Again I’ve delayed reviewing a TV episode, and again it’s a reluctance to document exactly why I felt an episode didn’t work. At the highest (most abstract) I felt Pyramid at the End of the World was interesting, but beyond that it seemed a victory of style over substance. Harsh words, and possibly unfair, but bear with me and I’ll explain.
Pyramid at the End of the World
If we zoom right out, the story is:
- Evil Monks can take over the world to save humanity from itself
- They have to be invited
- Something very bad is about to happen
- The Doctor is about to win but there’s a catch
- Bill has the power to save the Doctor, but needs to give up the world.
Some grand ideas and the powerful scene where Bill’s faith in the Doctor, reluctance to have him die (possibly over-egged) and narrative necessity means she literally gives up the world for him. Big stuff, but it’s the detail where it all goes to pieces. I will try not to spoil too much.
The pyramid is a nice idea, as is the battlefield concept of being where three armies intersect. Sadly this was all portrayed by a handful of soldiers, none of whom needed to even make a call to Washington / Beijing / Moscow / anywhere else to make a decision. Where is UNIT in all this? I have a mad idea, but it will be a separate post.
Next we have the Doomsday clock and plenty of exposition. Now I start to have problems. The Monks can model the future (as we know from Extremis) but why do we believe them when they show a digital clock roll forward? Next the incipient disaster: we get some fragments of Erica’s life and here Agrofuel colleague’s party, but only exactly enough to see what we need. Are we really to believe this is the only moment in human history when a random combination of events could end the world? Meanwhile the Monks show the local leaders (let’s call them that) a vision of the end of the world, powerful enough to change their minds and we don’t see it. Weak story telling in the extreme.
The Doctor cleverly decides the pyramid is a red herring, and is rather good at finding the Agrofuel lab; but, and it’s a big but, how does he make the leap to a super-plague from nowhere. Even underused Nardole looks unconvinced, and he ends up catching something horrible so he can’t use the TARDIS to rescue the Doctor.
I then get irritated about the Doctor’s eyes. As I said before the blindness is a nice tweak but now it’s over. It’s over because the Monks can do something the Doctor can’t, even with the ability to search the whole of history: they cure his eyesight and without even touching him! How powerful are these guys?
The Monks I am unsure about. All powerful, yet need to be invited, but able to scheme. This is very much the tone of a fantasy story with a djinni / efreet / demon subject to a strange set of rules to make a story work. How will this pan out? Not sure.
I’m no expert on bio-security, but I’ve seen documentaries, including a good one on the BBC about Porton Down. If this location is important enough to be on a UNIT (at least they get a mention) watch-list, it should have decent protocols in operation. A case of dodgy science, and puts this in the Kill the Moon category of stories (again by Peter Harness, who co-wrote this story with Steven Moffat).
As to Bill giving up the world? Well it’s the only thing she does, but I think it’s a good moment. It’s about faith (as I said) and maybe cuts to the core of the Doctor / companion relationship.
My final complaint is the UN leader interrupts Bill’s romance; clearly somebody thought the Pope scene from Extremis was so funny they’d repeat it. Oh dear.