Pyramid at the End of the World – Doctor Who Review

Suspenseful, intriguing, and filled with menace, this was a definite improvement on last week’s episode.

Where The Pyramid at the End of the World succeeds is in making the villainous monks an interesting foe. Where before they had simply been a bit weird and a bit creepy, now there are some genuine questions. They have rules about their conquest, they have a sort of morality about them – albeit a twisted one.

Previously

The episode opens by basically admitting that last week’s story was ‘all a dream’. The connection between Extremis and Pyramid is there, but it feels weak at times. Yes, these are very powerful and technologically advanced aliens, but as for what they want and why, most of that is still hard to decipher.

The way the ‘previously’ opening was done was quite clever, I have to admit. Flipping between Bill and Penny’s date and the flashbacks was nicely done. Moreover, at this point, I think we are all hoping that sooner or later, they will get a good date night and finally be happy!

Consent

What was curious about this episode, however, is that the central concept – that a 5,000 year old pyramid appeared out of nowhere overnight – was never actually answered. It almost feels like it was something from another story entirely, lifted and plopped down here just as a nice bit of set dressing. Which is a shame because I would like to have seen it be more central and useful. Then again, we still have a third part to look forward to, so perhaps questions will be answered then.

As for the mysterious monks, they are much more interesting this time around. Indeed, I am sensing a theme emerging from some of the enemies of this series. The ‘puddle’ of the first episode acted only when it found a willing pilot.

The monster under the Themes was held against its will (and was fed people against their will). Bill and her flatmates had to sign a contract (an act of consent and will) before moving into the house in Knock-Knock. Again, the small print left the minors in Oxygen at the mercy of a merciless corporation.

These monks require the willing consent of their victims, for reasons as yet unexplained. It is an interesting idea, though a complex and difficult one that ought to be treated with care and delicacy, I feel. Finding the best definitions of consent in cases of abuse is incredibly vital to how a society deals with such things.

Abuse is an incredibly harmful subject and being unclear about it or treating it glibly can stop some victims from feeling safe to come forward. It can even stop people realising that what they went to was abuse if we are not clear on what we mean by consent.

So, I approach this story with some trepidation and worry. I know I felt uncomfortable at a number of points, but I would rather trust those more proficient than me to make a better judgement on the matter.

Three Minutes to Midnight

The use of the countdown to midnight was an interesting one, essentially a ticking timebomb by another name. Given the imagery of the armies and generals all gathered together on the verge of possible apocalyptic war, it made sense to use it. It was an unpredictable countdown, one that moved seemingly without explanation and served only to induce panic.

What is curious is that the Monks seemed to be using this as a way of convincing people to ask for their help. However, when people were motivated by panic, by self preservation, or my strategy, they rejected their consent. A curious choice, when a ticking time bomb is not likely to produce loving consent, it raises the question; why try it at all? Ultimately, it is a narrative device, rather than one that actually makes sense when you think about it.

The Nardole Problem

Matt Lucas is delivering some incredibly watchable performances. But he is somewhat shoehorned into each episode, performing roles that could be filled by Bill or the Doctor. This also takes time away from development we could have had between our two main heroes.

What’s more, there are inconsistencies in the character that raise an eyebrow or two. did River Song build him, or was it the Doctor? The flashback to Missy’s imprisonment suggested as much. But we have had a number of lines that suggest it was the Doctor.

Now, it’s possible that both may be true – with River reassembling him and the Doctor continuing to maintain the robot body. The lack of clarity on the subject is a little irritating.

It’s frustrating because I do like Matt Lucas a lot and want to see more done with his character. But I’d like it to make sense, and I’d like it to feel natural. Perhaps this will get better as the series goes along. I can only hope so.

Climax

As the episode builds to its big ending, there were some definite pre-regeneration vibes. Seeing the Doctor trapped behind a glass door, facing inevitable death, was very reminiscent of the 10th Doctor’s demise.

Refusing to tell others that he is now blind has led the Doctor to be stuck in this predicament. Partly out of his reluctance to let his enemies know, and partly out of his own pride, he has chosen this. And it is the result of his choices that have given Bill few choices but to give in to the Monks in order to save him.

It was certainly a well executed scene with a lot of build up and pathos. It may have been the best scene of the series so far. I did want a little bit more emotion out of Capaldi, which might have cemented the ‘is this it? Is this how he regenerates?’ feeling. As is, though, it’s still very strong and very watchable.

Next week, we delve into an alternate history!


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