In the third and last episode featuring the Silence x Beef Jerky-like Monks, lies and truth are a big theme and this episode makes no bones about being an allegory for our current “post-truth”/alternative facts political landscape. Where we last left off, Bill consented to the Monks to save the Doctor and they now reign over the Earth, using their alien technology to alter everyone’s memories so they think that the Monks were always there. After all, you can’t complain about things that have always been what they were. Anyone who remembers the truth is taken away, and Bill has been struggling for the past six months to hold onto her actual memories, anchored by the memory of her mother and separated from the Doctor. Until Nardole comes calling.
After checking out some comments on this episode on other sites, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who felt this reminded them a bit of the Harold Saxon storyline where the Master essentially retconned an existence as Prime Minister and Martha was struggling on her own to fight back. But that’s about where the similarity ends as this isn’t just a lift of Series 3.
Nardole and Bill make their way to the ship holding the Doctor, where Bill believes with near desperation that the Doctor is playing a trick on the Monks, that he hasn’t gone to the other side and is actually working with them to further their propaganda on TV. This desperation is, no doubt, heavily mingled with some guilty feelings that she brought this upon the world through her actions. When she finally confronts the Doctor presenting the truth, that she remembers, she is stunned when he reveals he’s not lying, it’s no trick. He’s doing this to save humanity from their selves. Here we get another fine speech from Capaldi, and you can almost buy into the Doctor just giving up and giving up for the “greater good”. Distraught and at wit’s end, Bill shoots the Doctor and it looks like he’s about to regenerate….except it’s a lie. A cruel test to really make sure Bill wasn’t truly part of the Jerky Sparkle Motion. Rightly so, Bill is displeased and threatens to beat the shit out of Nardole for his involvement and sadly we are not to see this because REASONS.
And so the three form a plan with the help of the men the Doctor has recruited and deprogrammed to find a way to stop the Monks, by consulting a locked up and supposedly rehabilitating Missy who is trying to go on the straight and arrow. Now, I love Michelle Gomez as the Master and so I was a bit irked they didn’t give her and Pearl Mackie more room to interact and engage. The Missy/Clara banter in Series 9 was actually quite good, so come on show, give Bill the chance to properly go toe-to-toe with Missy!
Complaint aside, it’s revealed that Bill is the anchor the Monks are using to control the narrative, amplified by all the Monk statues around the world. To get rid of that control, the anchor must die. The Doctor, not ready to lose another companion, attempts to save the day himself only for Bill in the end to step in and save the say, able to gain control thanks to the pure and unwavering memory of her mother. And thus, the Monks lose control, flee rather anticlimactically, and all is well as Bill is off to presumably write the 3,000 word essay assigned to her and the Doctor off to hang out with a contrite Missy, who is remembering the names of all she killed tearfully.
In short, this episode is not subtle about its theme of alternative fact and rewriting history. Of the dangers of accepting a tenuous and false status quo. There is even, in the montage of clips that stream the Monks’ version of the truth, a clip of Our Cheeto in Charge Trump. It was one of the better pulled together allegories for what is overall a rather middling episode with a few good moments. The Monk storyline overall ended rather weakly, but Bill as usual was the strong thread throughout the narrative. Like, she point blank shot the Doctor. She shot to kill. Because to her a world with the Doctor under Monk control, without that last hope of him saving the day, was too much. Bill clearly subscribes to the ‘either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself a villain’ mentality. And given how cruel the Doctor’s test for her is, I can’t say I blame her. Whereas Clara would have tried to recklessly find some way around things because she had gotten so used to the idea the Doctor would always pull through, Bill doesn’t have that experience and while she has a lot of faith in the Doctor she isn’t to the level of the “hybrid” issue that happened to the Doctor and Clara by end of Series 9. Bill might be up for adventure, but she’s not chaotic enough or reckless enough to put so much at risk and really, that’s quite interesting. It’s making me pleased to see that Bill enjoys traveling with the Doctor, but isn’t incredibly co-dependent on him either.
Overall Grade: B
- Michelle Gomez recently said in an interview one shouldn’t necessarily believe the words coming out of Missy’s mouth and I have to wonder if this Missy Going Good is some long-game. Like last season she apparently had some plan to run by the Daleks, what was it??
- I sort of miss when the Doctor wasn’t calculatingly cruel to his companions sometimes. I know this isn’t exactly new and happened in the classic series, but sometimes I miss the Doctor who would rather be a coward, any day, the Doctor who actually believed in his companions instead of needing to test them. Sometimes I think him losing the “guilt” over destroying Gallifrey was terrible for the character once Gally was brought back. It felt like a regression.
- That being said, Capaldi is still a fine actor and there are wonderful moments amidst the manipulation where I feel like, as I said before, they finally found Twelve’s footing…just as he is about to leave.
- So is Bill ever just going to meet her mom at this point? I feel like as she’s such a recurring thing it’s got to be leading to something, yeah?