“So relax! Do as you’re told! The future is taken care of.”
So there it is, the ending to a very interesting three parter. Did it deliver on the promise of ‘Extremis’, the first and near-perfect part of the trilogy? Yes and no, as is so often the case.
‘The Lie of the Land’ (good punny title) is written by Toby Whithouse. Whithouse is pretty reliable, continually producing some really great episodes, albeit sometimes forgettable ones. Time will tell which way ‘The Lie of the Land’ will go. With all of the truly excellent episodes we’ve had so far this series, perhaps this one will not go down as one of the best, which is a shame. But against ‘Extremis’ and ‘Oxygen’ and ‘Thin Ice’, it has some competition. But that’s enough of the negative (for now) as there are some really, really awesome moments in this episode.
Firstly, the first fifteen minutes are some of the best stuff that Doctor Who has done. Everyone has been brainwashed by the monks, including The Doctor. People are being carted off by the Gestapo-like memory police. It’s up to Bill to save the day. That’s really interesting, I wanted more of that. And it’s not even that the rest of it is bad, it’s actually pretty great, it’s just that the opening had so much promise to be truly unforgettable.
When Bill finds The Doctor there is a very emotional scene in which it looks like he truly has joined with the Monks. It has some really top class acting from Capaldi, but also from Pearl Mackie who is continually proving to be one of the most interesting and realistic companions to ever set foot in the TARDIS.
So it was all a ruse, The Doctor was in on it and needed to know Bill wasn’t brainwashed. It makes sense, even if the fake regeneration felt like a cheap way to build some gossip and interest. The pair go and see Missy who is languishing away in the vault. This scene almost feels like a way to shoehorn Michelle Gomez into another episode but she’s so much fun I’ll let it slide. Though Missy/The Master has a really convoluted arc at the moment, is she good or bad? Maybe the hyped return of John Simm will clear that up.
The Monks seem to be getting a lot of hate online right now. I am torn, because on one hand they were built up as something really special. They have an awesome design, a really intriguing plan, and a lot of mystery surrounding them. Then they just blast off in their pyramid ship at the end, which feels like a waste. On the other hand, they do seem pretty powerful. A lot of people have said how they were dispatched too easily, with at least one getting shot. But to me that just shows how powerful they are, no one had killed one because their plan was that good.
I think a big problem is the fandom’s tendency to hype themselves up. They come up with the wildest theories and ideas and then it’s inevitable that they aren’t a little disappointed when the Monks don’t turn out to be Cybermen or timelords.
I found the overall direction in this episode to be stunning. The stand-out moment was the sequence when The Doctor and co. left the house and were running towards the pyramid. All shot in slow motion with Bill’s voice keeping them (and us) sane, it was very, very cool. It got even better when they got into the pyramid and the synth kicked in, as the soldiers silently fired round after round at the monks. And can I just say that I hope the slow motion dive this episode goes down in Who-history with Danny Pinks flip.
The ending of the episode might be a cop-out, depending on how sick you are of love saving the day. The whole “Bill’s memory of her Mum” thing is sweet, if extremely Doctor Who. And the whole thing is wrapped up too quickly! That is by far my biggest gripe with the episode. If no one remembers the monks, are all the people who were imprisoned back home? What about all the people who died? There are months missing from every human being’s life, and they never even mention how that works. We should be past that lazy sort of writing by now.
But the show does what it always does, it redeems itself. The scene with The Doctor and Bill right at the end is so good. He tells her that she makes it worth putting up with all of the other humans on Earth, and that really tells you all you need to know about The Doctor. I am really going to miss him and Bill.
Overall it’s decent. It’s was a very ambitious trilogy that started with it’s best episode. But they were all varied and all pretty great. I’d rather the show attempted things like this and almost worked than played it safe.
Next week is the Mark Gatiss episode. I don’t hate his episodes as much as everyone else, ‘The Crimson Horror’ was fantastic despite what everyone says. Did anyone else get a distinctly Cyberman feel from the ice warriors? I know a few paragraphs ago a derided the fandom making leaps, but they sound like the Cybermen, they move like them, they have the same weapons, and the Cyberman theme was there! We’ll have to wait and see.
Reviewed by Jack