Doctor Who Extremis Review

Ah this episode was more like the old school Santa Moff penned script I know and love. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy The Pilot. I did, but I have always enjoyed the way Moffat does outlandish experimentation in directions you never expect on Doctor Who, and this is what happens again with Extremis.

Like the openers to series 6 and 9, this mid series episode felt like part one of a finale two parter. Aside from some jokes at the Catholic Church’s expense via Bill and her prospective girlfriend, Penny’s shock at the TARDIS materializing and bringing The Pope to say hi, the whole episode feels dark, foreboding and like the stakes are getting ramped up in a big way.

Missy and The Doctor

The episode opens sometime after The Husbands of River Song and the singing towers and The Doctor finding Bill we presume. We aren’t given a lot of background on why Missy is about to be executed (is it something to do with her escape with the daleks at the start of series 9? Will this story strand come up again in the s10 finale?), but the way Moffat weaves how The Doctor came to be minding the box at university actually works quite well alongside the second story strand of the episode, which is basically The Name of the Rose meets The Matrix alien invasion story.

I have always found the relationship between The Master and The Doctor to be interesting. They are both Time Lord renegades, and therefore, in some sense bound by mutual understanding of what it is to be alone, to be an outcast from kin. They are both brilliant geniuses, even if they choose to use that genius to different ends. They both play games with each other, to test that intellect, and to make sure both can still play the game.

Though Missy was understated in this episode, Michelle Gomez is as brilliant as ever, and I am heartbroken that she is set to leave alongside Capaldi. Though I still enjoyed Simm Master, he has nothing on the cold, intelligent, brutal mania of Missy. I couldn’t quite tell, as Missy knelt before her executioner, if she meant every word she said or she was just trying to save her own skin.

I have also often said in these recap reviews that Moffat has a way of verbalising via his scripts key qualities of The Doctor, the qualities which make him loved, respected and famed throughout the galaxy. This time Moff does this via Nardole, River Song and her blue TARDIS diary. If The Doctor killed Missy in cold blood, he would no longer be The Doctor (the name you choose. It’s like a promise you keep). He would take responsibility for her, he would watch over her for a thousand years because she is a Time Lord following horribly wrong paths, but he cannot kill her without destroying the part of himself that people love most. River’s diary quote felt like something out of a philosophy text rather than a TV episode, and it is no less beautiful for that.

River: Only in darkness are we revealed. […] Goodness is not goodness that seeks advantage. Good is good in the final hour, in the deepest pit, without hope, without witness, without reward. Virtue is only virtue in extremis.

In the most extreme of circumstances, The Doctor saves The Master in the hopes that someday she will make good on her word and pay The Doctor’s kindness back. By episode’s end, The Doctor must ask one of his oldest enemies for help. The question is, at what price does Missy’s aide come? Does she truly understand the meaning of calling someone friend? Her words as her doom sat high seem to indicate so:

Missy: Without hope. Without witness. Without reward. I am your friend.

The Companions

I am still loving Bill, and this episode continued with building on her relationship with Nardole, which I am a fan of. I love that Nardole can be a ‘badass’ and then two seconds later reveal himself to be a real coward. He is a companion that grows on me more with each passing episode.

I am also enjoying the run of stories in series 10 which see The Doctor and his companions relying less on the sonic and magic Time Lord get out of jail free cards, and more focus on companions and The Doctor resorting to intellect to get out of sticky situations. This episode then is a mixed bag on this front; most of the episode is spent with characters figuring things out, yet The Doctor’s ability to email from the simulation to himself in the real world made no sense.

Extremis: 8/10 inky stars for being a chilling, yet oddly beautiful in parts episode, with some fine performances from everyone, but especially from Capaldi. His gravity when he explains to Bill that they are simulations is grave and sad.

PS: Will The Doctor’s attempt to read The Veritus affect his next regeneration? What price did Twelve pay for the brief use of his vision returned?

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About InkAshlings

Maureen, Australian, young aspiring writer.
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7 Responses to Doctor Who Extremis Review

  1. Brendan says:

    Missy was of course lying when she said there was no one to hear her. The Doctor was there and it was his sympathies, she was aiming for.

    In a way though that line does hearken to the mindset of Missy and all psychopaths like her. Actions are normally only worth doing if it garners opportunity, adulation or wealth.

    • InkAshlings says:

      I get that Brendan, but what I loved about Michelle Gomez’ performance was that she sounded so convincing. Thats’ why Missy is my favourite version of The Master. She is so terrifying because she can sound so convincing.

    • InkAshlings says:

      Also the concept of ‘friendship’ has been reoccurring in relation to Missy. She claims her plan in the s8 finale happened because ‘I just want my friend back,’ and she says she brought Clara to The Doctor so he would see ‘the enemy within the friend, the friend within the enemy.’ What’s great about Michelle is that she is so ambiguous in how she plays these aspects of the role. Then Missy does the next heinous thing and you just want her locked up. She is by far the most complex version of The Master we’ve had in years.

      • And putting Clara inside the Dalek was so, *so* clever. The perfect way to show The Doctor what she meant in that statement. Personally, I don’t want Missy locked up. I want to marry her! šŸ™‚

  2. There were some fantastic one-liners in this that I’m still laughing at. Poor Bill is never going to have a love life while The Doctor’s around, is she!

    I’ve always loved the relationship between The Doctor and The Master; I’m fairly sure that neither could survive without the other. They may be on opposing sides, but they are still the same children who were best friends from long before they had to gaze into the vortex, and I think they will always love each other, regardless of anything and everything. I’m absolutely gutted that Michelle’s leaving – she’s been the best since Delgado (RIP) – but she said it well: her friends are leaving; there’s no reason for her to stay (but if she thinks I’m not going to cry buckets when I know it’s her final scene she can think again).

    • InkAshlings says:

      I don’t care what Michelle wants. I want her to stay for a good few years longer šŸ˜› By far the best character in Capaldi era Who. Yes, I agree with you re their friendship. I do believe that even as Missy was saying words to try and save her life, she still meant them to some degree.

      • I want her to stay forever – I’m so sad that she’s going! Can she at least get to watch The Clangers at some point? I think she’d pull that hark back to Delgado off brilliantly!

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