So what happened?
Still blind and continuing to hide his condition from everybody except Nardole, The Doctor has taken to using his sonic sunglasses to help him see, and receives an email entitled ‘Extremis’, which he duly opens and reads whilst guarding The Vault. Soon afterwards, he’s confronted by The Pope and members of his papal entourage, who are seeking his help as a consequence of a number of people committing suicide after translating and reading a text called ‘Veritas’.
Agreeing to take on ‘the case’, Twelve takes both Bill and Nardole with him to a secret library within the Vatican, and there they discover a priest reading the book, who promptly runs away when he sees them with a gun in his hand. After discovering he’s uploaded it to his laptop and sent an email with it attached to CERN, the trio hear a gunshot and Bill and Nardole are sent to seek him out, whilst The Doctor uses one of his gadgets to temporarily restore his eyesight so he can read the book. However, just as he’s blearily able to see again, he realises a group of alien monks are rounding in on him and only narrowly manages to escape with the laptop as they snatch the book. In the meantime, Bill and Nardole have found the priest’s body and notice a portal, which leads them to a white room with further portals that in turn lead to CERN, The White House and The Pentagon, amongst other places. Opting to go through the one that leads them to CERN, they’re confronted by a group of scientists, who’ve read the email the priest sent them and are gleefully preparing to commit suicide by blowing themselves up. Running back to the inner hub as the bombs are about to be detonated, Nardole realises that the places inside the portals are actually just projections, and begins to questions his own existence, quickly disappearing when he tries to step behind the projectors.
Back in the library, the monks continue to chase The Doctor, forcing him to go through another portal which ultimately leads him to the White House. It’s there a distraught Bill, after following drips of blood, finds him in the Oval Office with the now deceased President, who committed suicide after reading ‘Veritas’. When she sits down, Twelve explains to his companion that the book tells of a ‘demon’ who created lifelike simulations of Earth to help him practice invading the planet, but that within those simulations there are entities who are able to recognise that they’re not real because computers are incapable of producing random numbers. Everybody within those ‘worlds’ is able to notice if they ask others to say numbers out loud, and they all pick the same one. Their only way to free themselves is take their lives. Just as he finishes explaining, another monk appears and Bill disappears like Nardole did. Knowing full well that he’s also a simulation within a projection, Faux!Twelve tells the monk that he’s been recording everything with his sunglasses, and that he’s going to send it to the real version of himself via email with the title ‘Extremis’ shortly before he too disappears.
Sitting in front of the vault, which we now know is a quantum chamber containing Missy after he saved her from execution in the aftermath of Nardole being sent by his wife, River, to make sure his actions don’t become extreme, Real!Twelve finishes reading the email and asks Missy for her help in saving Earth from the invasion.
Monster of the Week
Marieke: Nameless creepy monks with scary faces and long claws, who can replicate the World to see how to conquer it. That sums it up. Although unpleasant looking, they were more scary when they were just in the shadows. Even so, little kids might have had trouble sleeping. They also show us why lips are so important for the human facial aesthetic and pronunciation. At first they had a The Silence feel to them, until the whole simulation world was revealed. Moffat made gamers into monsters, highlighting us not taking into account the feeling of the virtual beings we kill in games…
Danielle: Halfway through the episode it struck me that The Monks look like something I once left at the back of my fridge. Poor domestic hygiene aside, Marieke is right that they did have a Silence-esque feel about them, even if they weren’t as well dressed.
Marieke: The creep factor mostly came from knowing the meaning of ‘Veritas’ and the monks in the shadows. After the explanation and having seen the monks for a while, it was not so creepy anymore. However, this episode delivered one of the scariest scenes on Who ever. The blind Doctor being helped my the scary monks he thinks are the normal monks, jump starting his sigh for a short while seeing that there are different monks, running away with blurred vision… Personal nightmare right there!
Danielle: For me, the scene where the CERN scientists were gleefully counting down their own deaths was creepy as hell. So was the dead President in the Oval Office. It just seemed so… wrong. The fact The Monks mostly didn’t speak also sent a shiver down my spine. Somehow aliens are much scarier when you have to work out their intentions for yourself.
Marieke: From knowing who’s in the vault, we have come to WDMD? What Did Missy Do? Why was she sentenced to death? I am not sure if that is very interesting, unless it will somehow directly relate to Twelve’s regeneration. The mystery just turned to the next two episodes about how the Doctor will beat the monks and save the Earth, really. Above all, this episode demonstrated that the biggest mystery is when we will see the Simm!Master…
Danielle: Yeah, all attention has turned to what Missy actually did, hasn’t it? Particularly now we know it’s her in the vault. You’d think The Doctor would have asked before he was tasked with ‘pulling the trigger’, eh? Another mystery that was solved was how and why Nardole came into Twelve’s service. River sent him to remind her husband of the parameters within which he works, and to kick his arse when necessary. Don’t blame her!
There were two faces familiar to us at Fezzy Towers this week. Joseph Long, known to us as Luigi from Ashes to Ashes, popped up as The Pope. Ivanno Jeremiah, probably best known for his role in Humans also gave a turn as chief executioner, Rafando.
Twelve and his Companion(s)
Marieke: I loved it that the Doctor knew about the simulation date and told Bill that Penny is not out of her league. I found it of the sweetest moments ever, showing a softer, caring side to Twelve. Also Nardole and Bill exploring together turned into a great interaction. Nardole is a badass! Just not when he is scared. Even though he acts mostly as the Doctor’s conscience and guard, it is nice to see another side of him (although not entirely because under the Doctor’s orders he had to protect Bill). The Doctor’s loss of vision could make them team up more and I would not be against that. Missy, we could add her to this category as his main frenemy. She played a light role this episode, but when she was not dead her reaction to the guards picking her up was priceless, and very Missy. It did not come as a surprise that the Doctor has found a loophole to keep her alive. It is a shame he cannot read at the moment because you would want the Doctor with you when signing a contract. Twelve felt a bit like old school Twelve at the moment, but a little more helpless. He is not going to deal well with that, and we have to see how much of a strain his blindness will be on the relationships with his companions. It already makes him plead to Missy for help, which is quite something. If that is Missy in the Vault of course. Still wondering if there will be a Simm shaped rug pulled out from underneath us. A final thought: we saw River’s picture, we saw River’s diary… Will we see the real deal this series?
Danielle: It was great to see Twelve, Bill and Nardole out and about together again after ‘Oxygen’, which already proved that the dynamic is a raging success between them. I especially like the fact Bill and Nardole got some more time on their own to interact again. Alongside the humour, there’s a genuine, burgeoning bond between the two of them, which I hope grows even deeper as the series goes on. Yes, I know they weren’t the ‘real Bill’ and the ‘real Nardole’, but the simulation shows that the potential is there for them to grow even closer. I’d be quite happy for Penny to join in the fun in some capacity in the future as well. She and Faux!Bill had great chemistry, even if their date was interrupted in the most bizarre way ever!
Marieke: We were doing so well. A five episode streak of freshness, true Twelveness and awesome Billness. But here we are again. It was not that the episode was not enjoyable. It gave us one of the funniest scenes ever and one of the scariest. It even worked as a set up for the next episodes. However, the feeling that it invoked the most was ‘Moffat’s gonna Moffat’. Needlessly complicated, throwing the viewer back and forth with not much reveals, it took away the sheer joy which the other more straightforward episodes did have. It was a reminder what the past series have been like. Of course a stand alone is easier to judge than a trilogy, maybe this episode is the New Hope of this Doctor Who series. Reading he said that “this was my last chance to see how far you can bend this show before it breaks”, I have to say it is not an ambition I would like to see fulfilled. He could easily cross that boundary. It meant I could not shake off the ‘Moffatness’, which is the main reason I could not enjoy Twelve in the previous series. Also the Doctor’s move to try and regain his eyesight to read ‘Veritas’ could have an effect on the next regeneration. Moffat better not have crippled Chibnall’s Doc, or created a plot hole here. The next regen should get as a fresh a story as this series seemed to have. I am willing to wait out the episodes to conclude this story. It is hard to hide my disappointment. I am definitely less eager to watch them than I was before the Moffat Monks showed up with some interwoven storytelling keeping us in the dark.
Danielle: Yes, ‘Extremis’ was needlessly complicated. Yes, you could see Moffat’s hands all over it from the vantage point of Space. And, yes, the big reveal regarding who’s in the Vault was rather anti-climactic. Nevertheless, there were still things to like about the episode, even if it’s execution didn’t necessarily hit the mark. God, I loved all of those flashbacks with Missy. She’s hilarious, and it’s great to have Michelle Gomez back on our screens. I really LOVED the concept behind it too. The idea that false worlds could be created to allow someone to practice the best way to attack Earth is a doozy, even if I can imagine it making much younger fans’ heads explode. It also threw up all sorts of interesting questions about what constitutes personhood, and if simulated lives are just as important as those who live in the ‘real World’.
This, along with the fact that much of this week’s story took place in a library, screamed ‘Rivaaah’ to me, and that’s before we get to Nardole reading an extract from her diary. Anybody who’s been reading this blog for a while will know that I’ve had my suspicions she still has a lingering presence in Series 10, which may become much, much more overt in the future. ‘Extremis’ has only reinforced that gut feeling. How can it not when we know she was saved to a virtual World in the Library computer subsequent to her demise in ‘Forest of the Dead’? As a River fan, this excites me and is the reason why I’m tempering some of my disappointment. It’s almost as if Moffat has thrown a ball up in the air and we’re waiting to see where it will fall.
- The monk in black talking to the Doctor at the execution site definitely had John Simm’s voice. I was surprised it turned out to be Nardole! (M)
- I really liked Twelve’s jacket when he was on the cusp of becoming Missy’s executioner. It’s like he dressed for the occasion. (D)
- The Pope interrupting Bill’s and Penny’s date scene had me howling with laughter (M)
- Where did the scientists at CERN get all those bombs from? (D)
- Could the President not have had a different hair colour…? (M)
Our Fezzy Score:
What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments…