In pre-credits we initially think the Doctor is escorted by an execution party to his death on a planet where executions are carried out for the whole galaxy.
It turns out to be that the Doctor is to carry out the execution of Missy.
Now this scene is titled as Long Ago, but it’s at a point after Darillium.
Missy comments on it. Clearly the Doctor and River Song did spend those years there and it also seems this is after her death.
There’s a speech made by Nardole to the Doctor that are his mistresses words. We also see River’s Tardis blue diary.
Plenty enough to bite upon there as a flashback in itself.
We return to the Doctor sat at the wall of the vault and his glasses have received an email..
Then the titles..
The University Lecture Theatre and the Doctor is at the podium in darkness, a group of men enter the room and the sonic glasses analyse their age height and build.
It’s priests, cardinals and the Pope himself.
‘Dottore – read the Vetitas.’
The Pope begging the doctor to read the Document that has sent a number of Vatican scholars to kill themselves.
Then a comic scene in Bill’s house with the Pope appearing whilst she’s on a date and a pile of bishops and priests in her bedroom have came out the TARDIS.
Team Who assembled.
We are then led into the Vatican’s hidden library of prohibited books.
The mystery is of a book marked ‘Veritas’, but at the same time robe clad aliens are using portals to enter the library and kill off the Cardinal.
We have a scene where Bill gets told off by Nardole. he removes his glasses and with them his friendly comic manner to tell her his ground rules before they go and explore one of the portals.
Meanwhile, the Doctor uses a gadget from the Tardis to try and restore his sight to read the book.
He asks for help from a figure in the library that he believes is the Cardinal who sought their help, it’s the scary alien monks.
In flashback again, we have Missy’s last moments and the dialogue between them. ‘I am your friend’ she says.
The execution square makes it’s zapping charge to kill Missy.
The Doctor also makes an Oath as a member of the Prydonian Chapter to guard her body for a thousand years…
So we have our Oath and our occupant of the Vault.
We travel with Bill and Nardole through the portals, once to the Pentagon then to CERN.
CERN have a suicide pact after reading the Veritas and we have a remarkable scene with a Professor there challenging Bill and Nardole to say random numbers and they both say the same numbers each time they are asked to do so.
In the library, The Doctor faces the alien monks, before he too goes through the portal, but not with the book but a translation on a laptop computer.
Bill and Nardole return to the room where the portals are centred and we get a conclusion from Nardole.
This isn’t real as the number test is a way of proving that you’re in a simulated environment and that’s what the scientists did with their death pact.
Nardole realises the projections and the things they’ve seen are simulations.
Nardole proves it by dematerialising in front of Bill, who then seeks The Doctor finding him in the Oval Office at the White House through another portal.
Bill asks The Doctor what’s real.
The Doctor says that the Veritas is about a shadow world and the shadow test is that which the staff at CERN did with the numbers.
The Doctor realises it’s all a simulation and explains it to Bill and she realises the string of numbers said at CERN were all said by everyone as a way to prove the simulation.
Bill then disappears and The Doctor faces the Alien Monk, he realises what Missy has said at her execution and looks at River’s Diary in his pocket.
He finds faith and uses his sonic glasses to send the email from his simulation.
‘Your simulation is too good.’
‘Even a jumped up subroutine can send an email.’
We return to The Doctor at the Vault, Simulation-Doctor has beaten the Aliens practice invasion by emailing him from inside it.
He talks to the door of the Vault. ‘Missy, you said you were my friend.’
It is revealed in flashback that the Doctor fiddled with the wiring. He tells the executioners to look under fatalities caused by The Doctor. The executioners run as the numbers go higher and higher.
‘Something’s coming Missy and I’m blind. How can I save them when I’m lost to the Dark?’
As good an episode of Nu-Who as there is.
The set up is paced and deliberate, an ancient text, a prophecy, a mystery. A call on the Doctor by the Pope, the planet in peril. It’s been compared to Dan Brown and that’s unfair, it’s cleverer than that.
We have flashback, we have Missy and the Doctor and she’s been caught and he’s there as a member of the same species to execute her.
The Oath is interesting, presumably it’s a Time Lord thing, as is the guarding of the body, but clearly The Doctor has changed the rules by keeping his antagonist alive.
We hear Missy say she can change and be good, would we believe her?
Would she change after years in the Vault? Would The Master help a blinded Doctor even if the earth was under Alien attack?
Missy and Doctor. An able being in Nardole who can pilot the Tardis and a random factor in Bill, whose humanity works with the Doctor.
So we have ourselves a series. It’s built up well and different genres have been at play with sci-fi and horror and scares all in the mix.
Moffat had tied up Darillium. He’s brought Missy back in an interesting way, although the Vault has been a mild distraction, The Oath may be more of a thing. Missy owes her life to the Doctor, but she’s been in a vault for seventy years or more.
The Master at the best of times has never been sane in either Nu or classic Who. The schemes and plans to kill the planet. The ideas to foil the Doctor.
Could we have a twisted mix of Doctor and Master as the last of the Time Lords saving earth from a greater threat?
Can the Doctor risk it. Would Nardole as his valet, minder and keeper of River’s conscience allow it?
As episodes go. 9/10 solid stuff that drew together the hints dropped and although knowing Missy was in the Vault isn’t earth shattering. theres plenty to draw on.