Synopsis: The Doctor, Bill and Nardole find themselves in the middle of a war zone, as Chinese, Russian and American forces stand poised to clash. An offer of help arrives in the form of a message from an alien race. But there’s a catch – to avoid annihilation, humanity must willingly become slaves for their would-be saviours.
Review: In this episode a pyramid appears on the border between three opposing armies. The Doctor and his companions go to investigate and find out that the pyramid contains the mysterious Monks we saw in last week’s episode. The Monks show the Doctor and the military leaders who accompany him a vision of Earth’s destruction. They ask humanity to consent to be ruled by them in exchange for preventing this. The military leaders agree to a peaceful accord but the human race is still in danger from a super virus that was accidentally created in a laboratory. The Doctor attempts to stop the virus spreading by blowing the lab up but his blindness proves a fatal flaw. He is unable to enter a code to open a door to get to safety from the explosion. Bill consents to be ruled by the Monks, who give the Doctor his sight back in time for him to enter the safe chamber and hear their pronouncement of victory.
This was an excellent and very tense episode. The juxtaposition of the Doctor’s life and Bill’s at the start of the episode was a very welcome bit of levity compared to the events later on. Everything felt very Russell T Davies, with real world threats and fears balanced with the more everyday moments between the scientists in the lab and Bill’s date with Penny. The shooting of the episode put me in mind of 2015’s Zygon Invasion/Inversion. The music throughout the episode was fantastic, from the haunting, Classic Who-esque score when the Doctor approaches the pyramid to the 11th Doctor like theme when 12 puts the top secret intelligence documents online.
Peter Capaldi shows great presence and command in this episode. His Doctor has been something of a storyteller at times this series, with his line “The end of your life has already begun” seemingly foreshadowing his regeneration. There is an excellent scene when the American military leader seriously considers conceding power to the Monks and the Doctor attempts to talk him out of it that is brilliantly delivered by both actors. It is interesting that the Doctor was initially in favour of force to stop the Monks which is very out of character for him. The Faustian bargain offered by the Monks is very interesting and not something we have seen from any villain in the revived series. Intriguing also is the Monks’ caveat that consent must come from love. In many ways this episode was an inversion of the RTD era in that the fallibility of ordinary people (ie the scientists) is what endangers the world and Bill’s love for the Doctor is used to give the Monks power over the Earth.
Perhaps the best moment in the episode is when the Doctor reveals to Bill that he is still blind. Bill’s reaction is so human and so believeable that Pearl Mackie deserves huge credit for her acting here.
Overall, another excellent episode that has me looking forward to next week.
- Incidental Music9.5