Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
– Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress
If we’re honest, we all want more time. Whatever your views of eternity are, more time is a longing inside us all, whether it’s for more days to live, a few more moments from the embrace of a loved one, or a couple extra episodes with your favorite Doctor. Ultimately things end, and we start this week’s episode at the end, seemingly, of Twelve. Speculation is running rampant about how and when the regeneration will occur, with the most interesting theory being that we’ll see it, and even the 13th Doctor (!), next week in part two of the finale. But before we get lost in all that, we have to size up how Twelve is going out.
Two Masters is certainly a formidable fight on paper. I do wish there was something different than what Twelve dealt with at the end of his first season. Like, anything really. But again, it’s Master and Cybermen, so let’s be nice and call it a do-over from that awful season. John Simm’s Master is perfectly welcome, and Michelle Gomez is in peek form as Missy, but I kindof feel like Pearl Mackie silently stole the show in World Enough and Time. She is deceptively great as Bill, and this is her finest hour. Too bad it may be her last (Moffatt won’t let her die though, I bet you a dollar.)
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
In the episode we have a spaceship long enough and close enough to a black hole that the inhabitants experience time at two vastly different speeds. How wonderfully wibbly-wobbly. In constant reverse drawing away from the looming black hole, the ship is perpetually trying to escape the inevitable draw of darkness. It’s extraordinarily appropriate that this is our them as the show approaches a period of transition- the changing of the Doctor guard, the loss of Bill, Missy and pretty much everything we currently recognize in the show. But it also echoes how our culture largely prides itself on avoiding death in many ways, some healthy, most harmful.
Case in point- though it’s entirely sci-fi in its makeup, I find the idea that humanity would work for a “cure” to humanity in the form of upgrading us all into Cybermen quite feasible. You know, I thought the return of Mondassian Cybermen (read: 1960s era robots) would be nearly ridiculous. But it completely worked and I bought every minute of it. And it’s primarily because I believe we fear death that much, generally speaking. I talked in last week’s review about fear, and ultimately it leads to this- running away. But death is inevitable and we are not promised tomorrow.
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Why doesn’t that scare us even more? Well, as Christians we believe that death has been defeated. I have always found it curiously audacious to think of such a thing, that God literally decided to conquer death for us. But it is the truth of scripture. So the grave has no hold on us and we can conquer our fear of it. Beyond being stewards of our body idea through healthy living, the idea of prolonging life indefinitely by scientific means is counter to gospel-centered belief. Doctor who provides has conceptualized many crazy ways life could be prolonged, with Time Lord regenerative powers, Cybermen upgrading, and even Ashildr’s immortality chip that literally allowed her to live to the end of time. But we are called to live to something even more eternal.
We’ve circled death a lot thematically this season, not so much head on, but it has been there- Bill’s mother, the zombie space suits in Oxygen, the Caretaker in Knock Knock prolonging his mother’s death, Bill’s lost friend from The Pilot. So by all accounts this finale is a swan song of facing mortality that has been coming for both Bill and Twelve. The stakes have gravity now and that makes for good episodes. I believe we’ll see the Doctor once again fighting for the sanctity of life, even at the cost of his own. It’s the wonderful recurring picture in Doctor. Much like the sacrifice of Christ, I am inspired to live life fully through it. For even if we had world enough, we definitely don’t have time.
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Next Time on Who-ology:
The end is nigh. Will the Doctor regenerate in the season 10 finale, or will it wait until Christmas? I am hoping for a good surprise. We will examine Twelve’s full run either way.