An episode that more or less sets up the next one, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a tale in there.
In terms of story, our alien monks bent on world domination from ‘Extremis’ make a pyramid in the middle of an area where Earth’s different armies face each other.
The Doctor solves the issue with some peace and love, whilst also advocating attacking the Pyramid to show strength.
In a parallel tale, scientists are in a bio-chemical lab with crops and chemicals.
It turns out that’s the next point of weakness on earth for the monks to exploit as a hungover scientist got a decimal point wrong.
Inevitably, the Doctor has to intervene but his blindness means he can’t work a mechanical numeric lock.
We end with Bill begging the monks for their help and to give her consent as the Doctor’s representative to their take over of the world.
She also asks for The Doctor’s sight restored to let him escape from the lab.
The concept is one of consent, the monks won’t accept the UN Secretary General’s ‘consent’, they won’t accept the three generals of China, Russia and the US surrendering as they want a genuine affirmation of ‘consent’ to take over the Earth.
‘To save you, we must be asked’
The Doctor realises the conditions of the monk’s help, he realises their domination and realises it’s the end of freedom on earth.
It’s an allegory after Brexit and the election of Trump.
Popularist politics and people giving consent by voting for feeling and ideas over facts and reality.
Perhaps, the simplification of political discussion and debate with a herd of voters overreliant on what they read and see in the media.
‘Power must consent to our dominion.’ ‘We must be wanted, we must be loved.’
Sounds familiar, the alien monks do have a parallel in the world and times that we live in.
There’s fear and paranoia and mistrust with a critical situation that the Doctor can resolve through talking with the army commanders.
He can’t fix all the world’s problems on the horizon and be everywhere though. The Monks can and will as they’ve modelled for every situation in their artificial realities shown in Extremis.
Through logic and help from Nardole, The Doctor finds the laboratory and narrows the search for the World’s next possible crisis.
We realise that The Doctor isn’t infallible, his blindness doesn’t help in the end where he comes up with a scheme to destroy the laboratory.
The monks intervene after Bill’s heartfelt plea for help. She has no other option but to ask.
Lines worth recalling.
‘Air, Water, Food, Beer‘ – Nardole’s essentials for life.
‘It’s your world.’ – The Doctor emphasises his alienness at the point the Generals wanted his council and they end up trying to speak to the monks to give their consent as a ‘smart move’.
‘Oh my god‘
‘No, I’m the Doctor‘
A conspiracy thriller, a tale of threats and power. Facing fear, standing up to those more powerful than you.
The Doctor runs out of luck, his blindness and Nardole being incapacitated by the chemicals in the lab means the lock’s failsafe numbered tumblers beat him.
Bill acts from love and concern for her friend and the Monk’s take over the world. Quite a cliffhanger.
The Doctor is safe from the Laboratory explosion but is told
‘Enjoy your sight Doctor, now you’ll see OUR world.’
I can’t fault Capaldi, Mackie or Lucas, they all excelled and were convincing.
I felt it was a lot of story to get into 45 minutes. No doubt the usual critics will say it was too complex, it was ambitious storytelling , a development upon The Doctor previously being ‘President of the World’ in times of alien threat and at its core an allegory on power and threat and domination by ‘consent’.
We also had the context of the Doctor’s blindness, insofar as he was fine for much of the episode until he hit a lock the sonics couldn’t beat.
The story continues in ‘The Lie of the Land.’