“Where There’s Tears, There’s Hope” - the not-quite-final Finale for Peter Cipaldi, Dr. Who
Doctor Who has this wonderful quality of bringing friends together.
The Doctor has those quasi-qualities, you might say, that make him father-like, sibling-like- even a kind of romantic interest, to some. But overall, the relatable character’s set off by his identity as an alien- a Time Lord, to be specific-a personal bridge into the utterly fantastic, unveiling races and customs more alien- and often threatening- than his own.
As long as we’re talking primary characteristics, not only is he definitely alien- he’s a friend. His altruistic moral code and shrewd, knowledgeable approach, blended with his mix of the reckless daring and wary caution, and who knows when which is coming?- serve humanity in secret, to say nothing of other hapless races and entities lost, invaded and otherwise perplexed.
Along with the occasional glimpse on Saturdays on PBS as a kid, I had a friend- an alien friend, you might say at the cost of a sly side-eye from me-who’s always been a dyed-in-the-wool Dr. Who fan. The Doctor even figures into not only his weekly ritual with his now-wife, but even, charmingly, into their wedding! Johann says: " Whenever a new episode of Doctor Who is on, a little bit of magic sneaks into the universe just for that short while." And while we’re on the subject of the Doctor’s sibling quality, it’s our sister Dixie who plunged us into binges of the ninth, tenth and eleventh Doctor, setting us up for the new Peter Cipaldi turn these past seasons which has glued me to the ongoing saga!
My friend Kraft- who’s been known to be a few ages himself- not so much because he’s an enigma, as part and parcel of Loki pranksterism- said he’s never journeyed with the Doctor- and could he jump aboard the TARDIS and join the fun, just anywhere, and not be lost in its winding five-decade-plus cosmology? (Wouldn’t it be funny if he’d phrased it exactly like that?) I suggested he simply hop aboard with this present season’s companion, Bill. Her introduction to the series is a perfect sort of Dr. Who 101, complete with a university setting. Her horrible fate, transformed aboard a black hole-time-warped starship into an increasingly inhuman, fearless Cyberman (spoilers coming)
is the subject of the last two episodes, leading to her remarkable liberation- and back to this season’s first episode.
We were promised the Pilot would return. It’s a very nice tie-up for Bill’s story, but one I was surprised to have tied up! The Pilot episode (:-D) had a nice strain of Romanticism, particularly with its yearning love story-ending. What I love is how that one terrific line at the top- “where there’s tears, there’s hope,” says the good Doctor- ties so literally into the resolution for Bill in the end. Maybe I don’t think about these things obsessively enough, but her return to free Bill to an energy state was a twist I didn’t forsee. The door’s open for Bill to return to human, too, but it’s exciting we don’t know when- and if- that’s in the cards.
What seemed certain, instead, was that the Doctor would come to an end, his regeneration process foreshadowed, its beginning depicted. For some reason I was thinking of Christmas and Santa Claus at the end, when suddenly the 12th Doctor’s rebelled against his change- finds himself no longer alone!
Johann says: ”Dr Who finale was a doozy. The guy who played the William Hartnell/first Doctor in the Dr Who documentary showed up as the first Doctor!”
Our one clue? The Doctors, says the title card, will return -together- at Christmas!
As my wife Angela Dawn observes:
“’Missy’, the only other Time Lord in existence (a.k.a. The Master), betrays Doctor Who at the behest of a past incarnation of herself. They gleefully discuss how they might bring about the demise of the good Doctor (how many steps would it take to throw him down and kill all his Regenerations?). Dr. Who lets them in on a little secret: when she hit him, the Doctor used that as an opportunity to change the programming of the Cybermen who wanted nothing more than to make more of themselves out of humans. They now included the Time Lord two-heart system as human, as well, so the two of them would have to fight alongside the Doctor, if they hoped to get out of this as themselves.”
The betrayal of Missy of herself- in her split male and female guises- made a tragic end to her brave struggle over to the Doctor’s side. She began the season as a mystery menace locked away behind a vault door. From her piano notes drifting over to nervous alien companion Nardol’s ear to his compliance with her to pilot TARDIS to the rescue on Mars, the errant Time Lord gradually moved herself towards grace. She was wonderful when the Monks wrote over human history; she came to feel compassion, empathy for beings she haughtily considered lesser. She was certainly a candidate to become the new Doctor.
Yes, every since the season began, and as discussed briefly on The Graham Norton Show, we’ve been building towards Cipaldi’s swan song. It’s practically as much a tradition as the regeneration narrative itself for fans to mourn the loss of their present lead when a new one’s cast. Cipaldi’s Doctor seemed a bit aloof, and of course appears older than recent Doctors since the revival. (Within the story, his age is obviously disconnected from mere physical appearance- not to mention he’s traveled through strange loops of existence that defy linear time, you know.) He didn’t set out to charm. But Peter’s take increasingly became “humanized” over the story arcs, eventually making slick pop culture references and definitely bonding with his curious new companion. He loved the way Bill found voice for questions even while she was bewildered. His sacrifice of his sight for several episodes became integral to the plots as both limitation and occasionally, as boon. The history-rewrite two-parter with our Big Brothers the monks was my favorite story, and I really dug the emoji-bot episode’s premise about the world of Happiness.
But aside from great sci-fi premises, there were the character studies in two episodes that really won me over to the Doc-Bill team. Doc’s interaction with the flatmates in the alien-possessed house was colorful, with bits like his resentment of Bill explaining “he’s my grandfather.” That pilot, however, was all it took: Bill uncovers his student by becoming his “audit” student, and credibly demonstrates the need for a curious human companion at a moment when he’s rightfully devastated by the drastic consequences that befall his companions. This two-part ending just underscored that danger, but what a team they made.
Their chemistry was, I think, a great boon to Cipaldi’s 12th Doctor, and I in no way was eager to see him go.
That said, one more go round seems imminent. The show’s very generous, too, in reuniting leads in reprisals of the role, alternate life lines in Christmas movie specials. Perhaps if I’d been following the show regularly for longer, I’d have seen that coming. Experience prepares your anticipation. But what a thrill to travel again each week into the unknown. And in the spirit of the show’s optimism- dark, dire circumstances faced by our helpful detective-hero from beyond-things may work out badly for some unfortunate characters, but for the story lover, it’s all going to be all right, come what may.
Trust him...he’s the Doctor.