What Pride Comes Before

Plot details will be discussed and possibly mocked.

Doctor Who: “The Doctor Falls”

So, let’s see: what do we know about Bill? I don’t think there’s any mention of her father and we know her mother is dead — the Doctor got her some photos as part of her recruitment. The memories of her mother were part of defeating the monks, as preserving her self identity.

What will survive of us is lurve, it turns out.
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Light Eater

Diripientium
Doctor Who: “The Eaters of Light”

Not only do we have a rare use of a female writer on Nu Who — Rona Munro (the second this series) — but we have the first use of a writer from Classic Who, who wrote the last serial of that era, “Survival”, featuring the Ainley-era Master and a lesbian subtext between Ace and Kara.
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Mars Attack

Spoilers on ice
Doctor Who: “Empress of Mars”

So a few weeks back, we weren’t allowed a reference to Harry Sullivan, companion for Tom Baker’s first season and the opening of the second, as well as appearing in a later serial, because no one would remember him.

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Monks’ Childhood Memory

Spoiler Heap

Doctor Who: “The Lie of the Land”

And so we come to the end of the Monks Trilogy — although the finale may yet return to them as Missy has been mixed up with them.

With all this virtuality around, you can imagine a much better episode exploring the memory police and the dystopia that’s Nineteen Eighty-Four-lite. Someone actually trying to resist and then being arrested. Instead of a reset button.

Instead we get the Doctor going in with a militia, all guns blazing, with a possibility that he might have to kill Bill, even though he says the safest place in the world for her is by his side. To be fair, she has already shot him — and he goes into a fake regeneration that last week’s next week teased us with.

The Monks have replaced our reality with a new history where they have always been (and the president is orange) and they’ve even redesigned the rather narrow streets around St Paul’s Cathedral where the pyramid has landed. (Is it an Illuminati reference? A dollar bill? Camel cigarettes?)

It is a fairly obviously plot, but the scriptwriter Toby Whithouse doesn’t trust us, nor does the composer. Murray Gold’s soundtrack is less intrusive than it usually is, but it still needs to Shut The Fuck Up for much longer. Bill is given a couple of great speeches and Pearl Mackay delivers them with gusto, but the subtlety is undercut by the sodding music telling us to emote. We also have Bill imagining the dead mother that the Doctor photographed back in “The Pilot”, so she can do Fake News for herself, but this is undercut by leading to a narration of what is an obvious set of manoeuvres which make sense without voiceover and we are distracted by wondering when this happened.

It also clues us into the end of the Monks — although David Archer has evidently gone back to sorting out the IBR on Brookfield. They were let into the world by love and will be expelled by it. Bill’s memory is touching and a little unconvincing — no anger at her dying? — and her heroism is undermined by the Doctor’s speech TELLING US.

Pedants would note that we don’t really know what the Monks got out of this invasion and whether a multimillenia dry run really helped, and if they really wanted to be loved then maybe they could use a little moisturiser or fake their appearances.

We don’t really know what they got out of this invasion and whether a multimillenia dry run really helped, and if they really wanted to be loved then maybe they could use a little moisturiser or fake their appearances.

I’m not sure how Margot knew that Bill had been to Australia, either. He wasn’t there, was he? There’s a brief acknowledgment of him nearly dying in “The Pyramid at the End of the World” and I can’t help but feel that the gaps between the episodes are disjointed in the wrong way.

Meanwhile, back at the STORY ARC, Missy is going cold turkey from evil and is asked her advice on how to defeat the Monks. Her solution is somewhat utilitarian, the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the one, but clearly she has some way to go. She has a few decent lines questioning the Doctor’s version of good, but she keeps being directed to eat the scenery. It is neat that — like the Doctor — she does remember the names of everyone she killed. Maybe she has a conscience after all.

We’ll see.

Monks’ Anxiety

Spoilery McSpoilface.

Doctor Who: “The Pyramid at the End of the World”

Bill, for reasons that are no clearer than she’s on the opening credits, is picked up by an American general and the Secretary General of the United Nation, interrupting the real date that replaced the virtual date from last week (and I wonder if this is going to be a thing — we are repeatedly informed she is a lesbian, but she won’t be allowed past first base. There was Heather, too, don’t forget). When there is a crisis, the Doctor gets to be president of the world (although note that the dead president last week doesn’t have the orange look Bill mentions) and the current crisis is the appearance of a five thousand year old pyramid, which has landed between the American, Russian and Chinese armies, threatening… well, oddly getting between them so you’d think it’d be safer.

How do they know it’s five thousand years old?

They just do, okay.

And it’s home to monks, because everyone knows that monks live in pyramids, wearing particularly tasteful curtains.

Look, this episode is co-written by the guy who did the Moon-egg-butterfly-Moon-egg episode, which makes The Clangers look like a Larry Niven novel.

Somewhere, the end of the world is underway, as at a research lab the hungover scientist Douglas screws up an experiment and the cock up isn’t clocked by short-sighted Erica. (Erica, I like, I could bear more of Erica.) The whole world is in danger of being poisoned by them. Fortunately, the Doctor is able to find them, thanks to Margot hacking the security cameras — the Doctor couldn’t do the hacking because he’s visually impaired — yes I know he’s already hacked two computer systems since he lost his sight, don’t quibble. He also gets locked in the lab in question. Because the sonic screwdriver won’t work on a combination lock. Because labs use mechanical locks.

Obviously.

Meanwhile, the Monks are offering to help, but will only do so if asked — shades of the Doctor asking Bill if he can save the world in ”Thin Ice”. In return for saving the world, they will want the world, which they have been practicing to invade since humanity crawled out of the slime.

Yes, I know it would be a pain in the butt if after all that humanity didn’t want help. You’d think they’d asked for consent before they were so committed, but the practices clearly told them Bill would oblige…

Yes, Bill, after the Secretary General and the three military leaders asked, but apparently not in the right way.

Do these monks want to invade or not? David Archer must have cows he has to get back to milk.

Bill has finally learned — and you wouldn’t think her so dumb — that the Doctor hasn’t got his sight back. She can ask for help, with love, and not fear, honest, unlike the Secretary General, so sight is restored.

How?

Don’t ask. You should be more worried about the STORY ARC and that Margot is apparently dead in the TARDIS and

Will nobody think of the Vault?

Monks Scream

Spoilers, innit.

Doctor Who: “Extremis”

I have an awful feeling that as a child we were set the task of writing a story that ends with the words “and I woke up and it was all a dream”. At some point we were probably told not to. Lewis Carroll gets away with it, twice, but I felt very cheated by The Box of Delights. Occasionally long-running dramas will risk it — think of Bobby Ewing coming out of the shower. One problem with telefantasy is the diminishing returns of the bigger and bigger Big Bads the heroes have to defeat, before a big reset button has to be hit.

This episode effortfully winds together the series STORY ARC and what turns out to be the first of a three part story. Moffat is also back at the word processor.

On the one hand, we have Missy, facing execution by the Doctor for unknown crimes, with the latter promising to guard her in the Vault for a thousand years. (Is this the first time we know who is in there?) Margot arrives, cowled like a monk, with River’s diary and permission to kick his arse. The Doctor, whilst he has killed people, can’t be an executioner, and so it turns out Missie is not dead, but resting (beautiful plumage). And this presumably explains why the Doctor is a millennium older than he used to say.

A thousand years is a long time in Bristol. You’d think an Oxbridge college would be better. He presumably sat out the various Dalek, zygon, cyberman invasions.

The main plot involves the present day Doctor being asked by the Pope to come and read a mysterious heretical manuscript, Veritas, which has caused all but one of its previous readers to commit suicide. Ooooh, shades of the Ringu movies. There’s a bad taste joke to be made here about the Doctor’s visual impairment and a visit from the Holy See, but I’m not going to make it.

We have another illustration of the distinction between Classic and Nu Who: One thru Seven (as the kids call them these days) either kept it in their trousers or were discreet about their sex lives. They lived like monks, meddling or otherwise. More recently, perhaps through the experience of the Time War, and realising YOLTT, we’ve learned of all kinds of shenanigans — this time with Pope Benedict IX, who it turns out looks like Angelina Jolie and was a woman. The real Benedict, who oddly enough just turned up in a documentary I was watching the other day, was 20 when he achieved popedom and was pope three times (to be pope once, might be considered a fortune, but thrice…) He also seems to be the first pope who repeatedly (or reportedly) engaged in same sex relationships. Hmm.

Bill, for reasons that are no clearer than she’s on the opening credits, is picked up, interrupting a date (and I wonder if this is going to be a thing — we are repeatedly informed she is a lesbian, but she won’t be allowed past first base), and they head to the Vatican with all these Italian-speaking priests. That’s odd, because there’s the convention that the TARDIS telepathic circuitry translates stuff into English. It’s also going to be interesting because the Doctor is still visually impaired and it’ll be hard to read a manuscript — perhaps Bill can read it to him.

But whilst the Doctor is preparing a little light read, Bill and Margot disappear through a crack in the wall and find a white room with more rooms, through which they find the Pentagon and then CERN. In case we aren’t clear it’s CERN, CERN conveniently has a publicity stand for CERN in CERN’s lobby. The scientists have been emailed a translation of Veritas and have learned that they are actually in a computer simulation — their reaction is to decide to blow themselves up because, well, particle physicists are especially gullible to emails from the Vatican. OK, that’s not fair, they realise that they can’t pick random numbers. Mass suicide seems an overreaction.

Margot and Bill escape to the white room and Margot steps the other side of the projector and is pixelated, whilst Bill follows the drips of blood to another zone, the Oval Room with a dead president. The Doctor’s been bleeding from his meeting with the mysterious and messy monks in the reading room, the chief one sounding oddly like David Archer after a long day shouting at Josh and Kenton. The monks are mentioned in the book — the simulation is a practice invasion of Earth, repeatedly run and rerun.

Yes, this is a mind-bending idea, in a Philip K. Dick-lite way, and for a moment you might glimpse that all of series ten has been a simulation — perhaps explaining how most of the episodes have been better than series eight and nine.

Hit that freaky deaky reset button.

Somehow the monks know about the Doctor and the TARDIS, but not the translation circuits (hence the Italian, I’m told bad Italian) and the sexuality of Benedict IX. Was it wise to include the Veritas in the simulation?

And somehow the Doctor can hack the programme to send the PDF of that book to the real world version of him — but then we already know he can program whilst visually impaired.

So, at the risk of invoking or interrupting STORY ARC!!!, we’re prepared for an invasion of meddling monks, who might get away with it if it weren’t for those pesky time travellers.