BBC One – 7:35pm – Saturday 3rd June 2017
Written by: Toby Whithouse
Directed by: Wayne Yip
FAKE NEWS CENTRAL
“Humanity is doomed to never learn from its mistakes.”
One downfall of being tardy to the party with watching a programme as popular and hotly-debated as Doctor Who is that unless I avoid twitter for the weekend, I will invariably end up with a rough consensus of the public’s opinion of each episode, a week before I see it. Combining the cool general response to “The Lie of the Land” with my own inauspicious reaction to “The Pyramid at the End of the World” (10.7), it’s fair to say my excitement for this finale to the Monk’s trilogy was somewhat subdued.
But every cloud has a silver lining, and analogous to my response to the recent Dark Universe reboot of The Mummy (which I reviewed HERE), lowered expectations for Being Human creator and new Who alum Toby Whithouse’s most recent contribution to the Who-niverse meant I was surprisingly impressed by what some have labelled the weakest episode of series ten to date.
“Praise be the justice of the Monks.”
Six months since Bill (Pearl Mackie) consented to the Monk’s invasion of Earth in exchange for saving the Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) sight, humanity is under a mass delusion that they have lived in harmony with the red-robed zombie rulers since the beginning; benevolent allies who helped shape the world as we know it. Any who doubt the so-called “True History” are arrested for being “Memory Criminals”.
Clinging on to a semblance of the life she used to know, Bill is living in isolation, while her former mentor and guide is AWOL, helping to spread the Monk’s lies by broadcasting brainwashing propaganda pieces from an unknown location. Reunited with robo-comrade Nardole (Matt Lucas), Bill sets out with the “bald man who looks like an egg” to rescue the Doctor from a prison ship, in the hope that he has a long-term plan to end the invasion and restore free will to the people of Earth.
“Your future is taken care of…”
What did viewers not like about this episode?! I thought the concept was dark, the vision large, the stakes high, the Monks threatening (in a passive-aggressive kind of way), while the breaking up of the team effectively snowballed the bleakness. Of course it was all a test, but when you see the Doctor – a gun to his hearts – callously quashing a trigger-quivering Bill’s hope by selling her out to the enemy, you really do start to question how legitimate the steady-eyed, stern-voiced, all-too-convincing Time Lord is being.
The plan to storm Monk HQ (the repositioned Pyramid cathedral from last week) while blocking out the transmission of the fake news in order to avoid reducing Bill – as the invasion-consenting originator of the psychic link – to a braindead husk, did seem a little obvious and it’s perhaps a bit of a stretch to believe that the Doctor, after half a year of planning, recruiting and deprogramming, still needed to unlock the vault in order to ask for Missy’s (Michelle Gomez) help.
But I can forgive any slight plot contrivance in the name of escalating scale, especially when the sacrificial other other solution – with Bill linking her own mind to the Monk’s after they have overpowered the Doctor – packs the kind of emotional wallop this one did. With their alternative history replaced by Bill’s loving memory of her deceased mother (“She went viral!”), humanity is woken up to the deception and revolt against the Monks, driving them from Earth.
To crib from the Doctor’s own mouth to strengthen my own point, “it really is quite annoying” that what I consider a strong episode full of big ideas and astonishing, heartfelt performances is so unloved by the masses. But at least I broke through social media’s overpowering propaganda and came to the decision on my own: free will remains, as does Doctor Who’s ability to still amaze and affect even a casual fan.
CR@B’s Claw Score: