Doctor Who 12×10 Review: “The Timeless Children”

The season finale is here and gone, and with it comes some revelations abou the Doctor’s past and, uh, new Cybermen fashion.

Warning: spoilers ahead…

Let’s dive right into the real core of the episode. Not the character moments like Graham’s hearttwarming talk with Yaz, or the silliness of Ryan defeating a group of Cybermen with his jumpshot, or even the Master making plans with his new BFF. All that stuff is fun and well but the real discussion (and I imagine what will be melting fandom down) are the revealtions about the Doctor.

So… the truth about Time Lord history is that an explorer named Tecteun found this child – OH SNAP THE ACTUAL DOCTOR – on a distant world. She traveled with the child, and upon learning it could regenerate, experimented on her and discovered the secret and distributed it to the rest of her race, thus marking the ascension of the Time Lords. The Doctor’s previous lives were redacted, including her involvement with something called the Division, an organization in Time Lord society that… well, we don’t know.

I’m not even mad about this change. It canonizes the theory around the old Doctor Who episode “The Brain of Morbius” that the Doctor did have previous lives we hadn’t seen. Why such a callback was necessary is beyond me. How many of the current fans of the show would even care?

My issue isn’t that it changes the “canon” (couldn’t care less about that), although it does so in a manner that does not invalidate anything prior. My issue is that, as far reveals go, this was more hype than delivery.

The real mind-blowing moment this season was the Ruth Doctor from “Fugitive of the Judoon”. That was well-crafted and a great moment in the series. This… well, this reveal wasn’t all that surprising. It confirms what the deal with Ruth is, but all the stuff about the Doctor being the Timeless Child (we knew this) and how they affected Time Lord society (okay, that was new, but not terribly interesting) was underwhelming. Sure, it puts more mystery into the Doctor’s background, but is Chibnall intent on developing this further? If not, this becomes an easy retcon down the road, with the Master having messed with the Doctor’s head.

My feelings may evolve on this, but I just… don’t know. I have to see how it affects things – if at all.

This take on the Doctor’s past is actually much more intriguing in the context of what novels or audios could do with it. But until then, this all feels like a lot of window dressing, and of very little value if this is how Chibnall leaves this particular plot thread.

I will say Chibnall produced an improved season over last, but the arc fails to deliver on its promise. Perhaps it was the delivery, but more likely it was my expectations.

The Doctor’s past is even more of a mystery – but why does it matter, and who cares?

Rating: C+

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