His name is Peter S. Harness Esquire and his name is Steven ‘Theodore’ Moffat and together they are Wyld Stallions! Oh, and when they aren’t on tour, they wrote this episode which is part two of what the fans are calling the Monks Trilogy.
Yes, that reference was duff but I have been dying to use it for months and I’ll be damned if I don’t use it now.
The Doctor and Bill take a trip to the year 5.5/apple/26 and watches, from a floating pyramid in space, the Earth be eaten by the sun. With them are devious monks who repeat the word ‘meme’.
OK, OK, barring the five words in the title and the creepy monks, this and The End of the World have nothing much in common.
Now trivia fans, The Pyramid at the End of the World has the biggest word count for a televised Doctor Who story. Although if you are counting characters instead, then that would go to The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe which has 32 over the 28 of The Pyramid at the End of the World. What this all means is that the word count of this unreview might be astronomical unless I call this story TPATEOFW.
Before any Whovian Greybeards say it, yes, I know that the spin-off series Class had that episode entitled The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did but given that it may be gently ignored and hidden into the outer reaches of canon, along with Dimensions in Time and The Doctor and Peri Go Bananas, I’ll ignore this 42 character behemoth. For the same reason I am also ignoring the New Adventure written by Gareth Roberts entitled Ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-rasputin Goes to Zamper and featuring Boney M, his much maligned sequel to the perennial favourite Zamper.
Previously on Doctor Who… The Doctor is blind, Bill is not blind, rot-faced monks have been running a simulation of the Earth which they call Sim City: Earth. They aren’t blind either. Now the story continues…
Bill is on a date with a girl called Penny (Ronke Adekolouejo) whom we saw in the Shadow World. After the Doctor told her to ask her out, she has now done so. Being rather stupid, Bill is telling her date all about their previous date in a hologrammatic world.
“Yep, in his black cocktail dress.”
Penny does not seem fazed by this. She has dated crazy people before. She thinks that Bill may be cuckoo for cocoa puffs but what the hell!
Back at Bill’s place. Not so awkward as before. No Pope. They are getting on like a house on fire when the Secretary-General of the United Nations and a bunch of gun-toting SAS squaddies pile into the room and tell her to “quit all that Sappho behaviour and lead us to the President!”
But Bill didn’t vote for the President because,
a) She isn’t American
b He is orange
c) He is a numpty
Not that President but the President of the World, a title given to our titular hero in the episode Death in Heaven. Yes, that happened.
The Doctor doesn’t want to help. He won’t even leave the TARDIS. No worries. The TARDIS has been taken out of St Luke’s University for the Bewildered and plonked onto an aeroplane. Checkmate, Doctor.
“Ach! A’right, I’ll cave. Wha’ is goin’ on?” he asks. The answer surprises him. A five-thousand year old pyramid has appeared in a disputed part of the world called Turmezistan (this country first appeared in the recent Zygon episodes) which is sandwiched between five powerful countries, Latveria, Ooo, Borduria, Elbonia and the ancestral home of the orange President, Loompa Land. The three global powers America, Russia and China are in Turmezistan, their armies massed around the place.
The Pyramid is as old as it looks but, actually no, how do people know that the pyramid is exactly that old? They can’t carbon test the building because the stone would be much older than a mere few thousand years. Meh, nevermind. Anyway, the pyramid is ‘ancient’ but it wasn’t there the day before. Kinda similar to parts of XXXX in the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett.
The Doctor, with the help of his sonic sunglasses and Nardole who is communicating with him via a coms device, approaches the pyramid. A Monk pops out and places an empty milk bottle beside their ‘Please Wipe Your Tentacles’ doormat.
“Are you a Jehovah’s Witness? If so, they came round yesterday. We pretended not to be in. So would you mind leaving?”
“Why ar’ ye here? And no, crivens, I am nae Jehovah’s Witness although if ye wish tae change ya religious provider, I can connect ye tae Buddhism which has excellent wireless service.”
“Oh, that! No, no, we are just here to save the world. Your little planet is about to become extinct. Yes, so give us consent to rescue you and we will. No win, no fee.”
“This wouldnae be a pyramid scheme, would it?”
“No, of course not. We just want to take over this planet honestly without the hassle of turning you all into mindless puppets. So passé, ducky.”
“Oh, that’s braw.”
“Yes, we thought so.”
“Ye ken that I will stop ye nasty plans, right?”
“Yes, we get the picture.”
The Doctor walks back to Bill, Nardole and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Oh, did I mention that he picked up the military leaders of the three armies? Yeah, he did that.
In the U.N. H.Q., all their watches, clocks and sundials suddenly change to the countdown which scientists call the Doomsday Clock.
Doomsday Clock? This is what Wikipedia says…
‘The Doomsday Clock is a symbol which represents the likelihood of a human-caused global catastrophe. Maintained since 1947 by the members of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board, the Clock represents an analogy for the threat of global nuclear war. Since 2007, it has also reflected climate change and new developments in the life sciences and technology that could inflict irrevocable harm to humanity. The Clock represents the hypothetical global catastrophe as “midnight” and The Bulletin’s opinion on how close the world is to a global catastrophe as a number of “minutes” to midnight. Its original setting in 1947 was seven minutes to midnight. It has been set backward and forward 22 times since then, the smallest ever number of minutes to midnight being two (in 1953) and the largest seventeen (in 1991). As of January 2017, the Clock is set at two and a half minutes to midnight, due to a “rise of ‘strident nationalism’ worldwide, United States President Donald Trump’s comments over North Korea, Russia, nuclear weapons, and the disbelief in the scientific consensus over climate change by the Trump Administration.” This setting is the Clock’s second closest approach to midnight since its introduction.’
So yeah, all very scary, Um. No, it is more unsettling than scary but what does it mean?
The Doctor, being a man of peace, convinces the military leaders to use coordinated attacks on the pyramid. The ghosts beneath Wenley Moor roll in their graves. Doesn’t work. The plane is hijacked, the submarine is taken out of the water and embedded in the ground, and the Russian’s ice-cream van hits a pothole and spills all the lollies onto the ground..
The three military leaders (and the Secretary-General of the United Nations) want to negotiate with the corpses in red robes. The Doctor thinks this is not the greatest of ideas. Beware of corpses bearing pyramids and all that. But some people won’t be warned, so they troop off to the pyramid which is almost certainly going to result in some deaths. Bill, who was catching up with CSI: Fraggle Rock, shrugs her shoulders and follows them. Nardole is in the toilet.
Inside the pyramid, the Earth delegation are shown computer simulations of how the planet will look like in a year’s time. The Monks show them this by asking them to grab a handful of glowing spaghetti. They see ruined cities, destruction, dead bodies, Orville the Duck falling off an emu, grime etc. A lifeless Earth with cockroaches taking over.
“Ach, ye liars,” shouts the Doctor. “That is jus’ historical footage o’ the German’s Blitzkrieg in World War Two.”
“No, no,” says a Monk, holding its talons up. “This is what will happen unless you give us consent to save you.”
“Why do ye need consent?”
“Saves on paperwork, old chap. Plus it is an insurance liability if we just help you without asking.”
The computer simulations which the Monks were running in the last episode, that is what they are using to predict this armageddon. But the simulations were flawed, weren’t they? The real world doesn’t have the Veritas, so therefore things will be slightly different. Or so I would imagine.
This ‘consent’ could have bad side effects. The Doctor warns them but all they can see is the destruction of the planet. “Jings, I’ll save it. I always save it, dinnae I?” The American leader coughs into his fist, “coughharoldsaxoncough!”
The Secretary-General goes, “Alright. If you need consent, I give it. Go on, save us.” The Monks test him via a white light that hits him, scans him and turns him into bite-sized chunks. Why? Because he gave consent out of fear rather than love. Why do the Monks need love? Are they needy?
The Doctor, at the eleventh hour (or rather the eleventh minute), thinks that the Monks are misdirecting them. “Oldest trick in the book. The ol’ pyramid switcheroo”.
He and Nardole, fresh from the toilet, use the interwebs to find all the laboratories that are doing work which could cause an apococylapse. They rule out the usual suspects and come up with the labs doing biological work. The Doctor hedges his bet on the bacteria-dealing labs and gets Nardole to use his Mr Robot skills to hack their security cameras and turn them off.
This is a cunning plan. Turn off all the cameras, wait for the Monks to turn the camera on at the lab they are looking at, and bingo! “Wee suckers,” crows the Doctor as he takes the TARDIS and badass Nardole to the lab at the centre of the Monk’s attention.
During all this monky (ooh aah ahh eek okk!) excitement, the story has been also showing the workday of a girl scientist called Erica and Brian from My Parents Are Aliens AKA Douglas. Both work for Agrofuel Research Operations. Given where they work I am guessing that they will create a Triffid or a Krynoid, something like that.
This is a biological lab and they are eating? Really? Are they trying to be fired? What next, smoking a cigarette as they spin around on their chairs? Erica and Douglas are very much the Homer Simpsons of the agricultural research world.
Douglas is feeling under the weather. His eyesight is blurry, his is not looking too healthy. He is hung over. Typical scientist behaviour. Will he make a mistake? Of course he will. Suffice to say, this won’t end well. A super-bacterium is created, capable of jumping over tall building, singing all the songs of David Bowie. Oh, and rendering living matter into slushy compost.
This deadly bacteria is at risk of being vented into the atmosphere. Uh-oh!
The TARDIS arrives. The Doctor jumps out, flips the bird at the sercurity cameras, and tells Nardole to stay in the TARDIS because his lungs were purchased from a dodgy organ dealer, a street physician called Billy Ten-Bellies. “Typical,” snorts Nardole. “I bet he got my kidneys off the black market too. They feel so itchy when I am jogging.”
Nardole’s grumbling is cut short when he keels over in the TARDIS. The bacterium has nobbled him but he seems to not be compost. Yet.
In the pyramid, Bill and the military leaders are hanging out, having fun, trying to copy the dance moves from Madonna’s Vogue music video. The leaders are not very good at dancing. After they gain their breaths back, they all give consent to rotting Monks. Bill, still in communication with the Doctor, goes, “Yikes!”
All three leaders are toast because their consent was given because it was a strategic move rather than one motivated by love.
Labwise, the Doctor and Erica (plucky scientist girl whose character is begging, silently, to be a companion) have a plan. They will blow up the lab. Er, yeah? What is with the Doctor and explosions today? Them Wenley Moor Silurian corpses must be going whirr whirr as they spin in their graves. But the plan isn’t as unsubtle as it sounds. Bombs equal fire and fire sterilises.
The plan works. Ish. Erica is safe, thank goodness, so she can still become a companion in the future. The Doctor? Not so safe. He is stuck with the makeshift bomb. He is stymied by the combination lock which looks like a glorified bicycle lock. Really? Really? The sonic screwdriver can figure out the combination but it won’t move the cogs? Seems unlikely.
Nardole is nobbled by the bacteria in the TARDIS. Erica can’t help from where she is. And so the Doctor finally admits to Bill that he is blind.
Bill goes up to the least rottenest Monk and, representing the Doctor’s authority (that he screams down the coms that he “disnae gives, ye sassenach’), she asks them to restore the Doctor’s eyesight. Which they do. Her consent was out of love for the Doctor.
The Doctor regains his eyesight, realises his fashion faux pas and berates Bill for allowing the Monks to put their feet up on the furniture. “Crivens, ye’ve done it now, lassie.” And she has. The Monks rule the Earth. Pshaw and you thought Trump was bad enough.
Onto the nuts and bolts of the episode…
The scene where a light beam streams up from the tip of the pyramid reminds me of similar scenes in the Terry Pratchett book Pyramids. Also a little of the film poster for the first Stargate movie where I am almost sure they used the same effect.
The Doctor’s sonic sunglasses give him stats of the people he looks at. I only mention it because according to the sunglasses, Nardole is 237 years old. Looking good on it, isn’t he?
Peter Capaldi is brilliant in this. At his most Doctorly. May I say how well he works with Erica? Or have I overstated my wish for her to be the new companion?
Pearl Mackie is a bit more in charge here. Bill gets to make a decision which will affect the show for at least until the next episode. Ms Mackie is great in this. Gets better all the time. Some people think she is wooden but I have to disagree. She is not wooden. Not even woodish.
Matt Lucas, after the last episode, is not as strongly featured in this one. Yes, he gets to strut his stuff but the focus is not so much on him this time. He does no wrong in my eyes. I hope that he gets a bit more material in the next episode. Unless he is still unconscious.
Any other actors that I need mention?
Rachel Denning! Love love love her. This may be bad of me but when we first see her character I immediately thought that she was the Paralympian Ellie Simmonds. But no. She isn’t, clearly. Great acting and a sure candidate for a future companion role. I wish.
All the other actors are very good too, I’m sure. Hah, kidding! They are great. I don’t mean to be dismissive.
Should you watch The Pyramid at the End of the World? Given my track record of recommending every single episode, what do you think I am going to say? Yep. Watch it! I did enjoy this episode. Great set-pieces, nice acting.
Roll on, part three of the Monks trilogy! Yee-ha!