The Timeless Children

Posted in Audio by - March 02, 2020
The Timeless Children

Aired 01 March 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

“Everything that you think you know is a lie.” Following a debut series filled with mostly standalone adventures for Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker, showrunner Chris Chibnall wasted little time at the start of this current run of episodes in embracing the challenges of Doctor Who continuity and threatening to upend everything that has been established as fact through some fifty-seven years of adventures. With the Master taking the Doctor back to the Gallifrey he has destroyed to reveal a foundational secret as the Cybermen advance, Chibnall’s ‘The Timeless Children’ seeks to close out this series on a bombastic high.

‘Rose’ famously introduced the Ninth Doctor as he held out his hand in a symbol of hope and salvation, and ‘The Timeless Child’ intriguingly subverts the innate goodness of that gesture by showing the Master pressing the Doctor to take his own hand as he leads her into the destroyed ruins of their former home. Pplacing her into a paralysis chamber so that she can do nothing but speak, the Master quickly assumes the role of dark protagonist as he takes to explaining the shocking knowledge he discovered while hacking into the Matrix and all of the Time Lords’ accumulated experiences. Although this has obliquely been hinted at as far back as ‘The Brain of Morbius,’ he has discovered that the First Doctor as has always been presented is, in fact, anything but. More shockingly, however, is the sheer arrogance that even the very earliest Gallifreyans possessed as the story of an explorer who found an alien child on a world far away and adopted her as her own is revealed. Suffering a fatal accident mirroring Brendan’s fall shown in the previous episode which itself served as a visual filter overlaying the Doctor’s true childhood experiences, this child who would become the Doctor showed her regenerative prowess, and Tecteun continued experiments on the child and eventually herself to imbue the power of regeneration to the selected so-called elite of this world, creating the Time Lords in the process with a forced regeneration limit of twelve and foundationally altering the established history of this race who for so long has been seen as so wise and naturally powerful.

This doesn’t answer how the lies about regeneration were perpetrated given that a piece of the Doctor is in every Time Lord nor how Rassilon came to be involved in the legend of regeneration, but the Doctor’s furtive involvement with an organisation more willing to go against the non-intervention policy of these fledgling Time Lords is certainly a window of opportunity ripe for further exploration. This would go a long way in describing just how Joanne Martin’s previous Doctor likewise came to assume that moniker and how her TARDIS also came to assume the shape of a London police box. ‘The Timeless Children’ attempts to deliver an immense amount of information and invariably ends up creating just as many questions as it answers including just how no other species who has ever come upon a Time Lord has likewise been able to sequence and splice out the secret to regeneration, but only time will tell if this rewritten history actually comes to affect the character of the Doctor or the franchise in any meaningful fashion or if it serves simply as a one-off to bookend this series.

Without question, though, this information truly affects the Master who can’t stand the fact that his very existence is in at least some small part due to the Doctor, and Sacha Dhawan perfectly plays a man on the edge who is just as happy to sacrifice everything including himself as he is to achieve universal dominion. Never has the Master truly seemed so dangerous and unpredictable, and Dhawan easily assumes the central role as he concurrently goads Ashad and the Cyberforce to the ruins of Gallifrey and learns of the death particle that the Cyberium gifted Ashad to destroy all organic life while the Cybermen achieve full mechanization. That the Cybermen find even a lack of emotions of their converted bodies insufficient for victory is a potentially intriguing narrative development, but the realization that the Cybermen instead want to convert themselves into robots instead of converting others into them is perhaps a change too much for this race which undermines the very foundation of what has made them so uniquely prescient in their threat. Granted, the threat of an army of Cybermen composed of Time Lords with the ability to regenerate which the Master ultimately creates after casually killing Ashad to assume control of the Cyberium is a visually intense threat, but a visual is unfortunately all the Cybermen become here since there is no chance to truly see what these beings are capable of before the death particle ultimately puts a quick end to that storyline.

Indeed, the actual plot outside of the Matrix history lesson is fairly threadbare with even the companions receiving little screentime. Despite this, Graham and Yaz share a touching scene in which they verbalize just how much they think of each other as people, and Ryan once more gets to highlight how much he has been able to achieve with regards to his dyspraxia. There’s no denying how much Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole have added to the humanity of the Thirteenth Doctor and her adventures, but ‘The Timeless Children’ unfortunately just simply does not have time to highlight its expanded cast and tellingly shunts them off to present-day Earth with humanity’s few other sole survivors as the Doctor intends to sacrifice herself to end what she has become so fatefully intertwined with despite no prior knowledge of these affairs. The ambition of ‘The Timeless Children’ is second to none and will certainly provide plenty of talking points to last viewers until and beyond the resolution of the cliffhanger that finds the Doctor imprisoned by the Judoon, but it perhaps tries to boldly change too much without proper buildup or the time to yet put these changes into full context to truly capitalize on its attempts that still hold so much potential.

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2 Comments on "The Timeless Children"

  • CCColeman

    The ratings are falling into a Black Hole and the Beeb is dancing with joy. Horrible writing, acting, agenda driven drivel. Critical Drinker on YouTube has the best review of this mess.

  • Simon Foston

    I don’t see much in this review to justify 4 stars. The only reason I can think of for giving it even one star is that if often looks quite good.

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