Doctor Who - Episode 10.07 - The Pyramid at the End of the World - Review
This week's Doctor Who was standard mid-season episode. But standard for Doctor Who is good! It is what many clamor for. Look at the recipe, use the ingredients, bake as directed. (Spoilers follow)
This was part two of a "sort of" three parter. Three different episodes written by three different people (Peter Harness this week) but with the same villain. They tried that last year with a couple of two parters and it was merely okay. The result this time was much better.
There are rare instances where you can look at an episode and see any of the Doctors being in it. This is one of those episodes for me. In particular, I could see this being part of the RTD era with the Ninth Doctor and Rose, and I could also see it being the Third Doctor with Jo Grant. To me, that is the litmus test to a strong Doctor Who story. It would work in any decade, under any Doctor with any showrunner. It was so much fun to watch.
The Doctor established that they are back in the real world after spending last week's episode in a computer program like The Matrix. Here's the thing though, that episode was written by Moffat himself, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was an Inception element to all this - where they were in a computer program in a computer program.
The supporting cast was great. The casting agent is really going all out this year. From the military leaders to the two scientists, they had very little screen time but were acted well enough to make you believe they were real people we were watching.
Since Doctor Who came back in 2005 it has always been ahead of its time (especially compared to the shows in the states) in casting minority characters. Not just LGBTQ or POC, but handicapped people as well. Autistic, deaf, etc. The trick is that they treat them like regular people. Their disability is not used as a plot point or a focus. They are just part of the group. It shows acceptance and removes the stigma of people who are different.
In sci-fi very tall people and very short people always play aliens. Since most aliens in everything are of the humanoid form (two arms, two legs, head on top, etc) so actors can play them, height is an easy way to give a different attribute to an alien. So it was very refreshing to see a little person (Rachel Denning) play just a normal human female going to work. She wasn't an alien, she wasn't cast because her size would come in handy for the plot, she was just the best actor for the job. It makes the Doctor Who universe feel more real. When there is only one kind of human you see, while the rest are under heavy prosthetics or used to solve a problem, it conveys a message that if you are different you can't be normal. Doctor Who - removing stigmas since 1963!
Speaking of prosthetics, the Monks who want to control the world are done really well. I am glad that BBC America helps co-fund the show now - maybe one day Doctor Who can get some well deserved Emmy love. (I'm still bitter "Heaven Sent" wasn't nominated).
The Doctor finally got his eye sight back at the very end, after a loving big-hearted sacrifice from Bill. That gave the Monks control of the Earth, and set up next weeks episode quite nicely. Part two's always have a problem in that they can't standalone enough. They go one of three ways. They can repeat the first one exactly (like The Hangover: Part 2), or skew away from the first part so much that it doesn't even feel like the same franchise any more. The third way is that it gets lost because all part two is meant to do is get you to the next chapter, so it spends too much time setting that up and can't focus on itself (like Iron Man 2). Now it is a bit different with television but as this was an advertised "three parter", I thought part two would just be a means to an end to get part three. It wasn't. You can watch this episode cold, on its own and the episode gives you all the information you need to know. It also handles it's business - there are three distinct acts and there is a nice resolution at the end. Sure there is a tease of what is to come, but it doesn't spend the whole episode focused solely on that.
I know this episode won't please everyone, and people will always watch the show just to find something to complain about but I see the broad appeal of this one. I can see it pleasing people who like Classic Who better. I can see it pleasing post 2005 fans, and I can see it being fun for someone who stumbled upon while flipping through the stations on a rainy Saturday night. With all those checkboxes ticked, Harness and Moffat have to be feeling good about themselves.
As far as "season arc" stuff - we didn't get much. The Vault is taking a bit of a break and it is absolutely refreshing that Bill is a normal person. We don't have any "impossible girl" or "your life doesn't make sense" or "destiny brought us together" stuff. I like when the companion is a normal human and has to rise to the challenge of being as good as the Doctor. Pearl Mackie excels at this. But as a substitute for it, we get the mystery of Nardole. The reason this works is because its not the main focus of the show. Just a little something to add to each story. Nardole got his head detached from his body when he worked for River Song. Next thing we know he has his body back and we are getting little pieces as to who or what he is. It is a nice compliment all of the other stuff going on throughout the episodes, and gives needed depth and detail to them that was lacking last year. I am very intrigued as to how Nardole regained a body and why the Doctor decided to give it to him.We are getting answers slowly, piece by piece and it is working out wonderfully. I hope they keep up that pace.
Next week, the cleverly titled episode "The Lie of Land" completes the "Monk" trilogy and is written by veteran writer Toby Whithouse. So we have that to look forward to!
Doctor Who airs at 9/8C on BBC America.