Hello Whovians! Missed a week last week due to being out of the country, but we’re back in the TARDIS again for a trip to the Vatican in an episode that feels like an odd sci-fi love letter to Dan Brown and the second episode on the story that is a pyramid episode that makes me wish it was on Mars. But alas!
“Extremis” opens with the Doctor still blind and keeping appearances that he’s anything but, with the help of the ever-reluctant Nardole of course. And much to no one’s surprise whatsoever we learn it is indeed Missy inside the vault, the result of the Doctor being unable to execute her and instead using wording loopholes to guard her body, but nothing saying she had to be dead to do so. If this was supposed to be a clever surprise I’m pretty sure it really missed the mark because pretty much most of the Who fandom had guessed the answer episodes ago. Cut to the now, where Bill is on a date and it’s going well, until the Pope wanders out from her bedroom and freaks out her date. Bill is, understandably, not enthused by this but quickly jumps into the adventure of heading to the Vatican to help translate a super important book called Veritas and soon find within the library they’re in there are portals leading to different places all over the world.
I’m going to stop summarizing here because basically anything that happens in this episode gets reset towards the end by, literally, dues ex machina or rather Doctor in the hologram sim. It’s “clever” twists like the one in this episode that make me screech inside like a mandrake root. Reason being is basically this whole episode exists, essentially, as filler to set up the next episode, “Pyramid at the End of the World.” Not cool, Moff, not cool. It’s not even just the twist, I just wasn’t feeling this episode on the whole. The aliens look cool, I suppose, if one likes a cross between the Silence and turkey jerky. And for someone who has in previous episodes been pretty shook by seeing people die, Bill’s basic non-reaction and shrugging off to the priest killing himself seemed really off.
Also, if you thought you weren’t going to get more River Song mentions this season you would be wrong! We find Nardole reading from her diary as he was tasked to keep the Doctor from going to the extreeeeeeeeeme after her demise and basically may or may not have convinced the Doctor to save Missy.
I really have nothing left to say about this episode other than it’s a solid C-.
“Pyramid at the End of the World” picks up where we left off: the Doctor, still blind. Bill, trying to just have a date this with girl she likes. Said date, cancelled thanks not to the Pope but the UN showing up for Bill since she’s a direct link to the President. No, not the orange one, the President of Earth one. A 5,000 year old Pyramid has appeared where it wasn’t before, and naturally the UN is worried. My boyfriend commented on why it was the UN and not UNIT, and my guess is they just didn’t have Jemma Redgrave available. Still, their absence in this episode felt pretty off. While this is all going on, a bio-chem worker is having a rough start to her day, with her reading glasses that were in her bag being shattered by someone closing the door on her bag. Turns out her coworker is no better thanks to a hangover. Keep that in mind, it will be important later on.
Anyway, the pyramid is basically serving as a home for the Jerky Silence-looking aliens, who just want to take over the world but totally want the ones with power to consent to it because consent = love and the consent must be pure. Consent given through fear or any other motivation will get you killed. Not sure what the allegory here is, to be honest, not sure I want to ponder it too much. The robed aliens have run countless simulations about Earth and have predicted how the world will end, initiating a doomsday clock and urging humanity to consent. If they consent, they will be saved. The UN soldiers and Bill get a glimpse of the potential, horrible war-torn looking future and are devastated. The Doctor has less of a reaction. Thus again, we see an impossible choice become a theme with instead of the Doctor insisting the human must decide, he himself is told humanity must decide for itself because it’s their planet.
By the way, remember the two bio-chem workers having a bad day? Without one being able to read clearly, the other too hungover to do the same, an enzyme ratio input goes horribly wrong a powerful new strain of bacteria is born. The world won’t end in war, but likely through super flu that literally melts people. Luckily, the Doctor figures this out, unluckily, as he tries to save the day and blow up the lab to sanitize it, the combo lock he needs to open to get out of the room requires vision. Vision he doesn’t have. It’s finally then, when the truth can’t be hidden anymore, that he reveals his continued blindness to Bill.
Ultimately, it won’t be the UN soldiers who make the choice to consent, that will fall on who remains as the most powerful person in the room, who makes the choice based on love. The choice falls down to Bill, desperate to save the Doctor. Bill who consents purely to save the Doctor, whose eyesight then returns. Meanwhile, Nardole has collapsed in the TARDIS after being exposed to the super bacteria. And so the saga of the Jerky Monks and the end of the world continues!
I didn’t quite dislike this episode as much as ‘Extremis”, but it’s the sort of big, “end of the world” stories that Moffat likes to do that I find myself always disliking a bit. I feel like they get so caught up in trying to be clever than actually being clever. This season started off really well and strong, moving away the story tropes I’ve typically disliked since Series 5 but now it feels like the show is backsliding towards those things again.
I do want to stress that despite not liking the story in these two episodes, Peter Capaldi’s acting remains wonderful as ever. It’s a shame that now that he’s finally clicking as the Doctor he’ll be departing. And Pearl Mackie is still delightful as Bill, and I can’t wait to see her play off Michelle Gomez’s Missy. One of the things I had really enjoyed in Series 9 was Missy and Clara’s dynamic so it’ll be interesting to see how Bill gets on with her.
I’d give “Pyramid at the End of the World” about a C. I’m hoping the next episodes are ones I enjoy better, as I’ve been generally hopeful about Series 10. Time will tell, or well, three days from now anyway.