Title: The Timeless Children
Release Date: 29/2/20
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama
Network: BBC One
The Timeless Children
Inarguably, in terms of scale, and story, Season 12’s finale, The Timeless Children, has really pushed the boat out to do far much more than last year’s forgettable The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos. By that title alone, it felt like a dreary Colin Baker serial.
Alas, The Timeless Children is already redeeming Season 11’s lukewarm finale.
The Timeless Children begins on Gallifrey, and it’s all looking very bleak. It’s a dreadful sight to see Gallifrey, once again, in burning ruins. In recent seasons, Gallifrey has made more than a few regular appearances within the show, and it’s good to see the planet back again. Sacha Dhawan’s Master has been one of the highlights of Season 12. Dhawan remains as fresh, frenzied and eccentric as always in the role of the iconic villain.
The Doctor is stranded on her homeworld with The Master, who, with all his vanity, invites Ashad and his Cyber fleets to the planet.
Ashad appears slightly skeptical and I can’t help but imagine will inevitably turn against the Master later on down the line. Meanwhile, as the Cyber forces arrive at the Boundary, Graham, Yaz, Yedlarmi, and Ravio put a plan into action. Disguise yourselves as Cybermen to avoid detection by Ashad. Pete and Rose Tyler attempted a similar thing in 2006, and it failed.
So, not the worst plan. Ryan, Ethan and Ko Sharmus prepare to take up arms against the Cyberwarriors. There’s a sweet, and yet oddly, a worrying scene between Yaz and Graham. He says she’s an impressive young woman. It’s a fatherly love he shows her, and it’s lovely. Still, I’m anxious about this. Something bad always happens right after a scene like this. I’ll give it the rest of the episode with a big I told you so if my theory proves correct.
Of course, at the very same time, Ashad becomes aware that they must be planning something and goes to investigate.
This season’s arc has been centered on the ‘timeless child’, as well as the Master’s ominous warning from Spyfall that everything is a lie. So, finally, we’re about to learn the frequently mentioned truth. The Master explains a story of Tecteun, an explorer from Gallifrey, a part of the Shobogans. She traveled into the galaxies beyond Gallifrey, finding a gateway to a dimension on a new world. At the same time, she finds an abandoned child. Tecteun adopts and travels the stars with the child, returning to Gallifrey.
In a twist, the child dies in an accident. The child regenerates. So, what makes her special? She’s the first person from Gallifrey to regenerate. Brendan from Episode 9 is making a little more sense now.
Ko Sharmus, Ryan and Ethan take on the Cybermen as the Boundary is closed. Ryan’s boasting of wiping out a small group of Cybermen is cut short as another group reaches the top of a hill. So, Ashad’s arrival on Gallifrey tells us one thing. He can’t be trusted as far as he can be thrown. This is going to go so wrong for the Master.
At just over twenty minutes into The Timeless Children, I’ve got to admit, it’s all feeling a little lackluster. It’s a season finale, and it just feels as if so much more can happen. Anyway, what we do find out is that eventually, Tecteun, after years of studying, discovers the child has the capacity to regenerate infinitely. More still, Tecteun then transfers the genetic ability to regenerate into herself.
So, Gallifrey and the Shobogans evolve, subsequently becoming a ruling elite. Tecteun decides to pass on the regenerative ability into the Time Lord race, restricting it, however, to twelve times. But then, in the episode’s biggest twist, the Doctor is the timeless child. Some might argue it’s not that much of a surprise.
Meanwhile, on a lighter note, back at the Boundary, Yaz, Graham, Ravio, and Yedlarmi save the day. But, Graham can’t get his helmet off.
In a slightly disappointing twist, Ashad is miniaturized by The Master’s tissue compression eliminator. In doing so, they wiped one of the best aspects of the season finale. Shame.
But moving on. The Death Particle, a weapon capable of wiping out all organic life, according to Ashad, remains within him, despite his size change. It’s an effective way of upping the stakes for Whittaker’s second season finale.
The Master takes the Cyberium, giving Sacha Dhawan the chance, once again, to provide us with an utterly manic performance as The Master.
The Division And The CyberMasters
So, later on down the line, Tecteun and the timeless child are inducted into a secret organization, The Division. But before we can find out anything more about The Division, the memory cuts out. The rest has been redacted.
It’s a frustrating moment since The Timeless Children is leaving us with more questions than answers. So, who removed the remainder of the memory, what is the Division, what does this mean for the Doctor as the timeless child, and does this make Tecteun the Doctor’s mother?
This head-scratching situation is one of the main reasons why I found The Timeless Children so irritating in its execution. However, it is an intriguing premise, the idea that the origins of the Time Lords and their ability to regenerate stemmed from the timeless child. If delivered right, it sets up an interesting premise going into later seasons.
The Brendan back story from Ascension Of The Cybermen comes back again. The Master embedded the images into the Doctor’s mind as they tracked the Cybermen. Brendan was a part of the Division, but in terms of what it all means, we’ve got to keep waiting.
So, the Master reveals that despite killing everyone on Gallifrey, he kept the bodies. These bodies are cannibalized into what he calls Cybermasters. Time Lords with the ability to infinitely regenerate, encased in Cyber armor. It’s a bit bonkers, and it does feel like they might be scraping the barrel with this one, but it works enough.
As seen below, everybody arrives on Gallifrey, stepping through the Boundary. The problem, however, is that in introducing Graham, Ryan, and Yaz into the eleventh season, it’s all become a little exhausting by the end of this twelfth season.
In the final climax of The Timeless Children, everyone else materializes through the Boundary. The Doctor has a vision of Ruth’s Doctor in the Matrix. It’s likely Ruth is one of the Doctor’s incarnations that she cannot remember, from during her time with The Division. As the Doctor ponders, how many more incarnations has she forgotten?
The Doctor escapes the Matrix by thinking about herself hard. Of course. It’s a slightly cheesy sequence of archive footage from the BBC of Doctor Who throughout its 57 years, layered over with an even more cheesy, eighties rendition of its theme. With this, the Doctor breaks out of the Matrix.
The plan is to detonate explosives and destroy the Cyber ship. However, the explosives are somewhat faulty and the countdown is triggered earlier than intended. The Doctor makes a last stand against the Master, threatening to detonate the only remaining device, paired with Ashad’s Death Particle.
As is always the way, the last remaining explosive cannot be set on a timer. The Doctor tries her best to make the final heroic stand, but of course, never does. Ko Sharmus does instead. Considering his history with the Cyberium and the Cyber Wars, Ko Sharmus gives his life to destroy the Cybermasters and Gallifrey. The fate of the Master, naturally, remains unknown. He’ll be back, obviously.
The Doctor brings everyone home, as she goes back to find her TARDIS on the wastelands from Episode 9. It’s a somber, melancholy moment of reflection in the TARDIS. Of all she’s lost and learned, and of all the things to come. Until the Judoon board the TARDIS, and sentence her to life imprisonment in a prison embedded within an asteroid. Onto Christmas then…
Verdict: The Timeless Children is a satisfying enough conclusion for now. However, the timeless child story arc remains puzzling and leaves far more questions than answers. Furthermore, The Timeless Children is a little underwhelming in its delivery, considering it is a season finale. The timeless child arc is a smartly conceived plot from Chibnall, so praise to him.
Performances from Whittaker and Dhawan were a gem to watch. The number of companions, however, is beginning to weigh Doctor Who down. Since this episode aired, Bradley Walsh announced he’d be stepping down.
And still no Captain Jack!
It’ll be a shame to see him go, as he’s been a marvel to watch in Season 12, providing the warm-hearted comedy moments in a show that has become hugely story-driven, and to a degree, has shied away from focusing on our companions. It’s honestly sad to say that two seasons in, I still don’t feel much for Yaz and Ryan. Christmas is promising, as the Daleks are back, and hopefully, there’s more than one.