Living Under Occupation
♦Our man in Los Angeles, Robert Cave, takes a look at the eighth episode of Doctor Who Series 10, The Lie Of The Land, on last Saturday on BBC1 in the UK…
Director: Wayne Yip
Writer: Toby Whithouse
Stars: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas
And so we come to the conclusion of the three-part zombie Monks storyline, and it ended with more of a whimper than a bang, as the robed rotters were driven out by the power of Bill’s imagined conversations with a mother she never knew.
It kind of reminded of the finale of the third series revived show, “The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords,” the episodes that reintroduced the Master to the Doctor Who universe. Both tales included scenes of dissidents being rounded up in suburban streets, and both ended in the power of the companion’s belief to help break humanity’s consensus of submission.
I get that part of the point that the monks is that they are essentially a paper tiger, doing almost nothing themselves, but governing indirectly through repression carried out by brainwashed collaborators – a message with numerous potential parallels in the contemporary world. But at the same time I couldn’t help feeling a little disappoint that we never actually saw the Monks doing much. Even when the Doctor describes how they defeated The Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels, we didn’t see them in action on screen.
The whole regeneration fake-out was disappointing too, but mainly because it felt so cheap and tawdry. Bill’s willingness to shoot the Doctor should be a big moment, but instead it felt like a poor rehash of previous times the Doctor looked like he was about to regenerate but didn’t in both “Journey’s End” and the “Impossible Astronaut”.
But despite this, there was still a lot I really liked about the episode. There was some lovely dialogue from writer Toby Whithouse, especially the Bill’s line “Don’t let out last conversation be this,” to which the Doctor replies with the inversion “Don’t let this be our last conversation.”
Pearl Mackie really sells the bleakness of life under Monk occupation. She looks tired and drained by the toll that remembering life before the Monks has taken on her. And while I felt a little cheated by the whole regeneration thing I absolutely bought into Bills reaction to it.
Matt Lucas is also great. He’s a brilliant comedian, and he can play the role of comic relief caricature in his sleep, but is at his best when he gets to stretch his dramatic legs as a straight man.
And then we have Michelle Gomez’s Missy/The Master, now overtly revealed as the occupant of The Vault. She’s brilliant, bringing a playful, yet malevolent mercurial energy to the part. Yes, she chews through the scenery at every given opportunity and lolls around on the grand piano like an evil version of Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in The Fabulous Baker Boys, but she will be sorely missed when she leaves the role, as the actress revealed she would at the end of this series during a recent interview.
The notion that Missy really is attempting to change, to reform in some way, and to express some level of remorse for her past actions is definitely intriguing and something I am keen to see further explored in the remaining four episodes of the season, but what really caught my attention was the Doctor’s off-handed line that she is “the other last Time Lord.”
Did we miss something? At the end of Season 9, the Doctor was on his home world of Gallifrey and there were plenty of Time Lords present, not only that but Rassilon, their most prominent leader was exiled, as was (separately) the rest of the High Council. Did something happen to them all off-screen between seasons or was the line just some sort of a joke?
The answers will surely come eventually, but before they do we have next week’s episode, a tale penned by Mark Gatiss that pitches a battalion of Victorian astronauts, seemingly from the British Empire, against the Ice Warriors, and on Martian soil to boot!
I, for one, can’t wait.