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'”
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”
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.”
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.
“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 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!