The Doctor Who Regeneration Review is a weekly column cataloging all the times Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor nearly regenerates, or dies, in the latest episode of BBC America’s popular science fiction show. Since this is the
Scottish “cross” character’s final season — a fact the showrunners have enjoyed teasing in the promos — we decided to tease back. Most items are serious, some silly, and all measured with the Doctor’s 💕.
Aside from Pearl Mackie’s debut as Bill Potts in “The Pilot,” Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has remained on the sidelines for most of this season while other writers tackled its stories. His absence has led to some intriguing plots for the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi), but Moffat returns in full force in the latest episode, which bears all the hallmarks of his unique — if not sometimes frustrating — style. It’s yet another horror-centric addition to Doctor Who, though Moffat does bring one of his more clever twists to it.
While the still-blind Doctor tries to appease the Vatican by investigating the Veritas, an ancient text whose interpreters all commit suicide after reading it, a periodic series of flashbacks finally reveals what he’s been keeping locked up inside that vault. It’s none other than Missy (Michelle Gomez), the current iteration of the Time Lord villain The Master, and it seems a planet inhabited by a race of executioners tasked the Doctor with her demise. As “Extremis” reveals, however, the Gallifreyan hero opts not to kill his “frenemy” and whisks her away (locked in the vault).
These flashbacks also explain the nature of the Doctor’s promise and why Nardole, who keeps reminding him about it, has been hanging around all season. In the moment prior to Missy’s decreed death, River Song’s ex-aide arrives disguised in religious garbs to remind the Doctor his deceased wife wouldn’t approve — thereby encouraging him to save Missy and hide here away in his vault instead. Unfortunately, all of this exposition kicks Mackie’s otherwise fantastic Bill to the side for most of the episode. Brief hints of her personal life pop up on occasion, but not enough to propel her ahead of the main story.