Doctor Who: The Timeless Children
March 1, 2020 4:08 PM - Season 12, Episode 10 - Subscribe

The Cybermen are on the march. The last remaining humans are hunted down. Lies are exposed, truths are revealed, and for the Doctor nothing will ever be the same.

Season finale.
posted by KTamas (47 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"...the Doctors we made along the way."
posted by mce at 4:57 PM on March 1, 2020 [7 favorites]

The Division? Funny how often a Special Circumstances analog shows up.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:39 PM on March 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

.....the HELL?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:49 PM on March 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

The Division? Funny how often a Special Circumstances analog shows up.

But it should have been the Celestial Intervention Agency!
posted by SometimeNextMonth at 7:23 PM on March 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

Probably renamed the CIA during a High Council of the Time Lords restructuring after the Doctor's stint. There was probably a scandal and they had to assure the populace that there was no such organization as, 'The Division'. Or there it is just an apparent doubling up of responsibilities but they in fact serve two different but similar goals. Compare and contrast the US Dept. of State's INR, the US Dept of Defense's DIA and the USA's CIA.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 7:48 PM on March 1, 2020

So... The whole thing with Missy and redemption just never fucking happened?
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:39 PM on March 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

posted by crossoverman at 1:11 AM on March 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

I always get the feeling that the only Doctor Who episodes Chibnall has actually watched are the ones he wrote.
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:38 AM on March 2, 2020 [10 favorites]

I guess this is a "be careful what you wish for" situation inasmuch I said last week "I'm starting to miss Moffat" and this is as Moffat as Chibnall gets.

I enjoyed it immensely the same way I did most Moffat episodes: they're (mostly) fun while you're watching them but once you start thinking about it afterwards...

Things like:
- Why do another plot about the lack of 12-regeneration limit? They already explained it away once already.
- The Doctor vs. Division thing is sorely underdeveloped, clearly setting up stuff in future seasons, and like, yeah, it was, A LOT in deed
- The master is mad at the doctor because uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh she's special and he's not? Or he's mad at Galifrey for the 12-regeneration limit? What's his motiation exactly besides ~being evil~?
- All this implies that once again all timelords are dead but I'm reasonably sure within a season or two they'll find a way to bring them back
- Did The Doctor undo the whole "oops i commited future-genocide against humans to save one person"? Because I feel like she didn't? In that case, what the fuck?
- How does Mitsy fit into all this? (Rhetorical, probably: she simply doesn't.)
- What about Clara and her being there for "All the Doctors"? How does this square with that storyline that even Moffat kinda forgot about later on? (Again, probably rhetorical, it doesn't fit at all)
- They kinda wasted the iteration of The Doctor introduced mid-season, didn't they

Ugh, I could probably go on.

To focus on good things, I wasn't sold on the new Master in the season premiere but he was great in this episode. The companions were used well and they maaaaaaaaaay stick around another season? Or they get rid of them in the (presumed) Christmas Special they teased at the end.

I also feel an echo back to the very first 2-3 seasons of the RTD era in which (in my opinion!) most episodes sucked except the once-a-season Moffat one, the season opener, the season finale and maybe one or two more standout episode.

I am disappointed.
posted by KTamas at 5:11 AM on March 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed it immensely the same way I did most Moffat episodes: they're (mostly) fun while you're watching them but once you start thinking about it afterwards...

Yeah, I enjoyed it while I was watching it but the fridge logic is heavy this season.

And that's a shame because Jodi and Sascha's acting is great.
posted by Pendragon at 6:42 AM on March 2, 2020

I kind of want to see The Division come into play more in future series, and also return to the "old Who" multi episode story-line ...

Next season: The (Jodie) Doctor and The Division come to an agreement, and she joins The (Jo) Doctor to hunt down a reformed Key to Time! It could span across the whole season, with smaller adventures happening along the way as they collect pieces of the key. It's a season-long version of The Two Doctors!
posted by jazon at 6:53 AM on March 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

If the Doctor is the Timeless Child, what does one make of the episode title?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:15 AM on March 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Timelords regenerate, and the Master saved all the bodies, which clearly could still regenerate when in cyber armour. So they were not all dead? How could they even be dead if they regenerate?

Suddenly just shrinking the Big Bad Broken Cyberman and taking him out of the picture, after building him up as a terribly baddie for several episodes, was kind of a disappointment.

This whole plot had a lot of pulled-out-of-my-arse to it. A maze-like-tent is their defense? Seriously?

And having some old white guy just show up at the last moment and tell the doctor, don't worry honey, I got this for you, you just toddle off now and I'll save the day.

posted by fimbulvetr at 9:16 AM on March 2, 2020 [7 favorites]

What's his motiation exactly besides ~being evil~?

But, really, what's the Master's motivation ever been? The character's pretty much always been an evil-for-evil's-sake trope (at least in the Nu-Who era), with a huge mountain of malevolent narcissism tossed in.

I expected the Master to be revealed as the ur-child, and was really thrown when he said the child was the Doctor. The Master as the ur-child would have explained his unceasing anger at the Time Lords, and maybe move the character a bit beyond trope status. Oh well.

If the Doctor is the Timeless Child, what does one make of the episode title?

All the multiple unknown Doctors we no know existed? The multiple regenerations the ur-child went through while being experimented on? Maybe the Master, too? He almost seemed to imply at one point that he was the child's original mother.

Speaking of which...Did anyone else find it odd how the regenerations of the child, while they were being experimented on, were always also children, unlike the jumping-around-in-ages that our Doctors have done?

And having some old white guy just show up at the last moment and tell the doctor, don't worry honey, I got this for you, you just toddle off now and I'll save the day. Huh.

I guess so. I'm just happy they made the existence of the character pay-off somehow. From the moment he appeared, it seemed like he was going to be "someone important" eventually. It was kind of a disappointment, though, that he just ended up being a martyr. I suppose better him than the Doctor bluntly commit mass murder (again)

I find it funny how, normally, the TARDIS is supposedly impenetrable by outside forces, unless it suits the story. Thus, the Judoon suddenly appearing in the control room and being able to teleport the Doctor away. I kind of wonder if the TARDIS itself allowed it, given that the Doctor and TARDIS seemed to be having a bit of a spat right beforehand.

I loved the featuring of properly-working chameleon circuits in the two TARDII that the companions and, later, the Doctor took from Gallifrey. Especially the tree.

Anyway, I liked this finale. I'm pretty comfortable with blowing things up like this. Who continuity tends to lean toward the wibbly-wobbly side of things anyway, with handwavy rationalizations stuck in later if necessary. I mean, we know the Master and the Cybermen will be back eventually, despite seemingly being vaporized now. It's just a question of how eye-rollingly preposterous the explanations will be.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:24 AM on March 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

I liked part one better. I also thought the Master was going to be the mysterious child, not the doctor. I liked the beats the companions got in this episode. I also thought shrinking the lead Cyberman was a let down.

I think my favorite part of the episode was the Judoon suddenly appearing and jailing the Doctor in the last few seconds of the episode.

Christmas Daleks!!
posted by wittgenstein at 9:39 AM on March 2, 2020

Speaking of which...Did anyone else find it odd how the regenerations of the child, while they were being experimented on, were always also children, unlike the jumping-around-in-ages that our Doctors have done?

Not only that, but each subsequent regeneration looked a few years older than the last, which the programme makers used as shorthand to indicate the passing years as these experiments continued.

The idea seemed to be that, if X years had passed between one regeneration and the next, then the kid would look X years older in his or her new incarnation. By that logic, each Doctor should also look older than the last and - given that we started with 1963's Hartnell at age 55 - we'd now have a Doctor who looks 112 in Earth years.
posted by Paul Slade at 10:07 AM on March 2, 2020

I think I hated this.


Yes. I do indeed intensely hate this.

The cybertimelords were pretty scary. The companions had some nice moments. Sacha Dhawan was pretty good as a version of the Master.

The Doctor being the Very Most Special Of All in a way that's not self-determined is horseshit and an insult to the character. I cannot express the depth and breadth of my aversion to this nonsense.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:36 AM on March 2, 2020 [9 favorites]

The Doctor being the Very Most Special Of All in a way that's not self-determined is horseshit and an insult to the character.

Yes! Dammit, the Doctor is much better as a renegade Timelord that stole a Tardis to see the universe. That is relate-able and interesting. This stupid ultra-special chosen one from a different universe crap is not.

I wouldn't have minded if there was some secret hidden Timelord thing where after 12 regenerations they reset everone to start from scratch to explain the unknown regeneration, or it the Doctor was previously a super-secret operative, so got reset when they retired. But this was just dumb, and now unless it gets handwaved away, the story is stuck with this stupidity from now on.

It would have been more interesting if, instead of a kill-everything bomb, the Doctor had been allowed to solve the problem with some tricky and clever plan.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:09 AM on March 2, 2020 [7 favorites]

Well, and, worse, if the Master's hope was to reduce the Doctor to his level as a "doctor of death", did the Master forget about the Doctor's double genocide to end the Time War?

(Or was that history erased? I vaguely recall a big reset button-press somewhere in the last few Doctors, but I can't keep all this straight.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:16 AM on March 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

I feel a bit better about the episode after reading the recap on Tor. Still wondering about River Song though.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:41 PM on March 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also, there seem to be a few unoccupied TARDISes scattered through time and space.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:42 PM on March 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

(Or was that history erased? I vaguely recall a big reset button-press somewhere in the last few Doctors, but I can't keep all this straight.)

In the Day of the Doctor, the War Doctor along with 10th and 11th rewrote history so the War Doctor never committed double Genocide, and trapped Gallifrey in a pocket universe in a painting.

So... The whole thing with Missy and redemption just never fucking happened?

It's never stated that this incarnation of the Master was after Missy. They don't really state which one is which Master. He definitely acts like an earlier one than Missy.
posted by numaner at 2:14 PM on March 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

this was alright. I liked that they managed to make the Cybermen even more dangerous, but yes, Ashad being taken down via shrunk to death was disappointing. I also wish there was more clarity about the Doctor's past, like that Ireland stuff. I did enjoy that we might possibly get more flashbacks of past unknown Doctors.

I also thought it was really cliche that she's the Timeless Child. I hope that the Master is actually mistaken somehow, if he wasn't straight up lying. Although I'm thinking perhaps the child found outside by Tecteun in the distant past is actually from the future, via that boundary, somehow, and we'll find out who this child is in the next season.
posted by numaner at 2:22 PM on March 2, 2020

Still wondering about River Song though.

Not sure I'm following you... how would this affect any of the River Song arc?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:36 PM on March 2, 2020

wittgenstein: Christmas Daleks!!

posted by dr_dank at 5:49 PM on March 2, 2020 [11 favorites]

I just can't be interested in a story where all life in the universe is threatened. The scale is too big. I can't feel it.

Re-writing the Doctor's backstory is not really a problem, since her history is vague anyway. And probably better to keep it vague? The problem is that the story is told to us in exposition. The Master didn't leave the Doctor to figure it out herself, like he said in Spyfall - he came and told her and she had to stand there and listen. It hurt him but didn't seem to affect her at all. So the season long arc is without substance. Yes, sure, Chibnall is excited to reference some continuity question from 40+ years ago, but what does it mean to the character herself? Basically nothing.

I really liked last season. This season swerved back to the kind of nonsense that turned me off during Moffat's era, even though these episodes felt more like an RTD homage than anything. But at least RTD knew how to do emotion.

Apparently Chibnall has a five-year plan. After two seasons, I'm not sure I care.
posted by crossoverman at 10:10 PM on March 2, 2020 [5 favorites]

There seems to be a gap of 18 to 24 months between seasons now.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:53 AM on March 3, 2020

I thought this was a great capstone to a great (on average, not consistently) series. Ridiculous twists, stupid revelations, I'm onboard for it all. God knows what casual viewers made of this though. It was wall to wall back references.

I really liked the way the companions got there own little moments, especially the talk between Graeme and Yaz. Things like that have been sorely lacking recently. I also thought the Doctor was particularly good in this, even though she didn't really end up doing anything. And seeing the two functional tardises (tardii?) was fun.

I am getting sick of bad guys who want to destroy the universe and here we had two. I like my Masters diabolically scheming rather than insane but I guess this is where the character is now.
posted by AndrewStephens at 8:09 AM on March 3, 2020 [4 favorites]

This mostly made me want to go back and watch some of the more Timelord heavy arcs, like Trial of a Timelord and such.
posted by Kyol at 9:47 AM on March 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

There seems to be a gap of 18 to 24 months between seasons now.

That's where the audiobooks happen.
posted by Catblack at 1:55 PM on March 3, 2020

I thought this was a really exciting finale, and the last few episodes have been miles better than I thought Chibnall was capable of. As an old school fan I appreciated how all this ancient continuity was threaded through the story in an organic way, even going so far as to include a glimpse of the Brain of Morbius montage of unfamiliar Doctors that's confounded fans for generations. Chibnall really went for it, and it was big and bold in a way that reminded me of both Moffat and Davies. (I loved them both, shut up.) The dialogue was actually good. When did Chibnall learn to write dialogue? Where was this guy the last two seasons?

But all that being said, I'm really not crazy about the idea of the Doctor as the origin of the Time Lords. It seems a bit midichlorian-y, something where the creator clearly thinks they're being very clever but they're really just retconning things to be less awesome. Yes, it creates new questions, like where the Timeless Child originally came from and how many incarnations the Doctor has actually had, but I don't think those questions are more interesting than the mysteries that have surrounded the Doctor and the Time Lords for 50+ years. For decades, any little hint we got about that stuff ("I was a dad, once...") was really intriguing. Like, were the Doctor and the Master brothers? What was the deal with Susan? Now it's like none of that matters, the real mystery is everything BEFORE that. And... no, thank you.

It also makes the Time Lords' treatment of the Doctor seem really strange. They've never treated him like anything special, and they're always putting him on trial or making him do missions. Their behavior made some sense, with the Doctor we've known, but if he's the origin of their species and this totally anomalous being from parts unknown, I'd think they'd give him some special treatment instead of treating him like an annoying but occasionally useful criminal.

It didn't bother me that the Master is evil again, whether this incarnation comes before or after Missy. Each Time Lord incarnation carries over a lot from the last, but there can be significant differences. Missy was a less-evil version of the Master, but this one was a hard swerve back from that. I'm guessing that the Master survived the mega-explosion due to being infused with the Cyberium, like maybe his body was destroyed but his mind survived in the swirly cloud of Cyberman stuff. Either that or he somehow beamed out, just in time. He definitely ain't gone for good, and I suspect Gallifrey isn't either.

I didn't understand the deal with Brendan the Irish cop. Brendan was an incarnation of the Doctor, right? But I was lost beyond that. Were the police chief and his dad always Time Lords? Why was he on Earth, living as a human?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:31 PM on March 3, 2020 [3 favorites]

I think Brendan the Irish cop was all a dream sequence - the Doctor's mind trying to make sense of the story that the Master was sending to her. It's all symbolic - Ireland was Gallifrey, Brendan was an early Doctor, and the electroshock machine was TimeLord mindwiping technology. The cliff really was a cliff, though.
posted by Mogur at 2:37 PM on March 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

It was hard to follow given everything that was going on, but it was mentioned that the Brendan scenes were scattered memories the Doctor was having of her history but the Matrix had put a perception filter on them so she wouldn't realize they were her memories. Or something like that.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:06 PM on March 3, 2020

Sometimes I get the uneasy feeling that this isn’t really Who, just fanfic the BBC is filming for some reason.
posted by Segundus at 10:15 PM on March 3, 2020 [4 favorites]

I avoided this season because just thinking about it made me tired. It's not for me, so I've been keeping up as best I can by reading people's discussion of it. But someone has instructed me to do a fast-track through it. In their opinion that means eps 1&2, Judoon, the last three - I did Judoon when it went out, watched the first episode last night. This is going to be a slog, but then I suspect the episodes I loved from a few years ago were a slog for other people so it's all fair in the long run.

The general impression I have (which is concentrated rather than dispersed the more I watch), is that what Chris Chibnall is doing is like someone trying to forge a painting by copying a postcard he bought from the gallery shop.

Even when it was terrible, there was something particular about Dr Who that kept me on board. Whatever that thing was is absent from the previous season and what I've seen of this one. I don't know what it is. The casting is fine, the cast are mostly fine, it's not as if there haven't been clunky, stupid episodes of Dr Who before, but something is missing, as if he's self-consciously doing it, so there are clumsy imitations of what RTD or Steven Moffat would do all over the place.

Assuming it doesn't get any better, I do wish he wouldn't have a character describe everything that's going on (Gunshots! Ricochet! Someone has to say "Someone's shooting at us!").

Ah, well, I'll continue my catch-up on the elliptical trainer tonight. I doubt at this point that the actual series is going to change my mind about it.
posted by Grangousier at 5:33 AM on March 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

It says something about the corners of fandom I hang out in that the predominant theory I've been seeing for the Master's motivation for genociding Gallifrey and going on a universe conquering spree was (a) finding out what the Gaillifreyans had done to his best friend plus (b) having his inferiority complex re: the Doctor given hard evidence to back it up. He's being driven by two things that make him incandescently angry but for exactly opposite reasons and that's why he's so manic and indiscriminately smashy.

for slash fanfiction values of "best friend".
posted by Karmakaze at 6:37 AM on March 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Speaking of fan fiction... it's too bad that while the Doctor was getting a pep talk from her former self in the Matrix that they couldn't have also gotten Christopher Eccleston to pop in to say "You just have to trust yourself to make the right choice. I know you will because you're fantastic!"
posted by plastic_animals at 7:04 AM on March 4, 2020

Bye-bye Graham and Ryan after the Christmas specia.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:30 AM on March 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think I'd like next series to be just The Doctor and Yaz, then. As long as Yaz becomes more useful.
posted by crossoverman at 1:31 PM on March 4, 2020

The Doctor should have said "hearts beats" instead of "heart beat". Also expecting Dalecks before the season is out, isn't that some sort of contractual obligation that has yet to be fulfilled?

Totally expected Old Man to be the one to press the button, surprised he didn't take it and run while they were in the TARDIS. Old Man has a duty as much as the Doctor does.

Eh, enjoyable enough.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:11 PM on March 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

On the one hand, this seemed much better written than most of the season leading up to it. And some of the performances have been truly stellar. Sacha Dhawan should get some sort of special award for chewing ALL OF THE SCENERY in such an appealing fashion.

On the other hand... ^&*( OFF!!!!

As for River Song. You may not recall the details, but Melody Pond was able to regenerate like a Time Lord and survived to become River Song because of her exposure to the Tardis' time vortex or whatever, it was a side effect of being conceived and gestated on the Tardis. And now we are told regeneration is genetic and those genes come solely from the Timeless Child AKA the Doctor? No. Thank. You. Also: now she and the Doctor are related. Please take this squick and stick it up your whatsit. Good grief.

Another thing: what the hell was up with the wee ghosties from the start of the season? And their little seaweedy underworld? Nothing? Oh I see.

Of course somehow I apparently still care enough to rant about it all on here... bah.
posted by Coaticass at 10:20 PM on March 6, 2020

posted by Coaticass at 10:25 PM on March 6, 2020

Wow jesus I completely forgot about the Melody Pond thing, I was wondering why people kept bringing up River Song.

Yeah this really throws a wrench in that one.
posted by KTamas at 3:46 AM on March 7, 2020

Still. I'm reading a lot of positive reviews, pro and fan both. Glad other people are enjoying it more wholeheartedly! I kind of feel the kid who eventually noped out of Peter Davidson's first (?) season after what seemed like a crass reversion to fisiticuffs to solve problems. Or maybe I just aged out of it (temporarily, obviously- is time circular or what?)

So thanks for making me feel like a teenager again, I guess...
posted by Coaticass at 5:37 PM on March 7, 2020

I totally didn't understand how Brendan fit in with the story until this thread kindly explained it to me.

So what do you do with this new retcon of the doctor's identity, as some people are calling it? I guess we can elevate Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death to canon status without too much trouble, so there's that.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 11:12 AM on March 8, 2020

I don't get the whole Doctor as Brendan the Irish Cop thing because it seems so out of character. The Doctor is mercurial, curious, adventurous, resistant to authority. If the Doctor was born in early Twentieth Century Ireland I can see her/him signing up aboard a tramp steamer or emigrating to New York or something. But not so much stolidly spending a life in the middle of a rigid hierarchy in their home town.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:44 AM on December 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Been rewatching Moffat & Chibnall's run, and getting to this part of the latter again, it is even worse than the first time. The Doctor at the genetic ancestor of all timelord regeneration is just mind-bogglingly stupid.

What about Clara and her being there for "All the Doctors"?

When the old white dude sacrificed himself for the Doctor at the end and told her to "Run!", I thought it would have been really funny if he'd said, "Run, you clever girl!" and then NEVER ADDRESSED IT AGAIN. Just dropping that weird hint that somehow Clara (who might still be traveling around the universe with Arya Stark in her own TARDIS, btw) transformed into this old dude millions of years in the future.

The Doctor/Brendan the Irish Cop story was a really neat idea, with suitably creepy delivery, that was mostly totally pointless. As I understand it, the Matrix used to contain the Division's records on the Doctor & her past missions/incarnations, but they were scrambled and erased. The only recoverable bit had also been fitted with a perception filter by Tecteun/the Division disguising it as a story about an Irish foundling copper so that no one would pay any attention to it if they happened to find it. Yeah that makes a lot of sense, it's a database of all TimeLord knowledge and experience, wouldn't a story about some dude ON 20TH CENTURY EARTH be completely out of place? Anyway, moving on, it was also apparently a coded message(?) about the Doctor's origins: foundling child, adopted into new home/community, ability to survive death/regenerate discovered, so child is put to work for the local five-oh, then "retired" & reformatted to do it all over again. (so in other words, it isn't a record of an actual past regeneration of the Doctor)
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:54 AM on March 4

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