Spoilers follow for this episode of Doctor Who.
To regenerate or not to regenerate. That is the question.
In fact, it’s the question not just for the Twelfth Doctor here in the Season 10 finale, The Doctor Falls, but also in a way for Missy and for Bill as well. It makes sense that Peter Capaldi and writer/executive-producer Steven Moffat’s final regular season episode would be concerned with such matters, not just because they’re about to regenerate behind the scenes but also because the very idea of regeneration on Doctor Who has become such a point of hype for viewers whenever it rolls around.
Unfortunately, while The Doctor Falls does play with this concept, it doesn’t do so in a terribly successful way in at least two of the three cases cited above. Twelve, who for some reason is steadfastly against regenerating, doesn’t even get closure on his story here, which is unfortunate. Yes, it was super cool to see David Bradley (Game of Thrones) return as the William Hartnell First Doctor at the very end of the episode, and I can’t wait to get to the Christmas Special to see how this all plays out, but dramatically it doesn’t work in the context of this episode. Not only does Twelve’s refusal to regenerate seem to come out of the blue, but teasing it for two episodes and then not resolving that story in any meaningful way is a bit of a cheat. I can’t keep on being somebody else, Twelve laments to the TARDIS. It’s a great concept, and one that deserves to be fleshed out. Sure, the parallel between Bill’s dilemma and how it informs the Doctor’s is sketched out earlier in the episode when she says, I don’t want to live if I can’t be me anymore. But otherwise Twelve’s regeneration regret is more or less dumped on us in the final moments of the season.