The latest episode of Doctor Who series 10 is an instance of tension triumphing over actual storyline. Over 45 minutes, very little story is actually told, but the viewer finds oneself not minding, as there is sufficient intrigue and mystery to hold one’s attention. Picking up where Extremis left off, the seventh episode of Series 10 sees the real life Doctor finally meet the fictional adversaries introduced in the previous episode. The red-robed and decayed monks remain as mysterious, unexplained, and unnamed as before. Their intent however is clear; domination of the world.
Rather intriguingly, the would-be invaders do not desire a physical conquest by fear, instead expecting that humanity consents to their seizing control. To do this, they summon the earth’s authorities to their base, a pyramid based where the world’s three greatest militaries (America, Russia and China) meet; there they demonstrate how their simulations of earth’s future, foreshadowed in Extremis all show catastrophe striking the earth. They pledge their capacity to help, but insist that humanity must give willing consent; as the Doctor explains, “fear is inefficient, but love is slavery.”
To truly judge this episode, we must see how the story continues next week. I enjoyed watching the story, feeling it was a good ‘Part 1’, but that only qualifies if Part 2, The Lie of the Land, is also up to scratch. Otherwise there are some definite flaws that would be harder to overlook. The distinct lack of action is definitely one, but also there are some of the lazy cop-outs that have sadly been a big feature of new Doctor Who. Far from being the exciting possibility I hoped it would be, the Doctor’s blindness proves to be nothing more than a plot device – a means to leave him trapped, so that Bill would willingly give her consent for the monks to take control. Perhaps all will be forgiven after episode 8, but at the moment I feel distinctly ‘meh’ about that particular choice.
I also remain a little despairing of the rather cynical outlook of the BBC. It is rather shocking when you have the lead character say “love is slavery”, which says rather a lot about the hardness of heart in the BBC production crew. It seems a far cry from the classic era of Doctor Who, where one companion was able to save the Doctor’s live by willingly offering to die in his place, demonstrating a selfless love that the enemy could not comprehend. It is true that Bill demonstrates such a love in this instance, but it does not seem in the least valued.
We really do have to see how the next story plays out. We are left with more questions than answers: who are the monks? Why do they need consent? How will they seize power? What is their intent for the earth? And where does Missy come into all of this? One can only hope that we actually get some satisfactory answers to these questions this Saturday …