Despite some initial concerns that Doctor Who's 12th Doctor, portrayed by Peter Capaldi, might be too old (and not hip enough) to keep the show's momentum going - throughout season 8 the BAFTA-winning actor has succeeded with a fresh and interesting take on the titular Time Lord. As with any TV program, some episodes have been better than others but, overall, the eighth chapter in the modern series has consistently delivered.
Now, just when the lead actor is starting to win-over skeptics, his first season is nearing its end with a 60 minute extended finale, titled "Death in Heaven" - set to cap off a cliffhanger that left The Doctor, Clara, and the entire world in danger in the closing moments of season 8's penultimate episode "Dark Water". Fans can still look forward to the 2014 Christmas Special but, in just five days, Doctor Who season 8 will complete. To get fans ready for this week's finale, the BBC has released the official trailer for "Death in Heaven" online - in case viewers want sneak peek at what's to come.
It goes without saying that the remainder of this post will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for season 8 of Doctor Who (so far) - especially the identity of "Big Bad" Missy.
The teaser doesn't dig particularly deep into the episode but that shouldn't be much of a surprise since the finale is Part 2 of an established storyline. Still, the trailer does offer a glimpse at some interesting teases and the return of familiar faces.
Check out the trailer at the top of the page along with the "Next Time" teaser below (followed by the official episode synopsis for "Death in Heaven"):
With Cybermen on the streets of London, old friends unite against old enemies, and the Doctor takes to the air in a startling new role. Can the mighty UNIT contain Missy? As the Doctor faces his greatest challenge, sacrifices must be made before the day is won.
In addition to season 8 characters that were already included in "Dark Water" (Clara, Danny Pink, and Missy), viewers who watched the 50th Anniversary Special, "The Day of the Doctor", should also recognize that both UNIT commander Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) and scarf-wearing friend of "The Curator", Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), are back for the finale.
In addition to the teaser, BBC America has also unveiled a video of Capaldi and Jenna Coleman reflecting on one especially tense moments in "Dark Water" - which set the stakes for what is to come as Clara attempts to threaten the Doctor in order to get what she wants:
Fans who can't get enough Doctor Who before the series finale can also view this week's Doctor Who Extra - which explores the Nethersphere and Danny Pink's "death" in greater detail, while also offering a Cyberman history lesson and comment from showrunner Steven Moffat on Missy's true identity:
Some viewers had successfully speculated that Missy was actually The Master when the character was first teased in the season 8 premiere; however, a few red herrings (especially when the villain pretended to be a Nethersphere A.I.), helped to maintain surprise in the final reveal. Nevertheless, questions remain - most notably how The Master's return will be explained. The last time we saw the iconic villain (in "The End of Time"), he sacrificed himself to stop a malevolent Time Lord invasion and was transported back to the final day of The Last Great Time War.
Given that we now know Gallifrey "stands" (hidden away in a pocket universe), it's definitely possible that The Master could have survived and regenerated again but the conditions under which he/she escaped remains a mystery. Keep in mind, we know that the original version of the Master escaped the Time War by fleeing to the edge of the universe and hiding in human form (as Professor Yana) but, in the villain's timeline, those events precede his standoff with Rassilon in "The End of Time". As a result, the show will need a new reason for the villain's second survival of the Time War - and subsequent regeneration into Missy. It's also possible that The Master pulled a classic series trick out of his bag and, instead of regenerating, simply assimilated his consciousness into a new body - just as he did in the classic series episode "The Keeper of Traken".
That said, assuming he actually regenerated (which seems far more likely this round), the gender jump from male to female also begs the question: could Moffat be paving the way for a female Doctor down the line? When Melody Pond switched ethnicities upon regenerating into Mels (and then into River Song) - fans speculated that a minority actor could take-over the Doctor role after Matt Smith. In the end, Capaldi (a Scottish male) was given the role but Moffat has suggested an ethnicity and/or gender change are possible - it just wasn't the right time (yet).
That said, while The Master's gender swap is the first time viewers will have seen an established male Time Lord regenerated as a female, this isn't actually the first confirmation that gender swapping is possible for Gallifreyans - even in the modern series.
Check out the clip from "The Doctor's Wife" below, where the 11th Doctor remembers his fellow Time Lord, The Corsair, a gender-changing Gallifreyan who had previously been mentioned by the 4th Doctor in the unproduced season 17 episode "Shada" (that was later novelized by current Doctor Who writer Gareth Roberts):
For now, we'll have to settle for answers to the questions at hand - where has The Master been and what kind of woman is he now? Clearly, the tortured (but ultimately redeemed) turn that was established during his prior incarnation was lost in this latest regeneration - given that Missy appears to be in full-on evildoer mode. No doubt, an interesting parallel and opportunity for exploring Capaldi's cranky and more alien take on The Doctor. Hopefully the writers can build on that juxtaposition, otherwise Missy's true identify could come across as a little more than a surface-level twist - rather than a worthwhile reintroduction to one of the series' most iconic characters.
Doctor Who season 8, episode 12 "Death in Heaven" will premiere November 8th on BBC and BBC America.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for any future updates on Doctor Who, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.
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