Finally! The Doctor see’s Bill as a grown-up and is treating her accordingly, at least as much as he can during an episode in which neither of them does much of anything. Empress of Mars read to me like a typical Gattis, stand-alone episode, unrelated to the series’ story arcs, and focusing primarily upon a guest character. Though much better than his last Doctor Who offering, (Sleep No More), Empress of Mars felt like a fan-boy swan song, (as have many of the scripts this season), full of preposterous circumstances, gorgeous classic Who references, and a moving emotional heart.
What little the Doctor and Bill had to do in this episode, they did it as equals. Neither Nardole nor the Doctor tried to protect Bill. In fact, her fall down the tunnel literally and symbolically demonstrated her ability to handle danger on her own. Mostly, this episode was about Colonel Godsacre and his redemption arc, finding courage and a new life through self-sacrifice. (Hmm, sounds like both Oxygen and The Lie of the Land. Could this be foreshadowing of the series finale, Christmas special, or the Doctor’s regeneration?)
One of my joys in being a Doctor Who fan is the telling of a story 53 years in the making (and counting!). The Alpha Centauri cameo at the end made my heart sing. I also felt so grateful that I’ve watched all of the Classic Who. To understand and feel those few seconds are part of what being a DW fan is all about for me.
Now that Bill and the Doctor are on more equal footing, I’m looking forward to the focus returning to them and seeing what they can get done when they work together as partners, rather than teacher/student (not that I minded that dynamic!)