimate episode consisting of just 45 minutes of slow dread punctuated by moments of horror and peppered with bits of interesting iconography. And there was plenty of that: the keyboards and volume knobs were particularly great, as was the timey-wimeyness and the screen showing what happens on floor 0 in real time.

    John Simm playing a Mighty Boosh character was delightful and I’m looking forward to a re-watch concentrated on his performance – I only realized who he really was when he met with Missy.

    I was very disheartened by the expectation in some circles that Bill will die or be left as a Cyberwoman permanently. It seems vicious and cruel, particularly given that her whole story arc was framed as finally getting an opportunity to learn and acquire experience that she was previously denied. It would be at least as bad as Donna’s fate, but I am confident that that is just something that Moffat would never do to a companion. (The trailers certainly help).

    As for how Bill will actually exit the series, I’m still holding out hope for the return of Heather. It could happen.

    My ranking right now:

    Eaters of Light
    World Enough and Time
    Oxygen
    Extremis
    The Lie of the Land
    Pyramid at the End of the World
    Smile
    Thin Ice
    Knock Knock
    Empress of Mars

    Reply

    • thesmilingstallioninn
      June 26, 2017 @ 6:14 pm

      Personally, I’m concerned that Bill’s always getting into trouble. I mean, the Doctor’s companions do have a tendency to be in danger, but how many times has Bill actually died?

      Think about it, she died twice in Oxygen, she died in Extremis, and she’s been threatened more than a ton…I don’t know, maybe it’s just that they’re trying to compress a bit for a potentially one-season companion. And she’s learned a lot, I suppose, but not quite what she expected.

      The nature of the knowledge she’s gaining versus the nature of the knowledge she hoped to gain might be discussed as well. It’s been a learning experience in some ways, but not entirely the academic nature she was looking forwards to. Discuss.

      Reply

  3. Kaan Vural
    June 26, 2017 @ 9:27 am

    My personal little prediction is that the glowing hand we see in the last shot of the “Next Time” trailer is Simm’s, with Harold having disguised himself as the Doctor in some gambit that causes his regeneration and marks some redemptive turn.

    Maybe it’s just because I’m already sick of seeing Capaldi regenerate this season and I want this to be something else. I dunno.

    Reply

    • Yossarianduck
      June 26, 2017 @ 10:46 am

      The Whithouse Taint persists.

      Reply

    • Roderick T. Long
      June 26, 2017 @ 5:40 pm

      If Simm regenerates, it’ll presumably be into Missy.

      Reply

      • Kaan Vural
        June 26, 2017 @ 5:47 pm

        Sure. I’m just trying to reconcile the two apparently separate scenes of Capaldi regenerating. The hand in the grass appears male and with a white shirt underneath, suggesting Capaldi and not Simm, but that doesn’t quite mesh with Capaldi in the snow.

        So I’m guessing it’s either a sort of “fits and starts” regeneration, like how Tennant and Smith “reset” before the change, or what we’re seeing there is Simm, wearing a white shirt for some reason, and that’s him regenerating into Missy.

        Reply

        • Daibhid C
          June 26, 2017 @ 9:19 pm

          The more I think about it, the less I believe in this regeneration sequence. My sister proposed that it would be very Moffat for the regeneration to happen at the end of the next episode… and we don’t see who the new Doctor is. Which made me think, is it really possible that the Thirteenth Doctor has not only been cast but has filmed at least one scene … and their identity is still rumour and conjecture?

          (I’d like it to be. I’d love to watch the regeneration energies die down and have absolutely no idea who I’m going to see. I just can’t believe it’s possible in this day and age.)

          But that got me thinking; it’s been established previously in this season that the Doctor can fake regeneration whenever he feels like it. Maybe one of those scenes isn’t a real regeneration. And if one, why not both? And then the actual one in the Christmas special, by which time we will all be well aware of who he’s going to turn into, possibly following a televised announcement.

          Reply

          • Chris
            June 27, 2017 @ 12:11 am

            Given the snow, my assumption is that the regeneration happens in the Christmas episode. What worries me is that this two-parter is actually a three-parter, and we’ll ultimately be let down by the expectations we build up over the months.

          • Roderick T. Long
            June 27, 2017 @ 12:52 am

            I’d be happy to have it be a 3-parter, if we get more of Simm and Gomez in the last act.

          • Harlequin
            June 27, 2017 @ 10:13 am

            Christmas specials need to be self-contained, though. They may reference series storylines but they’re written for family audiences, many members of which don’t follow the actual series.

          • Przemek
            June 27, 2017 @ 8:39 am

            Capaldi will regenerate into Mr. Razor, surely.

            The thought of this finale being a three-parter with six months of waiting between part 2 and part 3 scares me.

  4. Przemek
    June 26, 2017 @ 10:02 am

    I feel like this episode is the point where two ways of watching “Doctor Who” – the “I watch when it’s on the telly” one and the “I read DW Magazine and am deeply knowledgeable about DW history” one – clash irreconcilably. You wrote a review that’s more about the paratext, the next time trailer and the rumours about this year’s Christmas Special than about the episode itself. Whereas for my girlfriend, who’s a casual viewer, this was one of the most exciting and shocking episode of DW ever. She was literally speechless for minutes after it ended. It’s like “World Enough and Time” can’t escape the crushing gravity of its own promotional material. Once you’re aware of it, it all becomes a waiting game of “when will the Mondasian Cybermen show up?” and “this funny guy kinda looks familiar, doesn’t he?”.

    And the episode knows that. It aims to play with the expectations of people who come in knowing fully well that Capaldi is leaving, that Pearl Mackie will probably follow suit and that we’re gonna have Cybermen and two Masters. That’s why it begins with the regeneration teaser and hides John Simm under the prosthetic. That’s why Bill gets converted – she’s leaving, so she may really die. It all works. And yet I feel like something is lost with this approach. And not just plot twists and cliffhangers. Viewed through that lens, “World Enough and Time” is not so much a story as a magic trick. We’re openly invited to guess how the magician did it, how the elements will connect and how the whole season/12th Doctor finale will play out. But that requires ignoring the magic itself.

    I usually try to find the middle road between the two approaches to watching television. I start watching from some critical distance and if the story’s good, I slowly allow myself to enjoy it more. This week’s episode pulled me in harder than I expected. It scared me, thrilled me, shocked me. And yet I can’t stop thinking about how much more exciting it would be if I could just jump in like my girlfriend did. That’s why I didn’t watch the next time trailer and I feel like I should avoid all discussions about DW for a while, including this comment section. Because I feel like I already know too much about the Christmas Special. In June. And that makes me just a little too sad.

    Reply

    • Roderick T. Long
      June 26, 2017 @ 5:42 pm

      “That’s why I didn’t watch the next time trailer”

      So you missed the scene where Missy regenerates into Romana? And Nardole is revealed as a Dalek?

      Reply

      • Harlequin
        June 26, 2017 @ 8:41 pm

        I am wondering if there’s a revelation about Nardole coming up 🙂

        I don’t read DWM and, although I knew Mondasian Cybermen would feature in the episode (and would have preferred this to have been omitted from the promotional material), I enjoyed the manner in which their iconography was gradually introduced. I had entirely forgotten that Simm was going to appear in this episode or next.

        Reply

      • Przemek
        June 27, 2017 @ 8:41 am

        Well, I missed those in the trailer but they were all leaked in 2004, so…

        Reply

  5. Anton B
    June 26, 2017 @ 10:15 am

    The title – ‘World Enough and Time’ from Andrew Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’ one of those ‘carpe diem’ poems. “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero” – “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow” will be familiar to most from that awful Robin Williams movie. In the context of Marvell’s poem, it is best exemplified by the line ‘But at my back I always hear / Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near; And yonder all before us lie / Deserts of vast eternity’

    I’d like to think Steven Moffat is a scholar of early metaphysical poetry but I suspect he might have come across the line in the opening scene of the classic wartime fantasy movie Powell and Pressburger’s ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ (1946), where it’s spoken by the protagonist, pilot and poet Peter Carter played by David Niven.

    I wonder if any of this will carry into ‘The Doctor Falls’? (A title depressingly close to ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ and we know where that leads) Still, I’m more cautiously optimistic about the finale than you Phil.

    As to this episode, I thought Moffat, initially reluctant to indulge Capaldi’s request to bring back the Mondasian Cybermen, embraced the perceived weaknesses of the original 1966 cloth-and-plastic design to good effect. I particularly enjoyed them being able to feel pain but not care as a direct homage to that chilling line from ‘The Tenth Planet’. “Care? Why should I care?”

    The hospital, reminiscent of the eerie wartime wards in ‘The Empty Child’ or one of Derren Brown’s more macabre hypnosis pranks was like the worst NHS funding cuts nightmare made flesh. The uncannily mundane body horror of having to wheel around one’s own life preserving intravenous drip like a surreal hat stand will be familiar to anyone (like myself) who’s recently been hospitalised.

    I did laugh at ‘Razor’s’ meta comment on Classic Doctor Who’s sometimes tedious pace as he and Bill watch the world’s slowest TV programme “He’s been raising that eyebrow for a week”.

    On the downside once again a person of colour is ‘killed’ and then depicted reduced to mopping floors. I suppose we can forgive this as a way of showing Bill’s degradation. The metaphor of her losing her heart and having it replaced with an artificial one is poignant. (Could Cyber conversion actually be preferable to death for Bill as a character?) but I feel this has been somewhat undermined by the skill with which Pearl Mackie has owned her character and earned the love of the viewers. We care what happens to her.

    Reply

    • mr_mond
      June 26, 2017 @ 10:36 am

      “I’d like to think Steven Moffat is a scholar of early metaphysical poetry”

      Well, he did study English and then taught it. He’s probably familiar with the classics of English literature.

      Reply

      • Anton B
        June 26, 2017 @ 3:33 pm

        Indeed he did. I might be undeservedly maligning him.
        My point was more about the film ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ which also quotes the poem. In that movie Niven cheats death when his fighter plane crashes and is forced to bargain for his life in a kind of heavenly court of law. Making me wonder if Moffat is planning some kind of finale regeneration plea bargaining between the Doctor, Missy and the Master for the life of Bill.

        Reply

        • Roderick T. Long
          June 26, 2017 @ 5:50 pm

          Marvell’s poem is frequently quoted in science fiction and fantasy. There was a Star Trek: New Voyages episode titled “World Enough and Time.” Peter Beagle has a novel titled “A Fine and Private Place” (i.e. the grave). Ursula Le Guin has a short story (about “vegetable love”) titled “Vaster than Empires and More Slow.”

          Marvell’s poem is also relevant in that Missy’s full name appears in the title.

          Reply

          • Roderick T. Long
            June 26, 2017 @ 5:52 pm

            Also, the poem’s closing lines — “though we cannot make our sun / stand still, yet we will make him run” — remind me of River’s telling the Doctor: “You and me, time and space: you watch us run!”

          • Josh Marsfelder
            June 26, 2017 @ 7:34 pm

            And naturally, Roderick beat me to the joke I’d been planning to make for days ever since I read Phil was going to be talking about a Doctor Who episode with that title.

            I’ll just leave this here than and get out:

            http://www.eruditorumpress.com/blog/wild-child-world-enough-and-time/

            I highly doubt this will be a selling point for anyone, but a revised and edited version of that essay will be a chapter in Vaka Rangi Volume 2, due out this September.

          • Roderick T. Long
            June 26, 2017 @ 8:21 pm

            And I didn’t even mention this little-known portrait of Andrew Marvell:

            https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/13/65/c3/1365c3aa4129dd87c3633a9d70daae41.jpg

          • Sean Dillon
            June 27, 2017 @ 12:13 am

            And, of course, there’s the line that provided the title for another episode…
            “I would
            Love you ten years before the Flood,”

          • Roderick T. Long
            June 27, 2017 @ 12:53 am

            Damn! How did I miss that?

          • Przemek
            June 27, 2017 @ 8:43 am

            Damn. This poem is the key to the whole Moffat era. If only we knew.

          • TJS
            June 27, 2017 @ 9:31 am

            Well it’s a key reference in the the novel “The Time Travellers” wife – which was the clear inspiration for the River Song arc.

    • John
      June 26, 2017 @ 2:07 pm

      It’s a “Seize the Day” poem whose import is very clearly, “We don’t have much time, so let’s fuck”

      Reply

      • Anton B
        June 26, 2017 @ 3:34 pm

        Well indeed.

        Reply

  6. Przemek
    June 26, 2017 @ 10:23 am

    One more thought: as much as I liked all the references to the classic series, I felt like Missy’s “I’m Doctor Who” was way too much on the nose. I’m all for meta commentary, but it should work on both levels: in and out of universe. Whereas here the explanation felt too contrived to be convincing. I felt the same about the “Exposition and Comic Relief” joke. It amused me, but at the same time it kinda made me groan.

    Reply

    • Aylwin
      June 26, 2017 @ 11:33 am

      At the subtler end of the on-the-noseness (subtle enough that I’m not quite sure I’m not imagining it, but I think it’s a joke), I liked “It’s his real name”, “What?!”, “Look at the screens”.

      Reply

      • Richard Pugree
        June 26, 2017 @ 12:09 pm

        As far as I’m concerned “Look at the screens” was my favourite line of the episode, is definitely a joke, and carried the rest of the scene (which could otherwise have fallen a bit flat

        Reply

    • Harlequin
      June 26, 2017 @ 8:52 pm

      Followed, however, by, “Those were genders.” 🙂

      Reply

      • Przemek
        June 28, 2017 @ 8:30 am

        Yeah, that line saved it.

        Reply

  7. Kaan Vural
    June 26, 2017 @ 10:30 am

    I know those scenes where the Doctor breezily dismisses Bill’s fears about Missy are supposed to emphasize the depth of his failure when she’s shot…but as I watched them, I couldn’t help but get irritated, since the season itself has been ignoring Bill for the most part – since Oxygen if we’re being charitable, and since Thin Ice if we aren’t. It pushes the episode from being an indictment of the Doctor into being an accidental admission of the season’s error – within the season itself!

    The Cyber-horror is probably the best ever done…which makes it all the more galling that no thought has gone into the logic behind them. As ever, Moffat seems unwilling or unable to tell stories about societies, only competing heroes. The Cybermen exist because of a few sinister, motiveless villains rather than a wider problem with the world they live in. As much as John Lumic was a Davros rip-off, he lived in a world that magnified his personal obsessions into a larger-than-life threat – the fetishization of technology, the unfettered corporate influence, the ignored underclasses ripe to be used as fodder for experimentation, the parasites helping Lumic along for personal gain and never suspecting how far he would really go.

    In a better story, Mr. Razor would have been a character with an actual stake in the world, who could offer some sort of real perspective on it. A Binro the Heretic type, perhaps. Someone whose support for Operation Exodus stemmed from his own health issues or fear of weakness, whose good-natured ribbing masked terror of what he must have suspected the project’s endpoint to be.

    But to the end, the potential for sincerity is thrown out in favor of self-awareness. Re-enacting the (hackneyed) Master reveal is more important than a living, breathing character. Re-enacting the (excellent) 1966 Cyberman design is more important than showing why it’s there. Re-treading (dull) ground about the Doctor’s name is more important than getting to the plot. Half of the interesting ideas here will probably be thrown out next week rather than risking audience boredom by being developed or paid off.

    I think it’s telling that your review goes into the actual content of the episode very little – not about you, but about the show. Despite the flashes of brilliance – and despite my personal enjoyment of a great deal of Moffat’s run – this feels like a show that stopped caring about the content years ago, and is now only capable of existing as a meta-commentary on itself. And, well, that’s just not as interesting, it’s not as exciting or thought-provoking. It’s taking my interest for granted, rather than working to keep earning it.

    A lot of this is shouting into the wind considering Moffat’s about to go, of course…I seem to remember experiencing this frustration right around The End of Time, too. It’s most likely some sort of necessary catharsis in preparation for the next fella. I’ll probably rewatch this episode a few years down the line and enjoy it more, once I don’t have to pair it with the feeling of “this is what Doctor Who is like for the foreseeable future”. But it’s terrible shame that this is an era I’ve learned to dislike less, rather than an era I’ve learned to like more.

    Reply

  8. Aylwin
    June 26, 2017 @ 10:40 am

    Loved this. There’s no telling what will happen next week, but it’s sitting at the top of my season rankings right now. I would certainly put it far above Dark Water, which had a wonderful first few minutes and then went mediocre, whereas this was brilliant right the way through.

    And I’m not sure that line about The Final Problem quite lands, because my expectation of that the week before was that it would be downright terrible. And for all its serious flaws, it actually turned out considerably better than that. Though perhaps it’s still not an entirely encouraging sign that the whole Vault/Missy/Master strand this season has “From the writer of The Final Problem” quite so clearly stamped all over it – both in terms of Missy’s obvious correspondence to Euros, and in terms of Harold standing in relation to Missy as Euros does to Sherlock, as an older, badder version of a character now moving towards redemption, reaching out to drag them back. It would be interesting to know which version of the idea came to Moffat first.

    As it turned out, the thing I liked least was the Master reveal. Having got so caught up in everything else that I had basically forgotten he was going to be turning up at all (yeah, my brain doesn’t really function that well these days), I didn’t twig until his scene with Missy. Which was disappointing, because I was really into Mr Razor – finally, a one-off character with something going on! Strange, sympathetic, shifty, cute, sinister and very funny. I wanted to find out more about him. Then the dawning realisation that, oh bollocks, it’s just the Master isn’t it?

    Incidentally, surely he disguised himself specifically for Bill’s benefit, didn’t he? We didn’t see him before she arrived, and he would have plenty of time to get ready – years, actually – while she was being fetched from the bridge.

    Reply

    • Przemek
      June 26, 2017 @ 10:49 am

      That makes a lot of sense, actually. Bill is pretty young but there’s still a chance she might recognize a former Prime Minister. In Master’s mind that’s probably enough to decide “welp, I guess I gotta hide under prothetics for years now!”. I like that reading.

      Reply

      • Chris
        June 26, 2017 @ 11:04 am

        I’m still not sure (I’m sure this’ll be explained next week) whether the presence of the Doctor, Bill and Missy was part of Harold’s plan. Presumably it was, since he seems to only care about scarring his and the Doctor’s friendship… Why would he be helping to create the Cybermen unconnected from their presence?

        This is one of those issues of motivation (like with the Mondasians) that I’m hoping will be sorted out next week.

        Reply

        • Aylwin
          June 26, 2017 @ 11:28 am

          As far as the disguise is concerned, I don’t think that matters – he has live footage of the bridge, so even if it was not part of his plan, he would have seen them once they arrived, and Bill would be easy enough to place in a social context where his getting recognised would be a possibility.

          And I think that for the Master, getting disguised is never hard to justify – we’re in “any excuse to wear a dress” territory.

          Reply

          • Roderick T. Long
            June 26, 2017 @ 6:33 pm

            He does always dress for the occasion. Or so I hear.

        • thesmilingstallioninn
          June 26, 2017 @ 6:29 pm

          I’ve got a head cannon that the Master arrived at the bottom of the spaceship, saw what was shaping up there, and maybe pushed things around a little bit for some amusement. And then he was about to leave when he saw the TARDIS start to arrive at the top of the spaceship. So he decided to settle in more, wait for the Doctor to show up, and disguised himself, even, for some amusement. (Remember, all those cameras pointed straight at the TARDIS when it arrived, so the Master knew the Doctor was here from the get-go.)

          Then the door opens, and the Master might recognize himself, Missy, stepping out of there–he’s shocked, maybe angry, he decides to wait and see what’s going on, sees how it all plays out. He immediately picks out Bill as the Doctor’s main companion, and when she’s shot, then he decides to really play his game with her and get Missy blamed.

          Reply

          • Roderick T. Long
            June 26, 2017 @ 6:35 pm

            “I’ve got a head cannon”

            Sounds formidable.

          • thesmilingstallioninn
            June 26, 2017 @ 10:06 pm

            Haha, you know what I mean, a fan’s idea of what happened.

  9. Richard Pugree
    June 26, 2017 @ 12:21 pm

    I disagree that this would represent a fizzling out of her storyline if something doesn save Bill next week. I hope that that this is the end of Bill’s story. After an episode characterised by the inevitability of her conversion, and the horrifying wait to hear the crushingly inevitable “I am Bill Potts”, if she’s offered a get out I’d be disappointed. Mind you, I thought that after Face the Raven and loved what Hell Bent did with Clara in the end, but I’m not sure that will work twice.
    And Bill becoming (and remaining) the first Cyberman because the Doctor was emotionally manipulating her into accompanying Missy because of all the Timelord friendship stuff takes us somewhere nastily interesting.

    Also, it would be the perfect reason for the Doctor to send himself another face-choice message and regenerate into Pearl Mackie.

    (Also, Missy is gonna kill John Simm, right?)

    Reply

    • Richard Pugree
      June 26, 2017 @ 12:26 pm

      (I don’t mean to say that the review suggests she should be saved specifically. What I mean was that I think what we’ve seen is already a satisfying end to her story, so I don’t share your concern that she needs resolving next week, particularly.)

      Reply

      • Przemek
        June 26, 2017 @ 1:03 pm

        It might be a satisfying end to this season’s Doctor’s story. But I don’t see how it’s a satisfying end to Bill’s story. “Hey, don’t trust that guy who broadens your horizons and helps you to do more in life than just serve chips. Because if you do, he’ll get you horribly mutilated”.

        Reply

        • Lambda
          June 26, 2017 @ 1:27 pm

          Since the guy who broadens her horizons and helps her to do more in life than just serve chips has already been written as a guy who also takes humans to a place where they immediately get shot, it is in fact unwise to trust him no matter what happens in the next 45 minutes, so I think that’s irretrievable.

          The reason I’m not feeling any great need to a proper end to Bill’s story is that I’m not convinced it actually exists, at least as something of any significance. She’s done plenty of good ordinary-person reacting to things and getting involved in the individual stories in various ways, but I’m not seeing much interesting overarching character development which needs concluding. It’s the same way I have no problem with, for instance Liz’s departure; moving onto another project, yes, makes perfect sense, I’m sure she says goodbye to the Doctor at some point, but it wouldn’t be in a very dramatically interesting way, so no need to show it.

          Reply

          • Richard Pugree
            June 26, 2017 @ 1:56 pm

            “Hey, don’t trust that guy who broadens your horizons and helps you to do more in life than just serve chips. Because if you do, he’ll get you horribly mutilated”.

            But I don’t think that’s the story here. It’s not ‘trust and expanded horizons = danger’. It’s something more like:
            ‘even the guy who is otherwise brilliant and expands your horizons and has taught you incredible things about the universe shouldn’t get to make you do things that you’re really uncomfortable about and scared of just because he’s otherwise brilliant and expands your horizons and has taught you incredible things about the universe’.
            Particularly as it comes after an earlier episode explicitly about consent (even if that episode wasn’t sufficiently thought through and followed up on), and occurs in an episode which explicitly flags up the Doctor’s continued poor treatment of Nardole (a la K9), and both Nardole and Bill of them as functions and disposables.

            The Doctor doesn’t really share Missy’s view of them, but his obsessing over has preoccupied him to such an extent that he’s taken Bill for granted and been increasingly treating her in that way.

          • mr_mond
            June 26, 2017 @ 2:03 pm

            That still operates on a kind of horror movie logic, where Bill doesn’t get a chance to act on that realization – the mistake she makes (if we want to call it that) – is punishable by death/space lobotomy.

            I think this logic is fundamentally incompatible with Doctor Who when it comes to the regular cast.

          • UrsulaL
            June 26, 2017 @ 4:01 pm

            If you’re talking about consent, the Doctor’s “you said ‘yes’ in my head” to Nardol is awful.

          • Przemek
            June 27, 2017 @ 8:50 am

            Richard Pugree: Well, that works better. But do we really need another story about how the Doctor sometimes puts people in danger? That’s not really a criticism of the character. It’s a criticism of the action adventure genre.

      • Jane
        June 26, 2017 @ 1:17 pm

        My concern with this being read as a “satisfying” end to Bill’s story is that not only is it possibly the most horrifying fate for a companion since Sara Kingdom, it’s absolutely the wrong message to send regarding the show’s first queer companion, a woman of color. It’s a bad, bad trope, especially after killing and converting Danny Pink.

        Representation matters, and so does destroying the accretion of tropes surrounding it. I think I’ve finally changed my mind on how to do that — I used to like the trotting out of a bad trope only to undermine it, but right now I feel so angry and scared and disgusted with the show for its (highly effective) treatment of Bill I’m practically shaking as I write this.

        And now my eyes are bloodshot. Great. So, um, yeah, let’s not do this anymore, please. Let’s just stop using those tropes altogether.

        I can’t believe how ready I am for the show to change hands.

        Reply

        • ScarvesandCelery
          June 26, 2017 @ 1:54 pm

          Well put, Jane.

          Personally, I still think invoking a bad trope and then subverting it is still a legitimate thing to do in fiction, and I sure as hell hope next week subverts all the negative tropes Bill’s conversion brings up, and that it’s utterly triumphant and joyous, just as “Hell Bent” was for Clara in series nine.

          But I am at the point where just avoid negative tropes when telling stories involving underrepresented groups, and just telling newer stories that provide positive representation seems a far better option.

          Reply

        • CJM
          June 26, 2017 @ 2:54 pm

          Would bringing Heather back to give Bill an alternative to travelling with the Doctor but still experiencing the universe work?

          Reply

        • Elizabeth Sandifer
          June 26, 2017 @ 2:57 pm

          I have a little more patience for trope subversion than you, I think. I’m fairly tired of it as a straight “look, we pretended we were going to do the awful thing but then we didn’t.” Which is a bar that, for instance, A Good Man Goes to War/Let’s Kill Hitler clears, but that this probably won’t.

          The flip side, though, is that I don’t think it works if putting a diverse character into a narratively well-defined slot involves diluting what that slot does to keep the character safe. Bill hasn’t been put through anything Clara and Amy weren’t also put through. Whereas the “bury your gays” trope is specifically about queer characters getting singled out for misfortune. Bill hasn’t been, except inasmuch as her misfortune appeared in a particularly well-done episode.

          Reply

          • UrsulaL
            June 26, 2017 @ 4:46 pm

            Amy got her Rory. Clara got to become the Doctor, with her own immortality and TARDIS and companion. Each got their heart’s desire in the end.

            What has Bill gotten? Her every romantic attempt has been thwarted. She seemed to be enjoying studying with the Doctor as he tutor, but that seems to have fallen away.

            And the Doctor really seems to have demoted her to a second-class companion position. It’s one thing for the Doctor to fail to protect a companion, but in this episode, he seemed indifferent to Bill’s safety and her own fears for her safety. By contrast, the Doctor, as both Eleven and Twelve, was fiercely protective of Amy, Rory and Clara, as well concerned with their happiness and comfort.

          • Quicksilver
            June 26, 2017 @ 5:37 pm

            The Doctor-Bill relationship this season has been quiet disturbing. All the “duty of care” stuff from S8 and S9 has been abruptly abandoned. I would love Bill to repeat Clara’s Kill the Moon dialogue in which she points how patronizing and cheap he has been to her. He cruelly mocked her in Lie of the Land, put her in danger against her will in Oxygen and World Enough, and has shown no depth in his relationship with her. His blindness in Oxygen was portrayed not as a retribution for putting Bill through an adventure which he repeatedly said she did not want to be in, but as a saviour and a hero who sacrifices his eyes and is able to save the world despite it (Extremis). In Pyramids, his foolishness at not trusting Bill was twisted into Bill’s fault for putting the world in danger for saving his life (Lie of the Land). And in World Enough, the prelude was quite condescending to Bill. Missy, apparently the only person who is remotely like him (hmm, what happened to Clara and his other “best friends”) was worth more than Bill’s life, which is so expendable because she is a human. And then he forces Bill and Nardole to be her companions in a life-threatening situation involving a black hole (and responding to a distress call in the same way as in Oxygen). The Doctor has been portrayed as incredibly obtuse this season and without any character arc that has developed from S8 and S9. Bill’s total lack of any agency in this episode where she is just a pawn for Saxon and the Doctor was smoothly hidden by the direction and the macabre atmosphere that was so skillfully done by Talalay, but scratch the surface, and there is a troublesome sore there in the writing. I don’t think the last episode will be enough to redeem the deep faults this season. A confrontation will be somewhat satisfying nonetheless.

            It has not got as bad as S6 where Amy’s role was reduced to being a womb, the Doctor’s mother-in-law, and Mrs. Rory Williams (and of course River into a trad, sexist role of being the Doctor’s wife whose entire life from birth to career to death revolves around her husband). But after all the amazing writing in S8 and S9, it feels more disappointing.

          • Kaan Vural
            June 26, 2017 @ 5:51 pm

            It’s not even that the Doctor’s relationship with Bill is so lacking – Series Three took the idea of a Doctor and companion who didn’t quite bond as much as you’d expect and went to some pretty interesting places with it. It’s that this series rarely took the time to explore what Bill and the Doctor’s emotional relationship was like, to the point that we don’t even know if it was a distant one. To me, that’s the difference between the Doctor not caring about Bill – which is a valid storytelling choice – and the show not caring about Bill, which is pretty unforgivable to me.

          • mr_mond
            June 27, 2017 @ 7:37 am

            So the knowledge brought by the travels with the Doctor would be bitter and sad, resulting in a kind of dark enlightenment? (Yeah, I’ve been re-reading The Tenth Planet essay). That would certainly fit with Bill’s conversion, although we’ll see if that’s what Moffat had in mind next week, when the whole thing is resolved and Bill has a chance to react to what happened to her.

          • Przemek
            June 27, 2017 @ 10:14 am

            Very well put. I wonder if this change in the Doctor’s attitude was perhaps intentional. After all, he did forget Clara and their experiences together. We saw that when Donna forgot the Doctor she reverted back to her original characterization. Could the careless and distand Twelfth Doctor we see this season be a version of that exact scenario?

            (It’s perhaps worth noting that if that’s the case here, The Doctor wouldn’t just revert to his harsh self from season 8. In some way he would have to revert to the Doctor before he even met Clara. That is, the cold and distand Doctor from after the Ponds left. The one who carelessly got Victorian Clara killed).

          • Harlequin
            June 27, 2017 @ 7:48 pm

            Whether Mr Moffat’s intent or not, this seems to make sense to me.

          • Elizabeth Sandifer
            June 26, 2017 @ 7:28 pm

            Amy and Clara hadn’t gotten these things as of their penultimate episodes either. There’s still plenty of time to turn this around. It’s just that there’s a lot else to do next week too.

          • UrsulaL
            June 26, 2017 @ 7:51 pm

            There was no doubt of the strength of Amy and Rory’s relationship for a long time before they left. The show might have killed off one or the other, but there was no question of either choosing anything but to be with each other.

            And Clara’s desire to travel with the Doctor (addiction) was also well established well before her last episode.

            But what does Bill even want? Aside from going to lectures and intense academic tutoring. She’s been fairly uncomfortable with the adventure/save people lifestyle the Doctor prefers. She agreed to be his student, not his travel companion. The one trip we know she asked for was focused, in her mind, on academic research. And the Doctor will never settle down to be the lecturing professor and tutor she initially was captivated by.

          • Andrew Gordon
            June 26, 2017 @ 8:21 pm

            She strikes me as sort of a Rose figure- unhappy but not strictly suffering(except in the way we all suffer in The Modern World), unsatisfying job with little hope of much better coming along, doesn’t even have Rose’s bright spot of a good relationship with her mother, because her real mother died and her foster mother is so poorly-suited to it that Bill hasn’t even come out to her. Bill’s habit of getting crushes easily, and her idealised mental image of her mother, makes me think that what she really wants is love, or a close connection with someone like she never had with her mother. The Doctor gives her something like that, which is why she hangs around with him. I’m not 100% on that though, I’ve only been watching casually. But my guess for her ending is that she leaves The Modern World (which she doesn’t care for and which doesn’t care for her) and, still somewhat in Cyberman form, travels the universe with the girl in the star in her eye. Since this episode is calling back to Death In Heaven, maybe they’ll end up “just passing through, helping out, learning” and become a sort of inheritor of the Doctor like Clara did.

          • UrsulaL
            June 26, 2017 @ 11:06 pm

            The key to Bill’s characterization is, I think, “got a job serving chips at the university so she could sneak into lectures.”

            She’s clearly underprivileged, without the resources to attend university as a student. (Someone more familiar with the UK system for funding college tuition and expenses could help expand on this.)

            But she’s also academically curious – she’ll never get credit for the lectures she sneaks into, or be able to put the things she learns on a resume, but she sneaks in anyways, because she wants to.

            Bill studies with the Doctor for at least half a year, before getting into the TARDIS. ‘

            Unlike Rose, who wants to run away from her life, Bill isn’t looking for a way to go anywhere.

            And Bill seems uncomfortable on the TARDIS and with travel – upset at all the death, targeted repeatedly, questioning the wisdom and safety of the trips and the Doctor’s decisions.

        • Roderick T. Long
          June 26, 2017 @ 5:59 pm

          “the show’s first queer companion”

          While sharing your concerns, I have to point out that (even apart from Moffat’s Moffaty hints as to Amy and Clara being bi), the show’s first queer companion was surely Jack Harkness.

          Reply

          • Lambda
            June 26, 2017 @ 8:38 pm

            The full qualification I think you need would be “the show’s first unambiguously queer TV primary companion”.

            (I think there’s circumstantial evidence for Turlough. And of course Chris in the NAs, etc.)

          • Harlequin
            June 26, 2017 @ 10:03 pm

            The first television companion known to be exclusively non-heterosexual?

          • Roderick T. Long
            June 26, 2017 @ 10:27 pm

            That’ll work.

    • David Anderson
      June 26, 2017 @ 2:14 pm

      I think it’s some of the legacy that Davies left the show. He set it up with Rose and Donna that nothing short of unrequited love for the Doctor would motivate a companion to stop travelling. (And even then Martha falls back into the Doctor’s orbit.) So now in order for a companion to move on something traumatic has to happen that forces them to move on. It’s a bit of a poisonous legacy.

      Reply

      • Andrew Gordon
        June 26, 2017 @ 3:23 pm

        I really disliked the precedent that the departure of a companion must be the most heartbreaking tragic feels fest, which is hoped was broken by Clara getting a much more upbeat exit. Fingers crossed that there’s something more like that in store for Bill.

        Reply

        • mr_mond
          June 26, 2017 @ 3:57 pm

          I would go even further and argue that the precedent was broken by Amy. Sure, there was a lot of crying on all sides, and there was some heartbreak involved, but we’ve seen that for Amy happiness lies with Rory – that’s why she continues to choose him, time and time again – and that’s how she departs as well. The real tragedy would be if they were torn apart and not allowed to reunite.

          Reply

          • David Anderson
            June 27, 2017 @ 9:58 am

            Nevertheless, while Amy and Rory would both clearly prefer having a happy life in the past with each other to being separated from each other, it is still very much making the best of a situation they wouldn’t have chosen.

      • Przemek
        June 27, 2017 @ 10:43 am

        I think it’s a bit more complicated than “Davies’ poisonous legacy”. I never really watched the classic series, but from what I’ve read it seems like the main reason why many companions left the Doctor easily and without much heartbreak was because the show itself was lacking in the emotions department. The characters simply weren’t allowed to react appropriately to the situation at hand. What Davies did, then, was essentialy inserting emotions where they should’ve been all along.

        I mean, ask yourself: would you be able to stop travelling with the Doctor easily? Sure, there are things that might eventually drive one to leave. Constant danger, family matters, love for someone else. But these are all very strong motivations. Bill has none of them. Or at least none of them is powerful enough to outweigh the joy of travelling in the TARDIS.

        Reply

        • Lambda
          June 27, 2017 @ 8:38 pm

          I can only think of two classic series companions whose departure seemed emotionally inappropriate, and both of those were slightly unusual cases, Leela, which was done at the last second because they were trying to persuade the actor to stay, and Mel, who was fundamentally misconceived from the beginning.

          The key change made by RTD (well, started by him and taken to its conclusion by Moffat) was actually to the Doctor’s behaviour; he now goes and picks up companions who have gone home for a bit. Early in the series he couldn’t because he couldn’t steer the TARDIS, but if you look at Sarah, she leaves diegetically because the Doctor is called back to Gallifrey and aliens aren’t allowed. She still wants to travel, a new series Doctor would just come and get her again after he’s been to Gallifrey, but this Doctor just goes off into the universe. So the choice is far more stark. Nyssa leaves because she finds a place where she can achieve a purpose. That’s more important, and for her, it means no more TARDIS travelling because the Doctor won’t be coming back.

          But I think there’s something very dodgy in insisting on emotionally realistic reactions in a show like Doctor Who for which realism isn’t much of a goal. When to be realistic and when not to be depends on the needs of the story being told and personal preference, there’s no inherent reason one sort of realism should take precedence over any other. As someone who lives in the real world, if I were to start TARDIS travelling, not only would there be the small problem that those action adventure situations would probably soon just plain kill me, there would also be issues like most of the past stinking of raw sewage, most alien planets having totally unbreathable atmospheres, people of the future being totally unrelatable if not incomprehensible etc. Not to mention how to justify not using the technology around me to do stuff like eradicate malaria.

          The joy of travelling in the TARDIS is intensely unrealistic, it’s there so viewers can experience the joy of watching Doctor Who. Which is a very good reason for it. But it makes realism in anything connected with it a very hard thing to insist upon.

          Reply

          • Przemek
            June 28, 2017 @ 8:42 am

            Psychological realism surely applies to most kinds of fiction? Or at least the broad strokes of it. That’s the realism I was talking about.

            The joy of travelling in the TARDIS is an amplified version of the joy of any kind of travel and discovery. And so we expect the characters to enjoy the trips, because we enjoy going to exciting places too. Just scaled down and not quite so deadly.

  10. Andrew Gordon
    June 26, 2017 @ 12:57 pm

    It was disappointing that it was all building to three twists, two of which anyone who’d happened to glance at Episode 10’s “next time” trailer knew going in, but that’s not really the episode’s fault. I really like Moffat’s solution to the Mondasian Cybermen looking goofy: build up to them slowly with the reveal of the Cybermen itself as the culmination of the horror throughout the episode, and then put Bill in one. There’s a lot I’m apprehensive about though: the plot seems a bit thin (we need to be strong for the dangerous journey to the top of the ship, where there is one guy who’s terrified of us, which we know because we go up there periodically to snatch any humans who turn up) and what exposition there was turns out to have come from the Master, making it unreliable at best. Bill’s dead mother and horrible foster mother are almost certainly not being resolved- I can’t even see any ending to her story here except dying in such a way that the Doctor ends up trying to stop himself regenerating (to just die?) which doesn’t sound at all satisfying, except to all those people who screamed about Clara getting “brought back” from her death. I hope they’re not the audience.

    Reply

    • Przemek
      June 26, 2017 @ 1:14 pm

      To be fair, the only Mondasians who travel to the top of the ship are those almost converted ones. I highly doubt anybody except the hospital staff (manipulated by the Master) even knows about these trips. As far as most people are concerned (again, manipulated by the Master) there’s something terrible at the higher decks and simply going up unprepared is not an option.

      Reply

      • Harlequin
        June 26, 2017 @ 10:13 pm

        I agree that the alleged dangers of travelling up are probably misinformation and that the true motive for converting people lies elsewhere, possibly even beyond the failing environment of the lower floors. It could indeed just be the Master having fun creating one of the Doctor’s main foes.

        Personally, I’m one of those who hopes to see the return of Heather in Bill’s future.

        Reply

  11. Lauri Franzon
    June 26, 2017 @ 12:57 pm

    Interesting. And I thought this was the satisfactory result of Moffat finally trying to actually wright a plot rather than pretentious puzzle box -shaped showpiece about how clever he is, decorated with comedy beats and Moffat tropes to disguise the fact that the actual story is worth 25 minutes at best. To my mind, we get one great episode from him a year, and can’t help hoping that next week breaks the trend.

    My rankings, out of the episodes I’ve watched:

    Oxygen
    Eaters of Light
    Thin Ice
    World Enough and Time
    Pyramid at the End of the World
    The Pilot
    Extremis
    Knock Knock
    (I expect the rest would land somewhere between The Pilot and here)

    Reply

  12. Quin
    June 26, 2017 @ 1:50 pm

    Where is Eric Roberts when you need him!

    Reply

  13. Kyle Edwards
    June 26, 2017 @ 2:49 pm

    A few points that I’m confused about:

    1. You’ve taken the critical position that Season 9 is Capaldi’s best season. Yet, weighing all their grades together (I know it’s pedantic, but whatever) gets Season 8 a GPA of 3.54 and Season 9 a GPA of 3.20. Was Zygon Invasion/Inversion enough to make the failures of Whithouse and Gatiss irrelevant?

    2. The flashbacks are important, I think, as an immediate reminder of the specific relationship between Bill and the Doctor, on who’s strength the entire episode lies. Also, I think that it’s just inherently worthwhile to have a conversation where the Doctor reveals that the Master was his “man crush”.

    3. Even though I’ve heard the joke that the Master has no reason for the disguise (seeing as he was never Prime Minister of the Mondasians), and even though I’m inclined to agree that the Master is just that extra, it’s not quite accurate. My view is that he put that disguise on knowing Bill was coming – he was her Prime Minister.

    Reply

    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      June 26, 2017 @ 2:58 pm

      1. Don’t assign my grades that much weight.
        2) That seems necessary only because of poor work on the part of Gatiss and especially Whithouse.
        3: That makes Harold’s role among the Mondasians rather more confusing than if he was just consistently their bumbling henchman.

      Reply

      • Harlequin
        June 26, 2017 @ 10:21 pm

        As Aylwin pointed out, though, Harold probably had years after seeing Bill’s arrival to establish the Razor persona and integrate himself as the janitor/henchman.

        Reply

      • Harlequin
        June 26, 2017 @ 10:51 pm

        Oops! I meant thesmilingstallioninn, of course; not Aylwin.

        Reply

  14. Froborr
    June 26, 2017 @ 3:34 pm

    So out of curiosity, was I the only person surprised by the reveal that Zathras was really the Master? Because I’m a bit embarrassed if I was, especially as he DID seem really familiar to me, but eventually I concluded that was because he looked a bit like Simon Pegg.

    (Yes, I know he wasn’t really called Zathras, but that’s all I could think of throughout the episode.)

    For whatever reason, my brain kept getting nitpicky about the physics in this one, no matter how many times I told it “This is Doctor Who, shut up.” Dunno why this episode in particular got me that way.

    Favorite line of the episode was Missy declaring Exposition and Comic Relief to be genders.

    Reply

    • Richard Pugree
      June 26, 2017 @ 3:45 pm

      That was a brilliant line.

      Reply

    • Lambda
      June 26, 2017 @ 3:53 pm

      I was surprised that he turned out to be John Simm, but that was because I had forgotten Simm was going to be in the story. I guessed that the character was the Master at one point because he insisted that Missy had been there before and I wondered how he’d know that, but my thought was a previously unseen pre-Delgado incarnation, possibly with this being a story about what made him evil, prompted by the Doctor’s comments about their distant past.

      Reply

      • Roderick T. Long
        June 26, 2017 @ 6:05 pm

        I think the moment I first recognised Simm was when he says, about the Cybermen, something like “they’re the cure, they’re the future” and there’s a closeup on his face.

        In my defense, I was watching on a smaller screen than usual.

        Reply

    • Daibhid C
      June 26, 2017 @ 9:36 pm

      Not only did I not recognise him, but it was the ending credits before I realised they’d done a James Stoker and not a Norman Stanley!

      Reply

      • Harlequin
        June 26, 2017 @ 10:24 pm

        This was me as well.

        Reply

        • Richard Pugree
          June 27, 2017 @ 12:00 am

          I promise I’m not trying to be that guy… but I’ve been really amazing by how many people have said things like this. I knew Razor as John Simm from the first scene we saw his face – to the point that I was thinking “oh god why are they showing this dodgy prosthetic face is such full light, for so many seconds right away?”

          It’s weird how long they linger on that clearly lit face the first time he speaks to Bill, given how many subsequent shorts are in half-darkness.

          Now, I knew that Simm was coming back, but had kinda forgotten and not necessarily assumed he’d be in this episode. But then as soon as you see someone in disguise prosthetics it can only ve him right? Even if you don’t recognise him as John Simm, John Simm is the only person who’s going to be in disguise here? Unless people genuinely didn’t read Razor as a “REALLY OBVIOUSLY IN PROSTHETIC DISGUISE” character. And my own Companion actuall did know that Simm was coming back at some point, but didn’t realised it was Razor until the reveal, so obviously there is something going on there, but I genuinely find it hard to understand how he isn’t immediately apparent.

          What’s fun about it is they have to make the prosethetics bad enough/human enough to not get mistaken as normal alien make up effects. It has to be diegetic prosthetic, which for a programme that uses prosthetics so much in its costumes is fun.

          Reply

          • Aylwin
            June 27, 2017 @ 10:03 am

            I think the key is in your last paragraph – they didn’t do that. At least, I assumed he was an alien, what with the lumpy brows, the prominent canine teeth, and the fact that this was clearly an episode with random aliens knocking around, as with our trigger-happy chum from the Blue Man Group.

          • Harlequin
            June 27, 2017 @ 10:33 am

            Yes, I also assumed he was non-human. Hence the association with Zathras.

          • Przemek
            June 27, 2017 @ 11:49 am

            Some people, like me, are just not very good at face recognition. I recognized Simm somewhere in the middle of the episode, but that was pure chance – something in his eyes or maybe the tone of his voice triggered the recognition center in my brain. My girlfriend didn’t see through his disguise until his conversation with Missy.

            I think DW has conditioned us pretty well to ignore poor effects (prosthetics included) and to just assume that they look much better in-universe. So it never occurred to me that Mr. Razor’s prosthetic face is meant to exist in-universe.

          • Harlequin
            June 27, 2017 @ 7:56 pm

            What struck me as odd was that the reveal was edited to make the prosthetics appear to be a full face mask, which reinforced for me the impression that Razor had been a Norman Stanley (to use Daibhid C’s expression). Was ripping off the main part of the real prosthetic too fiddly and time consuming to show?

          • Roderick T. Long
            June 28, 2017 @ 5:53 am

            It’s kind of a standard science-fiction trope (a la Mission Impossible) to treat full face masks as though they’re much more realistic than they are.

          • Harlequin
            June 28, 2017 @ 9:39 am

            But this genuinely was a real working prosthetic, lumps of which could have been pulled off on camera.

            I suppose they could have been deliberately invoking the old trope. I suspect, however, that they tried doing it for real, it somehow went wrong, and they didn’t have enough spare hours to reapply everything for another go.

          • UrsulaL
            June 28, 2017 @ 8:45 pm

            It was a real prosthetic, but it could not have just been pulled off on camera.

            This type of prosthetic is attached in small pieces, and held down by adhesives. It needs to be removed very carefully, in order to avoid doing damage to the actor’s skin underneath.

            And they couldn’t just “rip it off” and show the actor as he appears with a removed prosthetic – skin red and irritated, no makeup. They needed to remove the mask and show him fully made up as Harold-Master, in character.

          • Harlequin
            June 30, 2017 @ 12:22 am

            Ah. Good point.

  15. Iain Coleman
    June 26, 2017 @ 3:39 pm

    It was quite delightful to have a proper bit of fundamental physics as the story’s central conceit for a change. Mind you, out of general interest I did some sums based on the relative time dilation between the front and back of the space craft, and it would require the ship to be practically touching the edge of the black hole. To an order of magnitude, the distance between the front of the ship and the black hole would need to be about 10^-10 times the black hole radius. For a stellar black hole, that’s about a micrometre, while for a supermassive black hole it’s about a metre or so.

    Reply

    • Aylwin
      June 26, 2017 @ 4:22 pm

      So if I understand correctly, what you’re saying is that it’s relative time dilation, in an amazingly compressed space?

      Reply

      • Andrew Gordon
        June 26, 2017 @ 4:31 pm

        That’s exactly what I thought. Relative time dilation, I thought, in an amazingly compressed space. You’re a mind-reader.

        Reply

        • thesmilingstallioninn
          June 26, 2017 @ 10:16 pm

          Could be the Master’s doing, after all, manipulating things with his TARDIS, or however he got here.

          Reply

    • TimC
      June 26, 2017 @ 5:15 pm

      It’s been a while since I seriously studied relativity, but I’m pretty sure the difference in tidal forces between one end of the ship and the other would have some pretty drastic effects on its physical structure.

      It’s called spaghettification.

      Reply

      • Kaan Vural
        June 26, 2017 @ 5:53 pm

        Perhaps it does. That might even explain the degradation in the ship’s lower levels – they’ve spent a thousand years trying to maintain structural integrity with limited input from the bridge computer.

        Reply

      • Iain Coleman
        June 26, 2017 @ 11:56 pm

        That too, but it’s harder to calculate tidal stresses when you only have five minutes, a pen and a post-it note.

        Reply

    • Froborr
      June 26, 2017 @ 5:24 pm

      I suspected as much, but didn’t have the math skills to say for sure.

      The physics nitpicks that jumped out at me were the spaghettification issue TimC mentioned, tidal forces, why they’re “reversing out” of the black hole instead of trying to slingshot around it, how powerful the artificial gravity must be to keep everyone on the top floor from squishing against the ceiling since they’re explicitly NOT in freefall (see “reversing out”), and how come said artificial gravity doesn’t cancel out the time dilation effects.

      Reply

      • Aylwin
        June 26, 2017 @ 5:48 pm

        Mathematics not Zathras skill.

        Reply

      • Iain Coleman
        June 26, 2017 @ 11:59 pm

        Well, artificial gravity is outwith the framework of general relativity anyway, so all bets are off as far as that’s concerned.

        Reply

  16. John Binns
    June 26, 2017 @ 3:47 pm

    Is it really Mr Razor and not (comedy accent) Mr Etsa?

    Reply

    • Froborr
      June 26, 2017 @ 5:25 pm

      The closed captions (at least on BBCA version) said “Mr. Razor.”

      Reply

      • Roderick T. Long
        June 26, 2017 @ 6:07 pm

        “Mister Razor” anagramises to “Master Zerro.” So near and yet so far.

        Reply

        • Daibhid C
          June 26, 2017 @ 9:39 pm

          The TARDIS Wiki suggests razor = knife = seax = Saxon. Yeah, me neither.

          Reply

          • Przemek
            June 27, 2017 @ 12:21 pm

            Maybe somebody finally realized there are only so many good anagrams of the word “Master” possible.

    • liminal fruitbat
      June 26, 2017 @ 7:53 pm

      The nametag on his key said “Razor”, unfortunately.

      Reply

  17. Tom Marshall
    June 26, 2017 @ 4:41 pm

    I think the best line was “I clear up on Wednesdays”. Grisly body horror and utter disregard for human life is reduced to a Kafkaesque bureaucratic rota.

    Reply

  18. David Ainsworth
    June 26, 2017 @ 6:16 pm

    I’m a little disappointed that despite all the callbacks to The Tenth Planet, what Phil’s written draws no real connection at all to his brilliant reading of that episode. Extremis was great even though the remaining two-thirds of that story didn’t work; World Enough and Time has some sharp limitations, but it’s full of interesting things, too.

    My color vision isn’t perfect, but the “IV stands” definitely didn’t have a blood-colored substance in them. Looked more like mercury to me. And while the story implied rather than pointing straight to its themes, they were still detectable. Industrial hellhole outside the conversion hospital, full of suffering people who don’t have voices (even after they’re brought in for conversion); evil white man claiming conversion makes those people “strong” and that’s what they need, pretending to be another working man of the people when he’s actually a Lord; a large number of short-lived poor folk in steerage versus a tiny number of long-lived people up top.

    But the central theme, calling back to the legacy of The Tenth Planet, is about what I’ll term the “regeneration gap.” Bill and Twelve have been close, but we (and Bill) can see in how he responds to Missy that there’s a difference. To the Doctor, we’re all the short-lived folk stuck in steerage. When he held his own people in contempt, he was the rebellious Lord sneaking into steerage and fighting for those people’s rights (where the Master snuck in to cause mischief). But now that he’s nostalgic, that changes. In the last episode, he wanted to stand in the gate because of the aging gap. And he knew what he was asking of Bill when he told her to wait for him. At the same time, his explanation seems indulgent, as if he doesn’t value her limited time that much, as if he were thinking about time like a Time Lord.

    One of the points of the Mondasian Cybermen, a point that this episode was content to leave stated in its title, is that while they were human, subject to all sorts of health problems leading to a short life, once converted their lifespans increase considerably. With the conversion process presented as an ongoing series of refinements, coupled to the post-Tenth Planet myth-making of the series, they become even stronger as a parodic version of the Time Lords. They keep getting new appearances while being more or less the same; they are defined alchemically; and at least for this episode, both travel around in a huge ship linked to a black hole, though the Cyberman version of time travel is strictly one-way here.

    We know what happens to Bill is horrifying. But the Doctor and Missy got her shot; the Master’s the one who saved her life. Conversion, not regeneration, of course, so it’s hollow. Qlippothic, even.

    The episode even brilliantly re-explains the Master’s joy in frivolous disguises. After all, who wouldn’t expect that a Time Lord would keep changing his face? Evil plot or not, the Master genuinely seems to enjoy being someone else for a while; strictly speaking, he’s likely spent more time with Bill by the end of the episode than the Doctor has, and he almost certainly knows her better.

    My hope for “The Doctor Falls” is that Bill gets agency and a choice in the same way that “Death in Heaven” gave Danny agency under somewhat similar conditions.

    Reply

    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      June 26, 2017 @ 7:26 pm

      Yeah, I’m not gonna start writing the Eruditorum entry 48 hours after the first half of a two-parter has aired. We’ll see how the symbolism shakes out and has time to settle, and I’ll start thinking about what to do with the word “qlippothic” sometime in 2018.

      Reply

  19. Roderick T. Long
    June 26, 2017 @ 6:18 pm

    “the Master disguised himself so none of the Mondasians would recognize him as the Prime Minister.”

    I take it that this whole setup has been for Bill, not for the Mondasians; Harold’s plan for averting his future self’s conversion to goodness is to become responsible for Bill’s being the first Cyberman, thus doing something the Doctor won’t forgive and so severing the growing bond between the Doctor and Missy and thereby undercutting Missy’s incentive to reform.

    Of course it’s a needlessly elaborate plan; he could have just shown up in London and zapped her with a disintegrator or something. But the Master’s plans do have a history of running to the needlessly elaborate. (Of course gaining her trust first does make the plan especially nasty. Interestingly, he is much better at faking friendliness than Missy is.)

    Two other points I’m surprised no one’s commented on:

    a) This episode is in many ways a remake of “The Girl Who Waited”: two timestreams, with the companion trapped in the fast-moving stream (and in a medical facility!), waiting in vain to be rescued by the Doctor, who’s trapped in the slow-moving stream (and even both getting the accusing line “I waited … I waited for you”) — plus both episodes have creepy robots/cyborgs trying to forcibly “cure” people.

    b) Bill’s single tear in the last scene — which (in a way that seems physically impossible, but whatever) leaps from her organic eye to her outer eye — seems a clear prefiguring of the tear-shaped notches that later cybermen will have in their eyes.

    Reply

    • thesmilingstallioninn
      June 26, 2017 @ 10:27 pm

      Personally, I don’t think John Simm’s Master had a plan as such to do anything against Bill or his future self before they arrived on the ship. I believe his Master might’ve been stuck there, possibly traveling through said black hole or something after End of Time, and so couldn’t leave to harm them beforehand or something like that.

      I did a previous comment about my idea of the scenario, how he came about with the idea to manipulate them in that long period of time he had when the Doctor’s TARDIS first started to materialize on board the ship and Bill got shot.

      Reply

    • Harlequin
      June 26, 2017 @ 10:36 pm

      I also felt some of the ‘The Girl Who Waited’ parallels and thought that the tear was deliberate prefiguring.

      Reply

  20. Tim B.
    June 26, 2017 @ 7:16 pm

    Must admit I was about ready to give up on the episode when Bill got shot. The whole avoidability of it by Bill simply getting into the very near and in no way unavailable TARDIS really, really frustrated me, in terms of stupidity it’s up there with Alien Covenant‘s ‘ooh look there’s a planet we know nothing about lets half-arsdedly investigate it like rank amatuers’.

    They did nail the Cybermen exquisitely, didn’t mind the Nicholas Briggs voice work as much as I usually do. (I feel there is something fundamentally wrong that the Daleks & Cybermen are voiced by the same person, smacks of lazy nepotism) and feel that the Cybermen’s voice should be some sort of voice synthesizer device to remove any trace of humanity so the keyboard system they used was a step in the right direction.

    I only realised who Mr Razor was about 10 seconds before the reveal. I’m going to claim that that’s a sign of good writing allowing my sub conscious time to pick up on the obvious cues.

    Hope that the Mondasian Cybermen are not vanquished by the New Series route-one robot CINOs but fear they’re done for thanks to a fatal combination of a misguided rule- of-cool favouring the obvious Iron Man Fan-designs & budgetary amortization of the costume costs. I suppose there’s something conceptual about obsolescence in that but that’s not something I care for.

    Reply

    • Harlequin
      June 26, 2017 @ 10:40 pm

      Briggs does seem uniquely talented in squeezing emotion out of seemingly synthesised voices and Dr Sandifer has greatly praised his work in the non-canon Genesis of the Cybermen story, ‘Spare Parts’.

      Reply

    • Przemek
      June 27, 2017 @ 12:34 pm

      But isn’t the avoidability of Bill’s death the point here? If the Doctor just grabbed her and shoved her into the TARDIS instead of delivering a monologue about his own importance, she might’ve been fine. It’s not the stupidity on Doctor’s part, it’s recklessness. And being so blinded by his desire to change Missy that he kind of forgot about keeping his companions safe. Just a few episodes ago he let Nardole get infected with a deadly virus that he barely survived.

      Reply

  21. 5tephe
    June 27, 2017 @ 2:12 am

    I’ve seen a few comments on this one and last weeks, about how it didn’t feel correctly moody with late afternoon summer sunshine streaming into the house.

    Fortunately for us antipodeans, especially Australians, we’ve had a spate of cold, dry, early winter days. And we’ve only just passed our shortest day of the year. That has made putting the kids to bed, then settling down in front of Doctor who with a rug over your knees and cuddling up to your loved one a real treat. Perfect mood.

    We also only picked John Simm when he started talking to Missy, so that was lovely. (I’ve been avoiding delving too much into the obsessive fan scene in recent years, and I’ve found it only improves my watching of the episodes.)

    Side note: Whovians is a bit of fun, on our ABC, too.

    Reply

  22. Citizen Alan
    June 27, 2017 @ 4:45 am

    A few thoughts:

    1. I was very put off by the Doctor’s absurdly flippant comparison of Missy being a mass murderer to Bill eating bacon. It all but validated Missy’s recurring suggestion that the Doctor’s alleged fondness for humanity is that of an indulgent pet owner. It brought back all my objections to Last of the Time Lords, where Ten could weep piteously over the apparent death of the Master when all he could do for everyone else he ever saw die was the occasional “I’m sorry.”

    2. Also, once I understood the nature of the time dilation, I was rather annoyed with the Doctor stopping to explain the time dilation to the Blue Man (since Missy and Nardole surely understood the implications). Surely he realized that every second he spent dithering at the top of the station meant days or even weeks for Bill at the bottom.

    3. It was subtle and may have been my imagination, but I think Bill got shot because she was trying to protect the Doctor in a call-back to Pyramid. Blue Man is panicking and plans to kill the human in the room. The Doctor rushes out of the TARDIS and she /immediately/ admits to being human after giving him a frightened glance. I think she was afraid that the Doctor would get himself shot, so she impulsively tried to save him (with disastrous results, once again).

    4. I am terrified that Moffet simply won’t bother to give us an explanation of how Harold ended up on the ship for years and years (based on the length of time between the TARDIS arriving and Bill encountering Razor, he must have been there for longer than their time together). I don’t think I could forgive the story just handwaving away the question of how Harold got from the End of Time to the start of this episode.

    Reply

    • Citizen Alan
      June 27, 2017 @ 4:54 am

      One more:

      1. Am I the only one who finds it slightly sexist that Missy is (assuming she hasn’t been faking the whole time) the only iteration of the Master who has the potential to turn good because as a woman she can get weepy over her victims in a way that her predecessors never could.

      Reply

      • Kaan Vural
        June 27, 2017 @ 5:48 am

        The Master’s potential for good was pretty strongly established before; that was kind of the whole point of Utopia, wasn’t it?

        Reply

      • Przemek
        June 27, 2017 @ 1:15 pm

        It was never suggested anywhere that the Master’s gender plays any role in this change of heart. All we know that his character changed with the last regeneration, just like the Doctor’s.

        Reply

    • Harlequin
      June 27, 2017 @ 10:41 am

      Turning up with no explanation ever given for how he escaped his/her previous predicament/apparent death has always just been one of those things the Master does, both in the Classic series and the current one 🙂

      Reply

      • Roderick T. Long
        June 28, 2017 @ 5:59 am

        True — explaining how Eric Roberts’ Master (ok, Bruce) got out of his last-seen fix is harder than explaining how Saxon survived.

        Reply

    • David Ainsworth
      June 27, 2017 @ 1:34 pm

      “1. I was very put off by the Doctor’s absurdly flippant comparison of Missy being a mass murderer to Bill eating bacon. It all but validated Missy’s recurring suggestion that the Doctor’s alleged fondness for humanity is that of an indulgent pet owner. It brought back all my objections to Last of the Time Lords, where Ten could weep piteously over the apparent death of the Master when all he could do for everyone else he ever saw die was the occasional “I’m sorry.””

      He’s clearly rationalizing his decision, which is established pretty clearly as a purely emotional one. He wants to believe there’s still hope, even for Missy. Even for himself. Don’t forget the reveal that he’s also a mass murderer (in Thin Ice) or the tag to The Lie of the Land, which underlines his fondness for Bill in a somewhat sinister way.

      “2. Also, once I understood the nature of the time dilation, I was rather annoyed with the Doctor stopping to explain the time dilation to the Blue Man (since Missy and Nardole surely understood the implications). Surely he realized that every second he spent dithering at the top of the station meant days or even weeks for Bill at the bottom.”

      On other sites it’s been pointed out that said Blue Man is still nervous and holding a gun, meaning that the Doctor wants to calm him down before HAI!

      “4. I am terrified that Moffet simply won’t bother to give us an explanation of how Harold ended up on the ship for years and years (based on the length of time between the TARDIS arriving and Bill encountering Razor, he must have been there for longer than their time together). I don’t think I could forgive the story just handwaving away the question of how Harold got from the End of Time to the start of this episode.”

      Either the Master will reveal his grand plan and it will parse without the TARDIS showing up on the bridge, or Moffat will simply reveal that Mr. Razor’s first name is Occam.

      Reply

  23. vikk27
    June 27, 2017 @ 10:13 am

    valuable topic

    Reply

  24. UrsulaL
    June 27, 2017 @ 2:49 pm

    One thing I just realized, that is part of the problem with this episode, is that the Doctor’s subconscious message to Bill, “Wait for me,” rendered her passive.

    There were many things that she might have done to explore the world she was trapped in, and to perhaps escape back to the Doctor or send him a message. But every time she began to be moved to action, she was reminded “wait for me” and rendered passive, again.

    Not helped by “Mr. Razor” also encouraging her to be passive.

    Oddly, that’s also what led to the “Doctor punches a Nazi” scene in “Thin Ice.” The Doctor, knowing she’d likely be faced with a racist and misogynistic attack, asked her to submit to it, so they could extract information. This rendered her helpless and passive. And in turn, the Doctor had to defend her when the attack was worse than he anticipated, because he’d explicitly asked her not to defend herself.

    So you have Bill, whose goal was always study, not adventure, being made even more passive by the Doctor’s choices, and also rendered ineffective by his lying to her (such as about his blindness), all working to make an unusually weak companion in certain ways.

    One being set up to fail.

    Reply

    • Przemek
      June 28, 2017 @ 9:02 am

      That’s a very good point. I love that reading, thank you!

      Reply

  25. Dave
    June 27, 2017 @ 3:07 pm

    Hate to be that guy, but your last line shouldn’t have the words “off of”. It’s just “off”.

    Reply

    • Harlequin
      June 27, 2017 @ 8:07 pm

      As an Englishman, “off of” seems right to me 🙂

      Reply

      • Roderick T. Long
        June 28, 2017 @ 6:01 am

        To me “on” seems more correct than either “off” or “off of.”

        Reply

        • Harlequin
          June 28, 2017 @ 9:42 am

          Actually, I entirely agree 🙂

          Reply

          • Dave
            June 28, 2017 @ 3:45 pm

            In this instance, “on” is preferable, yes. Generally, “off of” is erroneous. For good or ill, Americans are changing our language.
            Good article, though, and I liked the episode 🙂

  26. BeatnikLady
    June 27, 2017 @ 10:44 pm

    I think the point about Bill being rendered passive is valid. I was waiting for her to get a chance to at least plan and prepare for a theoretical escape. I didn’t like the theme of waiting that came up more than once with Amy – it was one of the things that lessened my interest in the series for a time. I also like Bill more than any companion since Donna, so it’s annoying that she didn’t get to just flippin’ well do something to save herself.
    OK – all that being said, this was quite an effective episode. It can’t be truly judged until the whole story has played out, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen anything this creepy in Doctor Who. I applaud Peter Capaldi’s request for Mondasian cybermen – and I say this as someone who so far has seen very little of the 1960s material. I’ve only seen clips of their first appearance, but always preferred them to the full-on robot look they were given later. Also, it may end up being too much, but the unusual feature of having a multi-Master series end is something I quite like. Hell – it’s worth having another run of John Simm, anyway.
    Overall, I like this series more than 9. The stories have a fresher tone (generally) with less use of ‘grand arcs’ for the sake of it. I like the Twelfth Doctor and Bill as a combination – even in stories that don’t use her time properly. Perhaps for me the arrival of Bill is like the arrival of Sarah Jane – just a pity she’s only doing the one series. Still, one series is a lot better than none.

    Reply

    • Citizen Alan
      June 28, 2017 @ 6:15 am

      Yeah, the Mondasian Cybermen are literally the only iteration of the Cybermen that have ever been scary. I wish Neil Gaiman had realized that when he disastrously tried to “make them scary again” in Nightmare in Silver just by making them more efficient killers. We knew they weren’t going to kill anyone we cared about, so they ended up not being scary at all.

      Reply

  27. phuzz
    June 28, 2017 @ 10:59 am

    Interesting review of part 2 (which I’ve not seen yet), but are you going to review “World Enough and Time”?

    I joke, but this was much more a review of what might happen/hasn’t happened/could happen, than what actually happened.

    Reply

    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      June 28, 2017 @ 7:29 pm

      Well yes, the conspicuous lack of things actually happening was rather my point. This is setup that doesn’t actually stand on its own.

      Reply

  28. Daibhid C
    June 29, 2017 @ 7:53 pm

    I’d say that I’m uncertain how this can be reconciled with Spare Parts, but frankly I don’t see how you reconcile the Cybermen beginning on a space ship slowly accelerating away from a black hole with The Tenth Planet, when they’re flying a planet around.

    Okay, I’ve been thinking about this, and FWIW my theory is that these are Mondasian Cybermen, but they’re not the Mondasian Cybermen. Like, Spare Parts is happening back on Mondas, but these Mondasians have reacted to their own problem by also cyberconverting everyone, because that’s just what Mondasians do.

    There are flaws in this theory – not least that it’s hard to imagine the Mondas of Spare Parts having the knowledge, resources and, honestly, motivation to build a massive touch-screen colony ship in the first place – but there’s probably ways round them. Maybe a lot of the infrastructure was provided by the blue people. (Come to think of it, the fact the ship was on its way to pick up the colonists suggests that either it wasn’t constructed on Mondas or the colonists weren’t going to be Mondasian.)

    Of course, it’s entirely possible that Saturday is going to make (even more) nonsense of all of this. But I’m a huge fan of Lance Parkin’s ludicrously over-achieving AHistory which just about manages the far more difficult task of getting Spare Parts to fit in with both The World-Shapers and the Barnes and Salmon comics where the Cybermen are Silurians, again by saying “Well, they’re not the same original Cybermen”.

    Reply

    • Harlequin
      June 30, 2017 @ 12:27 am

      I think I can reconcile this with ‘The Tenth Planet’ if the ship were to return to Mondas where the conversion fad takes off. There’s no real canon in DW, though, and the universe has been rebooted anyway.

      Reply

      • Daibhid C
        June 30, 2017 @ 5:55 pm

        I thought of that, but then that screws up Spare Parts. And much as I like this, I’d rather have Spare Parts as my headcanon’s Genesis of the Cybermen.

        Reply

  29. quicksilver
    July 2, 2017 @ 10:15 pm

    I am sure you are going to mention this in your review of TDF, but I could not help remark in this review that your “interesting bit of symmetry was indeed followed up on” (and in general there is a lot of imagery about monsters rejected by society because of their outward appearance). So I can’t wait!

    “One interesting bit of symmetry that I doubt will be followed up on: Bill as a Mondasian Cyberman crying vs Heather as a dripping Dalek.”

    Reply

  30. Eve
    July 6, 2017 @ 11:40 pm

    I confess I was more than a little concerned and disappointed, throughout the episode, that the writers decided to make the mysterious bearded man look like Fagin. His character put me on edge, partly because of the vague anti-semitism and partly because I had no idea who he was, what his relation was to anything around the ship, why he was there. Not!Fagin was a mysterious interloper, a complete blank, having a secure place in the ship but no clear reason to be a part of the hospital.

    What a relieving and satisfying reveal, that the character’s appearance and voice was a deliberate construction as opposed to something that was supposed to be real.

    Reply

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