The mysterious Monks are back, not just for revenge on The Doctor, but for dominion over the planet Earth – and they just might get it. Can The Doctor stop the Monks, and save mankind from itself? Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on this do-not-miss episode of Doctor Who, the second act of the Monks trilogy, “The Pyramid at the End of the World.”
Another Date with Penny
In the last episode, although we didn’t actually see it, it seemed The Doctor had won – sending a message back in time to himself with instructions on how to beat the Monks before they even attacked, thereby making the events of “Extremis” an extraneous timeline, as they never occurred, except to those who remember – sort of how the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in The Framework remember their lives there.
We open on Bill and Penny’s second date, which is really their first, as Bill tries to explain how their real first date went. I guess telling friends and family about The Doctor is an aspect of the pick up and drop off companion I might not have thought of before. Granted, we had it before with Amy Pond and couple others in the new series, but we’re far more used to companions who live on board the TARDIS with The Doctor. When UNIT barges in, as opposed to the Pope, the date is once again over.
The President and the Pyramid
UNIT, and the Secretary General of the UN, are looking for The Doctor of course, but referencing him as the President of Earth. This is a thing I have never liked myself, but there it is. I have always preferred The Doctor as protector of Earth over president. And besides, as an American, of late, ‘president’ is a dirty word and something to be ashamed of. I’m glad to see the Who showrunners agree to an extent with their ‘orange’ comment. Hell, even Bill wouldn’t have voted for him. And don’t accuse me of making Doctor Who political, we’ve already had “Oxygen” this season.
The reason the powers that be need the president, The Doctor, is that a 5000 year old pyramid has been discovered in the fictional country of Turmezistan, one that wasn’t there yesterday – the pyramid, not the country. Various world powers have taken position around it, so The Doctor has been called, and all this before the opening credits, don’t cha know?
The Doctor is still blind from the aforementioned “Oxygen” episode, strumming his guitar, and doing that out loud narrative thing I like. Meditating is what he calls it to Bill. He surmises that as the Monks have been running simulations throughout all of human history, they know everything about mankind, a rather chilling nugget of information there.
And since it was difficult to get The Doctor out of his hiding place in the TARDIS, the UN simply brought the TARDIS with them. The pyramid’s position is in a place in contention among the three most powerful nations on Earth, and we’ll excuse that little bit of fiction for the sake of the story. It’s suggested that it may be an alien spaceship whose only message is ‘bring it,’ to which The Doctor does.
The Doomsday Clock
When The Doctor approaches the pyramid he is met by a Monk. The bad dub bad guy speaks in future tense telling The Doctor that they will rule this planet and its people, and that they will be asked to. Then, in a clever Steven Moffat gimmick, the Monks set every clock on Earth, which for most folks is their phones, to coincide with the Doomsday Clock.
The Doomsday Clock is more a Cold War symbol than anything else, probably known more by its Watchmen association to genre fans. It translates to three minutes before midnight, midnight being the end of the world, usually by nuclear destruction. Thinking the Monks chose this exact time and place for the pyramid to emerge, The Doctor tries to get the Americans, Chinese, and Russians to ‘make peace.’ The clocks move forward appropriately.
Power Must Consent
When attacks by the world powers on the pyramid fail, The Doctor and company enter the structure on foot and once again encounter the Monks. They once again make their prophecy/offer that the human race is doomed, unless they are asked to help. Ask and the Monks will save us, but only if they rule. They show the humans what Earth will look like in one year, a lifeless ruin, and make the offer again.
Like how a vampire must be invited into a home, the Monks require consent to rule the Earth and stop the crisis. Those in power must consent to their rule. They must be wanted, loved, for to rule in fear is inefficient. It’s interesting that these monsters have rules. Like Mxyzptlk, the omnipotent Superman foe, it is by the rules that they can be beaten, but no one is better at head games like that than The Doctor.
When The Doctor indirectly brokers a world peace, and the Doomsday Click doesn’t budge, it’s clear that the world doesn’t end by war. There must be some other doomsday brewing elsewhere in the world. As in “Extremis,” the Monks are playing a game, and Turmezistan is a bluff. However, against The Doctor’s orders, the world powers have decided that living to fight another day is worth surrender today.
Now, throughout the episode we have been following the misadventures of two scientists, Erica and Douglas, one tired and one without reading glasses, who have made a terrible mistake. They have accidentally created a lethal bacteria that may well be the end of the world. As The Doctor races to stop the bacteria, the world powers negotiate surrender with the Monks. And I loved the way The Doctor found their lab – more of that please.
The world leaders are disintegrated, because their consent was not sincere, leaving Bill to negotiate alone. The Doctor has saved us all, setting the lab to blow up on a timer, but he can’t see to open the combination lock to escape. Nardole has been mysteriously dispatched on board the TARDIS (could be the virus… or could it be someone, the Monks, Missy maybe?), so he cannot help. Over the radio, with The Doctor trapped, this is how Bill finally learns he is blind.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that The Doctor’s blindness is only an excuse for Peter Capaldi to wear cool dark sunglasses all the time. Still, The Doctor should have told Bill about rule number one for companions a long time ago – The Doctor lies. Either way, Bill asks the Monks for help, in exchange for The Doctor’s sight, she gives them the Earth. And consent made from love is pure.
“Tell you what, old man, you better get my planet back.” are Bill’s words after the deal is made, to which the Monks respond to The Doctor, “Enjoy your sight, Doctor, now see our world.” Now that’s a cliffhanger. I was unimpressed with the Monks in their first outing but now have to eat those words. These are indeed worthy adversaries for The Doctor.
Now The Bride seems to think Nardole’s being down and out is due to the bacteria, but I’m not so sure. I still suspect other forces at work. Also, regarding the deaths of the military leaders and Secretary General, will there be repercussions or just forgotten like the death of the US President at the hands of The Master? I quite liked the episode, and was completely sold on the potential of Erica as a new companion, loved the bus driver bit. I really wouldn’t mind seeing more of her. Saturday just can’t get here quick enough!
Next: The Lie of the Land!
Uh oh, I’m getting flashbacks of The Framework and Secret Empire… not good…