And so we come to the end of the loose trilogy that was “The Attack of the Nameless Monks.” We are two thirds through Series 10, and I worry more than ever that my suspicion from episode one will be borne out; Steve Moffat is being too smart for his own good. The Lie of the Land was forty-five minutes of not very much happening, a lot of ideas being recycled from Series 3 finale The Last of the Timelords, and the awful feeling that an entire episode is being used to spin out a story being played across an entire series. The horrible fact is that as a story-telling method, it is absolutely bombing.
I would love to be positive about this episode, but it is really quite impossible. Even if the storyline were a little stronger, or there had been something approaching a strong plot, there are still a number of deep, inexcusable flaws that simply cannot be ignored. Most of these centre around a point in the middle of the adventure, in which Bill is persuaded that the Doctor has truly abandoned earth to side with the monks, and decides that the only course is to shoot him. That’s right – the geniuses at the BBC have the Doctor’s companion shoot the Doctor. After this point, it does not matter that Bill was firing blanks, or that it was a test of her character – the BBC have stepped over such a sacrosanct line of decency that the production team should hang their heads in shame.
Worse still is how the scene plays out. In the pre-series teaser trailers, we see the Doctor ‘regenerating’ – a clip repeated in the teaser trailer for this specific episode. As it turns out, he wasn’t regenerating at all – merely giving the appearance of doing so after Bill shot him. But why? As one of my friends reminded me, Bill has only just met the Doctor – she understands nothing of regeneration and it would mean nothing to her. To use that scene in such a gratuitous and needless way can only be the worst kind of playing to the fans. Nodding to fans is one thing in TV shows, and when tastefully and discreetly done can be a joy to behold; but this kind of overt fan pleasing makes for appalling and unbelievable drama.
The biggest shame in all of this is that Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie are brilliant. Simply stunning. Put Bill in Series 8 and 9 instead of Clara and we would have had two seasons of frankly sensational television. Their chemistry is superb, and Capaldi is demonstrating how you grow to love a seemingly unlovable and irascible older character. It’s a crying shame that the content that they have been given is so poor, and that by the time Chris Chibnall comes along they will have left the show. They really deserve better.
There are four episodes remaining of this series, plus the Christmas special. I am looking forward to next week when the Ice Warriors make a return – they were rather excellent in Series 7 episode Cold War and I have high hopes for their next appearance. But I am very apprehensive about the final two episodes of the series, penned by Steven Moffat. There is a very real danger that in trying to tie this season together he will attempt to be too clever, and resort to a Deus Ex Machina (otherwise known as a Big Red Button) to save the day. It is interesting that the stories I have enjoyed most this Series have principally been the stand alone stories; Smile and Knock Knock. All the others that have played into the big overarching story have proven unbelievably shallow and disappointing. I’m continuing to hope that somehow Moffat will pull a rabbit out of the hat, but my optimism is definitely waning…