I’ve put it off so long I’ve nearly hit the transmission of the next episode! Here’s my somewhat ambivalent take on the Doctor Who story Extremis. In short I think a missed opportunity, but it might all come out in the wash once we’ve seen the next episode(s). If nothing else I like the pre-prod artwork (left).
Still here? Let’s have a longer chat…
This is what I think Extremis is about:
- The Doctor is guarding the vault. While doing so, he (quite reasonably) reminisces via flashback to how he put Missy in there
- Meanwhile a new alien group, the Monks, are running simulations of bits of Earth to test out their invasion / conquest plan. Quite sensible
- In the simulation, they look at the capabilities of the Doctor and his allies. They also mix in the Vatican and CERN, two very different world views (I suggest) and both tested with ‘the truth’ in the form of the Veritas. It’s a bit Gothic but makes sense
- Once the simulated Doctor works out what is happening he figures out (and this isn’t well explained) how to tell his real self what is happening. This is important, as it justifies an episode that is otherwise only a dream
- The Doctor is concerned the Monks are such a threat he might need help (why, as he manages normally without), and who better than Missy?
Now, here’s where I think it didn’t hang together:
- The story wants Missy to be part of the solution
- Therefore Missy is in the vault
- Therefore we need to be told this, ASAP
Here is where I think Extremis went wrong. We’ve guessed Missy might be in the vault, be here we are suddenly in a strange medieval setting and a great actor like Ivanno Jeremiah (wonderful in Humans) is hardly used. There’s no pacing to the reveal, never mind the fluid way the Doctor breaks one vow by not executing Missy, but is happy to sit in front of a vault for 1,000 years. Why not stick it in the TARDIS and do some timey-wimey to leave Missy for 1,000 years while getting on with things?
Speaking of wasted actors, the character of Angelo (Corrado Invernizzi) was intriguing, but now he is gone (or is he?). I suppose new Who is littered with part-developed roles like this, a side-effect of the episode sizing.
There’s some silliness, such as the Pope in the bedroom, and why does the TARDIS not translate him, but does everyone else? There’s also a with one bound moment (I get told off for these) when the Doctor is tied up, turns of the lights with his sonic and is then free, we know not how.
Also the Doctor is/was blind (apologies, I’m ranting now), a great idea but now inconvenient. Despite the book reader gimmick and the sonic shades, he still needs to borrow sight from the future? Why? The Veritas (for no clear reason) could prove the reader was artificial. The explanation of randomness is wrong here, even the same algorithm in a simulation could give different answers, eg by seeding with the person’s name.
Now I come to the Matrix like revelation, and having found out we aren’t real we all just kill ourselves. All? Surely there are other possibilities?
As to the whole simulation world; philosophers among you will have been shouting Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, and I think you’re right to do so.
There are good bits, as I said some good if ill-used characters, and wasn’t Nardole good in the scene where he removed his glasses and talked to Bill? As to Bill, what happened to her? Let’s hope she has something more meaningful to do, like upsetting Missy.
I feel better for all that, and I do hope it makes a lot more sense come the next pyramid based episode. Let’s hope so!