Timestamp #311: The Power of the Doctor

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Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor
(1 episode, BBC Centenary Special, 2022)

Timestamp 311 Power of the Doctor

Regeneration, degeneration, and regeneration again.

The Cybermen attack a cosmic bullet train and Team TARDIS responds to the distress call. The train’s guards apparently kill the intruders, but these are the CyberMasters so they regenerate. The Doctor, Yaz, and Dan board the train using a metal ladder but the Cybermen send a team to the roof to counter them. The Doctor deactivates the magnetic field holding the Cybermen to the roof and they fly into the depths of space. Dan takes a blaster bolt to his spacesuit’s helmet but survives once the team enters the train.

The Cybermen are searching for cargo on the train. While Dan slows the train and Yaz tends to the wounded, the Doctor confronts the CyberMasters. They find the cargo is a young child and the CyberMasters escape with him.

Wait, are we trafficking people now?

In Siberia, 1916, a messenger arrives at Father Grigori Rasputin’s home with an urgent request. Tsarevich Alexei has taken ill and Rasputin has been summoned to the Winter Palace.

In London, 2022, Ace studies an empty wall in an art gallery. The curator insists that the missing painting has been taken for restoration, but Ace is not convinced. She calls Tegan, who is in Romania looking for missing seismologists, and notes that fifteen famous paintings have gone missing. Tegan is further confused by a Russian stacking doll containing a tiny Cyberman and a note from the Doctor.

Tegan hasn’t heard from the Doctor in four decades. Ace hasn’t heard from them in three decades.

The TARDIS arrives at the former site of Dan’s house in the modern day, and Dan announces that he’s leaving the TARDIS after his brush with death. The Doctor understands as she and Yaz say farewell. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS and receives a message from a renegade Dalek offering information about a plot to end humanity and a promise to help destroy the Dalek race. Yaz returns as the TARDIS locates the child from the train, leading them to 1916.

There is also an extra planet in the solar system.

St. Petersburg, 1916: Rasputin confers with Tsarina Alexandra about her son’s hemophilia and the appearance of a second moon. Rasputin is really the Master; he hypnotizes the tsarina and Tsar Nicholas II, convincing the family to leave so the Master can control the palace.

The TARDIS materializes on the mysterious moon, revealing it to be a Cyber-converted planet. They spot another TARDIS in the distance, but it is corrupted, tethered to the planet, and is connected to the missing child. That child is really a Qurunx, a rare sentient energy being disguised as something that someone would want to protect. When Cybermen arrive, the Doctor and Yaz barely escape into the TARDIS before being summoned by Kate Stewart.

They fly to UNIT HQ and learn about the missing scientists and paintings. The Doctor is reunited with Ace and Tegan, and while Ace approves of the new face, Tegan holds a grudge. The team finds that each of the paintings has been defaced with the Master’s Rasputin face. The team also receives a message from the Master that he’s holding a conference in Naples, so the Doctor leaves with Yaz after touching each of her former companions. The touches are literally shocking.

The Naples conference reveals that the Master has killed the seismologists. His disguises and dealings are grandstanding to attract the Doctor’s attention. Today is the day that the Doctor is erased from existence forever. Despite the threat/promise, UNIT soldiers arrest the Master and force him into the TARDIS to be held under armed guard.

Adding a complication, Vinder arrives on the Cyber-planet in search of the Qurunx. Unfortunately, the wormhole destroys his ship and strands him on the planet.

The Master is taken to a high-security bunker. En route, he taunts Kate, Tegan, and Ace. Meanwhile, the Doctor takes off to find the renegade Dalek. Yaz expresses her frustration at being kept in the dark, but the Doctor admits she doesn’t understand how everything connects. The Doctor also taps Yaz with the same static effect.

The TARDIS arrives inside a volcano in Bolivia and the Doctor meets with the Dalek. Meanwhile, Yaz discovers a much larger group of Daleks operating heavy drilling machinery.

Ace and Tegan watch a CCTV feed of the Master’s cell, but he addresses them, revealing that he sent the miniature Cyberman and the note from the Doctor. The doll returns to normal size and disgorges several Cybermen and Ashad (mysteriously returned to life). Tegan and Ace take cover with firearms, but the gold bullets prove ineffective. The Cybermen have leveled up.

UNIT is under siege from the Cybermen. The Master is set free.

The Doctor is ambushed by the Daleks. The traitor was set up and the Doctor is forced into the traitor’s casing. Yaz rushes to the TARDIS and tries to pilot it as the Doctor is teleported to 1916. There, the Master gloats about the Master’s Dalek Plan, in which he plans to force her to regenerate using Gallifreyan technology meshed with the Cyber-planet’s power. He taunts her by dancing to Boney M’s Rasputin while the plan is set in motion.

Vinder contacts the TARDIS with his special communicator just as the Master opens a channel to taunt Yaz. Yaz locks on to the signal and lands in the Winter Palace, but she’s too late. The Master has regenerated into the Doctor, clothes and all. The Master-Doctor compels Yaz to follow as his companion while he steals the TARDIS.

Kate, Tegan, and Ace gear up to defend the building. Kate initiates a lockdown while Ace and Tegan run for the roof with parachutes. Ace also digs out her classic bomber jacket and metal bat. Ace escapes but Tegan refuses to jump and remains behind in the locked building.

As the Master-Doctor fights for control of the TARDIS, he outlines his plan to erupt every volcano at once, destroying humanity while turning the planet into a foundry for Cybermen and Daleks. Meanwhile, he will travel the universe and tarnish the name of the Doctor throughout time and space. He starts by ending a civil war by destroying both combatants, all the while clad in a distorted amalgam outfit of the Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Tenth, and Thirteenth Doctor’s trademark clothes. Yaz pushes him out of the TARDIS and dematerializes, so the Master-Doctor awaits her return with a tune on the Second Doctor‘s recorder.

The Thirteenth Doctor awakens on an endless rocky vista. Near a telegraph pole, she meets a figure in Gallifreyan robes who morphs between the First, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Doctor‘s forms. The figure is the Guardian of the Edge, an overseer of the Edge of Existence where the Doctor passes upon regeneration. Since she hasn’t yet passed this milestone, the forced regeneration can be reversed, so she develops a plan.

Inside the TARDIS, Yaz encounters a holographic message from the Doctor. The shocking touches implanted emotional receptors in the companions so that this AI program could interact with them. Yaz outlines her plan to the AI, including rescuing Vinder. The hologram replies that they only have one chance to reverse the forced regeneration.

Tegan returns to Kate and explains that she needs to help stop the Cybermen. Kate reveals the only plan is to destroy the building and entomb the threat. Kate offers herself to the Cybermen with the promise of information, leaving Tegan to find the manual self-destruct activator.

Outside, Ace jumps off the building and is immediately shot at. Luckily, the TARDIS scoops her out of the sky. Ace approves of the new TARDIS and Yaz’s plan to drop her into the Bolivian volcano. Yaz retrieves the Master-Doctor and seemingly apologizes. Vinder hides nearby with his armed blaster.

As Tegan navigates UNIT HQ, her hologram activates as the Fifth Doctor. It wishes her good luck and promises that the Doctor never forgot her after she left the TARDIS. He offers her a “brave heart” and lets her continue her mission.

Inside the volcano, Ace meets the hologram as the Seventh Doctor. She’s ready to attack the Daleks with her new Nitro-999. The Doctor AI apologizes to Ace for how they parted ways. Ace is happy to make up with the Professor, who tells her that they’re more than good: “We’re ace!” She meets Graham O’Brien and the two hit it off immediately.

Ashad and the Cybermen find Kate hiding behind a laser shield. After a bit of stalling, she offers herself and her knowledge in exchange for the lives of her soldiers. The Cybermen accept. Meanwhile, Tegan descends an elevator shaft and is detected by Ashad.

The Master-Doctor returns to the Winter Palace and orders the Daleks to commence their plan. Volcanoes begin to erupt around the world, but Yaz distracts the Master-Doctor long enough to activate the AI. The Fugitive Doctor enters the room and traps the Cybermen in their own crossfire. Vinder and Yaz force the Master-Doctor into the regeneration chamber and harness the regeneration energy from the CyberMasters to degenerate the Time Lord.

The Thirteenth Doctor returns, astounded at her wardrobe and circumstances. She then gets to work. After changing clothes, she makes a plan for the volcanoes and the Cyber-planet. Meanwhile, Ace and Graham attack the Daleks and destroy the device with the Nitro-999. The Doctor arrives just in time to rescue her companions.

Ashad attempts to convert Kate into a Cyberman, but Tegan reverses the energy flow and disables the Cybermen. The two women sprint out of the building as it self-destructs, then join the Doctor the TARDIS as she pilots to the Cyber-planet. She quickly repairs Vinder’s ship and sends him home with love for the family. She then uses the TARDIS to jump-start the Master’s TARDIS, linking the two time capsules together so she can jump the Cyber-planet from 1916 to 2022. From there, she uses the power to freeze the erupting volcanoes into steel. With the planet saved, she frees the Qurunx and begins destroying the Cyber-planet.

The Rasputin form of the Master crawls from his pod and finds his way back to his TARDIS. As he dies after the trauma of forced degeneration, he shoots the Doctor with the Qurunx’s power. She is mortally wounded, but Yaz rushes to save her as the planet crumbles. The extended family gathers around as the Doctor passes out.

When the Doctor wakes up, she finds that Yaz has dropped everyone off in Croydon. The Cloister Bell rings and Doctor begins her regeneration. Despite wanting more time, she offers Yaz one final trip. They later eat ice cream while watching the Earth from the roof of the TARDIS. The Doctor eulogizes about the time they spent together because it was special. Instead of saying goodbye, the Doctor takes Yaz home and they share one last longing look. The Doctor leaves as Yaz reunites with Graham and Dan.

The trio arrives in a meeting room with a support group of former companions. They admit that, since returning from their travels, they’ve never been able to talk about what they experienced. Graham, Dan, Ace, Tegan, and Kate are joined by Jo Jones, Mel Bush, and even Ian Chesterton. They swap stories and make friends. They’re going to be okay.

The Doctor lands on a seaside cliff and asks the TARDIS to look after the next Doctor while she takes in a final sunrise. She says a fond farewell to her current incarnation before welcoming the Fourteenth Doctor. In a burst of explosive energy, she regenerates.

Her body changes. Her clothes change. But instead of someone new, the Doctor’s new form is someone familiar.

The final adventure of the Thirteenth Doctor is an amazing one. It ties off the CyberMasters storyline (which still irritates me, so it’s still effective) and fulfills the prophecy from The Vanquishers. It’s chock full of connections and callbacks, which is standard for an anniversary special, and it’s (surprisingly) well-written.

The end of the CyberMasters is well-crafted, spending the regeneration energy the Master stole from Gallifrey to restore the child the Time Lords pillaged to achieve immortality. I still have hope for the restoration of Gallifrey, but this is poetic justice.

The Master’s plan is diabolical and brilliant. Attacking the people the Doctor loves and handing the planet over to their greatest enemies is one thing, but taking the Doctor’s form and discrediting them throughout time and space is next level.

I also like how the franchise keeps playing with regeneration. While forced regeneration was established in 1969, the modern era has experimented with a “vanity” half-regeneration, transfer of regeneration energy, extending lifetime limits, jump-starting regeneration, and tests of loyalty. The classic era also experimented with Romana trying out different bodies. Here we add the ability to reverse a regeneration, but only under special circumstances that require a large infusion of regeneration energy.

It is in that regeneration/degeneration cycle that we find a fascinating mindscape to represent the Doctor’s continual transitory nature. The Edge of Existence, guarded by the past incarnations, marks the Doctor’s own river Styx. In Greek mythology, the river Styx separated the living souls from the dead souls of the Underworld. The river was guarded by Charon, the boatman who ferried the dead across. Funeral rites included low-value coins with the corpse which would be paid to Charon, and those who couldn’t pay wandered the shores for a century before being allowed across. It is fitting that the essence of the Doctor serves as the Guardian of the Edge, ensuring that each incarnation is truly ready to move on after death.

I kind of want a Tales from the Edge anthology. Who greeted the First Doctor? Were the Second and Tenth Doctors ready to accept the end? How would the Watcher figure in? Why does the Eighth Doctor despise the Gallifreyan robes so much?

The final thing I really like is the companion support group. While I dislike Ryan’s absence (particularly since he was among the first companions in this era), I love the concept of former companions swapping stories and bonding over their adventures. I have often wondered what happened to companions when they returned to their normal lives, and now I wonder why this idea took so long to arrive.

That brings me to the big friction point I have with this regeneration.

On the one hand, it was a necessary evil. What should have been a triumphant era in Doctor Who‘s history was plagued by lower budgets and declining viewership driven by substandard writing and plotting. Episode orders were cut, including for the Flux event and the follow-on specials. The show was nearly cancelled (again). Bringing in the most popular Doctor and the most popular showrunner leading into the 60th anniversary was a brilliant marketing move. It was a necessary marketing move, designed to tell the skeptics that The Powers That Be were serious about the longevity of the franchise.

On the other hand, it gave the most toxic members of fandom exactly what they wanted. Since Jodie Whittaker was announced as the Thirteenth Doctor, social media, YouTube, and places like 4chan were flooded with complaints and doom-mongering: Missives about how a female Doctor ruined representation for male fans and emasculated the fan base; How the show was becoming “woke” and feminist; How the next Doctor should be David Tennant and the years since his departure should be “decanonized” and cast aside as a fever dream.

Yeah, the vocal toxic minority wanted to erase the Smith, Capaldi, and Whittaker eras. So when David Tennant appeared as the Fourteenth Doctor, it felt like Russell T. Davies was giving them exactly what they wanted. By burning away the Thirteenth Doctor’s face and clothing (which hadn’t been done since Hartnell’s regeneration) and replacing it with a copy of something twelve years past, it felt like RTD was erasing Whittaker’s legacy.

It took a while to come to terms with RTD’s assurance that he wasn’t doing that, but symbolically that’s how it looked, and it added a sour note to what is otherwise an amazing, fun, and fitting send-off for the Thirteenth Doctor.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Series Thirteen and Thirteenth Doctor Summary


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

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