This week, Doctor Who is so close to hitting that sweet spot of balancing character development and an awesome, gripping plotline. The premise itself was captivating enough for the episode to inspire a lot of hype among fans: following the events of ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’, the Monks have taken dominion over the entire Earth and inserted themselves into every record of history. Anyone who disbelieves this version of history is forced into a labor camp or executed.
Yes, throughout ‘The Lie of the Land’ the references to George Orwell’s ‘1984’ are in abundance. The screen occasionally crackles, briefly flashing images of Monk propaganda, and the colours have been washed out to make for a hopeless, dreary atmosphere. The Monks’ influence has also spread across the world, as they constantly monitor the public and manipulate the media to portray themselves as the benevolent leaders of Earth.
The primary hook of this episode was the fact that the Doctor has been releasing regular broadcasts from a secret location in support of the Monks. It seems that he has been swept up in the delusion along with everyone else, and so Bill and Nardole set out after him in an exciting, high-paced heist-style sequence. This whole scene was tense, and did a lot to further emphasise the dystopian environment that everyone has been living with for the past six months.
Up until the much-anticipated confrontation between Bill and the Doctor, this episode was destined to be a classic. Even more so when it was “revealed” that the Doctor has not in fact been brainwashed – he had joined the Monks in a last-ditch effort to push humanity in the right direction.
My thoughts regarding this scene can’t be fully expressed without launching into a small rant/side-note, so here goes.
It can be generally agreed upon that the Doctor’s guilt is a defining aspect of his character. As long as he wrestles with his conscience or feels immense regret after making a controversial decision, then he is still in line with his character. So seeing Capaldi’s Doctor undermine the human right to autonomy and freedom was not only a little scary – it would have been a major point in his character development had he followed through with it. Obviously he would never had held this position for very long, but to see him at least tease the possibility for a little while would have been an excellent opportunity to show the darkness in his character.
Unfortunately, this all turned out to be nothing more than a ruse. Pearl Mackie still deserves credit for playing a previously unseen side of Bill as a decisive woman capable of killing her best friend when he gets too far out of hand. But unfortunately this is a little overshadowed by the sheer disappointment of the Doctor’s fakeout.
From this point on, the episode’s memorable aspects are few and far between. The contents of the vault are revealed (for real this time), and anyone who guessed Missy would be 100% right. Being sent to the time-out corner to think about her actions seems to be working for once, and as far as we can see she might actually be considering giving up a life of evil schemes and murder. For how long this will last or whether she is being genuine remains to be seen, and opens up a whole well of theories.
Speculation aside, she does help the Doctor and Bill by offering advice to defeat the Monks. Simply kill the person who first gave them consent, and this will sever the link that allows them to psychologically control the human race. Obviously this isn’t a real option as it would mean removing Bill from the show too early, and that would be an extremely risky move. But Bill still entertains the thought of sacrificing herself, and all credit to her for having the humility and compassion to at least consider it.
Instead, the Doctor, Bill, Nardole, and some of the free thinkers they have picked up along the way break into the Monk headquarters. And here, the resolution of a plotline spanning three episodes ends in a whimper. With a vague, wishy-washy explanation of how Bill’s memory of her dead mum overpowers the Monks’ signals brainwashing the human population, and everything comes to an end. The Monks leave Earth as the humans turn on them, and no one remembers a thing thanks to a mass mind wipe.
So, do we find out anymore about the Monks and their motives? Not really. There are plot holes lying open everywhere, and yet I find it difficult to rate this any lower than a 6 out of 10 purely because of the fantastic first half. This is sure to be a divisive episode among fans, and I’m still not entirely sure of my final thoughts. But here’s to hoping we at least get a satisfying resolution to Missy’s apparent turn to the “good side”.
Did you like the episode? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!