‘Doctor Who’ Regeneration Review: ‘World Enough And Time’ Goes ‘Interstellar’ For The Season’s Best Entry

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 ?.

Steven Moffat, the outgoing Doctor Who showrunner who has been helming the series since 2010, loves to recycle story lines and tropes on the regular. Certain episodes this season have proven this to be the case, especially this week’s penultimate “World Enough and Time,” which sees the dastardly return of the Mondasian Cybermen and the Master (John Simm). Yet it also includes a pivotal plot point last seen in the season eight finale “Death in Heaven.” In other words, a close (and human) confidant of the Doctor is transformed into one of the mindless Cybermen and used against him.

It’s also employed against the audience, to an extent, as the salvation of Bill is an easy emotional ploy meant to pull at the viewers’ heartstrings. And it works, though not nearly as well as the main aspect of the story established (and continued) by “World Enough and Time.” Taking a cue from writer and director Christopher Nolan’s science-heavy Interstellar, Moffat has concocted a plot in which time itself has become the enemy of the Doctor and his companions. Aboard a 400 mile-long ship teetering on the edge of a black hole, time moves far more slowly at one end than it does at the other.

As a result, the burgeoning civilization at the farthest end of the ship has plenty of time to seemingly create the Mondasian Cybermen — whose origins were largely bypassed in the 1966 serial “The Tenth Planet,” developed in the unproduced “Genesis of the Cyberman” series, and finally explored in the audiobook Spare Parts. Simm’s Master even name drops the “Genesis” title when he and his future self, Missy confront the Doctor and Nardole in the episode’s final scene, and it works beautifully as far as Doctor Who cliffhangers go. With his exit fast approaching, Moffat apparently wants to go out in a “timey-wimey” bang.

“No!” (??????)

The opening shot of “World Enough and Time” literally begins with a supposedly injured Doctor, clothes in tatters, exiting the T.A.R.D.I.S. in an unknown frozen landscape. Considering Capaldi’s otherwise kempt hair throughout the remainder of the episode (and episodes past), his decidedly longer, Jon Pertwee-like hair here suggests what we’re seeing occurs sometime in the Doctor’s future. Also, his hands and face are glowing with the recognizable golden shade of a Time Lord’s regeneration cycle, so this just might be a preview of things to come. (He’s also screaming the word “no,” which is probably a big clue about his fate.)

“Which of you is human?” (???)

Threats to the Doctor’s life — as well as those of his traveling companions — abound throughout this season’s penultimate episode. Several weeks of buildup has led to the ultimate test for the Gallifreyan hero’s lifelong friend and enemy, Missy (Michelle Gomez), who the former was previously keeping locked up in a vault hidden on a university campus. The Master’s current incarnation “saved” them all from certain death on “The Empress of Mars,” leading the Doctor to try and save her. Hence her posing as “Doctor Who” momentarily before a panicked, gun-wielding alien comes looking for their party’s lone human.

“Pay attention” (??)

Jorj (Oliver Lansley), the blue “smurf” who apparently just shot and killed Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) is now threatening the Doctor with the same gun. Why? Because what looks like a bunch of hospital patients have just taken Bill’s corpse down the elevators they came up in to “repair” her, and he wants to follow them. Jorj doesn’t like this, but he’s outnumbered by the Doctor, Nardole (Matt Lucas) and Missy — the latter of whom has no qualms about killing the ship’s janitor on the spot. He drops his gun, at which point the Doctor explains that the 400 mile-long ship’s placement near the black hole means time is misbehaving.

“Sorry, she’s cleverer” (????)

Brief moments of honesty notwithstanding, Doctor Who fans should know by now that Missy’s struggle to become good is too good to be true. She may be the Doctor’s oldest friend (and fellow last-surviving Time Lord outside of Gallifrey), but she’s also his oldest, most sadistic enemy. Her previous incarnation, the Master kept the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) as a pet and tortured him regularly throughout the third season finale. So when the Doctor tells Missy, and not Nardole, to discover what she can about the ship in their absence, everyone watching should have known that bad things would happen to all parties.

“I am Bill Potts” (?????)

While predictable from the moment Bill was fitted with a “new” heart, the episode’s big reveal that she had been converted into a Mondasian Cyberman feels like a rehash of the season eight finale “Death in Heaven.” For yet again, another one of the Doctor’s human associates has been upgraded, albeit this time the blade strikes much closer to his two hearts. What’s different about this moment, however, is the fact that the Master (in disguise) played such a pivotal role in ensuring Potts’ conversion. And now that he has seemingly joined forces with Missy, next week’s “The Doctor Falls” may prove to much for the titular hero.

New episodes of Doctor Who air Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on BBC America.