The Lie of the Land Unreview

The Monks are the rulers of Earth. They are meddling with history. None are Peter Butterworth. And the clocks are striking thirteen. What could this all mean? Don’t ask me, I ain’t got a scooby, guv.

Welcome, Whovians and muggles, to The Lie of the Land written by Toby Whithouse. Yes, him wot wrote School Onion, The Werewolves of Woking, The Dog Complex, A Town Called Malice and the double episode story Under the Lake/Before the Emerson and Palmer.

Last week, Bill swapped the Doctor’s blindness for some magic beans. Now the Monks control the planet.

They have been here with us for squillions of years. When the first amphibian squelched onto land, it was the Monks who advised evolutionising themselves some feet. When the first humans invented the wheel, it was the Monks who suggested that a roundness might be a better idea than triangular wheels. And when fire was discovered, it was the Monks who were quietly ushering the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara out of the cave of skulls.

Yes, the Monks have aided us. They even stopped the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, the Daleks again and the Sycorax from invading our lovely planet. Every invasion has been thwarted, well, except for the Vardan invasion of 1975 which nobody noticed because the Vardans are basically a collection of floating tin foil.

Bill and some others people know that the Monks have only been on Earth for six months instead of the millennia that they claim they’ve been here. Anyone who voices this view is imprisoned for ‘memory crimes’ and sent to Room 101 without passing Go and collecting their £200. Dissidents become unpeople. Bill is very careful to avoid facecrime lest the thought police pick her up and clap her in chains.

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink'”
George Orwell

The Doctor appears on the televisions of the whole populace of the world, urging them to avoid “bein’ ungood sassenachs”, thoughtcrime, and telling them that “The Monks are doubleplusgood” while grinning wider than the Cheshire Cat in a milk bottling plant.

On every wall are the jagged symbol of the Monks. This translates as “The Monks Are Watching You.” There are massive statues of the Monks all over the world. This translates as “We fully support the arts.”

“Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you”
George Orwell


Bill tries to keep herself to herself, confiding in nobody but herself and her dead mother. No, she hasn’t been hit on the gulliver too hard, she is imagining that her mother is talking to her. All her images of her are taken from the photographs that the Doctor gave her in The Pilot. I’m not going to risk spoilers but keep what I just said in mind, eh?

But where is our lovable Nardole? Our Bill seeks him here, she seeks him there, she seeks that elusive Nardole everywhere but he is nowhere to be found.

During one of Bill’s chit-chats with Ersatz Mummy (played by Rosie Jane), Bill hears someone trying to get into her hovel – yeah, under the Monks, we all live in slums now – she picks up a tin of Uncle Monk’s Soylent Green and proceeds to wallop the intruder when Nardole walks in. Bill quickly unproceeds to throw the tin and gives him a doubleplusgood huggle.

Nardole reveals to Bill how he was stuck for a few weeks in the TARDIS having caught a friendly bacterium off the lab in the previous episode. So friendly in fact that the bacterium, Shaggy, invited Nardole to go glamping with him in the Hebrides. Such fun. Nardole then spent the following five months changing all the Nandos signs to Nardoles signs and winning the 2017 Tiddlywinks World Cup. Oh, and a couple of hours locating the Doctor who is apparently on a prison hulk.

Bill and Nardole go off to find him, pausing only to stop off in a churchyard and help an orphan bash in the brains of an escaped convict. The orphan is so happy that he invites them home to enjoy pie and brandy. Major yums. Nardole flirts with the boy’s sister. And a few nights later, they leave them.

“Erm, Pip. Who were those strangers?”
“I know not, Joe. But the bald one resembled Miss Havisham quite strongly.”
“Aye, lad.”

Our heroes wrangle themselves aboard the supply ship, showing papers to toothless sailors and swabbing the decks. And finally make it to the prison hulk, the SS Great Expectorations where they face killer wasps, wasps with machine guns, wasps riding wasps and a kitten who bats the wasps out of the air thus making all the wasps inadequate for guarding purposes.

When Bill and The Nardole get to where the Doctor is, he doesn’t seem too pleased to see them. In fact he has learned to love Big Brother…ahem…the Monks. Yes, the Doctor is on the side of the Monks. Ooh, big twist!

“What the glob, Doc? Why are you helping the Monks?”
“Because they will look after ye better than I could. They are so awfully braw. And ye whiny humans are acting like sassenachs with haggis doon their troosers. Why should I help ye pudden-heids anymoo?”

Or something to that effect. As always I paraphrase.

Just had a thought. What if Bill is the Doctor’s granddaughter or great-granddaughter? Or maybe she is the Doctor with a dose of amnesia? Probably she isn’t any of these things but I just wanted to state my theories so that, if right, I can brag.

Bill is upset. She thought she was rescuing the Doctor but he has Stockholm Syndrome. She isn’t happy that the Doctor is now spouting fake news. She gets all Trump on his Time Lord butt and berates him. So he calls for some gun-toting meatheads. They all come in, aiming guns at Nardole and Bill.

“Dinnae fash, Bill lass. Ye are sheeple and t’Monks ar’ ye Shepherds. So what if they kill ye. Sheep need tae be culled. So put up wi’ it or ye’ll be eaten wi’ mint sauce!”

Bill, not liking the thought of being covered in mint sauce, whips a pistol from the holster of one of the goons and shoots the Doctor. Bang Bang!

The Doctor staggers. His hand starts to glow. Could this be it? Is he respawning? Er, no. It is just a trick. He laughs, along with the goons, at Bill. He wasn’t really regenerating, he had just eaten his Ready-Brek.

“April Fools!”
“Doc, it is november.”
“Oh crivens, that is unlucky for me.”

The Doctor explains how all this, the searching and finding and apparent traitorness, was part of a plan to make sure that Bill was not having her strings pulled by the Monks. She punches them all.

“But I shot you!”
“Ach, yeah, but only silver bullets can kill a Time Laird. Or am I thinkin’ o’ werewolfies?”

The Doctor had to make sure that Bill was safe. He had spent the last few months deprogramming the commandos of all their Monk thoughts.

To cut a short story shorter, our heroes stroll down to St Luke’s University for People Who Failed To Get Into Oxford but the place is surrounded by a Monk. A very big Monk. There is also a statue of a Monk holding a scroll and a bottle of cheap cider, how appropriate.

Our heroes, however, are not going to the TARDIS. They are going to the Vault instead. Which they enter. To talk to Missy.

The TARDIS is not seen in this story. Thus making it one of nine that similarly didn’t feature the TARDIS. I’d faced with a firing squad by Whovian Greybeards if I didn’t mention them, so here goes…

Mission to the Unknown
Doctor Who and the Silurians
The Mind of Evil
The Dæmons
The Sea Devils
The Sontaran Experiment
Genesis of the Daleks

…and The Pie of the Bland where Missy, our favourite villainous Time Lord/Lady, has a nice pad. A bit sparse, Laurence Llewellyn Bowen would have words to say about how boring it all is. Please note that four of the nine non-TARDIS episodes have the Master in them. This probably doesn’t mean a thing.

For Americans and other brain spawns, Laurence Llewellyn Bowen is an English interior designer who looks like the Eighth Doctor crossed with Lord Byron crossed with a 17th century fop crossed with a roll of flowery wallpaper. And while I am at it, Ready-Brek is a porridge-type breakfast thing whose commercials had people eating the paste and starting to glow.

Missy is put out by the six months since she last had a visitor. So out that she won’t stop singing “Shake’n’vac, it puts the freshness back…” until the Doctor apologises.

incidentally, is the Vault dimensionally transcendental?

The Doctor and Bill, but not Nardole, have a chit chat with Missy. She is irked because she is bored silly. Sillier. To ease this boredom she asks the Doctor for “a particle accelerator, a 3D printer and a [expletive deleted] pony” with which she intends to make herself a sandwich. Also, “why havnae ye got me the [expletives deleted] One Ring? ‘Tis the one I need to rule them all! I wan’ me [expletive deleted] precious!”

The subject changes to the of the Monks. Missy casually mentions how she has met them before. She gives the skinny, as Bill might say (see how down with the kids I am?) and confirms the Doctor’s theory about how they go about taking over planets.

The Monks arrive on a planet. They scan it and make holographic copies of it which they run on their Commodore 64s. When they have got the simulations to load (this involves turning the computers on, popping down the shop for some coffee, coming back, eating dinner, and then returning to their bedrooms to see if the program has loaded) eliminated any possible defeats, they land their space pyramids and start asking for consent to help the population from being destroyed by floods, bacterium, plagues of frogs, rivers of blood, locusts, rivers of chocolate (RIP Augustus Gloop) and giant kittens like in that Kitten Kong episode of The Goodies.

The reason why they need consent is, not just because of the insurance involved in rescuing gullible races, but because it creates a psychic link which enables them to broadcast fake news, piggy-backing via the statues, all over the planet and rewriting the memories so that the Monks seem to have been on Earth since humanity arose from the primordial gazpacho soup.


There is only one way of stopping the Monks from hacking people’s gooey thoughty lumps. Kill the person with the psychic link. The psychic link can be passed down from parent to child. This is how Missy beat the Monks in an adventure I would have called Missy and the Fake News of Death.

Will Bill be killed to save the Earth? What do you think. Quite.

Could the link be broken if the Doctor took her back in time? Or off planet? A moot point since he can’t get to his TARDIS. Meh…

But we all know that Goody Two-Hearts won’t entertain the thought of Bill being sacrificed, so he, Nardole, Bill and the squaddie commandos (led by Captain Abel Magwitch, sir!) pop out for a dekko at the Monk’s headquarters which is a pyramid. In the middle of London. If nothing else, their rent must be astronomical.

The Doctor’s plan is this: get into the pyramid, find where the Monks are beaming out their psychic fake news, stop their infernal plans, go back to the university for crumpets and tea. The problems are that the Monks are a little reluctant to have their new world snatched away from them. Also, the closer the infiltrators get to the source of the fake news beam, the more they believe that the Monks are their saviours, all hail the Monks. Oh, and the shops have run out of crumpets.

In the Think Tank (not the actual name but I couldn’t resist calling it that since it was that or the Trumpium), the Doctor tries to pull a Spock but the Monk, who is wired into the psychic beam machine, isn’t having it. The Monks do not like mind melds. And it doesn’t work anyway judging by the way the shock sends the Doctor flying across the room.

The Monk sniggers.

Bill, being the plucky girl we know and love, links her mind to the Monk. The Doctor cries out for her to stop but she isn’t listening. This could wipe her mind clean.

Instead of Monk fake new/history, everyone on Earth sees pictures of Bill’s deceased mother.

These memories are strong in Bill’s mind, well, the photos of her mother are. And the love she has for her mother is a powerful engine. It wakes up the human race from their Monk-induced sheepness. Yeah, baby. the humans are back!

The Doctor, Bill and Nardole (who spent most of the time inside the pyramid looking for a kettle) hotfoot it out of the triangular alien construct before it blasts up into the sky and lowering the surrounding property values.

Later, the Doctor shows to Bill that nobody remembers the Monks. They, apparently, have deleted their presence from most of humanity’s so-called brains.

Normally this would be the end, but there is a coda of sorts still to come. The Doctor and Missy are in the Vault. She expresses sadness for all those that she shrunk, sliced, diced, marinated and pushed into a pit of vipers.

Boom! End of story…

Peter Capaldi is great as usual. Nothing to fault him on here. That grin that he has, when he is broadcasting to the world, is so damn creepy though.

Nardole is relegated back to comedy stooge but he has some nice lines. Matt Lucas impresses when he gets to be on the screen.

Pearl Mackie is phenomenal here. The scenes with her imaginary mother are great, sad and poignant. I like it when the companion takes more of a lead in the adventures. In my mind, the companion role is just as important as the Doctor’s. Mackie is outshining some of the previous well-loved companions by a long way.

Rosie Jane as Bill’s mother. Yes, small part with big consequences. Loved her incredibly brief scenes. Possibly much helped by her being gorgeous. Yes, I am shallow.

Michelle Gomez! The Master or Mistress or Missy or Snugglemonkey as the Rani calls her. Great to see the character being played with humanity. This performance continues on from her previous episode. This is a more humane Master without all the beard stroking and chuckling. Long may it continue (I know it won’t but it might).

Should you all watch The Lie of the Land? Well…

There are definite shades of the Martha Jones wandering the Master-controlled Earth here. Black companion in black survivalish gear, yep. Companion spending lots of months before rescuing the Doctor, yep. Giant statues of the invader, yep. Master, yep. Humanity saved by ridding their brains of the alien signal controlling them, yep.

Does it matter? No, all Doctor Who stories are influenced by previous stories. As long as the story is well told, which it is, then fair play.

The answer to the question is yeah, of course you should watch it. It is a pleasure to watch a story well-told, well-acted and who doesn’t like an Egyptian pyramid in the middle of London? This story is doubleplusgood.

Be seeing you!

Posted in BekHobbes, doctorwho, fandom, memories, opinion, questions, review, unreview, whovian, whovians | Leave a comment

The Pyramid at the End of the World Unreview

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.

“The Pope?”
“Yep, in his black cocktail dress.”
“Epic fail!”

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!

Posted in BekHobbes, doctorwho, fandom, memories, opinion, questions, reallife, review, terrypratchett, unreview, whovian, whovians | Leave a comment

Extremis Unreview

Rot-faced monks, Catholic conspiracies, hidden knowledge centuries old. You may be thinking that this is Steven Moffat’s version of The DaVinci Codswallop but you couldn’t be any more wrong because unlike Dan Brown, Stevie can string whole sentences together that make actual sense. Plus none of his scripts read like they were written by the poor chimps who write jokes for Christmas crackers. No grammar/plot challenged authors here *winks at the Moffat haters and blows raspberry*

Extremis is the name, and monsters are very much the game.

Yes, I said monsters! Proper aliens with dubious motives. No misguided humans here, no sir. We have our Big Bad at last. Oh, and we get to see who is in the Vault. Probably.

This episode is technically two stories which are told at the same time. But for the reasons of keeping a key plot point secret, I won’t reveal all until towards the end. Even though you all know what happened.

The Doctor is mooching by the Vault when he receives an email on his sonic sunglasses. Bill still doesn’t know he is blind, she just thinks he is obsessing on Lou Reed or Neil Gaiman. This email, which must enter his brain without the use of his optical peepseers, has one word, or rather the email has the word ‘Extremis’ in the subject line.

If you note carefully, the email is also CCed to Dr Who, Dr What, Dr Why and Dr This Joke Is So Old That It Is Not Funny Anymore.

We crash into the titles sequence, very pretty per usual, and then we crash back into an empty lecture hall where the Doctor is standing at the podium wondering why it is so quiet today. “Ach, these students ar’ awfully quiet taedae.”

On his sunglasses he sees life signs entering. Students? In university? Shouldn’t they be out on the streets vomiting colourful alcopops onto the cobbles or picking up dodgy gaseous sex monsters?

No, not students. Catholic priests and the Big Cheese of the Vatican, the Pope!

You may recognize the actor who plays the Pope from previous episodes such as Turn Left, Turn Around and You Spin Me Right Round Baby Right Round Like a Record Baby Round Round Round Round. This is Joseph Long who previously played Rocco Colasanto. I like to believe that he is playing this reality’s version of the character. Hasn’t he done well? Give him a round of applause.

The Pope speaks in Italian to the Doctor. About a book at the Vatican called Veritas and the translators who read it and then killed themselves.

A lot of confused Whovians, mainly Rookies, were confused as to why the Pope spoke actual Italian when the TARDIS normally translates. Also why is the book not called Truth? Firstly, the Doctor can already speak Italian so he doesn’t need it translated. Also, everything sounds better in Italian. Secondly the book’s title is not translated for the same reason Gallifreyan is almost never translated which is this: it sounds better in the original language. Plus the word ‘Veritas’ is probably understood by the majority of humans so yeah, does that sound plausible? You might as well ask why the TARDIS is called the TARDIS when English isn’t the language spoken on Gallifrey.

Back in the real world, Bill has taken a date home. A girl called Penny (played by Ronke Adekoluejo whom my spellchecker insists should be called Rorke Adenoid Lovejoy). Penny is a rookie lesbian or wants to be. She has tasted the cherry chapstick and wants more and Bill is all too willing to oblige.

But Bill’s foster mother is home.

“What have I told you about bringing boys home, Billie?”
“Soooooooooo not a problem, momma.”

She leaves the sheepish Bill and the anxious Penny alone. Any thoughts of romance is ruined when the TARDIS arrives in her bedroom…..vworp vworp bang! Bill blames the sound on the pipes. Reasonable. But the Pope leaves her bedroom, looks at her and looks disapprovingly at them. Explain your way out of this, missy. Awkward! Penny runs away. A shame for Bill who was 87% sure that this one wasn’t a sentient puddle.

The TARDIS takes our heroes and the Pope and his band of merry men back to the Vatican. The Pope allows Father Angelo to escort the TARDIS trio into the secret library of the Vatican., the Haereticum. Or as the Pope might say, if he hadn’t scurried off to catch up on Lucifer on Netflix, “La biblioteca della blasfemia, l’Haereticum“. See? Things DO sound better in the original language.

The Haereticum is the repository for all the books that the Vatican deems heretical. As Father Angelo takes them deep into the depths which I swear is the same location that they used for the TARDIS’ library in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. They go past shelves of the Parseltongue translations of the Harry Potter series, the three wings dedicated to the works of Enid Blyton and a small cabinet containing the skull of Dodo Chaplet. Yep, she is as dead as her proverbial avian namesake.

Bill is impressed by the Haereticum but more so that it has wifi. To which the Doctor says, “Crivens, Bill! ‘Tis a library. O’ course it has wifi. It even has,” he points at a slumbering figure, “homeless sassenachs sleeping wi’ wee little books o’er their faces.”

The Doctor explains to Bill about this dodgy book which compels whoever reads it to commit suicide. No, not The DaVinci Code. This is Veritas, a book written by some dead dude who found out a great truth centuries ago. No, I said it wasn’t The DaVinci Code! Look, can you see an albino assassin? No? Well then! Lets hear no more of this Dan Brown dreck, eh?

The book was recently translated by the Catholic priests responsible for the Necronomicon and the Buster Annual of 1475. Now, call me Mr Silly but why would they translate a book that kills whoever reads it? Are these priests the type of guys who stick their hand into a bonfire despite knowing it will burn?

Suicide is a mortal sin according to the Catholics, so why would priests willingly kill themselves? Suicide leads straight to hell, do not collect £200 and prepare for a bunch of horned red guys with tridents, which means that whatever they found out, it was better to risk Hell than to continue living. Maybe Veritas is the new Dan Brown novel?

“Doc, if this book kills people, shouldn’t it be called Digitas?” asks Bill.
“Ach, dinnae be stupid, lass.”

They get to the cage containing the book. “Ha’ everyone died who read this thing?” “No, well, maybe. One of the priests may be alive, we haven’t found him”, which leads to the one surviving translating man popping up when Angelo goes off to investigate a sound. “Mamma mia, not the bloody bookworms again!” Angelo fans, be warned, he gets killed by a rot-faced monk.

The surviving translator? After he pops up like Pop-Up Pirate, he mumbles, dribbles and runs away. And commits suicide.The Doctor sends Bill and Nardole off to find him, despite his sonic sunglasses telling him that priestboy is dead.

Inside the Veritas cage, the Doctor discovers a laptop. The priest’s laptop. Checking his email history, our Time Lord friend checks the sent emails folder. The priest has sent online copies of the Veritas to CERN, the White House and the Pentagon. Because misery loves company, right?

CERN is a particle physics laboratory. The largest in the Solar System and, what? OK, OK, the world! No idea what the White House or the Pentagon is, I think they do takeaways.

Bill, babydoll, and Nardole, secret badass, wander through the corridors of the Catholic Hogwarts. In search of the dead priest who is dead. Instead of tripping over his body, they see a bright light. Is it the second coming? Is Jesus checking out the Vatican’s copy of The Famous Five Sacrifice Timmy to Beezlebub? Uh, no. Just a portal.

They step through the portal. Of course they do. Why wouldn’t they? Instead of being gnashed to death by sabre-toothed goblincats as they might have been, they find themselves in the safe environment of a white voidy room. Portals arrayed in a circle. White monoliths in the centre around a black small void. Are the monoliths projecting the doors? Are they the Ogri’s smarter, well-dressed cousins?

No matter. Bill and Nardole go through one of the portals and find themselves in Dilbertville, a cubicle farm. This is no ordinary office though. It is the office of the Pentagon. It isn’t a curry house, it is the place where secrets happen. Our heroes are in Virginia. In one of the most secure places on Earth. They make their excuses and leave.

The Doctor, safely tucked up in the Haereticum, prepares to read the book. Because he is blind, he uses a Time Lord device to restore his eyesight. But how? Well, constant reader, this gadget will borrow eyesight from his future self. It comes with a drastic drawback though, the Doctor may not be able to respawn (Can I hear the sound of Greybeard Whovians grinding their teeth is silent fury?), he may have a time head, become a goat, his future regenerations may be blind, or, and this is most unlikely, become a woman. He does it anyway but before he can read more than the title, rotting monks appear with their large gnarled hands. They want the Veritas more than cats want cheeseburgers.

Bill and Nardole, in the wheel of places, choose another portal. They don’t know where they are at first but a tipsy scientist informs them that they are at CERN. Nardole is happy though because he wants to have a ride on the Large Hadron Collider. Sadly he can’t because he has to be a certain height before he can go on the particle accelerator. Muttering about how he never gets to have fun, he follows Bill and the scientist into a large room full of scientists who are getting drunk, drunker or who are already drunk.

The scientist goes up to a huge display with numbers counting down to zero. He asks Nardole and Bill to give him a random number. They try. They give the same number. “Sixty-nine, dude!” They do it again and again, each time they both come up with the same number as each other. The rest of the scientists join in. Never has numbers been so unsettling. Maybe Adric was a secret badass too? Nah!

Bill and Nardole see comedy explosives underneath the tables. Sticks of dynamite, really? Acme must be laughing all the way to the bank. They look at the countdown again. They look at each other and play patty-cake before fleeing. As they jump through the portal, they hear the scientist shouting, “This mass suicide has been brought to you by the letters T, N and T. Goodnight, Vienna!”

In the void between places, Nardole thinks that the white monoliths are actually projecting reality, that the portals are merely holograms. He compares them to the holodecks in the Star Trek franchise. This does not bode well. How many times did the holodecks break down? Practically every time the Enterprise hits a speed bump.

This raises the question of whether Bill or Nardole are real. They came through one of the portals so are they hologrammatic too? Nardole tests his theory by reaching his hand out into the black void behind the monoliths. It pixilates into nothing and the rest of his body goes with it.

Bill is overcome with sadness. She didn’t sign on for this. Not the death of friends. She is distracted by spots of blood leading into another portal. Whose blood? The Doctor’s blood? She follows…

…and enters the Oval Offices of the White House. Again, not a curry house but rather the place where the President of America resides. Aforementioned President on the floor, dead by his own hands. Before you ask, no it isn’t Trump. Too thin, young and he has his own hair.

The Doctor is in the President’s chair, spinning around and shouting, “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

When he has stopped spinning, he explains to Bill how Veritas is all about a demon call Bob who possesses human beings, and how the brave knight Sir Dale of Cooper travelled to Twin Peaks to slay the… Sigh, no, of course not. It is about a demon but it is more of an alien with a taste for invading the Earth. It makes dummy-runs by faking up huge hologrammatic simulations, Shadow Worlds, and running them so it/they can find the best way to nobble the humans. Oh my glob, are the Monks really the Kraals? No.

The Doctor goes on to say that the Shadow People can discover their fakeness by coming up with pseudo-random numbers which proves that their reality is being run by a computer.

I could try and faff my way around making the explanation of this Shadow World funny (‘try’ being the operative word) but me so lazy. So here are the relevant quotes from Wikipedia, this universe’s version of the Veritas book. Here comes the science bit.

“A pseudorandom process is a process that appears to be random but is not. Pseudorandom sequences typically exhibit statistical randomness while being generated by an entirely deterministic causal process. Such a process is easier to produce than a genuinely random one, and has the benefit that it can be used again and again to produce exactly the same numbers, which is useful for testing and fixing software. To generate truly random numbers would require precise, accurate, and repeatable system measurements of absolutely non-deterministic processes. Linux uses, for example, various system timings (like user keystrokes, I/O, or least-significant digit voltage measurements) to produce a pool of random numbers. It attempts to constantly replenish the pool, depending on the level of importance, and so will issue a random number. This system is an example, and similar to those of dedicated hardware random number generators.”

“Epistemologically, it is not impossible to tell whether we are living in a simulation. For example, Bostrom suggests that a window could pop up saying: “You are living in a simulation. Click here for more information.” However, imperfections in a simulated environment might be difficult for the native inhabitants to identify, and for purposes of authenticity, even the simulated memory of a blatant revelation might be purged programmatically. Nonetheless, should any evidence come to light, either for or against the skeptical hypothesis, it would radically alter the aforementioned probability.”

This raises a valid point about the nature of the Shadow World.  If people became aware that they were basically no different from Super Mario, would the Monks allow them to know? Would they not purge the Veritas knowledge out of the video game characters? Unless they don’t give a hoot about the lifestock finding out. Mind you, the Monks do seem keen on getting their hands on the Veritas although why didn’t they grab it when the book was first written? Given that everything is a huge hologram, why bother grabbing it when they could just get one of their tech savvy rot-faced nerd Monks to delete it?

Now, if none of you have died of boredom, I’ll continue…

When people discover that they are not real, they commit suicide so that they can escape the Shadow World. This is the most unlikely part of the story (what, really?). Would people really kill themselves if they thought they weren’t real? Yeah, I’d admit that some might and that others who are suicide risks might be more likely to kill themselves but mass suicide of reasonably rational human beings? Nuh-uh. Not buying that.

The only difference between the Real World and the Shadow World is that the Real World doesn’t have Veritas (it has Wikipedia instead) and Rocco Colasanto isn’t the Pope.

A Monk appears from under a table. Only pausing to stretch his back, it turns Bill into digital flotsam and Bill is no more. Goodbye HoloBill.

The alien is about to kill the Doctor but he has a cunning. He pulls out his sonic turnip (shaped like a thingie) and boasts that he has recorded everything that he has seen and experienced via the veg. One click and he emails the whole kit and caboodle to…

…the real Doctor who is mooching by the Vault when he receives an email on his sonic sunglasses from the digital Doctor. This email has one word, or rather the email has the word ‘Extremis’ in the subject line. And a brief message:

Dear Doctor,
Are you doing well? I’m doing fine.
Love the sunglasses.
Oh, and view this attachment.
Love to Bill and Nardole and Pete.
The Doctor x

PS. Don’t forget to order some milk. You know how grouchy we get without our cow juice in the morning.
PSPS. Yes, I don’t write with a Scottish accent. Deal with it!

So the Doctor didn’t fight any monsters whatsoever? It was a JR-in-the-shower moment?  Am I right in thinking that this is the first time since Black Orchid that the Doctor hasn’t battled an alien threat?

Remember how I mentioned that Extremis was really two stories? Here comes the second one. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it short.

Alien world. Blokes in robes. Medievalish architecture, beautiful landscape. The planet Carnathon. Just think Game of Thrones with less nudity and no dragons.

The Doctor has been asked, nay commanded, to execute another Time Lord. Missy by the Fatality Index (the guys in robes). That bad girl has done something so bad that she needs executing. And as the only other Time Lord about, the Doctor is on death duty. Only a Time Lord can kill another Time Lord according to the Fatality Index. When it is done, her body will be stuck into a vault (it has yet to gain the big V) and the Doctor has to watch over it in case she comes back to life. Like that is going to happen!

Missy begs. Discomforting to see that. The Master has a habit of doing this, begging the Doctor, and then stabbing him in the back. The Doctor won’t fall for it.

The Doctor falls for it.

A monk, not one of the rot-faced, red-robed gits, approaches and wants to talk to the Doctor. I could have sworn that it sounded like John Simm. But no, it is the Master. He reads from a very familiar book, the diary of Moll Flanders AKA River Song. She has sent him to make sure that her husband doesn’t take any extreme actions or as they say in ancient Rome, extremis.

A disturbingly amount of Rookie Whovians questioned how Nardole has the book when they saw it left behind at the Library where River snuffed it. Do these fans not understand how time travel works? Meh.

The Doctor executes Missy but she isn’t dead! He tampered with the controls! She still has to go in the Vault though. That thousand years will pass quickly not.

Back to life, back to reality and the Doctor has finished remembering and watching. He bangs on the Vault and asks Missy for her help in fighting the Monks.

Now, call me cynical but I reckon that Missy isn’t in the Vault anymore. She’ll be an android copy or something. Or maybe she really is Missy?

Second theory: Nardole is the John Simm Master in disguise. Seems unlikely but who knows?

Peter Capaldi, excellent as usual. Good to see him still blind as it seems as if he is playing the character slightly more subdued. Might just be my imagination. Seems more vulnerable than he normally is. Like normal, I love his performance here.

Pearl Mackie is brilliant but less well acted here. Just a smidge though. Still great. The early scenes with her as HoloBill being embarrassed by HoloFostermother and HoloPope while she is on a date with HoloPenny (who exists in Bill’s reality, go for it, tiger!). Her reaction to Nardole’s death is sad, true and an important thing for her character even if it isn’t really Bill. Again likewise when she talks to the Doctor later on. Loved her.

Michelle Gomez appears infrequently during the episode via flashbacks. But when she was pleading for her life, even I felt sorry. So good to see Missy played in an understandably normal fashion. More of this, please! Oh, and the usual craziness too, cheers!

Matt Lucas as the man who has permission to kick the Doctor’s arse. I am starting to appreciate him more and more as this series goes on. Largely comedic but there is a purpose to Nardole and we get to see more of it here. Again, loved him. More please!

Corrado Invernizzi as Angelo, liked him too. I could have done with more of him but hey ho…

Anymore to say about the other characters? Hmmm for the sake of brevity, no. But all performances were spot on.

Now, the important question. Should you watch this story? Yes, of course. Yeah, yeah, it is basically man watched film for forty minutes while remembering the past but it is so much more than that. It is cool, it is clever, it is a delight to watch.

So watch it! If nothing else, it beats being killed by an ancient tome. Just ask my Aunt Janice, a copy of War and Peace fell on her head and killed her stone dead. Do you want to be like my Aunt Janice? No. So watch Extremis!

Posted in BekHobbes, doctorwho, fandom, memories, opinion, questions, review, unreview, whovian, whovians | Leave a comment

Oxygen Unreview

First episode, misguided sentient puddle.
Second episode, misguided robots.
Third episode, misguided human with access to huge river serpent.
Fourth episode, misguided human with wooden mother.
Fifth episode? Misguided humans.

Can you see a pattern? I think I should call spoilers on what I am about to say: no alien Big Bad in Oxygen. No monsters except for those of the human kind.

“Space. The final frontier. Final because it wants tae kill us. Frontier because it is full o’ cowboys an’ injuns. Dinnae worry.”

So what is the engine that drives this story?

“Fear keeps ye fast. Fast is good.”

So says the Doctor in Oxygen. But this story isn’t just about fear. It is also about capitalist greed. This is the pump that primes the story. It is also about oxygen but given that this is also the title of the episode, you’ll won’t have needed me to have told you that. Also, fear causes you to breath faster so…

The episode starts off at St Luke’s University with the Doctor telling his students how you can die in space. Which is all very well but he is meant to be lecturing about crop rotation and the role of EmojiBots in colony farming.

He explains all about how one can die when exposed to the vacuum of space and how the boiling point of water is much lower so you’ll go blind and your bladder will pop off like a rabbit that has suddenly remembered that it left the gas on at home.

The only thing you can hope for is a quick death or that a passing Vogon constructor fleet will pick you up as you drift in space.

This is one of the ways that Jamie Mathieson touches on Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. On purpose? Accidentally?

Anyhoo, the Doctor and Bill, in the next scene, are in the TARDIS. The Doctor has itchy feet. This isn’t a verucca though. He wants to go off-Earth. So he does. But Nardole is also on board, having not been fooled into travelling to Birmingham for a packet of crisps. He had got all the way to Perivale before he realised that crisps can be purchased anywhere in England in a variety of flavours (I like marsh minnow crisps, yum) and that his satnav was seriously malfunctioning. Perivale indeed! Tut-tut…

Bill want to go to Butlins InterGalactic but the Doctor mutters something about Macra and decides to take them somewhere interesting instead. This somewhere being a place that is giving out a distress call.

Distress calls are the Doctor’s theme tune or so he says. But this can’t be true because the alarm isn’t going “dum-diddly-dum-diddly-dum”.

“Ye only see tha true face o’ tha universe when it’s asking for y’help, Nardole mon,” being his explanation for answering The Klaxons of Awooga (which is also the name of an unmade Pertwee-era serial). Nardole is not fooling for this.

“You cannot leave because I has the mercury link and stuff, innit,” says Nardole.

“Yeah, that willnae stop me,” says the Doctor with his trademark wolfish grin.

The TARDIS vworp vworps into the not-at-all-similar-to-DeepSpaceNine space station called Chasm Forge. This is a place where ore miners (Yes, DS9 was originally an ore processing plant but that isn’t exactly the same… [[Um, if you say so]) process the things they mine [soooooo exactly like DS9 then?(shut up, shuttitty shut the shut up!)].

There doesn’t seem to be any invisible breathing gas so the Doctor allows his TARDIS to empty out some of its, as our scientist friends call it, oxygen into Chasm Forge. The TARDIS troika can breathe. Ah, air just like momma used to make. Lovely.

Chasm Forge is a bit of a dump. Nardole and the Doctor argue about whether space doors should have proper airlocks with hinges and wheels or whether they should go ‘swish’ like on that Star Trek show. The Doctor hates swishy doors. By the by, the doors on DS9 go ‘sh-shunk’ so make of that what you will.

Our heroes enter a room and find somebody in a spacesuit. A dead somebody. Standing up. Series ten is full of spookiness. Love it!

Flashback to the teaser at the beginning of Oxygen

Man and a woman, not much air left in their spacesuits, woman wanting to have baby with man, walking on the outside of the station. I cannot stress how cool this scene is. Not the plot bits but the beautiful way the production team has managed to shoot/make the scene. Did I mention how much I loved it?

The two are being chased, slowly, by people in unhelmeted spacesuits. Surely not? Wouldn’t they die? Wouldn’t their eyes and saliva boil away? Yes. These chasers are not alive. Is it the Vashta Nerada? No. Remember there are no alien Big Bads in this epIsode. These are just the spacewalking dead.

One of them grabs hold of the woman and quicker than you can say “Hey, who turned out all the lights”, the zombinauts do a thing to her and she, against her will, takes her space helmet off to suck in the heady vacuum of the interstellar void. She dies, her skin frosting over, her eyes going white, twin pops as her bladder explodes. The man is horrified but finds that all this reminds him of that Wallace and Gromit film The Wrong Trousers.

Aaaaannnnnnd back in the room with the Doctor, Bill, Nardole and a corpse in a spacesuit.

This astrocorpse doesn’t seem to be all grabby or animate. It gives Bill the willies which is justifiable. I’d like to see anyone remain calm with a dead body mooching about.

The Doctor quite likes the spacesuit. It has all the bells and whistles like magnetic boots, Bebo and MySpace access, go faster stripes, a force field to keep in the air and oxygen tanks. Apparently the suit, and the other suits seen earlier, were given a command to deactivate organic components and to log out of MySpace.

The suits are pay-as-you-go. You need to stick money in so you can breath. In the future, they use spacegroats. One coin will buy you five puffs of oxygen. There is a standing fee of six spacegroats per hour just for using the spacesuit. By the end of this episode I reckon the Doctor will be blinded by bankruptcy.

There are also other spacesuits hanging off the wall. Not very snazzy. I much prefer the orange ones from past episodes.These ones are faulty but not faulty in the sense that the corpse-filled ones are.

Chasm Forge’s computers has detected all the free oxygen flowing out of the TARDIS. This must not be alllowed. It empties all the air out of the wheel in space, alongside the body of Zoe Heriot and presumably the TARDIS too, into the inky dark.

Our heroes have no other choice but to get into the spacesuits and update their Bebo accounts. In space, nobody can hear you post funny cat photos on social media.

The survivors of the undead contact the Doctor via Bebo and ask to become his friend. He consents and they tell him to get the hell out of where he is. So they do and a short while later, and I am conflating the plot here to avoid boring bits and that scene involving the ferret down Nardole’s trousers, and meet up with the no-point-mentioning-their-names-because-they-will-probably-all-die-horribly crew members of Chasm Forge.

Ooh, special note to Dahh-ren (played by Peter Caulfield who tweeted his name as Dahh’ren but other sources say his name has the hyphen so who knows?) who is blue. In skin colour and in mood. And underwear.

Bill is shocked by the blueness. Dahh-ren takes it badly and accuses her of racism. Which is, I think, not quite the right term. On Earth (hello, earthlings) racism is when one group of humans hates/hurts another group of humans because they are under the assumption that the second group of humans is in some way inferior to the first group of humans despite the second group beating the first group in quite a number of sports. So is it right to call someone racist if they are alien? Well, yes, technically. But I prefer the term ‘xenophobic’ which seems more apt to me.

Having just said all that, is Dahh-ren an alien? In Gridlock we saw red and white humans. Maybe the blue is a form of body bepple (hello, New Adventures fans) or the human race now comes in rainbow colours.

Oh, and Dahh-ren isn’t the alien Big Bad either. He is just the Big Sarcasm.

Our heroes and survivors don physical helmets because the forcefields, while nifty, cannot handle vacuum. I was quite peeved that we did not get to see Bill try to fit her helmet over her afro. We woz robbed!

Bill is concerned about vomiting into her helmet. She needn’t be. In space, nobody can hear you chunder the technicolour snake. But this reminds me of another Douglas Adams thing…

There is a short story called Young Zaphod Plays It Safe. I won’t go over the plot but in the story there are spacesuits which can walk by themselves and even take, I think, the unconcious Zaphod walking. Beeblebrox even vomits inside his spacesuit at one point. Is the writer riffing off this short story or is it just coincidence?

They flee the zombienauts, some fall to the electrifying touch of the undead. They make it to an airlock but Bill’s suit is malfunctioning. “Oh cripes!” as Nardole doesn’t say. Don’t you think that Nardole is Penfold to the Doctor’s Dangermouse? In fact, try singing the words ‘Doctor Who’ to the theme tune of Dangermouse, it so works!

The Doctor saves Bill by giving her his helmet. As a Time Lord, he can survive vacuum longer than mere humans. There is an exciting scene from the point of view of Bill, great to watch, slightly difficult to figure out exactly what is happening. The long and short of it is that when back indoors, the Doctor has gone blind. I didn’t see that coming.

There is hope for the Doctor though. He can get his peepers fixed in the TARDIS or, failing that, replace them with reptile eyes. I am hoping that he uses K9 as his guide dog.

The suits find them again. Worst game of Hide and Seek ever! Bill’s suit goes haywire and won’t move. The Doctor tells her that she is perfectly safe but unless his dictionary definition is severely wrong, he is lying. The suits grab her, electrify her, and Bill is no more. She is an ex-Bill, pushing up the daisies etc etc…

Oh, and blue boy is also killed. Boo hoo.

The Doctor tells the survivors that their company, Ganymede Systems, told the suits to disengage their fleshy passengers to save oxygen. Oxygen equals money. And if the miners aren’t mining much minerals, then the company is losing money via the oxygen. Killing Chasm Forge’s crew is just Sil-like logic. As some famous short actor said, “greed is good.”

No doubt the directors of the board (Sil, Tobias Vaughn, Josiah W. Dogbolter and the disembodied head of Donald Trump) of Ganymede Systems are laughing all the way to the spacebank and eating their marsh minnows crisps.

The Doctor has a plan! A plan you say? Yes, a plan! He starts hacking into the computer system.

Nardole thinks that his plan is to produce more oxygen for five minutes before they expire. Well, they “could boil the hell out of an egg” in the five minutes they would gain via electrolysis (splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen). But no, his plan is to blow the hell out of Chasm Forge and rob Ganymede Systems of all their lovely oxygen riches.

The two survivors don’t think this is a great plan but is it any better than being turned into a corpse by the bodies of your friends and loved ones? They agree with the Doctor. Nardole puts his head between his legs and prepares to kiss his robotic butt goodbye.

Hold on! Isn’t Nardole a robot now? Or is he a cyborg? If he requires air, then he must be a cyborg unless he is just trying to fit in with everyone else? No matter.

This threat of profit loss is enough to make all the suits freeze where they are shambling. They have AI which is, roughly, as intelligent as a stunned kitten but even the suits realise that the explosion would shred Ganymede’s profits into tatters.

The only options of the zombinauts is to keep the living living. They hand them their own oxygen, hey it isn’t as if corpses need air, right?

Bill and the baby-wanting lady are there amongst the suited cadavers. Poor Bill. Poor Doctor. Poor bit part actors…

But things are looking up, Bill isn’t really dead! The Doctor revives her. “Ach, ’tis simples. Dinnae fash y’sel’, Nardole. Her suit dinnae ha’ enough zappiness tae kill her deid.” Being knocked out, she used less oxygen just in case you were wondering.

Back in the TARDIS, skipping the scene where the Doctor faffs about trying to retrieve it, Nardole seemingly repairs the Doctor’s eyes. No lizard eyes? Meh!

The survivors are dropped off to the Ganymede Systems’ Head Office with their placards – “Down with this sort of thing”, “Gany-greed More Like” – which they immediately put to good use by knocking the


sign down. Boo! Capitalism sucks!

In the Doctor’s office, he mentions to Bill that there was a successful rebellion six months later, which is good. But a month after that, there was a successful Dalek invasion lasting squillions of years, which was bad. But the Doctor got rid of the Daleks, which is good. But then the Vardans invaded, which was neither good or bad really because nobody noticed.

After Bill leaves to go the disco and shake her groove thang, as the cool kids say, Nardole threatens the Doctor with the naughty step if he leaves the Earth again.

Oh, and the Doctor is still blind! Dur-dur-DUR! Cue credits, cue teaser! That’s your lot! Now scat. scat!

Peter Capaldi plays a blinder here (ba-boom-tish). His acting chops are in plain sight here. And if I make any more eye-related puns, I think he’ll track me down and beat me up. Anyway…he is still at the top of his game. I would say that he makes acting choices that the other Doctors, not including Tom Baker, wouldn’t make. His Doctor is very much unique, a mixture of the First and the Fourth with an sprinkling of the Third’s sartorial flair. Love it. Can’t wait to see how the Doctor copes with blindness. Such a pity that his Doctor will soon be respawning.

Dear Whovian rookies. If you wish to annoy the Greybeards, refer to regeneration as respawning. Works every time.

Dear Greybeard Whovians. If you wish to annoy the Rookies, tell them when “all this used to be cardboard and the Daleks squeaked when they moved”. Works every time.

Pearl Mackie, what can I say about her? She continues to be great. I continue to be impressed. Nuff said.

Matt Lucas? A lot of people thought he was going to be another Adric but, yeah, I really do like him. Nardole is growing on me and once I connected him with Penfold in my mind, I really started to like him. So far he is bordering between being great and being Alzarian

Kieran Bew, Justin Salinger, Peter Caulfield, Mimi Ndiweni and Katie Brayben play the survivors until they are killed, then they play the corpses of the survivors or unsurvivors as I like to call them. Erm. Not that they all die. They all perform wonderfully but kudos go to Caulfield, Bew, Ndiweni and Brayben in order of how much I bought into their performance. Any actors who didn’t make the cut, you were good too but no kudos for you. Caulfield only made it to first place because who doesn’t like a blue meanie? Besides the Beatles that is…

So, the six million mazuma question. Should you watch Oxygen? Of course. It has slight flavours of the film Gravity with a bit of Alien and Das Boot thrown in for good measure but the story works. I loved it. You might love it too.

I can’t wait for next week’s episode. As the monks might say, “Veritas odit moras“.

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Knock Knock Unreview

Fans of Scooby Doo, rejoice! Doctor Who is in Hanna-Barbera country for this episode.

This is Knock Knock, fourth episode, and our heroes are on Earth for a traditional adventure.

Is it fair to say that Knock Knock was highly anticipated?

Indeed. So anticipated, in fact, that it was broadcast as Ghost Light in the late 1980s. Kidding! But there are a few similarities which I won’t bang on about. Maybe.

The real reasons for it being highly anticipated were David Suchet and Mike Bartlett. Yes, Hercule Poirot and that bloke wot wrote that Doctor Foster.

If Billy the Exterminator couldn’t deal with Cthulhu in the previous story, he might have more luck with the bugs that infest Bill’s student digs in this one. Yeah, right!

Spoiler: there are bugs in this episode. No, not the Gravis.

Spoiler: there is no elephant.

Spoiler: David Suchet rocks.

Bugs, elephants and David Suchet’s rockability aside, this story starts off with Bill and her friends buddying up together to find themselves a student house. Très Hollyoaks.

Her student friends are, in order of most likely to be killed violently by Nimon sausagehounds, Felicity, Pavel, Shireen, Harry and Paul.

For American muggles, this is a short cut-out-and-keep guide to how English students are like…

Pot Noodle.

Being students, they have no money due to their lager and Pot Noodle debts. So they trawl around all the student slums that are in their price bracket (six shillings and a shirt button) with ever-decreasing prospects of finding digs. It is a truth universally known that students in search of a place to live are also in search of somewhere that is cheap, roomy, not underwater or not owned by a landlord that likes to collect the hair stuck in the plughole. This is a common problem for students all the world over.

Luck is in their future though because a random elderly man offers them, total strangers to him, room in his large mansion. Because none of the students have ever watched a 1980s horror film, they gladly accept. Creepy coffin dodger who offers them a room in his rickety-rackety old house, what is remotely suspicious about that?

Oh, and the house, which isn’t haunted by the way, may seem familiar to y’all. I will tell you why after these next few paragraphs.

Bill is home inside her bedroom, boxes of stuff in the middle of it. The TARDIS appears like an asthmatic fax machine around the boxes. The Doctor opens the doors, the boxes are inside and somewhere nearby a man with a van weeps into his energy drink. The TARDIS takes a quick spatial hop to Bill’s new gaff.

The Doctor gets out, takes one look at the house and screams at Bill to “Dinnae blink! Blink and ye will be deid! This hoose is fulla Weepin’ Angel beasties!” before he realises that this isn’t Wester Drumlins.

This house, whose real name is Field’s House, has been seen before on the show. No Weeping Angels squatters but there is, what appears at first to be, a wooden Weeping Angel. Spoilers: it isn’t a wooden Weepy Angel.

The Doctor senses something strange. Not just the massively expensive house for six pennyless students but something alien… So he invites himself in, with a box of Bill’s belongings. Not impressed with the wood-lined everything of the place. So much wood. A small forest must have been gutted to make this place.

The Landlord, after the students coo and grin because of their opulent surroundings, gets them all to sign the contract. In blood! Or ink, whatever is easiest for them. They all choose ink.

The Doctor gets a little confrontational with the Landlord but he merely smiles gently, his eyes twinkling like black bowling bowls, and tells them that they cannot enter the tower (yes, the property has a tower) on pain of pain to quote The Princess Bride.

It is human nature that if you tell somebody not to do something or go somewhere, the first thing they will do is do that certain something or go to that certain somewhere. This is why the Doctor’s companions never do as he says.

The Doctor is more interested in the aural qualities of the house. Old houses creak but this house is creaking more than the plot to Dimensions in Time. Yeah, I said it.

You’ll know, if you’ve seen the episode, that I have not mentioned something important. Pavel’s tragedy near the beginning of the story. Don’t fret, I’ll mention it in a second. Distract yourself with images of teacup kitties raining down upon Venom Grubs.

Pavel is in his room, with his music equipment, and he is getting set to listen to something which, to my mind, has all the tuneful ability of the Deathtrees of Souta Four. Actually it is, deep breath, Back: Sonata #1 by Itzhak Perlman playing in G Minor for Solo Violin, I think. But each to their own tastes, yes? All you really need to know is that he screams as something unseen gobbles him up.

One minor flaw here. The house has no modern plugs, yes? So how does Pavel with his modern record player, complete with USB port, manage to turn it on, hmmmm?

Nighttime and the students get freaked out by the house creaking, Bill’s secret love of Little Mix, and the Doctor boring them all with stories of how Adric was caught using a calculator. Good times.

As the night goes on, the doors and windows are barred by shutters and obstinate doorframes. The students start getting nobbled by things unseen. Felicity manages to escape past the hungry shutters and out into the garden. She tries her phone but before she can call the police, something gets her. She screams. Exit stage left for Ms Felicity.

The Doctor discovers weird woodlouse thingies. He calls them Dryads but these are not the sexy tree nymphs we might be used to. Could they be the Big Bad? Maybe Billy the Exterminator could deal with this threat.

Odd coincidence but a newborn cockroach is known as a nymph. Could the Dryads be immature Venom Grubs? Is this the return of the Zarbi? By the Tin Vagabond, I hope so!

Downstairs the Doctor and Harry are by themselves and playing Twister. Harry losing five games to seven.

Upstairs Bill and Shireen. What, where is Paul? Well, after a clumsy attempt at chatting up a lesbian, he retreated into his room. He had been mocking their fright by making moany yelping noises. Of course, the ersatz calls become real but just like the little boy who cried “woodlouse”, he is ignored until it is too late. Exit stage right for Mr Paul.

Two down, three more to go. Pavel? Oh, no, Pavel is still alive. Sort of. Bill and Shireen break into Pavel’s room and they find our poor Russian (?) friend half-consumed by the wall. Not only that but he seems to have Edward Scissorhand’s hairstyle. Oh the humanity!

The Landlord does his Batman impression, turning up out of nowhere and taps the wall with a tuning fork. Nothing happens. He tries a tuning spoon and the wooden walls eat Pavel up in a single gulp. This does not go down well with Shareen and Bill who run screaming out of the room, up and down corridors, chased by the Landlord and his cockroaches of death. Just think of all those Scooby Doo chase scenes.

Is the Doctor the equilvalent of Scrappy Doo? Should I make a tedious joke involving Woody Woodpecker? Nah!

In the, thankfully, woodless basement, the Doctor and Harry finds boxes and boxes of belongings. Have other student rented out this place before them? If only there was some handy means of proof, oh, look! Some careless murderous person has left contracts on top of the boxes. How handy. Lets take a look, shall we? Yes, do lets!

The contracts are dated 1997, 1987, 1977 and I think you may be picking up a pattern here, yeah? The Landlord has been killing students every twenty years but for how long? Since he retired from being a detective in Belgium?

The Landlord appears…

LANDLORD: Yes, it was me all this time!
DOCTOR & HARRY: Yes, we know.
LANDLORD: Oh, erm, right. Sorry.

The Landlord reveals to him that…. Actually I will hold off telling you for a little while longer.

Bill and Shireen make it into the tower. After the Landlord told them not to. To all those people who joked that the students wouldn’t get their deposit back, in all seriousness, they wouldn’t get their money back anyway since they broke the contract. Entering the tower breaks their contract, tut-tut.

Our female students find a bedroom, quite sparse. Just a bed, a wooden room divider, copies of What WoodNymph cluttering the floor. They hear a voice and from behind the room divider comes a wooden woman. She can’t be the Big Bad surely? She seems so nice and polite.

The Doctor enters, followed by the Landlord, and the sorry tale of the Landlord and his woody woman is explained. Cue spooky harp sounds, wobbly picture, and a return to older-than-Super-8 footage…

The Landlord finds weird dark rocks near a tree. He takes them up to his daughter who seems to be quite ill. She, as all teenagers (?) do with things their parents find, feigns interest.

That night, as the woman sleeps, the rocks hatch. Dryads! (Are we really calling them that?) They enter her body like they are incorporeal. Could they be inter-dimensional? Anyway, the next morning, Daddy Landlord enters his girl’s bedroom to find her arms all woodified.

“Ah-ha!” our heroes go. Not Shireen though. She stood on a Dryad earlier and was gobbled up. Exit through the stage trapdoor, Ms Shireen.

But no. Something is not quite right. Duh, you might say, but something more subtle than that. The Doctor doesn’t buy this story of a father and his illness-stricken daughter.

The Doctor realises that if the wood woman was the Landlord’s daughter, then her bedroom would have posters of the Beatles given that she would have been just the right age (nearly). There are no posters. She can’t be his daughter. She must, therefore, be his mother (must she?)!

What? She is his mother?!? Proof is given via the contract that the Doctor and Harry (yeah, he was gobbled up by beetles earlier) found. Under the name of the property owner is the Landlord’s real name: Oedipus Rex! No, not quite. If it had have been, this story would have been dark in a different type of way.

In case you were wondering, the Doctor scanned the Landlord with his sonic screwdriver. He knows that the Landlord is seventy. And human. But most importantly that, given the decades involved, he couldn’t possibly be her father.

Wood Mummy doesn’t remember who she was but the memories flood back. They are essentially the same as the story that the Landlord told them but the roles are reversed.

The Dryads have been using the student to somehow keep Wood Mama alive. But how? Why does she require student sacrifices every twenty years? Dry rot?

Wood Mama is innocent of these sacrifices though. She had no idea of the price involved in keeping her alive. Her blurry memory suggests that less of the Landlord’s mother exists than he would care to admit.

The Landlord, blinded by ill-placed devotion to his mother, commands the Dryads to attack. He is deluded enough to think that his mother would go along with this but no. His mother may look like a monster but she isn’t.

Wood Mama takes her son into her arms for the first time in decades. He cries as the Dryads, under her control and not his, consume them both.

She is a good person though. She brings Shireen back, the Dryads comically vomiting her up with her last act as she removes herself and her bad little boy from existence.

Bill’s mates are also restored presumably because they were still, how shall I put this, undigested. The other victims must be completely eatenm because they do not come back.

The Doctor and Bill and the uneaten students leg it out of the building before it collapses on itself. And everyone lived happily ever after.

Last scene now. Nardole is in the Vault, talking to himself but also to something inside it. The Doctor arrives with takeaway and offers to take over guarding the Vault. Nardole is only too happy to go. He has The Real Housewives of Middle-Earth on Netflix waiting for him.

Piano music can be heard inside the Vault. Whatever it is, it has hands. It also communicates via music. Weird. The Doctor enters for a meal with the whatever-it-is. The end!

Peter Capaldi isn’t the focus of this story. His character is more in the background than normal. A sensible move since this episode has so many main cast members until they are bumped off.

Pearl Mackie’s role is stronger than Capaldi’s. She is doing the usual Doctorish things that he can’t do (because he isn’t with her). Lovely early scenes when she calls him her grandfather in front of the other students. “I dinnae look old enough, lass,” he says. Um. Passing on…

Can I just say how good it is to see David Suchet walking normally? Not that he does much walking. He just appears and vanishes like a Batman wannabe. As Poirot he always walked like he had a coin wedged between the cheeks of his buttocks.

Buttocks aside, David Suchet plays the Landlord really well, of course he would. Makes him more human than the script initially suggests. Spooky, creepy but still human. Loved it everytime he was on screen.

The actors playing the students? Meh. No, they are good but their characters are barely sketched in. None does a bad job but despite their main roles they are not really the focus of this story per se.

A lot of fans, greybeards and rookies, got excited about one detail that they discovered days before the episode aired: young Harry, grandson of Harry Sullivan or he would have been if that scene hadn’t been cut from the ep. Not the gay grandfather that is mentioned by the way. So is it still canon? Yes and no. No and yes. Canon is whatever you, the fan, chooses to be true until the show explicitly says otherwise…except in the case of the Doctor being half-human, for some fans this is a major I’m-not-listening-fingers-in-ears-la-la-la-la-la bugbear. Us fans be crazy. I am choosing to believe Harry is related to Harry since I really do adore Ian Marter.

The other reason for Harry Sullivan’s possible grandson not being included was the thought that rookie fans might not remember a companion from forty years ago. This is the same reason why Sarah-Jane Smith and K9 didn’t appeared in School Reunion… *Make up your own sarcastic retort here*

The Knock Knock joke was invented, according to Wikipedia, in 1929. Around the time the Landlord’s mother was a child. Not that this nugget of information matters but I thought it was interesting.

Oh, you may be wondering about the title of this story. There is a lot of knocking in this episode. Spoilers!

Should you watch this story? Of course. I loved this story. It is perhaps not going to be a classic story but it is certainly strong enough to ruffles the feathers of stories like The Silurians or Logopolis. What are you waiting for? Go watch it right now!





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Thin Ice Unreview

Three episodes into series 10 and our intrepid troika of the Doctor, Pete and Bill come up against an elephant on a frozen river. Spoilers: the elephant is not the Big Bad. It is Cthulhu.

This is Thin Ice. Written by Sarah Dollard. Are you sitting comfortably? On with the motley. Remember, events may be shuffled around for no reason whatsoever.

Our heroic threesome have survived sentient puddles (remember how Pete accidentally drank his Heather smoothie and got the fright of his life when he went to the toilet?) and Emojibots (how I laughed when Pete picked up a colonist’s skull and worked it like a puppet) and now they face…an elephant? What the heck!?!

The TARDIS has landed, with its usual flatulent hippopotamus sound, in Regency London. And not, as Bill suggests, a parallel universe. Ms Potts has been watching too much sci-fi me thinks. Why else would she think that elephant plus frozen river (Alex Kingston in fine tooth-chattering pachyderm-carrying form here) equals alternate world? Her timey-wimey saturated brain has steered her wrong. Much like the Doctor’s steering of the TARDIS.

The Doctor’s steering is weird since he never seems to go to the wrong place. Leastways since Russell Tenacious Davies brought the show back. In the classic series, the Doctor couldn’t navigate his way around a rice pudding.

The year is 1814. The date February 4th. The year of the last frost fair on the river Thames. And it brass monkeys outside! So the Doctor, Bill and Pete pop back in to get themselves some period clobber (for Americans and other semi-demonic folks ‘clobber’ is slang for ‘clothes’) and pop back out again, unaware that the TARDIS has detected the first transmission of Eastenders and that famous scene where Artful Dirty Den the Dodger kicks down the door to find a corpse and…of course not, the TARDIS finds something much more plausible than that. It has detected a giant snake, no, not the Mara, under the ice of the Thames. A snake, so not Cthulhu either, that measures a kilometre in length. I’d like to see Billy the Exterminator deal with this not-so-little-mermaid.

1814? Frost Fair? The same one which the Eleventh Doctor brought River Song and Stevie Wonder to? Yes, that one. It would explain why the Doctor came back here. Maybe he was remembering and the TARDIS thought to take him there? But hold on a second! This visit must be before the previous visit because the TARDIS would have detected the snake the first time, yes? Also, the Doctor and River would have noticed the lights, spoilers, under the ice. Therefore, this must be before the romantic date. Unless the TARDIS did detect snakey and made a note to revisit when the Doctor was feeling less lovey-dovey.

Bill is amazed to see black people happily walking through Regency London. Most of her historical knowledge coming from movies, TV and half-remember ramblings from short old dudes at school. But history is more ethnic than you might think. A famous example being Olaudah Equiano (there is/was a portrait of him in Exeter, Devon but your safe bet might be to google him). It is rumoured that Catherine of Aragon was black what with all that Moorish blood in the Spanish royal families. So this really shouldn’t be a surprise at all. The future might be orange but the past was black. Sometimes.

The Doctor calls this the whitewashing of history. He cites Jesus Christ as a good example of this. Just think of every church you have been to and you’ll note that every single depiction of Jesus shows him as being a skinny white guy with the ravishing good looks of Norville ‘Shaggy’ Rogers. Now think about Jesus himself. If he existed, our Galilean Hebrew Israelite would be sat at the back of the bus with Rosa Parks in 1950s America. Modern so-called Christians (the bad ones not the good ‘uns) would call out to our Biblical homeboy and tell him to “go back home, terrorist” or, if too polite, would simply walk across to the other side of the road to avoid the bearded ‘threat’. Sad but true.

The Doctor and Bill (but not Pete because Bill stepped on a butterfly and wiped Pete, sabre-toothed gerbils and chutney-making bees out of existence; time travel is harsh) take a flyer from a pauper girl. The Frost Fair in big letters, six pence to enter, six guineas to leave (how they make their money). Seems nice and safe as long as they avoid stepping in elephant poo.

Our TARDIS twosome wander around the fair, visiting the booths and tents and gap-toothed beggars, partaking of fish pie (well, mostly fish, half maybe, look, it has been in the river, good enough for you?), thieving of fish pie, discovering lights under the ice, looking at the dog-faced boy, getting bitten by the boy-faced dog, getting the sonic screwdriver half-inched (dear Americans, this means ‘stolen’) and running after sonic screwdriver thief. Fun for all the family.

The sonic has been thieved by Spider (son of Arachnea and Stag Beetle no doubt). Him and the leader of their pickpocket posse, Kitty, run rings around the Doctor and Bill, leading them away from the fair and onto thin ice. The underice lights have also followed and now they spin beneath Spider’s feet. Just like Incey-Wincey Spider, Spider is flushed down the pipe into the cholera breeding ground that is the Thames.

The Doctor, unable to rescue poor Spider (come on, he must have really been called Erasmus or something similar), snaffles his sonic screwdriver back. Doesn’t show any remorse for the urchin’s demise at all, instead cradling his sonic like a kitten. “Och, ma wee baby. Dinnae let the big bad lights scare ye.” Bill does not like this side of the Doctor.

Kitty has skedaddled. But the Doctor and Bill manage to find her and her plucky group of beggars. The orphans distrust them at first but after a rousing rendition of Hard Knock Life and Food, Glorious Food, they soon take our heroes into their hearts. Ahem, trust them a little teeny bit that is.

Yes, similar scene to the one in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and every version of Oliver Twist that has or ever will be made but, and this is a big but, if you are gonna complain about originality then don’t bother. Every story is based upon another story. Blah blah blah.

Kitty gives them the skinny on how she is paid to bring people down to the frost fair and how some people go missing. Please note how I am down with the kids, just like the Doctor. Yeah! Bo selecta! Groovey! Splendid!

After a quick visit to Argos, the Doctor and Bill have themselves some, what people might call steampunkesque but in reality just normal, diving suits. The Doctor has a plan. Let the whatever-it-is eat them up and then make another plan later. The quality of that plan makes me suspect that his diving suits are made by Acme.

The Doctor and Bill go out onto the ice, lumbering around like Frankenstein’s monster after too many pints of beer, and…

By the by, a quick note. If you want to annoy literary types, just refer to Frankenstein’s monster as ‘Frankenstein’ and then don’t allow them to correct you.

…before long, the lights appear under the ice. The Doctor and Bill are taken. Down into the depths of the Thames. Doom!

Or not doom at all. The lights turn out to be alien angler fish. Or are they alien? Could they be animals from the time of the Silurians (or Earth Reptiles)? Maybe. I say yes because I quite like the idea of lumping Thin Ice in with the other Homo Reptilia stories. I am nerd!

Then, oh boy, they see the underice beastie. Cthulhu! No, not Cthulhu but for the lack of a better name, yes, Cthulhu. The monster has an eye the size of a really big frickin’ eye. This is the second time in three episodes where an eye has been a dramatic point. Is there an eye theme for this series? Also the second time in three episodes that we have had a water-related monster. Hmmmmm…

Cthulhu is chained up so it cannot leave the Thames. And given that it burps out Spider’s red hat, well, it has obviously been snacking on paupers. This is why so many people are disappearing. Once you eat one peasant, you feel like eating another. The poor are so moreish. Cthulhu loves human nom-noms.

There is a five-minute montage in black-and-white of Spider. His hat being the only colour. Poignant music plays.

Back to the action! The Doctor and Bill crawl back out of the Thames, up through the ice, to the amazement of the fish pie seller who is catching fish for his pies. The Silurian fish. Health and Safety would have a field day with this guy.

It is not long before they, the Doctor and Bill, find out that Lord Sutcliffe is the one paying Kitty and her cheerful chirpy Cockneys to get people onto the ice. So our heroes go stomping off to Lord Sutcliffe’s place.

The psychic paper is whipped out when a foreman asks them who they are, why they are here, and whether he can get a date with Bill. The psychic paper reveals that they work for the Palace and that Bill is just not interested thank you very much.

The Doctor pulls off Blackadderlike verbal trickery and gets the foreman to reveal that Sutcliffe is taking Cthulhu’s dung and selling it. Probably not to gardeners for their compost heaps.

The Doctor and Bill have it away on their toes to confront Lord Sutcliffe but he isn’t there. So they mooch around for a few minutes before he turns up. Sutcliffe is not pleased to see the Doctor but even less so to see Bill who has committed the twin sins of being female and black.

There is a book I read last year, essays about race in Doctor Who. They complained about how the show never questions it in any detail such as when Martha in Shakespeare’s time and the Paul Cornell’s episodes based upon Human Nature. This is a valid point.

Now. What do you think some people said about the racist Sutcliffe and the Doctor punching him,. Yeah, spoilers, racist punched. Below are a few comments…

“…social engineering reverse-racist idiocy…”

“I hear Doctor Who is making racist white men angry so I guess I’ll have to catch up on the recent two episodes”

If you can’t shoot rabbits, maybe punching racists instead is the thing? Some people complained a lot about this. The same people, mind you, that have no problem with xenophobic aliens being dispatched by the Doctor. Curious and curiouser. I liked the scene but it really should have been Bill that punched the Doctor though.

The sociopathic Sutcliffe picks himself up from the floor. His goons rush in and take the Doctor and Bill prisoner. Because Sutcliffe is quite verbose, he explains what he is doing, why he is doing what he is doing, and what he will do to our heroes.

Sutcliffe’s ancestors, centuries ago, found Cthulhu and captured him. They used it as a factory, kinda, farming it for serpent plops by feeding it random yokels. These plops are then used, not for compost, but as a better fuel than coal. Just how the Sutcliffes found out that the droppings would make excellent fuel I don’t care to consider. Ugh! Also, how did they capture Cthulhu in the first place? Perhaps it was a lot smaller when they found it?

Incidentally, nearly every review of this story has called Cthulhu a sea serpent/monster. While, yeah, serpent maybe. Monster certainly. Sea? No. The beast is literally in a river. It is a lochless monster not a sea serpent. If anything, it is a river monster.

Of course Sutcliffe won’t, despite the Doctor’s protests, stop farming Cthulhu. Instead he will have our heroes tied up and eaten. Not only that but he will stick them in a tent full of explosives. The cad! These explosives will crack the ice and all the food-on-two-legs will fall through into the Thames and Cthulhu’s gullet.

Need I say that the Doctor and Bill escape? Yep, they escape. As if they would end up as fish food.

Bill teams up with Kitty and her gang to get people off the ice. The Doctor does something clever and attached all the explosives to the chains holding Cthulhu in place.

Sutcliffe is outraged. How dare these oiks get off the ice! Don’t they know that Cthulhu needs feeding? The bounders! The sociopath presses the plunger down and explodes the explosives. These dashed paupers won’t escape the hungry teeth. But they do and Sutcliffe is swallowed up by the freezing cold disease-ridden water. Does he die though? Who knows?

The Doctor and Bill have saved the day! Did you think they wouldn’t? Cthulhu escapes to the sea, maybe it is a sea serpent after all, and that is that. Only a brief scene of the Doctor rewriting the deed to Sutcliffe;s mansion and now it is owned by the lost heir to the Sutcliffe millions, random urchin number four.

Our heroes return to the Doctor’s office in time for the tea, with added coffee, that Nardole promised at the start of the previous episode. Gah, he is peeved! The Doctor is not meant to leave the planet. Why? Because of the Vault?

Bill checks online that the pickpockets lived a good long life, so that is alright then. But why is there no mention of Cthulhu? Remember when the Doctor told Clara that her race’s superpower is forgetting. Or as the Doctor says to Ace in Remembrance of the Daleks the human race “has the most amazing capacity for self-deception”. If nobody remembers the Daleks stealing the Earth, the CyberKing, the Zygon Gambit or the Vervoid invasion of Woking, why would they remember a random snake?

Nearly the end now, Nardole is alone and checking that the Vault is safe. It is. But there is a dreadful knocking from within. Ooh, now all Whovians will have their theory as to what is inside the Vault. Can’t wait to find out.

Peter Capaldi continues to be wonderful. Good speeches and that punch, wow! I bet a lot of people punched the air because of that scene. Loved him. Will miss him when he is gone.

Pearl Mackie just gets better and better. Maybe it is because she is written by a woman but she was really good in Thin Ice. When she questions the Doctor on if he as killed and how many people he has killed…powerful stuff. She is asking the questions that the previous companions should have asked. Will miss her too… Sigh!

Matt Lucas is good in this story. But he only appears in two small scenes so I will forget him for the time being.

Nicholas Burns as Sutcliffe? Yeah, he was alright. Just the right mix of pompous, entitled evil. Liked it. Not often that we get a human baddie in the show. It is to be relished.

Good performances from Asiatu Koroma and Austin Taylor as Kitty and Spider. Child actors often get roasted by critics but I reckon they did a good job here. Kudos.

Brief note: Perry, random urchin number four, is played by a kid called Badger Skelton. Badger? Badger?!? Maybe the fictional Spider has not so strange a name after all… Badger does a stellar job too by the way. Kudos, young Badger, kudos.

Is Thin Ice any good? Of course it is. Loved it. Should you watch it? Of course squared.

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Smile Unreview

The Robots of Death meets The Happiness Patrol with a side order of The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. This is Smile in a nutshell.

Simple title, Smile. I like it. It brings to mind the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa which, again, is apt because the title is enigmatic…at first.

Frank Cottrell-Boyce wrote this. Big improvement on his previous story. Not that his last story was bad but it wasn’t a classic. This is. Maybe.

Before I start grappling with the story, I must say that I love the names given to the few characters we see. Goodthing, Steadfast and Praiseworthy. I take them to be first names. The naming reflects the Puritan’s way of naming their children after virtues. Also, the Puritans colonised America, ooh, references within references. If nothing else, I love Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s little games in this. So much fun to discover and feel smug upon when found.

Alien planet. Seemingly idyllic and utopian with slightly Spanish architecture. People in fields with emoji-faced droids. A sure winner for most beautiful planet featured in Doctor Who. But there is something rotten in the state of Gliese 581d. When the Emojibots go from 😃 to 💀, then trouble is afoot. The emojidroids are turning unhappy people into bones by way of a huggle. Nice.

The story, for our heroes, starts off in the TARDIS. The Doctor is telling Bill all about the controls of the console. “Jings, this wee button sends us forward in time, this one back, this one dinnae work, and the last one drops my troosers.” Bill is not too impressed, her main concern being why the chairs are so far away from the console. Is that a fair point? In space, nobody can hear you complain about standing.

Nardole knocks on the doors of the police box and gives them a suspicious look. He mentions a promise the Doctor made not to leave the planet. The Doctor, in turn, looks like a child who has been told off by his mother. “Ach, Nardole, ye fuss like a fishwife. Awae wi’ ye, you bald space-sassenach!”

What is this promise? Is it something to do with the vault? Or is the Doctor simply on the naughty step?

Nardole bumbles off (he does this a lot, bumbling) to make some tea. The Doctor sees this as an opportunity to sneak off into the time vortex. Bill queries this but the Doctor brags that he can be back before Nardole gets the tea bags out. How much do you want to bet that the Doctor won’t be back on time? A sure bet, your mazumas are safe.

Bill wants to travel to the future. The previous story reflected Rose, this one reflects The End of the World settingwise. The next one reflects The Unquiet Dead by being set in the past. Oops, spoilers!

The TARDIS lands in a field full of what is meant to be wheat but is actually barley. This is the planet Gliese 581d. Which really exists, I think. The star system of Gliese 581 exists but this planet has not officially being confirmed as yet (according to my book of astronomy) but it is likely to exist.

The colony is made up of amazingly gorgeous buildings. No CGI here (not much). The colony exists in reality as the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain. I predict a tourist boom for Valencia.

The colony is empty. Not a soul but for the Emojibots and the swarming nanobots refered to as the Vardy. Not even a mouse.

The Vardy are named after scientist Andrew Vardy. A clever bloke who researches into swarm robotics. Oh! And according to secret public sources he once worked with Boyce on a short story.

Emojibots are the interface for the Vardy. They communicate via their 😃-faces and badges which they hand over to the Doctor and Bill. Beware Emojibots that bear gifts…

So many naysayers complained about the Emojibots before the episode aired. Not so many afterwards. Can’t wait to see what they say when they watch the LOLcat-speaking Mondasian Cybermen later in the series. “Can weez convertz cheezeburgerz?”

The badges are strange. They have a face on one side, an emojiface, and blankly yellow on the other. No matter which way they turn the badges, the face always face outwards. For Americans and other muggles, a badge is what you would call a ‘button’.

Another strange thing happens when our heroes try to stick the badges onto their chests. The little faces zip over their shoulders, down a trouser leg, up the other trouser leg and makes a home upon their backs.

The Doctors susses it out that the badges somehow tap into the user’s mind and broadcasts their emotions onto the badge. If this was a way of allowing people to communicate with the Vardy, why the back? Do the Emojibots have to look behind someone to see what they are feeling? Would it not make more sense to have the badge on the chest?

The Doctor is presumptuous and theorizes that they have arrived before the colonists have. Plausible plausible. He is puzzled however by the lack of pre-colony staff who should have been preparing the colony for the arrival of the intergalactic space immigrants. At least there ought to be a member of UKIP standing on a soapbox in the barley field and ranting about how these ‘ruddy migrants coming here and ruining our barren world by planting crops, building sexy cities and creating jobs’, but no. Not a sausage. No space sausages either.

Our heroes find a space-age polytunnel full of flowers and vegetables and Emojibots and fertilizer bins full of human skulls. Ah. Not good. Trouble in paradise.

The Emojibots see the distress on Bill’s face and her badge, plus the Doctor’s puzzled look, and their smiley faces gain a tear but no 💀-eyes. The Doctor’s spidey-sense tingles, he realises that the Vardy are killing people who are not happy. And what do unhappy people make? Unhappy people make excellent fertilizer.

By the by, the Doctor discovers a locket during all this excitement. He opens it up later in the story and sees a hologram of a woman with bakery on her head, calling for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Nah! Inside is the hologrammatic face of the woman we saw killed earlier. Remember that if you wish. It may be important later. The woman’s face that is, not the duff Princess Leia gag.

The Doctor tells Bill to smile. Smiling will affect her body chemistry and it will show up on her badge as a big ol’ dreck-eating grin. Our heroes exit stage left singing Pharrell Williams’ Happy. The Vardy are either fooled or appreciates the blend of Scottish and Thames Estuary accents. Whatever, the tuneless twosome vanishes before the Emojibot happiness patrol can turn them into bones.

There is a scene where the Doctor and Bill escape to the TARDIS, the Vardy won’t or can’t follow them out here, not sure why. He stuffs Bill in the TARDIS and goes back to blow up the city but not before commanding her to stay there and not to look at his browser history. Bill doesn’t obey the former but does obey the latter; we are thankfully spared from seeing Drahvin Vixens, Foamasi Cougars and Skaro Jelly Bikini Blobs.

The Doctor wanders around until Bill turns up like a bad penny with a rocking afro. They both search until the smooth white walls of the city gives way to the metal rusty walls of the ship that brought the pre-colony staff to Gliese NumbersLetter. They find it, yay, and a handy door into the spaceship.

The ship is called the Erehwon. Which is either ‘now here’ or ‘nowhere’ spelt backwards. A name which some less well-read Whovians mocked. Pish-Posh, young ones. The name refers to the book Erewhon by Samuel Butler. It is a book about an utopia which turns out to, well, not quite as utopian as people might wish it to be. Like the book, spoiler warning, this story does not become a dystopia.

The Doctor’s plan, if plan is an adequate word for what he plans on doing, is to find the reactor of the spaceship, blow it up, and then be back home for tea and Marmite sandwiches with Nardole. Yeah, like that is gonna happen!

The Doctor’s makes Bill stay near a map while she tells him where to find the reactors via an earpiece device that I unaccountably forgot to mention, and am too lazy to insert into an earlier paragraph, when she could just take a picture on her phone and accompany him. Just as well really because a little boy appears out of thin air. This is little Praiseworthy and, bless his cotton socks, he wants to know where his mummy is.

Where has the boy come from? Are the colonists here? What will happen if the Doctor blows up the ship and accidentally kills the colonists? Tune in next paragraph for the next exciting part of this unreview!

Bill has to find the Doctor before he blows up the reactor. Too late, it is about to blow! The Doctor sees the boy and with a cry of “Jings!” he reverses what he has done. Phew! Safe again.

Praiseworthy leads the Doctor and Bill to an enormous room full of hibernation chambers. No sign of any Wirrn though. The Erehwon is the colony ship and the colonists are therefore here on the planet already. The planet of the robots of death!

The Doctor reviews the ship’s logs and…

(Please note that Bill found the preserved corpse of a woman near the aforementioned log earlier. I don’t mention every single detail because, well, it’d be gauche of me to ruin every surprise, eh?)

…discovers that the Vardy, the swarm of doom, were programmed by the humans to make them, the humans, happy. But because the Vardy were not programmed with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, things went awry.

This is how it happened: Humans, Vardy and Emojibots living in harmony, utopia, happy happy joy joy. But the snake entered Eden (gah, I dislike Biblical allusions but it seems apt, sorry) in the form of a death, natural causes mind you, and the grief that it caused amongst the pre-colony staff. The Vardy saw that the crew were sad, it saw this as a disease for some reason, and killed all those that were sad. This is what the boffins call an exponential cycle. Hmm, yeah, science. This cycle wiped all the humans out.

If the colonists wake up from their dreams of electric sheep… Yeah, exactly. Hello, goodbye humans.

Or rather goodbye, hello since the humans are waking up. And Ralf Little is one of the humans!

Ralf Little’s character, Steadfast, wants to destroy the Vardy and their Emojibot helpers. Which is understandable. So they all go to the armoury. I say ‘all’ but what it amounts to is less than fifteen. Maybe they are the colonists that are best suited to helping the others out of their hibernation hammocks?

The Doctor does not like this. The Vardy, he argues, are sentient beings. They have rights. Steadfast the human pooh-poohs this. Bill gets caught by a couple of Emojibots. One is shot, blam! The Doctor reacts. He whips out the sonic screwdriver and resets the story…ahem…resets the Vardy to their original state where they didn’t see grief as a disease to be wiped out. Deus ex machina. maybe, but that is fine if it only happens once a series.

So, yeah. Reset. The Doctor offers to negotiate between the Vardy and the vexed humans but, boy, does Steadfast Little look peed-off!

Anyhow, the Doctor and Bill go back to the TARDIS and head home to the university and tea and Marmite sandwiches. Only the university isn’t there.

The TARDIS does not arrive back at the university, oh no, it arrives instead upon a frozen river as an elephant gives them an old-fashioned look and asks, “Where the frell have you been, Doctor? I’m freezing my bloody trunk off here!”

End of story! With a cliffhanger! Of sorts.

Like the first story, The Pilot, the Doctor and Bill are the characters most focused upon. So no need to mention the other actors in any detail later although Kaizer Akhtar impressed me as Praiseworthy (great name).

Mina Anwar plays Goodthing. She doesn’t seem to have aged since she was in 1990s sitcom The Thin Blue Line. Which, for her, is a good thing. Sorry, couldn’t resist… Both her and Ralf Little are, quite frankly, wasted. I was looking forward to seeing Mina and she only appears for a brief period. Nuts! At least they were good in their brief roles.

Peter Capaldi is excellent. Quiet fury at Steadfast, amusement at the Emojibots. Loved him. Great performance. Super super fine! So many different shades of emotions. The Doctor, at one point, quotes David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes. An apt quote given that happiness is something you must be, but also because the colonists are being turned into ashes to fertilise the plants. Love the references, did I mention that? I do.

Pearl Mackie continues to impress. Great scenes. Loved how she questions the Doctor’s passing reference to his two hearts. Very plausible, wouldn’t we all react a little like this? She is the most normal companion that we have had since, ooh, Donna Noble. I loved Donna as well. Bill Potts is great. So far.

My opinion of the story can be described in three words:


I loved it but then again I love most episodes. So take that however you wish. Should you watch this story? Does the Pope crap in the woods? Are bears Catholic? Hell yeah, you should!

So that is your lot until next week.

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