Well, fuck-a-doodle do!
A pyramid, a monk, a dead planet. Hmmm… I’m sure that’s a William Hartnell story. Actually, two William Hartnell stories, both Dalek related as it happens, but this is probably coincidence.
However, let’s look at what happened here.
A gigantic, five-thousand-year-old alien pyramid shows up at a deeply strategic point on the planet; the meeting point of three powerful territories. Sounds like a job for the United Nations! So . . . where exactly are UNIT? Where are Kate and Osgood? Who are these guys? Just some Generals and as we know, Generals don’t last in Doctor Who. Brigadiers, yes. Generals, no. I mean look at The Christmas Invasion. That was just nasty.
And let’s be honest, these generals don’t fair much better.
This is an episode fraught with paradoxes. In conjunction with last week’s episode, it jars. Most of last week’s episode simply introduced some concepts that are brought into play this week but it does so in a way that makes last week’s episode moot. We’d have learned what was going on well enough without last week’s episode and got the point well enough. It feels quite weird that the last episode is effectively obsolete, especially as it contains some truly fantastic moments. I still shudder at the futility of the ‘random numbers’ test.
Of course, the Extremis and Veritas aspects may return and have further relevance but at the moment the just seem pointless.
Anyway, the episode begins with Bill explaining about the simulation to the woman who was in the simulation with her and at the point where the pope turned up, well… this time it’s someone else entirely. This date is not going well… twice…
There’s a thread with a potentially world pummelling bio-hazard and although the dialogue in the section is pretty stilted between the scientists, it serves its purpose well enough and there’s a wonderful feeling of inevitability as the plant life begins to die off. That was more of a ‘ticking clock’ than the ticking clock was. Sadly, we don’t really get to know them well enough to mourn the one that goes the same way as the foliage, so it lacks a bit of punch. Meanwhile, in the pyramid the strange Monk creatures appear to be the bastard offspring of The Silence even more this week. They are not here to destroy, but to offer a very Faustian bargain instead, but in order to give that help, you have to ask for it and surrender. Surrendering for the purposes of strategy and fear aren’t good enough, though. You have to ask for it with love and purity. Tough call when the world is at stake and their enslavement is in your hands, but in finding out the Doctor is in dire trouble with only seconds to live, she takes that decision . . . to what cost, we don’t know, yet. Although the “Love,” as the Doctor points out, “is slavery.” I’m not expecting it to be good, though.
To me, this sounds very much like the Master’s plan to enslave earth willingly; much as he did in The Sound of Drums. Look what happened to the human race there! Still, at least we got rid of Martha, so it wasn’t all bad. I’m also pleased that the whole ‘blindness’ thing is over with. I think there were probably better ways in which to make the point it made than literal blindness, though. There was a pay-off line to that but it was so trite and ham-fisted that I’ve already forgotten it.
Now, all of this sounds fairly negative and cynical but hey, that’s just me. This episode – revelling in the Whoiest of Who titles – despite its faults and inconsistencies is a taught, tense episode; a thriller, if you will, and it’s real, edge-of-the-seat stuff. It seemed to be an entirely new form, or direction, for Doctor Who to be taking, not least because the season’s story arc has been pretty much to the fore since episode one. There is a sense – if you’ll forgive me – of an oncoming storm. We know who is turning up, we know where it’s leading and yet, this episode was entirely fresh and rather wonderful. In a series of quality episodes, this is possibly the best so far.
By the by, why a pyramid? Just for visual effect? Why not a spaceship? Okay, it looked great, but it seems an odd choice to fly around the universe terrorising people in an entirely impractical bit of masonry.
And what happened to Nardole?
In a bizarre way, it reminded me more of Torchwood than Doctor Who, but y’know, the good Torchwood like Children of Earth . . . the one Capaldi was in.
Funny how things turn out, isn’t it.