‘THE PYRAMID AT THE END OF THE WORLD’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
‘The Monks Trilogy’ Continues
The end for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is nigh!
So now we come to the second half of Peter Capaldi’s final season as the Doctor as well as the final season of the Steven Moffat era. At the time of watching these episodes of ‘Doctor Who’ during Series 10, I did not know what to expect. I knew what the stories were about, but not their outcome.
I had hoped that the final season of Steven Moffat’s era of ‘Doctor Who’ would be a strong one, considering that he had about a year in 2016 to prepare his final run of stories as showrunner. But despite having that amount of time, I can’t help feel those efforts put into the season were wasted.
Whilst it seemed to feel good in the first half of the season, especially with Bill Potts’ introduction to ‘Doctor Who’ as the new companion as well as Series 10 seeming to go back to basics, I did feel things were getting muddled by the second half. This is especially in regards to ‘The Monks Trilogy’.
In many ways, ‘The Monks Trilogy’ is what made Series 10 feel like a pretty average and less memorable season of ‘Doctor Who’ compared to other seasons beforehand. There were gems in the second half like the Ice Warriors and the Mondasian Cybermen coming back into ‘Doctor Who’ itself.
Even the return of a certain Master alongside a certain Missy had potential to make the end of Series 10 worthwhile. Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie were what made me want to watch the rest of Series 10. But at the same time, I felt Series 10 wasn’t exciting enough for me as a ‘Doctor Who’ fan overall.
I did wonder if I was losing it and wasn’t geared into the show I loved so much anymore. But looking back, I can see it was the approach of tone and atmosphere that Steven Moffat was going for that made it less exciting for me with bland characterisation; complicated storytelling and too fast pacing.
First of all, we start off the second half of Series 10 with…‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’.
This is of course the second episode of ‘The Monks Trilogy’ following ‘Extremis’. The episode is by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat. Peter Harness has contributed to the ‘Doctor Who’ series before.
How did I find ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ as an episode? (Pause; sighs) Oh dear! Oh dear! The episode didn’t work for me. Even after a second watch via DVD, I found this a bit of a struggle.
This isn’t really a good thing. Granted, I’ve been able to gain more clarity on what’s been going on in the story. But I felt this episode was really flat and uninspired since I came away feeling very unhappy.
‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ is supposed to be another Earth invasion type of story. Initially, I felt the characters were talking at a fast pace which was quite common for these episodes.
After watching the episode and doing my initial review on my blog, I did feel I may have been harsh in my initial thoughts on it. This is especially when others seemed to be praising ‘The Monks Trilogy’.
I hoped perhaps over time, when I came back to reviewing Series 10 and reviewing this episode in particular, I might change my thoughts on it. But I still feel unsatisfied how this episode was presented.
This is despite me re-watching ‘The Monks Trilogy’ in a row from watching ‘Extremis’ one day and then seeing this episode the next day. I still spotted the plot-holes to get my head around with this.
Perhaps it’s due to the fast-paced, ‘muddled’ manner that these ‘Doctor Who’ stories were told to us and edited together that makes it so frustrating. Steven Moffat should’ve penned the entire trilogy.
Anyway, in the episode, Peter Capaldi as the Doctor; Pearl Mackie as Bill and Matt Lucas as Nardole investigate a mysterious pyramid that appears overnight in Turmezistan, Asia. It seems very ancient.
Sadly there are no Egyptian mummies to come out of that pyramid, which would’ve been exciting. Instead, this ancient pyramid happens to be the base of operations for the corpse-like, alien Monks.
Yeah! The pyramid happens to be the Monks’ spaceship when they came down to Earth. So clearly the pyramid is a disguise. Not sure why the Monks went for that disguise, but it’s not very important.
The Doctor gets summoned to be President of Earth again when joining with the armed forces from America, China and Russia. This is apparently the third time the Doctor has taken the President role.
I know there’s a sense of recreating the earthbound stories from the 1970s here, but it makes me wonder. Why weren’t U.N.I.T. featured in this story? It would make sense to have them appear here.
Yeah, I know Togo Igawa as the Secretary General of the U.N. is a representative with authority to summon the Doctor for help. But I wonder why Kate Stewart and her U.N.I.T. gang weren’t called in.
Anyway, the Doctor and the gang go inside the pyramid to meet the Monks who warn them of an impending disaster that’s going to happen. A disaster that will cause the extinction of all human life!
The Monks offer the humans to let them take over the Earth to protect them if they consent to it. And do you want to know why these Monks chose the corpse-like form to appear before humanity?
They chose it so that they could look like them! The Monks chose to look like walking corpses so that they can look like humans. At least, look like the humans that will end up as corpses in the near future.
You know, I don’t think it’s a wise decision to look like corpses if you’re going to tell people you want to rescue them. I mean, I know the Monks are evil but they could’ve disguised better than that here.
It doesn’t help when the Monks say they want to be loved by humanity and not be feared by them. Um…NO!!! I would not trust the Monks if they appeared dead! Nor would I want them to rule Earth!
Why couldn’t the Monks appear pleasant-looking on the eye towards the humans like the Axons in ‘The Claws of Axos’? Why couldn’t the Monks disguise their hideousness with pleasant human faces?
Are the Monks really low on power to achieve total human form to persuade humanity to love them? (stops; thinks) Actually that would be some kind of explanation for it. But nope! Instead it’s…
ROWAN ATKINSON’S DOCTOR: “I’ll explain later!”
As far as I’ve been able to gather, the Monks have this ability to control time and set a doomsday clock for ‘the end of the world’. How they’re able to do this is beyond me. Repeat Rowan Atkinson!!!
But it seems to me that by having the humans give their consent, the Monks will take over Earth and soon have the world for themselves. Why exactly the Monks want the Earth isn’t really explained either.
In the episode, the Doctor constantly warns the human race about not giving their consent to the Monks. And considering the Doctor’s the President of the Earth, I’d expect the humans to agree to it.
But nope! The human representatives of the military, including Eben Young as Colonel Don Brabbit; Andrew Bryon as Ilya and Daphne Cheung as Xiaolian seem pretty determined to give their consent.
(sighs) You know, what was the point of making the Doctor the President of Earth during times of crisis if humanity isn’t going to listen to him? It has occurred to me the military might be a bit stupid.
In any event, it doesn’t matter. The Monks are able to see through the humans’ fear and strategy as they execute the military representatives and the U.N. Secretary General by turning them into dust.
This I admit was disturbing to see, even on a second watch. I couldn’t believe how the Monks could be vicious in killing people. This makes me want to trust them less and not have them rule the world.
There is this subplot going on in the episode whilst the main plot with the pyramid takes place. This is a sub-plot featuring two scientists. They are Rachel Denning as Erica and Tony Gardner as Douglas.
Erica is a scientist of diminutive stature whilst Douglas is a scientist who had a hangover the previous night. Douglas becomes irresponsible when he puts his hand in something and he leaves doors open.
The two scientists work at the Agrofuel Research Operations lab in Yorkshire. I felt the science lab subplot was…rather detached for me. On first viewing on TV, I could not see much point to it really.
It was only until the Doctor made a connection in the second half of the episode before it finished, when looking for the cause of the end of the world. I wish more clarity was provided on the subplot.
One thing that I liked about this episode was Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, who is still blind following ‘Oxygen’ and ‘Extremis’. I did wonder how long this specific plot thread was to go on for in Series 10.
Peter Capaldi’s Doctor could easily be blind for the rest of the series and never get his eyesight back. Thankfully it doesn’t last long as Peter Capaldi’s Doctor does have his eyesight back at the tale’s end.
But this comes at a cost. It happens when Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is eventually trapped behind a door inside the science lab. He can’t open the door using the combination key locks since he’s blind here.
Oh incidentally, Matt Lucas as Nardole suffocates in the TARDIS when he inhaled some poisonous gas from the lab. He’s knocked out unconscious and is unable to help the Doctor when he’s called for.
The Doctor talks to Bill via his earphones to reveal the problem before admitting that he lied to her and that he’s still blind since ‘Oxygen’. Bill is annoyed with the Doctor since he didn’t tell her before.
It’s then that Bill makes the decision to ask the Monks for help as she gives her consent for the Doctor to have his eyesight back again. The Doctor begs Bill not to do this when she’s going to them.
Thankfully Bill’s request to the Monks doesn’t kill her as it’s done out of an ‘act of love’. Of course the Doctor has his eye-sight returned to him and he opens the lab door using the combination keys.
And as you saw in the YouTube clip, this decision that Bill makes has consequences. The episode ends on a cliff-hanger with Bill’s ‘act of love’ causing the Monks to take over Earth. (Pause) Whoops!
If only the Doctor told Bill that he was blind earlier. That would’ve saved a lot of trouble and the Monks wouldn’t be able to take over Earth. Ah well, at least the Doctor can see clearly again at last.
I did find it confusing when watching the climax to this episode. I didn’t feel the dramatic effect required for this episode and I wish more time was spent on that cliff-hanger ending to make it work.
If more emotional character drama was put into these ‘Monk Trilogy’ episodes, it would’ve made me notice plot-holes less and not question things throughout. But no! As Rowan Atkinson’s Doctor said:
ROWAN ATKINSON’S DOCTOR: “I’ll explain later!”
‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ (and yes, that is a long title) is not a ‘Doctor Who’ episode I thoroughly enjoyed on first viewing. Even on a second watch on DVD, I found this hard-going indeed.
Everything was happening all so fast and I felt really unsatisfied about what was going on in the story. ‘The Monks Trilogy’ needed to be more exciting with strong emotional character drama here.
At the time, I looked forward to when ‘The Monks Trilogy’ would be over in the next episode. I hoped I’d salvage some enjoyment in the final instalment, but I personally wanted this arc over with.
Incidentally, my Dad fell asleep during the episode (as usual!!!) 😀 Yeah, I know. I can’t keep my Dad to stay awake to watch something on TV/DVD these days. Even with superb stuff, Dad falls asleep. 😀
The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 1 of ‘Series 10 – Part 2’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ – Inside Look’ featurette.
On Disc 3 of ‘The Complete Series 10’ of ‘Doctor Who’, ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ – Inside Look’ featurette can also be found on there. On Disc 6, there’s the ‘Doctor Who: The Fan Show – The Aftershow’ edition for this episode.
‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ rating – 4/10
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