This week’s Doctor Who, “The Pyramid at the end of the World”, started with one of the oddest recap/previously ons I’ve ever seen. Cutting between and blending the recap straight into Bill relaying the same story to her “friend” Penny. I almost missed this by trying to fast forward through the “previously on” bit, only realizing that something was off and rewinding to watch from the top. Very odd choice, possibly to mess with those of us who watch everything on DVR.
After recapping how badly their virtual date went, Pope and all, once again Bill gets blocked by an imposing figurehead, this time the Secretary General of the UN. Poor Penny once again goes running from Bill’s flat, though less terrified this time, and the UN official asks for the president. This was another one of those fun UNIT episodes where we see The Doctor’s relationship with the governments of Earth, as they mean him, the president of Earth.
The episode centered around two locations, the first being the titular pyramid, shown to be five thousand years old but having only appeared that day, and in a location occupied by Chinese, Russian, and American forces. The second location was our ticking clock, Dan Brown-esque element. A lab where we find out what the cause of the world’s end is. We are shown this location and the scientists inside along with their progression of events that lead to this catastrophe well before our heroes know the problem or where it is.
I was both thrown off and found refreshing the inclusion of a little person to the cast as one of said scientists with her stature being completely ignored. Not a joke or a plot point, nothing about the fact that she is a little person comes into play. The only thing that threw me off was also that it was not mentioned once, as casting in a series is a very deliberate process so whether or not it is referenced, we are always aware that a conversation about what to say or not has taken place. Anyway the actress did a fine job with what few lines she had and made an impression very quickly.
We got more of Capaldi’s guitar playing, an element I have always enjoyed about his iteration of The Doctor. Finding his Tardis aboard a plane and the military insinuating they cut a hole into his college office and lifted it out … boy do I hope when we go back to the university there’s still a giant hole there, Arrested Development style.
But the basic gist of this week is that the weird vampire monks from last week are in the pyramid, which is actually a ship, and through their simulation device have figured out the Earth is on the brink of doom and are trying to blackmail Earth into giving them control in exchange for saving the planet. Using the Doomsday Clock, we see how close to annihilation we are. That virtual machine, I have to say, struck me as very reminiscent of a version of the Greek myth the Sisters of Fate, being made of long glowing tendrils or strings, the monks robed and holding each string to see another version of many possible futures. A nice little homage.
Much is made about how inevitable an event is once the ball is rolling. How, once a series of events towards an end have begun, it becomes almost impossible to turn things in your favor. This idea could be seen as debunked or confirmed by the end depending on your point of view.
Much is made about how someone with power must ask the monks for help and want it for pure reasons, for love. All others who ask during the course for fear, strategy, etc are killed, turned to ash in a very cool bit of CG effects work. I wasn’t sure how Bill would become the one to ask but I had a feeling she would definitely be the one to finally ask for pure reasons.
Getting to that point was quite clever I must say. The Doctor and Nardole quickly narrowing down the possible ways the earth could be wiped out and successfully finding the right line through one part genius and two parts writing convenience. The really clever part was when The Doctor shuts off the security cameras in all of the thousands of labs where it could be and merely waits for the monks to turn the ones back on, immediately identifying where to go. Once The Doctor is there, he plans to blow up the lab, burning the offending microbes that would destroy earth.
Here is where the “big twist” and dumbest part happens. After setting the bomb and turning to leave, the door has been sealed and you must enter a combination to leave. But he can’t see the numbers because of the blindness he’s been hiding. *sigh*
So the girl in the lab can’t open it from the other side? What kind of lab would have that setup? Oh and Nardole of course gets sick from being in the lab and is passed out or dead in the Tardis? So of course Bill must ask for his sight back from the monks, with love as the reason, get it? The monks do so, The Doctor is saved and has his sight but the monks take control of Earth in the process.
Such a good setup but just enough laziness and too clever moments that this ends up being a middling episode. Very much feeling like a setup for something bigger rather than its own thing, I found this one to be over all fun but disappointing as well. I do have to add that the outdoor scenes of UN soldiers in the desert with a plane, pyramid, and a submarine stuck in the sand seemed almost Godzilla like. Little soldiers with their blue helmets frantically running around, it gave me a laugh. So a decent but flawed outing that will hopefully lead to better things.