Last week’s Doctor Who, “Extremis”, was the kind of episode that has stuck with me all week. It was unclear from the preview trailer if this week’s “The Pyramid at the End of the World” would be the end of a two-parter (It didn’t say ‘to be continued’.) or if “Extremis” was the set-up for the rest of the series. I’m leaning toward the latter, as I imagine Steven Moffat has built up the Monks as the Big Bad for his last hurrah. I only wish it didn’t also mean the end of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor.
Either way, here we go. Huh, the ‘previously on’ is interspersed with new footage of Bill explaining to Penny what happened in the ‘previously on’ – just in case we were confused? forgot? – on what might be their first date The Doctor insisted Bill ask Penny on. They’re a lot less nervous this week!
When they to the cup of tea and potentially getting close portion of the date again, they are once again interrupted. This time, a bunch of armed soldiers preparing the room for the entrance of the Secretary-General of the UN. He’s looking for the President, and Bill immediately thinks they mean of the US … but they really mean of the Earth. Remember that The Doctor sometimes gets a promotion? That must mean we’re all in grave danger!
Penny bounces – asking about getting an Uber this time instead of just running, and Bill travels with the S-G to learn about a disputed bit of land in Turmezistan. There are troops from China, America, and Russia – and a random pyramid just dropped itself in the middle. You know, a regular 5,000 year old pyramid that wasn’t there yesterday.
The Doctor is meditating on death while playing his guitar. It’s a lovely little speech about life’s lasts and how we’re always moving closer to the end. During the speech, we also see a woman leaving her house; she props the front door open with her bag before going to the car, and she shouts to her partner not to shut the door. He doesn’t hear her in time and slams it into her bag, breaking a pair of glasses inside.
Bill interrupts the speech by shouting through the TARDIS door. He’s been at it for hours, she says, and she’s been trying to talk to him. When he pops on the shades, we learn a few little tidbits about Bill – she is 26 and 5’6”. He is musing about how much the Monks must know about us, and she tells him that the UN wants him in Turmezistan immediately. He says no and swings the TARDIS door open to find that he’s on a plane; Nardole quietly says that they wouldn’t take no for an answer.
It looks like the lovely old windows in The Doctor’s office are no more, as the colonel says they are now big enough for the TARDIS to fit through. The S-G approaches to explain the pyramid to The Doctor.
The woman with the broken glasses is at work; she appears to be a scientist, and she is working alongside a man (aside: Tony Shales is an English prof and failed novelist, not a scientist!) who had a big night of drinking the night before and is worse for wear this morning. Whatever they are working on is moving to Stage 2 this morning, and she asks him if he will mix it since her reading glasses are broken. He sighs, and she gets into a protective suit, walks through an air lock chamber, and approaches some plants in a controlled environment. She twists some knobs, and we see that she is being watched by the Monks through CCTV.
In Turmezistan, The Doctor is having Bill describe the scene to him in the guise of increasing her observation skills. She hypothesises that it’s an alien spaceship disguised as a pyramid because it’s beyond human technology to just disguise something that big that quickly. The Doctor says that it’s sending us a message since it is placed strategically between three powerful armies in disputed territory; it knows it’s in a hot spot. The message, he thinks, is ‘bring it’.
He is going to bring it.
He approaches the pyramid, and Nardole acts like his eyes by chatting with him through one of the toggles on his coat. The Monks see The Doctor coming closer – they see everything, it seems – and a door opens in the pyramid. A Monk stands in front of him. They know him. He will fight them, he warns, and they will be prevented from taking over. The Monk asserts that they will be invited.
“We will take this world. We will rule its people – but only when asked. We will talk again. [When, asks The Doctor] At the end of the Earth.”
And away goes the Monk. That’s not ominous at all.
All of the phones and watches immediately sync to 11:57pm. The Monks have changed the Doomsday Clock and are warning everyone to how close it is to the end.
Back in the laboratory, Scientist Tony (Until I know otherwise, that’s his name.) is finding it difficult to focus on his work email. The main email is one about control bacteria and enzymes, but he also has one from a P. Hilton talking about having “a big one last night” – that’ll explain the hangover! The email says he should include 11.89 of the enzyme, but he accidentally punches 118.9 into the machine, and they break for lunch. The Monks are definitely watching them quite closely.
The TARDIS materialises around a Russian commander, and we find out that The Doctor has collected the commander of the Chinese army, too. Along with the S-G of the UN, the US colonel, and The Doc – President of the Earth, they should really chat about what they’re facing. You know, World War 3.
The prevailing idea is to coordinate attacks to show unified strength. The three greatest armies fighting together for their planet – that’s got to be intimidating, right?
Nardole is confused as to why The Doctor is suggesting a violent approach. Bill looks pretty surprised, too. The Doctor points out that the Monks didn’t come in peace either, and the clocks all change to 11:58pm. The Doctor gives the command to attack.
Bill knows something is different – wrong – with The Doctor. Nardole sends her over to him to ask him herself. He is scared, but the fear has taken over, and, before he does or doesn’t say anything about his blindness, they are distracted by a giant beam out of the top of the pyramid.
The beam catches the American bomber coming its way and replaces the crew with Monks. The plane is suspended and carefully placed on the ground. The crew members wander out of the pyramid, no worse for wear, followed by a few more folks. They appear to be Russian soldiers, and the Russian commander says they had directed a missile at the pyramid. It soon carefully joins the plane on the ground. Hah, they had been on a submarine!
The Doctor acknowledges that a show of strength isn’t likely to get them anywhere, and the Monks announce that they are ready to talk.
In the lab, Grumpy Scientist Tony has yet to realise his mistake mostly because he’s so hungover that he can’t even breathe without cringing. The gas he mixed is reaching the plants.
The Doctor and co. enter the pyramid. Nardole is 237 years old – he looks great!
A Monk alerts them to the fact that the human race will be ending by its own hand. It has already begun. He invites them to see for themselves and opens a door to the simulation machine. It’s modelling the future and all the different ways the Earth will end. They want to save it, they say. They also chose their forms on Earth to look like people; the colonel points out that they look like corpses, and the Monk immediately says “You ARE corpses to us.”
They can save the Earth and all its people if they are just asked. They can protect it forever. The Doctor knows that asking for their help will be the last act of human free will.
As proof, the Monks offer them a glimpse one year into the future without their help. They see destruction – and no people. Everyone recoils except The Doctor. It’s not his first dead planet, he says. They will help if asked, the Monk repeats, because power must consent.
The clocks move to 11:59pm.
The Monks must be wanted and loved (aw). They know that ruling through fear is inefficient. There is always rebellion and resentment.
The S-G of the UN consents to their dominion, but they know he is afraid, so he is disintegrated. The Doctor denies the request for consent and lets them know that he has saved the Earth from certain doom before.
In the lab, Retchy Scientist Tony removes his protective helmet. He doesn’t want to be sick in it as they check on the plants. The plants start to wither and are completely destroyed within seconds. They rush out, but Suddenly-Fast-Moving Scientist Tony scoops up a bit of the soil and fails to close the airlock doors behind him.
Godforsaken Scientist Tony has created the end of the world with his hangover.
The Russian, American, and Chinese commanders agree to cease fighting each other in case the land war is what brings about the end of the world. There’s a lovely happy moment of “giving peace a chance”, but it doesn’t change the clock – nothing has improved.
Super Scientist Tony and his lab partner (have we learned her name either? Looking on IMDb, it looks like she is called Erica.) are studying the soil sample. She’s still suited up, but he isn’t. They see that the chemicals have obliterated everything in the soil and seal off the entire lab.
The pyramid was a distraction. WWIII wasn’t the armies killing each other. Nardole suggests bacteria, and The Doctor recognises that someone must have made a mistake. The Doctor puts all top secret documents online and searchable, telling them they must “sit down and google!”
Staggering Scientist Tony is about to check his calculations from earlier when he collapses; it also turns out he’s called Douglas, but it seems a little late for that. Erica checks the airlock doors to see they are open, and Dead Scientist Tony melts into a puddle of gunk on the floor.
The American colonel thinks they might need to consider consenting to the Monks. He’s not afraid; he’s being smart. Nardole is narrowing down the search terms. Biochemical trials. GM bacteria. Stage 2 trials. None of this matters to the commanders. Bill tells him that, with all the soldiers around, The Doctor is the only one still fighting. (She likely doesn’t know that ‘The Doctor’ means ‘Warrior’ in some languages…) The Monks probably do have it all figured out. With all their simulations, they’ve found humanity’s weakest point. She doesn’t think they have a choice.
As the commanders go to the pyramid to surrender, The Doctor begins to tell Bill his big blind secret. He gets distracted and develops a plan to blind the Monks. He leaves Bill, telling her to keep an eye on the pyramid, and takes Nardole to the TARDIS.
In the lab, everyone is scrambling. Erica sees that Soupy Scientist Tony made a big little mistake in his numbers.
The Doctor asks Nardole to switch off the CCTV in all of the labs with Stage 2 GM bacteria trials. He does, and he doesn’t understand the plan. Surely the Monks can just turn the cameras back on? The Doctor knows that is precisely what will happen, so they just need to identify which lab’s cameras came back online.
They land the TARDIS in the lab, and The Doctor tells Nardole to go back into the TARDIS since, even though he’s not really human, he “got his lungs cheap”. The Doctor doesn’t want to do all the who-he-is faffing and wants to jump to the explaining part of the tour. Once he has the details, he lets the military folks in on them, too. He thinks he can contain it, and they are giving him two minutes to do it or they’re going in.
Erica tells him that there’s a venting system that will automatically pump the bacteria into the atmosphere in 20 minutes. The Doomsday Clock has 20 seconds to go. The commanders don’t want to wait.
The Doctor has a plan! I love when he’s got a good plan. He is going to blow up the lab, sterilising the whole place and destroying the bacteria. He is going to literally kill it with fire. The bacteria is creating ethanol, so everything is highly flammable.
The commanders surrender and consent on behalf of the three biggest militaries on the planet, but they are also disintegrated because they do not love the Monks. Strategy is not consent. The Monks turn to Bill. She represents the greatest power on Earth.
She represents The Doctor.
Meanwhile, he’s building a little bomb, and Erica will have to let him back through once it’s about to go boom. He tells Bill not to consent, even after he knows she’s the last one left in the pyramid. Erica gets through the airlock to the TARDIS, and he gets the bomb in place.
The Doomsday Clock begins to wind backward, the Monks panic and revisit their simulations, Bill starts to leave the pyramid … but The Doctor can’t see the lock on the last door to put in the code. Nardole is passed out in the TARDIS (probably because he breathed in a bit of the bacteria into his human lungs. He has to finally admit to Bill that he’s blind.
Bill makes an executive decision to keep The Doctor alive. She asks if they can return his sight. When they say yes, she agrees to give them the world. The Doctor must live and see. She is consenting out of love, even though The Doctor is constantly shouting that she mustn’t.
The Doctor can suddenly see his hands – and the airlock combination. He rushes through, the bomb goes off, the bomb goes off, and he realises Bill hasn’t listened.
“Tell you what, old man: you’d better get my planet back.” Bill tells him.
The Monks have a different approach: “Enjoy your sight, Doctor. Now see our world.”
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
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