The End Of The World?
♦Our man in Los Angeles, Robert Cave, takes a look at the seventh episode of Doctor Who Series 10, on last Saturday on BBC1 in the UK…
Director: Daniel Neittham
Writers: Peter Harness, Steven Moffat
Stars: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas
There was something strangely dissatisfying about The Pyramid at the End of the World, but I am struggling to pin down exactly what it is. Peter Harness, and showrunner Steven Moffat worked well together crafting last season’s two-parter, the Zygon Invasion/Inversion, and the core narrative idea is a strong one. Who doesn’t love a good alien invasion tale?
Maybe it is that if felt slightly mechanical, and so many of the characters appear to be little more than ciphers: job titles rather than characters. This was especially true of the military leaders and the Secretary General of the UN, none of whom made it through to the closing credits alive. Even Penny (Ronke Adekoluejo), Bill’s love interest feels criminally under-developed, appearing on screen here mainly to reprise the disastrous date interruptions joke from last week that wasn’t all that funny the first time around. Why did she take an Uber home instead of sticking around at least long enough to find out who what the Secretary General of the UN wanted with her date?
The two scientists fare slightly better, in that not only do they get names, (Douglas, played by Tony Gardiner and Erica played by Rachel Denning), but we also get a glimpse into their daily lives outside of their work, although these are mainly shown to establish important plot points; the crucial mistakes they make that help prompt the invasion of Earth.
Erica is a particularly engaging presence, and I just hope the Doctor’s obvious affinity for her doesn’t portend her death as it did for previous potential companions Lynda with a Y and Rita the nurse back in “The Parting of the Ways” and “The God Complex.”
And then we have the invading force itself: the Monks. Last episode it seemed they had been running thorough simulations of all of human history in anticipation of a conquest, but although they are apparently powerful enough to pluck aircraft from the skies and submarines from the seas, not to mention to cure a Time Lord’s blindness, apparently what they really needed was to be invited in.
Exactly what the Monks are and why they even want to be named rulers/protectors of Earth remains frustratingly vague mystery. The one thing I have noticed so far is that when they speak, they just open their mouths but do not form words, kind of like the original Cybermen did in the 1966 introductory story Tenth Planet. We know that this style of Cybermen will be making a return later in the season, but could there be a connection to the Monks?
Perhaps I might have bought into the menace of the monks slightly more if there had been a little more foreshadowing of them earlier in the season, perhaps a mention in the show’s opening episode, but it does seem like the abruptness of their appearance is at least part of the point.
Bill, in her authority as the Doctor’s companion, strikes a bargain to surrender Earth to the Monk’s rule in return for the restoration of the Doctor’s sight.
Not that I particularly relished the prospect of a sightless Doctor, but this resolution felt a little too easy. How do the Monks even know how to restore the Doctor’s sight? This didn’t feel like an indication of their knowledge and power as much as a quick swipe of the pen to resolve a subplot that been pretty underexplored up to this point.
I am also not a fan of UNIT automatically accepting of Bill as “The Doctor’s Representative from Earth.” I know this isn’t the first time it has happened during Moffat’s run, but it still strikes me as kind of hollow. I want to see Bill earn her authority through her own actions, not through some borrowing of the Doctor’s own credibility.
The final few seconds in which we see The Doctor disinfecting the deadly bacteria from Erica and Doug’s lab and averting the doomsday scenario of-the-week, zips by in a few seconds, leaving us all hoping that next episode, which will purportedly be the final instalment in the three-part Monks storyline will offer a more satisfying conclusion.
I have hope that the Doctor will finally save the day in a much more fulfilling way next week.