So, as it turns out, the Monks are not here to stay and I for one am glad. I was not digging this arc anymore after this episode. It had its highs and lows, its sense and nonsense, but mostly I’m just glad to be done with this extremely Moffat-y plot and hoping that whatever comes next is better.
The beginning of this week’s episode suffered by replacing our charismatic hero with a bunch of voiceover exposition delivered to Bill’s Dead Mum. The reunion of Bill and Nardole was a highlight that made up for some of the Doctor’s absence. It is really nice to see Matt Lucas’ comedic talents being taken full advantage of. All the same, the episode really picked up the pace once the companions reached the Doctor on the ship.
Much like Bill, I didn’t really appreciate the Doctor’s ruse. I mean, I get it, he did have to test her allegiance under the circumstances, but it was riddled with problems. To wit:
Every single part of his plan had to go exactly as it did for it to work, as he himself pointed out in chastising the soldier who forgot to change out his ammo.
Bill’s reaction was well-acted and heartbreaking, but also frustrating. The audience didn’t (or at least I didn’t) buy his ruse, so it felt a bit mean to put her through all that.
If, as evidenced, she does buy his ruse, what good does shooting him do? The monks’ plan won’t fail without him. If anything, upon discovering that the Doctor “really is” working with the monks, I’d think the logical reaction would be suicide (not that I want that).
The regeneration fakeout was cheap. Bill doesn’t know anything about regeneration, so he didn’t have to pull that trick out of his sleeve to make her believe that she’d killed him. That was done purely to drive fan speculation and I don’t appreciate the show playing tiddlywinks with my heart like that.
If the Doctor is capable of spewing regeneration energy like that whenever he wants, then why the hell didn’t he use that to fix his sight weeks ago? Get your mythology straight, Show.
Everything about this plot was just a little too smart for its own good. The key to the monks’ plan being the connection between the Doctor and his companion was a pretty clever strategy, but also hinges on everything going exactly as planned. I guess their simulations predicted a high probability of the Doctor’s companion being the one to give consent. Likewise, the Doctor’s plan to rewire the propaganda machine with his own brain was a pretty brilliant workaround, but was also so simple that as soon as I heard it, I knew it wouldn’t work because Missy hadn’t suggested it. Either she knew a reason why it wouldn’t work, or she’s still so evil that was trying to hide the option that would spare Bill. But of course Bill was going to live. If the show killed off its first gay black companion, the fandom would riot. In the end, resolution required some deus ex Moffat-a and that just bugs me.
Speaking of bugging me, in the epilogue, as the Doctor and Bill recap their adventure and its lack of an effect on humanity, our tendency not to learn from our mistakes and subsequent doomed repetition of history gets chalked up as part of our charm. For an episode that took so many cues from current events (from ignored precursors to fascism to fake news to the future being female (as the world is saved by a vision of Bill’s Dead Mum)), it could have ended with a stronger message, rather than with the Doctor’s mere annoyance and Bill’s laughing it off. I know it’s just a show, but it’s a show a lot of people watch and one that often has poignant things to say and this was a real missed opportunity.
Aside from Bill and Nardole’s reunion, the other bright spot was the return of Missy in the real-time timeline of the show. First of all, I want to marry Michelle Gomez. She’s amazing. I’d watch her forever. Can she please have her own spinoff? I really enjoyed her in the role of someone the Doctor can consult who has run into this problem before. She makes a decent point about his moral absolutism, but that’s basically always been the difference between them, she’s just trying to play for his team now. I don’t know that I believe Missy can change, but I’ll enjoy watching her try.
Next week brings back classic baddies the Ice Warriors and also features one of my favorite types of plots on Doctor Who, humans from a past era in space, so I’m optimistic about this one. I’m done speculating about what’s going to happen in the season as a whole or what might lead to Bill’s exit and the Doctor’s regeneration. Clearly I’ve already been wrong before, so it seems best to just buckle up and enjoy the ride. See you next week!*
*I am moving this weekend and my new cable service will not be set up in time for the new episode to air, so next week’s recap might be a bit late, unless I can find an actual TARDIS to take me back to the night it airs. Sorry in advance.