RECAP & REVIEW: Doctor Who – ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ (Series 10, Episode 7)

So what happened?

Overnight a huge 5000 year old pyramid appears right on the border of Turmezistan, the site of a three-way territory dispute between the US, China and Russia. Baffled by it, the Secretary General of the UN interrupts yet another date Bill is having with Penny in order to get her to help track down The Doctor, who’s still blind and yet to tell his companion of his predicament. After physically transporting him onto a plane whilst he’s still in the TARDIS, Twelve is recruited in his capacity as President of the World to deal with the conundrum.

The monks simulation DW ep 7
The Monks showing the World leaders the simulation which predicts that the World will be lifeless within a year.

Realising it’s The Monks who are inside the pyramid, and who are responsible for setting everybody’s clock to three minutes to midnight to correspond with the Doomsday Clock, Twelve sets about asking the Russians, Americans and Chinese to co-ordinate attacks on them, but they’re quickly neutralised. Having already agreed to not to fight each other any longer, the military leaders and the Secretary General head into the pyramid to treat with the Monks accompanied by The Doctor, Bill and Nardole. Once inside, they discover that these sinister alien entities are running a computer simulation which they can link into, and which shows them that Earth will be lifeless within a year. The only way around it is if they give their consent for The Monks to help. With The Doctor’s pleas to think about the long term consequences of asking them for assistance falling on deaf ears, the UN Secretary General steps forward and gives his consent, but when he’s touched by them he crumbles into dust as his acquiescence came out of fear, rather than love.

After rethinking their plan, and their clocks being set even closer to midnight in the wake of his death, Twelve comes the conclusion that their alien enemies dropped the giant pyramid in the middle of a war zone as a means of misdirection, and after conferring with Nardole and they others, he concludes that the cataclysmic event that leads to the end of the World may well stem from a biological threat. Getting his assistant to narrow it down to laboratories that are doing biological trials, and then switching off the cameras to see which ones The Monks switch back on in order to determine which one it is, he and Nardole leave Bill behind and travel to the right one in the TARDIS. Once they arrive, they discover that two scientists, one who accidentally broke her glasses on the way to work and another who was still hungover from the night before, have inadvertently created a ‘super-bacterium’ that killed all of the plants in the experiment, and the male scientist, Douglas. Furthermore, it’s about to be released into the atmosphere through the ventilation system, which cannot be overridden. Unaware that his human lungs have already been contaminated by the bug, The Doctor sends Nardole back into the TARDIS, where unbeknown to his boss he collapses, leaving him and the female scientist, Erica, to think of a solution to the problem.

Twelve Erica DW ep 7
The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Erica (Rachel Denning) plotting to blow up the ‘Super Bacteria’.

Meanwhile, back at the pyramid, Bill tags along with the remaining military leaders, who are preparing to surrender as the clocks tick over to nearly midnight. Not satisfied that their surrender is strategic instead of the desired act of love the monks originally requested, they too are disintegrated. Still in communication with The Doctor, his companion tells him what’s happened, and he and Erica come up with a plan to blow up the bacteria within the confined space of where the experiment took place. There’s a huge fly in the ointment, however, when he becomes locked in the lab and his blindness prevents him from entering the code on the door to get out, a dilemma which is only compounded by Nardole’s unresponsiveness when he calls on him to help.

Realising that he’s about to die, Twelve admits to Bill that he’s still blind and is unable to get himself out of this predicament. After The Monks inform her that she represents the power and authority of The Doctor, his companion is moved to offer her consent to them if they agree to restore his sight. They go along with it, and because the agreement is rooted in her love for Twelve, his sight is restored and he’s able to escape before the explosion. Nevertheless, the act allows the alien invaders to exert their authority over the World.

Monster of the Week

Marieke: Still those same monks obviously. Isn’t it weird they don’t have an official name yet? We did get to know more about them. They managed to show what the world will actually look like in a year from now. In ruins, a wasteland. They want to rule and change the world by getting consent. They do not believe in ruling by fear. Consent also has to be pure and real. Fake consent out of desperation or tactics results in getting cremated. It is an interesting approach far away from famous Who baddies like the Daleks and the Cybermen. Getting people to give you permission to fuck up the World. Getting close to certain political territories there…

Danielle: ‘The Monks’ IS their official name, I think. Not exactly catchy, is it? Still, when you’re that in need of a good moisturiser it can drive you to focus your mind elsewhere, including World domination.

Monks not creepy DW ep 7
The Monks: ugly, yes. Creepy? Not so much.

Creep Factor

Marieke: The Doomsday Clock on everyone’s devices getting close to 12 ‘o clock fast. Hard to escape the end of the World then. The scenes with the virus were also uncomfortable, because of the idea of such a virus existing. Those monks still aren’t pretty to look at, but the way they managed to fight all military action coming towards them enhanced their creepiness a little. However, it was a undone a little with the whole burning the fake consent givers. The monks do not score that high on the creep scale (yet?).

Danielle: I actually thought the idea of something as seemingly inconsequential as accidentally having your glasses broken, which in turn sets off a chain off events that leads to the end of the World, was much creepier than anything The Monks did. Makes you wonder how we’re all still living and breathing if it could potentially take such a small incident to bring about a cataclysmic event, doesn’t it?

Mystery

Marieke: No vault, no Missy, instead just the pyramid, saving the world and consent. The preview for the next episode holds more of a mystery. Now Bill has given true consent so she could save the Doctor, how has the world changed, or wait, has it been like that forever???

Danielle: I’m kind of puzzled about how they got the TARDIS actually inside the plane if it was physically transported there through the wall of his university office. But who am I to question such details?! Like Marieke said though, the big mystery is what an Earth controlled by The Monks looks like. Judging by next week’s trailer, we’re going to find out!

Familiar Face
Tony Gardner DW ep 7
Tony Gardner as a worse for wear Douglas.

Known to younger and older viewers alike from his stints in long-running childrens’ show, My Parents Are Aliens, and Last Tango in Halifax respectively, Tony Gardner played hungover scientist, Douglas.

Twelve and his Companion(s)

Marieke: Whilst I feel we were back at previous series Twelve, I still enjoy his new companions. They were really trying to solve the puzzle together. Quickly though, the Doctor was doctoring by going out on his own to the facility, which developed the virus. We could add Erica as a temporary companion and the flirting and respect between her and The Doctor were a fun watch. Erica really wanted The Doctor to get out of the locked up chamber. Twelve finally had to own up to his blindness to Bill as well, and he came so close earlier! Bill could not do anything else but save him.  It’s The Doctor. Of course she did! But also because of the bond they have. I wonder if she will realise what she did in the new World, and if it will burden her conscience. Nardole’s human lungs are not doing him any favours by the way. Wonder which parts of him are second or maybe even third hand too!

Danielle: In spite of The Doctor side-stepping the truth regarding his sight as far as Bill’s concerned, their burgeoning relationship really is blossoming. The fact that she wasn’t disintegrated like the other leaders after giving her consent brings the platonic love she now feels for him to the fore. And how can that not be important in an episode that delivered us the line, “Love is slavery”? We know there’ll be consequences to her actions, but we’re already well aware now that Bill is more than prepared to risk her own life for The Doctor, in the same way he did for her in ‘Oxygen’ when he first lost his sight. Again, I think it only adds fuel to the fire that there is some kind of familial connection. Indeed, the TARDIS trio are shaping up to be an altogether nice, little family. I love the fact we found out Twelve has built Nardole from a mishmash of human and non-human parts too, like a nerdy Dr Frankenstein. It’s just a shame those lungs gave up at the wrong moment!

The Verdict?

Marieke: Contrary to the episode before, this one has a straight-forward story, driven for a large part by the Doomsday Clock. It did not feel as intentionally Moffat-y difficult as last week’s. Nevertheless, it did not completely sway me back to ‘FRESH SEASON YAY’ mode either. If I am honest it was the preview which got me more excited. Also the explanation of real consent took a burning or two too long, although consent does seem to be a difficult concept these days. This does not mean there weren’t some great parts. I really like the role Erica played. From the innocent accident of closing a door which destroyed her reading glasses, to the escalation in the science centre. Details like that which drive the story are so much better than the obvious big moves. The Doctor hiding his blindness has a huge consequence. It makes Bill give up the world to The Monks. His hubris has been punished once more, and him almost getting close to telling Bill does not change that at all. It was an obvious moment that had to occur, although I did think the lock was a bit too cliched. It looked like a toy lock on a child’s diary. You would think for safety there would be some way to feel the numbers on it, or something…

Either way, as a set up for the next episode, it works. However, I do not know where it connects with the previous episode. Was the simulation necessary to pull the stunt with the pyramid? Is that how the Monks came up with the idea of consent, realising dictators aren’t doing that well opposed to leaders which are loved? Maybe they should’ve visited the G7 last week. Even so, if the Monks weren’t the overall baddies, the episodes would not even feel connected. This is also true because of the lack of Missy. Will she come out to play next time? The next episode looks very dystopian, which is already a plus in my book. To use the Doctor’s words, bring it on!

Bill DW ep 7
Bill (Pearl Mackie) preparing to sacrifice herself, and the planet, to save The Doctor. 

Danielle: I’ve got to agree that this episode was an improvement on the last. Sometimes much simpler plots allow for the character dynamics to shine through, and that was exactly what happened with ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’. No longer is The Doctor simply Bill’s cool professor, who takes her to cool places in his ‘bigger on the inside’ time machine. A real bond has grown in a short space of time that has now spurred both of them to risk their lives for each other, regardless of the consequences. Yes, The Monks are fairly flimsy as voyeuristic villains, but they’re not really the focus here. What you’re prepared to do for love is. For better, or for worse.

I guess that brings us onto the fairly obvious parallels with ‘The Wedding of River Song’, which also featured a heavily altered reality as a result of The Doctor’s now deceased wife refusing to let the man she loves die. Oh and another pyramid! It’s hard to know if the similarities are deliberate. Unlike The Monks, I can’t see into the future. However, those subtle references to River throughout the season are really starting to stack up. The question is, why? I picked up on that ‘Love is slavery’ line earlier, and I guess it raises another question about whether or not, once the bodies start stacking up, The Doctor can truly move on without it doing untold damage to who he is fundamentally. More specifically, can he move on from the pain of losing his wife when she’s still sat on his desk staring back at him from a photograph. The very fact that Twelve is ‘her Doctor’ makes it all the more fitting for her to make an appearance before his regeneration. Even if that means we see more of those Virtual!Doctors.

And Finally…
  • I could not help but laugh when Nardole stated the obvious to Bill when she didn’t know the Doctor was blind. It was such a ridiculous situation. (M)
  • After it made an appearance before in ‘The Zygon Invasion’, I think we can agree that Turmezistan is one of the best made up countries on Earth, even it’s prone to alien takeovers. (D)
  • Peace between the US, China and Russia is possible then. If this is not an invite for an alien invasion, I don’t know what is. (M)

Our Fezzy Score: rsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_fuzzy_fez

What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments…

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