…Or that was a bit disappointing after last week’s strange confection. I loved Peter Harness’ series 9 Zygon two parter and loathed his abortion metaphor in Kill The Moon (not to mention the waste of a particularly strong guest star in Hermione Norris). A writer known for his political undertones, this episode is no different (Russia, the USA and China put aside their differences to face an alien threat together), but it suffers from being the middle episode in a three parter.
Back in real time, Bill is telling her would be girlfriend, Penny, about the mad cap adventures of her and The Doctor in last week’s Extremis. Last week she was interrupted by The Pope and this time, in what appears to be a running gag, she is interrupted by the UN’s head. Why? A mysterious pyramid has set itself up at the locus of contested earth territory. It’s up to The Doctor and his companion to find out the reason for its sudden appearance…
The Guest Stars
This series hasn’t been as strong on guest stars as others have been in my opinion (series 8 takes the cake for the longest list of companions who never were). However, I quite enjoyed the scientist plot. I liked that the female scientist was the smart one, the one who could follow The Doctor and keep up with his thought leaps, the one who doesn’t die, who doesn’t do something stupid. Erica (played by a quietly brilliant Rachel Denning) is compassionate, intelligent and values life.
The fact that The Doctor doesn’t trust her enough to tell her about his blindness is telling. The last few years have seen some interesting episodes which feature actors with disability. Last year’s two parter Under the Lake/Before the Flood is the first time I’ve seen a prime time drama feature signing by a hearing impaired actor. This time round, it was nice that the story didn’t comment on Erica’s height. I hope Erica is back in the next episode and makes it to the other side alive.
The Companion and The Doctor
The monks have some truly creepy glowing strands in their pyramid which show strands of humanity’s future. They claim that humanity will surrender to them voluntarily when they see the emptiness of this future. They even put the pressure on with a countdown. The Doctor foolishly runs off to try and figure out the source of earth’s empty future and tells Bill not to cave in to the monk’s ongoing demands for a human with authority.
The Doctor: You could take this planet in a heartbeat. Why do you need consent?
Monk: We must be wanted. We must be loved. To rule through fear is inefficient.
The Doctor: Of course… fear is temporary, love is… slavery.
This concept is of course interesting, but hardly developed in a 45 minute run time. I didn’t really buy The Doctor leaving Bill to resist the monks, especially after the soldier representatives of three nations are disintegrated because they speak out of fear and obligation, not out of love.
However, the last ten minutes of this episode are five out of five star brilliant. The Doctor hasn’t admitted to anyone but Nardole that he is blind and so he is his own worst enemy. He cannot see the keypad to unlock the deadlock despite Erica giving the codes to him over and over. And Bill sees this and thinks he is going to die, so out of love for The Doctor, she gives up earth to the monks.
Bill: You can have the world, just let him see again!
Shit Bill. This is definitely not good news. Next week looks set to be a rollercoaster with the return of Missy added to the mix. Why does this feel so much like a finale just over midway through a series run?
Another Capaldi monologue:
The Doctor: The end of your life is already begun. There is a last place you will ever go, a last door you will ever walk through, a last sight you will ever see. And every step you ever take is moving you closer. The end of the world is a billion, billion tiny moments. And somewhere, unnoticed, in silence or in darkness, it has already begun.
The Pyramid at the End of the World: 7/10 inky stars for a muddled episode with a brilliant ending