By completing her second season as The Doctor in Series 12 back in March, 2020, Jodie Whittaker secured her place in the annals of DOCTOR WHO in a way that neither Paul McGann nor Richard E. Grant were ever able. Now, following the eventful finale to Series 12, expectant Whovians wait with bated breath for news of The Doctor’s next visit.
Unlike some of her prime-time contemporaries, the good Doctor has all but guaranteed her timely return to the airwaves—BBC completed filming of DOCTOR WHO’s 2020/2021 holiday special, “Revolution of the Daleks,” back in late 2019. So don’t fret: The Doctor, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz will be back on either Christmas or New Year’s Day to help you while away the hours with your mimosa-fueled family.
In the meantime, let’s take a look back at Series 12, or Season 38 to all my fellow Classic DOCTOR WHO fans. Spoilers follow…
DOCTOR WHO: Series 12 – New Holiday Time Slot, Old Nemeses
The BBC continued their new custom of marking New Year’s Day with an episode of DOCTOR WHO. “Spyfall: Part One,” an obvious tip of the hat to fellow British adventure franchise JAMES BOND, also acted as a return vehicle for recurring DOCTOR WHO baddie The Master.
The Master last appeared in “The Doctor Falls” back in Series 10, then portrayed by Michelle Gomez and calling herself “Missy.” The Master rejoins his longtime nemesis, The Doctor, sporting his original gender and showing off his classic hobby, humanoid miniaturization.
First played by Roger Delgado back in 1971 in Season Eight’s “Terror of the Autons” during the tenure of the oft-maligned Third Doctor, The Master became Professor Moriarty to The Doctor’s Sherlock Holmes. Enjoying nine on-screen interpretations including Sacha Dhawan’s most recent, The Master, like The Doctor, becomes increasingly complex each time he or she reappears on the scene. After his latest forays into self-loathing, genocidal mania, and universal domination, one wonders where The Master and his relationship with The Doctor will go now, The Master’s apparent death in “The Timeless Children” notwithstanding of course.
Because the 2019 New Year’s Special, “Resolution,” might also be considered the premiere of Series 12, one could argue that the familiar chrome-plated squid-mutants actually kicked things off. And even though, in addition to featuring the Daleks, “Resolution” made brief reference to the 10th century, this episode was focused pretty squarely on developing the character complexity of The Doctor’s dyspraxic companion Ryan by introducing viewers to Ryan’s absentee father.
Happily, Ryan’s character development in this episode seemed honest enough. It was good to see Tosin Cole get an opportunity to deliver some high-stakes personal dialogue, and, no surprise, it was fun to watch Bradley Walsh play Ryan’s cool but concerned grandad.
All in all, kind of a weak showing for the Daleks this season so I look forward to their imminent “revolution” next holiday season.
A bit of a Series 12 dark horse, the Cybermen turned out to be a big part of this series’ plot. The familiar toaster-heads shared main-villain duties with The Master, arriving on the scene in episode 8, “The Haunting of Villa Diodati,” and stuck around until the end of the season.
The Master’s big reveal, his “unstoppable” army of Cybermasters, seemed like a bit of an afterthought, though. Sure, the idea of cybernetic Time Lords was off-putting but after showrunner Chris Chibnall revealed the Time Lords as a cosmic colonial force who long ago capitalized on The Doctor’s innate immortality, the Timelords’ transformation came off as just another inconvenience that The Doctor would have to sort out.
DOCTOR WHO: Series 12 – Nikola Tesla, Mary Shelley, and Planet of the Apes
Prior to watching “Spyfall: Part Two,” I wasn’t familiar with Noor Inayat-Khan nor the sacrifice she made during the second world war so I enjoyed her inclusion in Series 12. I also enjoyed watching the famous rivalry between Edison and Tesla unfold in “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror,” but, even though it was fun to watch The Doctor and The Lord Byron exchange barbs, in an episode about the night Frankenstein was written, I would have preferred more of a focus on Mary Shelley herself and the historical circumstances surrounding her writing of the famous piece of literary science-fiction.
Speaking of literary science-fiction, the episode “Orphan 55” seemed to borrow from a variety of different horror/science-fiction franchises, including one key element of Planet of the Apes. The element in question is the episode’s clumsy third-act reveal: Orphan 55 is a post-apocalyptic Earth. Oh, that old chestnut?
DOCTOR WHO: Series 12 – A Surprise Cameo
The big Series 12 cameo didn’t come from any character from history, though. Flying by the, often burning, seat of his pants as always, viewers were treated to a rare appearance of Captain Jack Harkness in “Fugitive of the Judoon.” He’s back after a 10-year absence to give The Doctor a warning that, as usual, she ignores completely. Either way, it was fun to see Graham, Yaz, and Ryan interact with the former head of Torchwood.
DOCTOR WHO: Series 12 – The Timeless Child Explained…?
So, the timeless child is The Doctor, and the Time Lords are colonial jerks who co-opted and brainwashed an innocent immortal being (The Doctor), coercing her into providing their invasive alien race with immortality.
However anyone felt about the controversial Time Lords before the Series 12 finale, The Master’s discovery devalues their moral worth that little bit more. Showrunner Chris Chibnall radically altered more than 50 years of DOCTOR WHO history in “The Timeless Children” but his bold narrative move was probably all for the best.
DOCTOR WHO: Series 12 – Ruth Clayton
This new twist to The Doctor’s status-quo provides a handy reason for her apparently unlimited number of re-generations. It also makes clear why The Doctor can’t remember ever having lived as the version of herself who calls herself Ruth Clayton who first appeared in “Fugitive of the Judoon.”
I always appreciate a narrative option that provides writers new opportunities for old characters, especially in a franchise with a history as long as DOCTOR WHO’s, so I’m grateful for Chibnall’s big twist, especially if it gives me more chances to see the TARDIS done up in her classic laboratory-white circles again.