Tonight, Doctor Who made the Cybermen great again, after years of not knowing what to do with the show’s perennial runners-up in the “best monster” rankings. But it also delivered a dread-laden build-ups to one of the all-time great cliffhangers in the show’s history: one we have to talk about right now.
Holy cow. Right, let’s recap where “World Enough and Time” left us:
- Bill is now a Mondasian Cyberman, having been converted against her will by the doctors of a desperate, dying colony ship.
- And that was after she had a giant hole blown through her chest within the first 10 minutes of the episode, in one of the most shockingly violent acts against a companion since Katarina flung herself out of an airlock in “The Daleks’ Master Plan” decades ago.
- John Simm’s Master is back after spending 40 minutes dressed like Fagin from Oliver Twist (reader, it took me much longer into this episode than I’d like to admit to realize that Bill’s “friend” in the hospital was the Master in disguise) but at least he spent another two minutes dressed like a goddamn villainous badass.
- Oh, and Simm Master is probably on the way to undoing a lot of what the Doctor had done to help heal Missy, turning her back against him just in time for the birth of the Cybermen to terrorize the galaxy.
And most of that was in the final minutes of the show, without forgetting that the rest of it was a wonderfully horrifying build up and re-introduction to the origins of the very first Cybermen, back in action for the first time since 1966.
I’ve made no attempts to hide the fact that I love the Cybermen—especially the original design, the Mondasian version that lasted for just a single story before tonight. But in the years since they were re-introduced in 2006's “Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel” Doctor Who has really failed to capitalize on just how chilling and grotesque the concept of them is. They’ve been used more often as armored footsoldiers rather than the shambling, cybernetic remnants of humankind that they really are, and this episode brought that back to sickeningly scary effect. It’s such a shame that their return and Simm’s had to be made public weeks ago—but even without the actual shock of their reveals in “World Enough and Time”, the episode was still a masterfully told, gut-wrenching exercise in building up a pervasive sense of dread in a way Doctor Who rarely can do these days.
That was a hell of a setup. Can Steven Moffat stick the landing for his final regular episode of Doctor Who? Thankfully there’s only a week left until we find out. We’ll have more to say in our recap on Monday, but for now, discuss and/or freak out in the comments below.