In the leadup to its series 12 finale, Doctor Who teased that “everything you know is a lie.” They weren’t kidding.
Sure enough, “The Timeless Children” is full of tense moments, breathtaking set pieces and some fantastic monologues. But more than any of those, it will be remembered for rewriting Doctor Who’s history.
Leaving off from the previous part’s cliffhanger, the Doctor’s (Jodie Whittaker) arch-enemy, the Master (Sacha Dhawan), takes her through a portal to a destroyed Gallifrey, the home of their race, the Time Lords. There, the Master shows the Doctor the true history of the Time Lords and her connection to the mysterious “timeless child.”
At the same time, however, the Master convenes with Ashad (Patrick O’Kane), the human-Cyberman hybrid in command of the Cyberman (Nicholas Briggs) army, to quell the remaining humans, including the Doctor’s companions, and attain absolute supremacy of the universe while they’re at it.
Of course, both villains view themselves as the most suitable leader, which leads to a fun dynamic of each trying to maintain the most control. The Master acts as the main character throughout much of the episode, commanding attention through submitting entirely to his mania, ranging from comical to disturbing, often at the same time. Dhawan brings new life and energy to this time-worn character, and the Master’s substantial time on-screen gives him permission to show his character’s full range.
Aside from a few tender moments, the Doctor’s companions are mostly sidelined for the finale. Even with a 65-minute runtime, it’s understandable why. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and one episode without team TARDIS at the center doesn’t erase their character.
Whittaker, too, is given ample time to show off her range as the Doctor. Stranded in her own subconscious, the Doctor confronts herself — literally — as she grapples with her identity and worldview being shaken. More than any previous episode, Whittaker shows real pain and anger, proving herself to be just as capable of eliciting emotion as any of her male regenerations.
“The Timeless Children” had a lot of plot points to juggle and mostly succeeds in paying them off, while setting up some fascinating new ones. That was facilitated through a mostly solid series throughout, reconnecting Doctor Who with its history while not being afraid to rewrite some of it.
Despite some missteps along the way, series 12 has proven that Doctor Who has once again found its footing, and the new revelations presented by its finale promise plenty more mysteries for the Doctor to unravel.
Doctor Who will return for a special episode this holiday season.