Sunday, 28 May 2017

Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World (2)

Bill: 'How would I know the president? I mean, I wouldn't have even voted for him. He's orange.'

After the return to form that was 'Oxygen' and 'Extremis', we're currently three for three after yet another tale reluctant to give up its secrets. I confess, I'm loving the three-part format. Since Chibnall's no stranger to serialised storytelling, here's hoping that he milks the crap out of it next season; the show's clearly so much better when the stories are allowed to breathe. Unless Daleks and Manhattan are involved.

When you consider that the bulk of last week's episode never happened, there was a surprising air of continuity about tonight's story. Penny and Bill's date revolved around discussing their nonexistent adventure, and ended in a similarly bizarre way. (With the Secretary General of the United Nations replacing the Pontiff.) Having the Doctor explain to Bill everything that happened in the simulation, was the perfect way of making and an episode that was informative for the viewer equally meaningful for the characters. Plus, I really loved Bill's decision to save the Doctor. Learning about his blindness—although probably something she should've worked out some time ago—convincingly played on Bill's guilt, and was the perfect means of setting up her sacrifice.

Should she have done it? After the monks dissolved the world leaders, should she have believed that a deal would be without significant consequence for the world? Should the world leaders have succumbed, for that matter? On face value—what with the Doctor repeatedly admonishing them not to acquiesce, and a real flakiness about the terms themselves—the answer should be a resounding no. But it's the latter point which makes Bill's decision so perfect. The monks are obviously up to something, and since nobody seems to know what, who better to work it all out than the Doctor? Keeping him alive is essential to humanity winning. Yes, next week's trailer suggests that the fallout will be dire, but if the eventual payoff is success (and let's face it, it's going to be), then it has to be worth the risk.

I think my main gripe with this episode was the ease with which the Doctor pieced things together. They way he latched onto Nardole's miraculously accurate bacteria hypothesis, before extrapolating into infinity and somehow more-or-less coming up with the right answer, really took some believing. I get that good drama requires the occasional shortcut—nobody wants to sit through thirty-eight hours of failed speculation, after all—but I do wish they'd give the Doctor's deductions at least a semblance of being soundly reasoned. The show's getting more and more like Sherlock every week.

At this stage in the story, it's hard to work out exactly what the monks want. There's a vagueness about their demands that projects a real sense of foreboding—yet, they seem to be the only ones offering a solution. How do you combat a foe that's run every simulation and knows the countermeasure to anything you can throw at them? The Doctor's going to have to come up with something unexpected, but how is that even possible when their shiny spaghetti machine warns them of every potential scenario in advance? If next week's trailer is anything to go by, then clearly Missy is the key—but at this point, it's hard to imagine what could possibly stop them.

And I hate to say this because I rather like scientists, but they came off as mostly awful here. Douglas turning up to work hungover, taking off his helmet in an experimental environment, and then dashing through two airlocked doors, dripping brown shit that had just annihilated living matter, was utterly inexcusable. I mean, we've all had a heavy night on the ale, but you would hope that scientists would hold more rigorously to safety protocol. Just have a day off, Doug. Surely anything's better than destroying humanity through your incompetence? And I can totally buy that a facility might have some sort of emergency venting protocol, but an automatic one, in a bacterial laboratory, with no emergency override whatsoever?

Erica however was brilliant. The Doctor seemed immediately drawn to her intellect—as he is with virtually anyone who shows initiative—and I liked that Rachel Denning's dwarfism had absolutely no bearing on the story whatsoever. It wasn't the source of any comedy, it didn't enable her to do special things, she was just a regular scientist whose height was just a small part of who she was. (Pun unintended.) And if Erica manages to get out of the mess they're currently in alive, perhaps there's a date with the Doctor in it for her. Assuming that her significant other wouldn't disapprove. And assuming the Doctor's her type. Is he really anyone's type?

Nardole was rather delightful again this week: apart from him dropping down unconscious (not dead, surely?), just when he was needed most. He was either the deliverer, or the butt, of some of the best gags in the episode. We also learned why he wasn't immune to an oxygen depleted environment back in 'Oxygen': he's evidently got human lungs. Which presumably means that he's a mixture of both biological and mechanical parts. There still feels like there's a story in here somewhere, but they're being annoyingly stingy with the details. Lovely duffel coat though. The microphone toggle was ridiculous, but that Nardole all over. Here's hoping he wakes up and somehow manages to save the day.

Other Thoughts:

—I greatly appreciated the not-so-subtle dig at Trump.

—I may be showing my ignorance of laboratory equipment, but that combination lock looked like it'd been designed by a ten year old.

—Can we just agree that when you're up against a foe that can hack computers by waving their hands, as a species, we're essentially screwed?

— A lovely score from Murray Gold this week—if a little familiar.

—The Doctor got his sight back quicker than I imagined, but I suppose there's only so long he could have gone on hiding it, and so many times it can be used it as a plot device.

Quotes: 

Doctor: 'What do you depend on?'
Nardole: 'Air, water, food, beer.'

Doctor: 'Are you following me?'
Nardole: 'Yeah, I think I get it.'

Erica: 'Oh, my god!'
Doctor: 'No, but it's an easy mistake to make. The eyebrows.'


Erica: 'How did you do that? What is that thing?'
Doctor: 'It's Nardole. He's not my fault.'

Doctor: 'Handsome Doctor. Adorable, hugely intelligent, but still approachable Doctor.'




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