"Once... there was a planet—"
Oh God Moffat, enough with the pretentious voiceovers already.
The Doctor has a Cyberman's head in the TARDIS which he appears to be using as a kind of SIRI/portable companion. Given that Cybermen are converted from sentient beings, one would think that removing the homicidal part of them would return them to being the regular kind of sentient being who you shouldn't casually wield as a personal shield against laser fire, but then I'm not a Time Lord so may be missing some nuance.
I admit I did like:
"I'm cooking Christmas dinner!"
"I'm getting shot at by Cybermen!"
"Well, can't we do both?"
[opening credits have possibly been redesigned again, I'm losing track]
...The Doctor is naked. Because he's going to church? Now he's wearing hologram clothes. I don't even care if this is going to be a plot point, it's still creepy. Clara shudders but it's Christmas and she needs a pretend boyfriend so rolls with it.
(Sidenote: Why do people who suddenly realise they need a pretend boyfriend never just announce that they've had a pretend breakup? So much less comedic drama, plus then you can claim to be too heartbroken to deal with cooking turkey.)
Oh, it turns out that only Clara can see the hologram clothes because it didn't occur to the Doctor that her family might prefer things that way to. Hahaha so creepy.
The turkey isn't done so they take it to the TARDIS (whether to bake in the Time Vortex or to bake and then take a short hop back in time I'm not clear. Either way, whatever the Doctor says this seems a totally legit use of the TARDIS to me).
Turns out the Cyberman's got no organics at all, so okay. Anyway, it announces that Mystery Planet is Gallifrey. Doctor is dramatically melodramatic with extra manpain. "That's not my planet, its rings are too fluffy!"
They go to some big orbiting church-ship in hologram clothes and nothing else and the Doctor flirts with the Mother Superious. (Superius? Makes no sense grammatically but dunno.) Clara interrupts, bored already, and at least gets introduced before the Doctor and Mother adjourn to Private Conference Wink Wink and leave her to wander the cross-shaped corridors alone.
While the Doctor and Mother Superious discuss the colony on the planet over her altar-shaped bed, Clara has several runs-in with Silences which she each promptly forgets. Finally in terror she flees and breaks up the conclave. Forgetting again, she goes along with the plan to teleport down to the planet. The Mother Superious insists on the Doctor leaving behind his TARDIS key (by implication he hasn't even tried bringing his screwdriver) and gives them one hour.
We're just outside a rustic village on a snowy night. It's all very Christmas and then Clara's foot gets grabbed by a Weeping Angel's hand that protrudes from the snow. She suggests she could escape by taking her shoe off, the Doctor points out she's not wearing a shoe. They escape by summoning the TARDIS using the key that he's... hidden in his wig after shaving his head one night when he was bored. Okay...
Clara puts real clothes on and is approximately as grateful as I am for the opportunity. They go out to explore the village, with screwdriver. They meet inhabitants and, engaging them in conversation, discover they're all affected by a truthfield. Telling the truth compels Clara to introduce herself as someone to travels with the Doctor because she fancies him and to answer a question about her name with an assertion that she's a "bossy control freak".
Stephen Moffat, I am judging you so hard.
They find a crack in the wall. The Doctor realises it's left over, a structural weakness that Gallifrey is trying to break back into the universe through. It's transmitting a signal that's attracted a bazillion ships, and CyberSiri translates the signal as (the Doctor realises: the oldest question in the universe): "Doctor Who?" This translation also accidentally gets transmitted to all the bazillion ships in orbit, in a scene that's really startlingly similar to the Pandorica opening.
The truth field is to make sure that if he answers he tells the truth and the Time Lords know it's safe to return. The obvious solution seems to be to get Clara to say "Actually I'm not a doctor I'm Clara Oswin and I'm a schoolteacher!" but instead he sends her back to the TARDIS to find a left-handed screwdriver. For a bossy control freak she's really quick to follow makework orders and get herself dumped back safely on Earth.
Meanwhile the Mother Superious conferences with the Doctor and admits that this is Trensilor: if he lets the Time Lords through the Time War will start up again. Now maybe I don't know enough about the Time War but I thought it was between the Daleks and the Time Lords. The Daleks have already survived and the universe isn't in much danger, so they must be pretty weak, which I'd think would mean the Time Lords could defeat them quite easily. If the Time Lords couldn't defeat them that easily then either the Daleks are strong enough to threaten the universe by themselves, or the Time Lords are pretty weak and are no threat to the universe either. So I really fail to see the big deal at this point.
But the Mother Superious is adamant she won't let it happen. "Speak your name and this planet will burn."
"No. This planet is protected." I feel the Doctor is forgetting key parts of his history. While he rallies a couple of dozen townspeople, the Mother Superious dedicates the church to Silence and declares that the Doctor will not speak his name. "Silence will fall."
What happens next is confusing. For long enough for the Doctor to grow visibly old and require a cane to limp along, he stays on the planet protecting the town, while the church-ship stays in orbit also protecting the town from all the ships in orbit attempting to kill the Doctor by sending in hapless Sontarans and wooden Cybermen. I don't feel the Mother Superious has quite got the hang of silencing people yet.
Three hundred years later, the TARDIS turns up - with Clara still on the outside where she'd been trying to get her key in the lock while the TARDIS was trying to leave Earth. Luckily it seems to have extended the forcefield around her while they travelled through the Time Vortex because she seems shaken rather than dead.
Ah, apparently the reason the church-ship isn't attacking is in case he unleashes the Time Lords. He can't leave or they'll burn the planet to prevent him returning to answer the question.
We learn that CyberSiri's name is Handles, so he dies. The Doctor reveals that Moffat's counting both the War Doctor and the time Tennant regenerated with his own face, so this is his last regeneration too. If that's the case, how could he have been regenerating at Lake Silencio in the moment when River shot him the second time to make sure he was really dead?
The Doctor and Clara attend parlay with the Mother Superious. There are more Silences: the Doctor explains they're professional priests, genetically modified for the confessional so you forget you've seen them afterwards. I feel this misses some important points about confession.
A bunch of priest-soldiers turn out to be Daleks in disguise.
The Mother Superius mentions the Kovarian chapter broke away and travelled back along his timestream to prevent him ever reaching Trensilor. Of course by blowing up his TARDIS they created the very cracks in the universe that allowed Gallifrey access. The "Destiny Trap", the Doctor calls this: "You can't change history if you're part of it." I call this a paradox of the Ouroboros variety, and I have a friend who will literally not be able to cope with it. But the Mother Superious continues to tell how the Daleks are growing in strength, recently attacked, and slaughtered her people. "I died in this room screaming your name. —Oh." Yeah, that.
Dalek / Doctor standoff. The Dalek Superious takes Clara hostage, the Doctor shrugs, Clara is brave, the Doctor mocks the Dalek Superious as spineless in comparison, and she's goaded into grabbing back her humanity and killing the other Daleks. In delight the Doctor snogs her. She scolds him, "Kiss me when I ask," and he retorts "You'd better ask nicely." It's even more disgustingly PUA than it sounds oh my God Moffat.
He and Clara leave. The turkey finishes cooking. Clara asks him to promise not to ever send her away again. He does, and then does.
The war on Trensilor continues.
Clara is miserable on Christmas and no wonder with the callous (stepmother?) Moffat's invented for her. Her grandmother's sympathetic though, being too old to threaten Moffat. Then the TARDIS returns...
...piloted by the Mother Superious. "Flying the TARDIS was always easy. It's flying the Doctor that was difficult." She takes Clara back to Trensilor so the Doctor doesn't have to die alone.
Doctor is old wah wah. Daleks summon the Doctor. He tells Clara to stay put and be safe. She stays put and tells the Crack "You've got it wrong. It's not Doctor Who, it's just The Doctor, so help him." (This was the worst part of the trailer, but in context it's her moment of awesome. ...It's still pretty terrible that it's her moment of awesome.)
As the Daleks gloat over his impending death, the Time Lords send him an extra regeneration. With bonus regeneration energy apparently, which he uses to destroy the Daleks while Clara hustles the townspeople into shelter.
I will note for the record that even if one were rabidly "Time Lords can't change gender!" getting an extra regeneration sent from Gallifrey in another universe would provide the perfect excuse to make an exception.
All's safe. Clara returns to the TARDIS where he's still regenerating and hallucinating Amelia. "Who's Amelia?" she asks. What? Only your favourite author, Clara. Amy also gets a cameo, and then he takes off his bow tie. It falls to the floor in dramatic slow-motion metonymy. Clara is annoyingly distressed given how refreshingly matter-of-fact she'd been earlier in the episode at the prospect of him regenerating.
Capaldi appears, doesn't like the colour of his kidneys, and asks Clara if she knows how to fly the TARDIS.
This, Doctor, is one of many reasons why you shouldn't act like such an obnoxious know-it-all whose companions can't be trusted to learn simple life-saving tasks.
Ehh. It had a relatively coherent plot that ties up loose ends from earlier, more interesting, plots, and many of the new plot-holes are forgiveable. I liked several of the hour-long episode's lines of dialogue, and if I hadn't stopped caring about Matt Smith's incarnation a year or two ago his farewell might have been somewhat moving. I guess it might be interesting to see how Capaldi does, but I'm still living in hope that Moffat will suddenly decide he can get more adulation in some other fandom and leave this one to someone who can write people.