Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
It’s all gone a bit wrong, hasn’t it?
Well… sort of. On the face of it, last night’s episode showed a marked dip in quality, originality and the ability to suspend disbelief. The weird thing is that in any of the previous three seasons, this episode would have been a triumph but coming hot on the heels of some truly cracking telly during the rest of season ten, this one drops the ball from a great, great height.
Let’s break it down into chunks, shall we?
Chunk one: Bill finds the Doctor.
After the events of last week, the world has changed and the Monks, according to popular belief, have been here since the beginning of civilisation, guiding humanity through its many trials and tribulations. Bill remembers otherwise and sets out to find the Doctor so that he can right the wrongs. She does this with the aid of a newly reappeared Nardole whose collapse at the end of last week’s episode is conveniently passed off in a couple of frivolous comments… and an imaginary friend in the form of an idealised version of the Mum she doesn’t remember.
Okay, this is serious retread territory. This is basically a mix of Martha in the Last of the Timelords and a half arsed version of the Silence. I say half arsed because the Silents actually did the things that the Monks a claiming credit for. They’re just wannabe-silents and lose all of their edge once you realise that.
The show down between Bill and the Doctor was tense, exciting and pretty damned amazing…and then they went and ruined it. If that *had* been the Doctor’s last moment on earth, it would have been an amazing thing to do with both The Doctor’s AND Bill’s characters. That would have been brave and astonishing TV and would have had huge implications for the rest of the run. It would have gone off into entirely new and uncharted territory for the show. To pass it all off as larks is utterly, utterly unforgivable. I still haven’t forgiven that (practically BAFTA winning) conversation -in The Witches Familiar’ – between The Doctor and Davros ending in Davros wanting to see ‘one last sunrise’ before it descended into crap Bill and Ted-isms. This is going to get no less in the way of contempt.
Chunk Two: Bill and The Doctor save the Earth. Again.
So, Missy has seen the monks before and know both how they operate and how to defeat them. In a game of quid pro quo, she demands a pony before saying she could have engineered a way out of the vault at any time because she once made a gun out of leaves. Okay, fine. So, the deal is unpleasant and looks like Bill may have to sacrifice herself to save the world. It reaches crisis point and she does what the Doctor isn’t able to do. It turns out that this is because of a shonky bit of guff about a box of photographs that the Doctor left for Bill ages ago. Apparently, it built up a memory that the Monks could touch. The purity of that memory was able to yada yada yaaaaaaaaaawn… Honestly, it’s no better than that leaf thing in Rings of Akhaten and that was barely acceptable. I mean how often can The Power Of Love, in a strictly literal sense, save the universe without it becoming mawkish and trite? One less than this episode, at least.
How amazing would it have been if Bill had made that sacrifice and died saving the earth? How would that have affected The Doctor?
But the thing that angers me most about this episode is that there were two top flight dramatic possibilities both of which pissed away in favour of something safe and predictable. This is the equivalent of climbing up to a bungee jump and deciding to take the lift back down again instead of throwing yourself off the bridge. Lamentable.
The last two episodes have been a bit marmite-y. I’ve erred on the side of ‘like’ for both as I genuinely believed something bigger was at play – and I still have my suspicions if I’m honest* – this was absolutely not the ending that the build-up deserved. It was reduced to a cheap and tacky morality play. With so much set up work, I feel utterly cheated by it. What rankles even further is, that the two chunks, in and of themselves, were great pieces of drama. They just had no business being in the same episode – or as part of the same story – as each other.
If the Doctor had been killed and the Monks had seen that they couldn’t have Earth even without the Doctor being there, that would have been something. Bill’s death would have been something that would rile The Oncoming Storm and the Monks would have regretted their interference for the rest of time… but this? Really? Three episodes of the same monster and they’re beaten Bills mum. Who doesn’t exist anyway. Ugh!
Still, some great dialogue, Bill is still magnificent and wins the award for the best line this week with:
“Why do you have a woman locked in a vault? Because even I think that’s weird – and I’ve been attacked by a puddle.”
But, for the first time this season, I’m actually worried about the finale. There’s a lot at stake and I really don’t want them to blow it.
*I still think the monks have something to do with the cybermen, although I’m not convinced it’s a straight forward swap now. In the latest Doctor Who Magazine, it’s revealed that in the original story, the cybermen were to be dressed like monks. That nugget and that they parked their pyramid on St. Pauls, scene of the Invasion of the Cybermen in, um… The Invasion and the homage to The Invasion in Dark water. Everything is still pointing toward the Cybermen.
I’ve also more or less given up on Bill being Susan. I’d still like her to be, but I think that’s just fanboy pant wetting.