Julien Neaves – Editor
Editor’s note – So I have two Whovian friends from work who have not caught up with the past two series, and I want to publicly call them out and for dragging the blue flag. I am eternally grateful for all the Redmangoreviews Doctor Who readers but I need people in real life to talk Who with. So Janelle and Rachael, you all need to get your acts together. That is all.
Wow. Just wow. I have not seen the Whovian fandom this split since when they first announced a female Doctor. What is this – Star Wars fans and The Last Jedi?
Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall went from adding basically nothing to the lore in Series 11 to blowing up the canon in Series 12, with the nuclear explosion coming in the finale The Timeless Children. Time to dig into the finale and the controversy that has split the fandom like the blade of a Headless Monk. With a cyber warship-sized SPOILER ALERT Allons-y, Geronimo and here we go:
#1 The Story
Full confession – I was pretty bored with Series 11. Little to nothing happened and Chibnall’s bright idea to steer clear of the show’s rich lore and history, and the absence of a series arc (if you say Tzim-Shaw was an arc I will bite you) clearly backfired. We had a complete 180 in Series 12, though, with the return of The Master, Captain Freaking Jack Harkness, The Cybermen and The Timeless Child arc. And for the first time since Series 10 I was excited for a Who finale.
The Timeless Children really felt like a return to form. Big threat, big bads and big stakes. Both the companions and The Doctor had stuff to do (though Yaz stills feels like a walking exposition device) and I was invested throughout. The plot was nothing mind-blowing or terribly original – The Doctor has teamed up with villains in general and Cybermen specifically (see The Five Doctors) – but it was executed with a finesse little seen during Jodie Whittaker’s run. Let’s see more of that. And that Judoon cliffhanger was pretty sweet too.
#2 The Villains
Can I just say that I am loving Sacha Dhawan’s portrayal of The Master? I can? You are too good to me. He is just so good at blending the megalomania of the Classic-era Masters with the frenetic, chaotic energy of the Modern-era Masters. Dhawan steals every scene in the finale and is a joy to watch. I don’t even care that we don’t know where this incarnation came from. Not like it’s the first time The Master just appeared without explanation.
The Cybermen, however, were just less menacing than the previous two episodes. Ashad AKA The Lone Cyberman went from true terror to being unceremoniously shrunk-killed by The Master. And I am sorry but The Cyber Time Lords looked kind of ridiculous. All in all these boys in tin were downgraded to a mere plot device before being deleted.
#3 The Doctor
Jodie Whittaker has had a rough run so far. The writing for the character has rarely risen above mediocre, her characterisation has been inconsistent, and Whittaker herself seems to still be trying to get a complete handle on the role.
But when the writing is especially good she does shine and she delivers a tour de force in The Timeless Children. I enjoyed the arc of The Doctor going from despair to triumph. Now that is The Doctor. The only aspect that was off was how quickly The Doctor allowed Ko Sharmus to sacrifice himself in her place. The inconsistent writing is like a bad penny – it just keeps coming back.
#4 The Retcon
And now for what everyone is talking about – the retcon (retroactive continuity). So now The Doctor is not originally a Time Lord from Gallifrey with 14 incarnations, but the mysterious Timeless Child from an unknown dimension, source of the Time Lords’ secret of regeneration and possesses an unknown number of previous incarnations. This is no small change as I have seen some people comment. This is the Big Bang. This is universe-shattering. Now some people have loved the change and some people have accused Chibnall of destroying Who canon and the show itself. I find myself in neither camp as there are parts I like and parts I don’t.
I thought it was interesting having The Doctor come from a mysterious dimension as this now opens up the door for some new baddies with historic ties to The Doctor. And I don’t mind The Doctor being the Timeless Child (why the episode title is “The Timeless Children” may be a reference to The Doctor’s new race or to the Time Lords, I don’t know) as this explains how Gallifreyans were able to regenerate, just as the introduction of Omega explained how they mastered time travel.
What I am not a huge fan of is the opening up of the possibility of pre-Hartnell incarnations of The Doctor which is bolstered by The Doctor seeing an image of the Morbius Doctors. I am still holding out hope that Jo Martin’s Doctor is not pre-Hartnell and is between Troughton and Pertwee. A bunch of new Doctor incarnations just feels kind of, wrong.
So change and expand The Doctor’s origin but let’s not shoehorn in a bunch of previously unknown Doctors. Otherwise I will go back to calling Chibnall “Chinballs”. You have been warned.
Score: The Timeless Children gets 4.25/5 Master maniacal laughs.
So what did you think of the Timeless Children and the canon shake-up? Feel free to hit me up in the comments. And if you enjoyed this article how about a share? Sharing is caring.
For the Top 7 Masters of Doctor Who you can click here.
Julien Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel but dreams of being Batman. Also loves creating board games and is an aspiring Caribbean sci-fi author. Says things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.