A Doctor Who Community
Saturday 8:00 PM on BBC America

So you wait a decade for a trilogy and two come along in consecutive seasons. After Part 3 covered Ice, Lice and Air we move onto the Monk Trilogy, hot on the heels of last season’s 3 part finale.

Now 3 parters are quite rare (or 6 parters in the 20th Century), usually reserved for the season finale, the 21st Century has only had 3, with Utopia/Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords in 2007 and Face the Raven/Heaven Sent/Hell Bent last season. However this time the 3 parter is mid-season, not a finale, so let’s see how it works in the big scheme of things.

Now last season’s 3 parter broke with the normal pattern of gradually rising action, with 3 very distinctly different episodes, and this set of 3 also had a quite different feel for each episode, with the foreshadowing, the threat and the occupation. So let’s look at each in turn.

10.7 Extremis

Now this episode starts very unusually with an inherited injury to the Doctor from a previous story… the Doctor is blind. This is quite unusual in the big scheme of things, other than companions there is very little one story inherits from the previous, but it was VERY important for this story that the Doctor be blind, but I’ll get to that later.

Having said that, we start in a flash back, with the Doctor not being blind yet. We know it is some point after The Husbands of River Song (2015) because Missy talks about domestic bliss on Darillium, which was where the Doctor spent 24 years on his final night with River - which probably explains why there were no new episodes last year 😉

But just before that we hear that the execution involves stopping both hearts and all three brain stems. Now this is new, we learned that Timelords had 2 hearts back in Spearhead from Space (1970). But three brain stems we’ve never heard before, in fact it directly contradicts information from the previous season in The Magician’s Apprentice (2015) when Missy orders 8 snipers, 3 for each heart and 2 for her brain stem. Of course Missy also said “Death is for other people” in the same episode, so presumably she was keeping quiet about the other 2 brain stems for her own safety.

So then back to present day, and we hear the Doctor talking to Missy whilst leaning on the vault door. Then in flashback we see the afore mentioned quantum fold chamber, and realise that this is the vault that we first saw in The Pilot (2017). So now everything makes sense, Missy is in the vault, but is she dead or alive?

Next we see that the Doctor is making up for is blindness by using his sonic sunglasses as sonar transmitting rough images directly into his brain, later we learn this is a psychic connection – this is VERY important to the plot, but unusually in modern day Who this is not spelled out for the viewer.

Then we see the Pope and his translator speaking to each other in Italian, unusual because normally the gift of the Timelords, of being able to understand all languages is extended to us the viewer. The telepathic circuits of the TARDIS allow the Doctor and all those who travel with him to be able to understand most languages, written and spoken. The Doctor first explained this in The Masque of Mandragora (1976) to Sarah Jane Smith, and then again for the 21st century audience to Rose in The End of the World (2005).

But here we can see that neither the Doctor nor his companions can understand Italian, which means the translation circuit isn’t working, which of course is vital to the plot because if any of the Doctor’s companions could just pick up the Veritas and read it, then this would be a very short episode. So why isn’t it working?

Well The Christmas Invasion (2005) introduced an interesting fact about the translation circuits, that is that the Doctor plays a key part in the process, it wasn’t until the Doctor was conscious that Rose could understand Sycorax. Timelords are linked telepathically to their TARDIS by a symbiotic nucleus, first mentioned in The Two Doctors (1985), but as we saw at the beginning of the episode, the Doctor is using his telepathy to see via his sonic screwdriver, not to connect to the telepathic circuits of the TARDIS - no connection, no translation. It’s quite unusual for the program to rely on a lot of background knowledge for the plot, so I suspect there’s a scene somewhere with a bit of exposition that was cut for time, hoping the audience would either figure it out themselves, or not really notice. But for those that didn’t get it – now you know.

So then we see “a priest”, reading things to the Doctor, which becomes apparent that the reading is from the Doctor’s Wife, River Song talking about her “Mad man in a box”, which was how Eleven often referred to himself, using it for the first time at the end of The Eleventh Hour (2010) after Amy said that’s what she thought he was.

Then we see it’s Nardole reading from River’s diary, first seen by Ten in Silence In The Library (2008), which was given to her by Eleven in Let’s Kill Hitler (2011) – Wibbley Wobbley Timey Wimey at its best. Now we find out that Nardole was sent after the Doctor from Darilium by River, so this not only places the flashback between The Husbands of River Song (2015) and The Return of Doctor Mysterio (2016), it also explains how the Doctor and Nardole get reacquainted.

We also get to hear the Doctor make the oath that Nardole has been reminding the Doctor about since The Pilot (2017), he talks about the Prydonian Chapter, which is essentially the Doctor’s “House” from the Academy on Gallifrey. We first hear this in The Deadly Assassin (1976).

The famous Timelord seal that we see is also of the Prydonian Chapter, first referred to as such in the same story. However we did SEE it before that in Revenge of the Cybermen (1975) as a symbol on Voga, that designer Roger Murray Leach simply reused in The Deadly Assassin (1976) as you can see below.

“I get a few minutes eyesight, but I lose something. Maybe all my future regenerations”. Now we know Moffatt has a crude sense of humour, with The Big Bang (2010) being his secret in-joke of this episode being when River was conceived. Now we know the next Doctor will be female, and many people have trouble accepting the fact that all his regenerations so far have been male, why would the next one be female. Well this scene is foreshadowing that very question as the Doctor is borrowing something from his future self, and I suspect Moffatt is being quite crude as to what that “something” is that he will lose.

I did wonder when I first watched this episode whether the Monks were related in some way to the Mondasian Cybermen, knowing that they were coming up later in the season, as the original Cybermen in The Tenth Planet (1966) also talked by simply opening their mouth and holding it open for the entire sentence, with no lip movement to articulate each syllable.

Unusually the technobabble about computer random numbers actually has a lot of foundation in truth, as computers genuinely can’t generate real random numbers. What they can do is generate pseudo random number by using complex mathematical formulas to generate a sequence of seemingly unrelated numbers, and then using a “seed” to tell the computer where in the sequence to start. So the theory goes if you use the same seed, each time you run the same program, the random numbers would repeat themselves. In reality the seed used is often something itself that doesn’t repeat such as the date and time down to a fraction of a second, so each time you run the program you start at a different point in the sequence, otherwise video games would be very predictable.

So then we find the Doctor in the Oval Office of the Whitehouse, and not for the first time, having materialised the TARDIS in there in The Impossible Astronaut (2010), it’s also not the first time an American President has died on the show, with one being killed by the Toclafane in The Last of the Timelords (2008).

Eventually we find out that of course Missy isn’t dead, the Doctor wasn’t her executioner, not that we ever thought that for a minute of course. We also see that the Doctor racks up a massive body count, despite being rarely armed, or using weapons, or even doing the deed himself. In fact this is so much part of the Doctor’s character that it cause uproar in 1985, when the Doctor used a Cyber gun to shoot a Cyberman in Attack of the Cybermen (1985), but then the Sixth Doctor was always just that little bit darker than many of his other incarnations.

But at the very end we see him appealing to Missy, could he possibly be about to do the unthinkable and work with the Master – He has done it before at the end of Logopolis (1981) with the famous “Together” hand shake.

10.7 The Pyramid at the End of the World

From an incredibly short episode title, to a very long one, we see Bill again trying out a date with Penny, but this time interrupted by the Secretary General of the United Nations. Looking for the President of the World. This position was first mentioned in Death in Heaven (2014), that in times of crisis UNIT forms a world government with the Doctor at its head. He then uses the Presidential plane again for “poncing around” in The Zygon Invasion (2015).

So the action all appears to be happening in the fictional country of Turmezistan, first seen in The Zygon Invasion (2015), though in that story it was filmed on an army base in Wales. This time the filming location is Tenerife in the Canary Islands. This is not the first time the show has been filmed in the Canaries with Planet of Fire (1984) being filmed in Lanzarote, which also doubled as the surface of the Moon in Kill the Moon (2014).

The Doctor has his guitar again, first seen in The Magician’s Apprentice (2015), he’s still blind from Oxygen (2017) as the plot still needs that, so he’s using the sonic sunglasses again and still trying to hide it.

We see the TARDIS materialise around a soldier, now this is not a normal course of events, for example if the TARDIS materialises under water, it doesn’t suddenly get filled with the water it materialised around, the same goes for materialising in a vacuum. So it’s very specific steering that does this. The first time I think this happened was in Logopolis (1981) when the TARDIS materialised around another Police Box to measure it, and in the 21st century show the first time we see it is in The Parting of the Ways (2005) when he materialises around Rose.

“Oh I’m sorry, it’s not my first Dead Planet”. Indeed it isn’t, as far as the series goes the fifth ever episode of Doctor Who was called Dead Planet (1963), and was actually Skaro, the home of the Daleks.

“Well it’s been doomed before, guess what happened – Me”. Quite a common theme in Doctor Who, that he is the protector of Earth. The first real invasion he thwarted was in Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964), or with a home grown threat of WOTAN in The War Machines (1966). The Second Doctor saved the Earth many times, but the two most significant were in The Web of Fear (1969) and Invasion (1969) which saw the formation of UNIT. Then in Spearhead from Space (1970) the Third Doctor became UNIT’s Scientific Advisor and saved the Earth on a weekly basis. Of course this happens again and again in the 21st Century, notably with the Doctor announcing that the Earth is protected in The Christmas Invasion (2005) and The Eleventh Hour (2010), both instances of a new Doctor announcing their arrival.

The Doctor very quickly dismisses Bill’s suggestion that they’re not vampires, but he doesn’t dismiss the existence of vampires. This is because vampires are ancient enemies of the Timelords from the very early days of time, first mentioned in State of Decay (1980).

“Oh my God” – “No I’m the Doctor but it’s an easy mistake to make”. The Doctor has been mixed up with Gods on a few occasions. In The Face of Evil (1977) Leela believed the Doctor to be the great God Xoanon. In more recent times in Voyage of the Damned (2007) the show courted controversy with a shot of the Doctor ascending on the arms of golden angels, in the Tenth Doctor’s “Dark and lonely God” phase.

“You’re human enough I got your lungs cheap” gives us another hint about the Doctor’s reconstruction of Nardole’s body after his head was separated from it in The Husbands of River Song (2015).

But then we get to the reason why it was important that the Doctor was still blind, it was needed to put the Doctor in jeopardy and give Bill something substantial enough to ask for help. As the Doctor starts to get his sight back we get a musical throwback to Night of the Doctor (2013) with the Physician Heal Thyself cue playing in the background.

10.8 The Lie of the Land

So after a short title and a long title, we now have a very clever episode title. This episode very much plays into the story of fake news, with more than a little bit of 1984 thrown in for good measure. We even have elements of Last of the Timelords (2007) in which Martha spends time building up a resistance movement, here Bill is in pretty much the same role, even with a more Martha like look.

We get flashes of Monks at key locations around the world, showing the truly global scope of the conquest. This is a technique first shown in the 21st version of the show in The Christmas Invasion (2005), and many times since.

The Magpie Electricals store seen in the flashback sequences as Bill fills the audience in by telling her Mum all about recent events is the go-to fictitious electrical brand for Doctor Who. The brand first appears in The Idiot’s Lantern (2006) focusing around a small TV manufacturer who perishes in that story, but his brand lives on to be seen on many electrical items around the series, and even sneaking into The Sarah Jane Adventures. Most recent views of the Magpie logo can be seen on the Twelfth Doctor’s Guitar amplified, but perhaps the most surprising appearance of the Magpie logo is on a gizmo the Second Doctor is tinkering with in the new animation of his first story The Power of the Daleks (1966). It's not that easy to see, but it is there.

We know her Mum dies when she was young, and Bill didn’t really know her, or even have any photos of her, until the Doctor travelled back in time to take some for Bill in The Pilot (2017). Oddly though Bill’s Mum has appeared in a few episodes, she’s never appeared in the credits as she never speaks, which is really annoying as my son suspects she’s at the same drama school as him, having seen someone very similar on campus, but needs a name to confirm it.

Never one to shy away from a political argument we get a speech from the Doctor reminding us of history and fascism in the past, and how the world seems to be ignoring its rise again right now, but when Bill tries to sneak a wrong reference to the Doctor to see if he is “playing to an unseen audience” he reveals the fish monster was in the Thames, as see in Thin Ice (2017).

When Bill shoots the Doctor and he starts to regenerate, it wouldn’t have been the first surprise regeneration in the show. Normally shows containing regenerations are flagged well ahead in the TV guide, but we had 10 regenerate and produce meta-crisis-10 in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End (2008), the Master managed it in Utopia (2007) and Mels/River did it in Let’s Kill Hitler (2011). Of course in this case it was a fake, with a release of a little regeneration energy, which we’ve seen River do at will in Let’s Kill Hitler (2011) and the Doctor in The Angels Take Manhattan (2012). Of course despite what Nardole says, it was a bit much because Bill had never seen a regeneration, so wouldn’t have had a clue what was happening anyway.

The place we see the boat heading for a crash is at the end of Roald Dahl Plass in Cardiff Bay, just yards from the secret entrance of Torchwood (now a shrine to Ianto Jones) and the area in which most of Boom Town (2005) was filmed, just across the water from the BBC studios. Cardiff Bay is great to visit containing many Who landmarks in such a small place, and many restaurants, most of which have featured in the show. The diner from the Impossible Astronaut (2011) is there, still with the same décor and even has TARDIS doors as you head to the restrooms.

“not even that bald bloke who looks like an egg” – Missy’s description of Nardole may have sounded a little disparaging, but it was a fourth wall reference to the fact that actor Matt Lucas was once the face of Cadbury’s Crème Eggs for a UK Advertising Campaign.
If anyone was wondering where the Monk’s Pyramid was parked in London, it’s basically over Cheapside with the Bank of England to the East of it, and to the West the Cybermen’s favourite haunt, St Paul’s Cathedral, as seen in Invasion (1968) and Dark Water/Death in Heaven (2014). It’s also right next to Paternoster Row, home of Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax.

As the Doctor talks about eliminating things like racism and people who talk in cinemas it refers back to when The Day of the Doctor (2013) was shown at the cinema and we had a similar warning from Strax in the pre-film footage, warning viewers that “Talking during a film is also a crime”.

The bit about the Monks appearing in greater numbers than they really are is an in-joke to the Daleks in the 20th Century run of the show. If you watch the old show, not matter what the story, you rarely see more than 4 full Dalek props in shot at once. There are odd exceptions where specialist Daleks appear, but generally the budget would only stretch to building 4 Daleks. So inventive shooting was used. Power of the Daleks (1966) is a classic example of many techniques, if you look at the surviving clips you will see miniature model shots, a room full of cardboard cut-out Daleks with 4 real ones squeezing in at the front, but by far the most amusing shot is when 4 daleks come through the door and head out of shot, then there’s a gap and four more come through, then another gap – you get the idea I’m sure.

Even today inventive techniques are used to save budget, ever wondered why some Silurians in The Hungry Earth (2010) wore masks when originally Silurians never wore masks? Simply to reduce the amount of time actors need to spend having expensive make-up applied, the same applied to many Sontarans and Judoon never removing their helmets, this trick cuts production time, and thereby costs massively.

Then when we reach the climax, with the Doctor having failed to block the signal, when he come round he finds himself restrained with Bill clearly about to try and save the day herself, and almost carbon copy of the climax of Forest of the Dead (2008) when River sacrifices herself to save the Library, something that the Doctor is only too aware of, having just come from his last night with her before she dies in The Husbands of River Song (2015). Except this time it’s different, all the pictures the Doctor took of Bill’s Mum in The Pilot (2017) finally come into play. And then Bill’s Mum speaks, and she gets a credit, actress Rosie Jane, and she is at the same Drama School as my son – yay!

Up next, part 5 covers the bit before the finale.
Comments (4)
Sort: Latest | Popular
Aug 27, 2018
How we can use It with track phone free on Android, and can teach how to improve skill in this application?
Aug 28, 2018
You can't, it's rather pointless, if you lost your phone the Monks would just rewrite history so you never lost it. No need to waste time on any crappy Android apps.
Dec 23, 2017
The Tenth Planet Cybermen were a lot more chatty than the ones that came later. It seem more Time Lords made it out before the end of the Time Lords
Dec 23, 2017
It seem that more Time Lords were off world or made it out before the end of the Time Wars than the Doctor thought.
Dec 23, 2017
This comment has been removed.
Follow this Show