So what happened?
With The Monks presenting themselves as benevolent leaders, who’ve been present on Earth for millions of years and supporting and encouraging humanity as it evolves, those who refuse to accept their lies are arrested for ‘memory crime’ and taken away. Apparently also under their control is The Doctor, who can be seen on television screens praising the alien invaders for their magnanimous rule over the planet’s inhabitants.
Meanwhile, as it becomes increasingly difficult for Bill to hang onto the truth, she focuses on the pictures of her Mother that Twelve gave her, and conjures up a version of her deceased parent to talk to in order to stay sane and grounded. It’s during one of these conversations that Nardole finds her, and together they figure out the location of the prison hulk where The Doctor is thought to be held captive. After narrowly avoiding detection once they make their way on board, they find the room where Twelve is being held and he refuses to leave with them, allowing time for commandos to swarm in and for the him to explain that he has no plan, as well as the fact he really is working with The Monks, because there’s no way humanity could survive without their input. With that a crestfallen and betrayed Bill grabs a gun and shoots him, immediately appearing to start the regeneration process. It’s short-lived though and the The Doctor soon stops it in its tracks, telling his confused companion that it was all just a ruse to see if The Monks had managed to turn her.
After taking over the ship and steering it back towards land, Twelve and Bill head into the vault where Missy is being held, and they discuss how to defeat the The Monks with her as she’s encountered them before. Realising that they’re transmitting the signal, which is making the population believe their lies through the numerous statues they’ve built across the planet, Missy goes on to note that the only way the psychic link can be broken is if the person who originally gave consent to establish the link is killed.
Realising this means Bill would have to die, The Doctor is determined to find another way, and takes her, Nardole and a group of the commandos he deprogrammed whilst in captivity to the pyramid where the main signal is being transmitted from. After they fight off a small number of the aliens who are guarding it, Twelve and the others get into the main chamber and discover that one of The Monks is being used as a signal booster. Setting his hands on it’s head, he tries in vain to replace their propaganda with the truth about human history, but is overpowered and passes out. Whilst he’s still unconscious, Bill handcuffs him to a post so he won’t intervene, and prepares to say her goodbyes before sacrificing herself. Predictably, The Doctor comes round and tries to convince her not to, but she goes ahead with it, clinging onto the memory of her Mother to combat the lies of the invading force as she places her hands on alien transmitter. Ultimately Bill is successful, and the hold The Monks have over Earth’s population is broken, leaving them with little choice but to up and leave the planet as their human hosts turn on them. Back at the university some time later, The Doctor explains to Bill nobody remembers The Monks after they left as they deleted themselves from people’s memories, and that it’s exceptionally rare people like her that make him prepared to endure mankind’s stupidity. Afterwards he visits Missy again, and she tearfully expresses remorse for those she’s killed.
Monster of the Week
Marieke: The Monks are actually called ‘The Monks’, and they still aren’t scary. A lot of people always complain when the Daleks are back again, but at least they are dangerous and they exterminate. What do those Monks actually do? So they rewrote Earth’s history, which makes it look like they had a hand in all great historical events and inventions. If people disagree with that they will get dealt with 1984 style. Other than that… nothing has really happened. If Bill (and the woman taken away for mind crimes for that matter) hadn’t remembered what it truly had happened, would there have been a problem? Would The Monks only crime be those hideously ugly statues they placed everywhere? What do they get out of owning history and ruling Earth? There seem to be no stakes at all. We do not see enough of the implications on society to truly fear them. The only thing they did well was making it look like they were with many when there are only a few Monks around. Other than that, they seemed absolutely pointless. In the previous episode they stated they wanted to rule with consent and not with fear, but now there’s a dictatorial society in place which, when it is fleshed out properly that is, is based on fear. What do they want? Also the pyramid and statues shows they don’t have taste either. No fear, no plan, no taste, no scare. Truly useless monsters.
Danielle: It’s hard to know how to follow that really, other than to agree with practically everything Marieke has said. We had three episodes to get to know The Monks, and it feels like I know less about them now than I did when we were first introduced to them. It’s not really good enough to have them invade Earth for generic ‘alien reasons’, particularly if you’re going to make them the centrepiece of a three episode arc. I want some proper motivation for my monsters, people!
Marieke: It started so well, with The Doctor seemingly working on their side. With a 1984/V For Vendetta like society, but we should have seen more of that to truly sense the fear. As I stated above, we never saw how bad society has become even though, clearly, Monks and humans are working together. If no one remembered, that would have been just it. Mind criminals would not exist either. Basically nothing would have changed apart from Monks entering history. Other than that life just seemed to go on. If there is no torture or taking away of human rights, what is scary about it all? To me, current elections are much more scary.
Danielle: I can see what they were aiming for with these villains. Someone or something playing the benevolent overlord as they quietly take away your freedoms is quite creepy. Somehow though, The Monks felt quite impotent, especially after Bill managed to defeat them with thoughts of her Mum, and they promptly did nothing to maintain their hold over the planet’s inhabitants. It’s almost as if all they wanted was to be loved. Couldn’t they have just asked for a cuddle?
Marieke: Everything. Why they thought this was a good idea? Why the stories weren’t written together? Why this happened after the series was going so well?… Oh wait! Mystery within the show? Basically, when does John Simm show up, and how will it be woven into the story? Will he work with Missy, or does she need to go in order for him to appear? Other than that, everything has been solved and been a disappointment. Unless Moffat will Moffat in a good way.
Danielle: The thing I actually am curious about is if Missy’s remorse was real, or if those were crocodile tears for Twelve’s benefit. It’s hard to imagine her being anything other than a gloriously mad sociopath.
Twelve and his Companion(s)
Marieke: Bill had faith in The Doctor. But would it not have been more fascinating if The Doctor truly had been brainwashed by the Monks, and Bill and Nardole had to figure out a way to bring him back to his old self? And maybe even enlist Missy to help out here? Because the Doctor being more evil than Missy would have been a nice switch she would not have let him get away with. It was all a bit too obvious eventually. The fake regeneration was pretty funny, as it had been a teaser in the series trailer. However, if the Doctor and Bill talked about that Time Lord concept, it should have been done on screen. So how would Bill know what The Doctor regenerating actually is…? I did hope for a second that this would be THE regeneration so it would be a surprise to us all. Then again Capaldi deserves better than to go out after these messy episodes. Missy was another disappointing factor. She talked about how to defeat the Monks. But could our trio really not have come up with that idea? Did she really contribute something? All it did was made me wonder about the adventures she has on her own. Spin off please!
Bill shone though. Her pain, her doubts, her uncertainties. Most of all her faith in The Doctor. Mackie acted it all out so well and made it well worth watching. Perhaps the whole ‘picture memory’ ending was a cop out, also because of the memory frying thing (anyone thinking about Donna here?). But it was also a clever way to make her mother come to life. The Doctor’s planting those pictures is maybe a tad too clever though. Talking about clever, Bill creating this new world by saving The Doctor never lead to a conversation about The Doctor going out on his own to save the world himself. His blindness, combined with his usual hubris, has not been addressed. He gets away with it again and partially blames Bill because she tried to save him. It bothers me a little, because the Doctor was typically Doctoring and Bill had no choice. He should have been held accountable for his actions. But since there seemed to be no stakes at all, this too has been easily ignored.
Danielle: How funny was it when Bill found out that Nardole was in on the whole ruse to see if she was under The Monks’ influence though? Who knew he could lie that well? Even though there were some touching moments between her and The Doctor in this episode, particularly when Mackie’s character was preparing to sacrifice her, the highlight for me was her interaction with Nardole. The duo bounce off each other beautifully in both comedic and dramatic situations. I think I’d happily watch the pair go off on an adventure of their own for an episode, whilst The Doctor holes up in the Vault with Missy and plays psychotherapist.
Marieke: This trilogy has been incredibly disappointing. We were doing so well up until ‘Extremis’. Every time there was a promising set up, which just did not deliver. Not necessarily in terms of the episodes themselves, but as a trilogy it completely failed. I enjoyed the whole dictatorial society at the start of the episode, but it was abandoned too quickly and easily. Same goes for the fake news section. How apt these days, but in the end it was not used well enough to be a proper critique of society. It was more of a mention that did not have any effect. It would have been nice had The Monks found out in the simulation in ‘Extremis’ that dictatorship would be the best way to rule Earth, but it takes away from The Pyramid at the End of the World’s core idea that the Monks need consent. The stories just don’t fit together and only have The (incredibly inconsistent) Monks in common. They would have redeemed themselves somewhat had they actually been scary. However, without a motive, even their nasty look could not save them. It all felt pointless and without any real sense of danger. The Monks easily could have been the scariest and perhaps one of the most powerful villains ever. They defeated the Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels for crying out loud! I hope now that their pyramid accidentally flew into the sun so we never have to see them again. As they have been erased from history, I hope they will be erased from Who-history too. Ain’t that the Veritas!
Danielle: Sadly, at times, this ‘Monk trilogy’ has been a bit of a disjointed mess. In their own way, each episode could have been fleshed out, and their chief ideas stretched out to span all three episodes. It doesn’t help that the ‘central conceit’, the fact that The Monks are a formidable enemy that even The Doctor would struggle to beat, just didn’t ring true. As soon as Bill beamed those pictures of her Mum throughout the planet, they folded like a rickety deckchair in a gale force wind, and essentially ran away. It’s a shame really. I’m a fan of Toby Whithouse’s writing from his Being Human days, and I was looking forward to ‘The Lie of the Land’ especially. Unfortunately, in spite of some genuinely funny dialogue and the best regeneration fake out ever, it didn’t quite hit the mark.
Credit where credit’s due though, the performances from the main players continue to be exceptionally high, particularly Pearl Mackie, who’s doing her damnedest to make Bill my favourite New Who companion, and Peter Capaldi, who seems to be determined to go out with a bang if the writing will allow it. It’s always glorious to see Michelle Gomez on our screens too. Her eyeballing Bill when she surmised that The Doctor and Nardole were spending all that energy guarding someone who was just ‘a woman’ was delicious. She may have been underused here, but her slight screen time still packed a punch, and raised pertinent questions about whether or not she really can turn away from the dark side. With Simm’s Master still due to make an appearance, I guess we’re going to find out!
- Not being a fan of Gatiss’ previous stories, I cannot say I am looking forward to the next episode… (M)
- I love that inside the Vault is essentially an abandoned warehouse. Missy’s going to need all of that space if she gets that pony. (D)
- Capaldi does the creepy, maniacal grin so well. They should have used more of that by making him evil for longer than a moment. (M)
- I’m loving the costumes so far this series. I can’t help but feel that what Twelve is wearing might be a clue as to which version of himself he is, if those simulations come into play again. (D)
Our Fezzy Score:
So what did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments…