The latest episode of Doctor Who begins with our renegade Time Lord giving a particularly emo monologue about death's design. While strumming his guitar, he gives a bummer of a speech about how our death has already begun and how our demise is already in motion. The Doctor’s existential emo crisis is undoubtedly partly due to him still being blind and unable to heal his eyes; it is also a hint at subtext to a large part of this episode’s plot.
“Pyramid at The End of The World,” continues from the fallout of last week’s “Extremis.” Since simulation Doctor was able to send a warning out to his real-world self, he has full knowledge of the monks and what they have been up to. When a pyramid full of said monks suddenly appears in Turmezistan, the Doctor, Bill and Nardole are called out to investigate.
The Doctor already has a ton of nicknames and titles he has gathered over the course of his adventures, and we can officially now add President of Earth to that list. Sounds pretty silly but apparently at times of extreme crisis the Doctor is brought in as, well, President of Earth. And as silly as all that is, it somehow is more believable than a reality show host becoming President of the United States. But I digress.
When the group arrives, they discover that the pyramid is home base for the monks. Those pesky homies synchronize the world's time to three-minutes till midnight on the doomsday clock. This is a warning to let humanity know the end has begun somewhere and to let us know that humans will cause the end, and surprisingly not the monks.
I really like that the monks aren’t a typical baddie. They aren’t trying to destroy the world or to hurt people. They simply want us to ask them for their help and to give consent. Kinda like a shady loan officer, you know there is a catch to asking them for help. Sure, they are able to change the course of the end of civilization and give protection but at the cost of slavery of the human race. While a lot of the world’s leaders want to make that deal, the Doctor is living by Bruce Willis Live Free or Die Hard rules and trying to find a way to save the day without buying into the monk’s shenanigans.
The scariest thing in this episode isn’t the corpse-like monks, it is the way the end of the world would potentially come about. You would think nuclear war between the world powers. Instead, it is an innocuous lab that introduces enzymes to plants. Seemingly inconsequential events of a scientist accidentally breaking her glasses and her co-worker coming in with a hangover, leads to a deadly bacterium that could end the world in only a couple of weeks. Like, this is so silly that it is believable. I could totally see something like that happening in real life and boy are those scientist folks gonna have egg on their face.
A lot of the chemistry and charm is missing from Bill and the Doctor’s interactions this week. Exposition takes center stage to fill in the gaps of the second of the three episodes arc we are on. Plus, the Doctor is still a lot less playful than he has been in other episodes this season. The Doc even agrees on a coordinated missile attack on the pyramid at one point. Totally out of character for him since he doesn’t believe in violence and detests humanity’s nature for war. Maybe that is by design since Capaldi is on his way out this season. Either way, it is a bummer, and I’m already missing the monster of the week episodes.
Matt Lucas is still being criminally underutilized. His brief moments with the Doctor in this episode are awesome. There is a great moment when they are both on the T.A.R.D.I.S searching for the bacteria’s location. When the Doc asks Nardole if he can hack CCTV, he replies with “Of course I can, I’m not just sexy.” That is plain Matt Lucas gold. The series needs to allow Nardole to get all up in that screen time. His delivery is perfect. I’m hoping we get a Nardole centric episode before the Doc regenerates.
The episode from its title to concept has an atomic age monster feel to it. But instead of humanity accidentally creating Godzilla or Mant they create a real mean motor scooter of a bacteria. I love the homage to humans being the unsuspecting architect of their own demise, especially when that demise is seen through sci-fi lenses.
This episode ends with Bill making a deal with the monks in order to save the Doctor’s life and eyesight. So, on one hand I’m pretty excited about ole Doc having his sight back, but Bill just sold humanity into slavery. The monks ultimately come out on top for now, but with the Doctor still kickin, I’m sure it is only a matter of time before he gets the world back to normal again.