Doctor Who S10E08 “The Lie Of The Land” REVIEW
Airing on BBC One, Saturday nights
Writer: Toby Whithouse
Director: Wayne Yip
Essential Plots Points:
- The Earth is now run by the monks who are using some kind of technology to create the delusion that the Monks have been part of Earth history since the very beginnings of evolution, helping us develop and fulfil our potential.
- Which is all nice and lovely, but they deal ruthlessly with anyone who doesn’t fall for this BS hook, line and sinker.
- They’ve also erected really rubbish statutes of themselves across the world (but still not as rubbish as this one from Arrow).
- Bill hasn’t fallen for the conditioning – she can recall history both with and without the monks.
- She uses a memory of her mother to talk to daily, so that she can re-affirm her memories of the non-monk work on a regular basis.
- The Doctor, meanwhile, appears to have thrown his lot in with the Monks and broadcasts propaganda on their behalf.
- Bill, though, is convinced he’s bluffing and he has a plan.
- Then Nardole appears with details of how the reach the Doctor – he’s on a former prison ship now used by the Monks.
- Nardole and Bill sneak onto the ship and find the Doctor.
- He continues to act as if he’s on the Monks’ side until Bill has no option other than to shoot him!
- Which is when he reveals it was all a test to make sure Bill wasn’t being used by the Monks to test his loyalty…
- …because he’s been secretly recruiting a small army of people who’ve broken the Monk’s condition.
- The Doctor pilots the ship back to England and they head for the university for a pow-wow with Missy, who has fought and defeated the Monks before.
- The Doctor reveals to Bill that he’s trying to make Missy go cold turkey from being evil.
- Missy says she could escape the vault anytime, and is playing along with the Doctor to indulge him.
- After a lot of effort she reveals that the Monks use the person who invited them to invade – in this case Bill – as a psychic generator, boosted by the statues, to create the delusion that they’ve always been masters of the planet.
- To defeat the Monks is simple – kill Bill. Or better still, turn her into a cabbage so that her brain is broadcasting nothing; that really kills the mass delusion quickly.
- The Doctor, of course, won’t do this. Instead, he and his new army break into the Monks’ pyramid in London and head for the delusion’s central generator.
- There they find a decrepit Monk at the centre of the generator maintaining the delusion. The Doctor tries to link his mind to the monk’s but is unable to…
- …So against the Doctor’s wishes, Bill has a go, expecting her mind to be wiped in the process.
- Instead, her memory of her mother goes viral and blocks the Monks’ delusion.
- The monks (it turns out there are only 12 of them) scarper, because they’re pragmatists who’ll learn from the experience and have a better plan next time.
- Humanity forgets the invasion, though, because the Monks do a shifty “erase memory”, but presumably all religions now have a godhead figure with an amazing afro.
- Back in the vault, Missy admits that the Doctor may finally have got through to her conscience, because for the first time she’s feeling regret for the people she’s killed.
After a very promising start – and despite some great, great moments throughout – “The Lie Of The Land” doesn’t quite work. This is partially because it’s trying to do far too much. The most similar episode of New Who previously was “Turn Left” which likewise featured an alternate, dystopian, present-day Earth, with the current companion (Donna in that case) front and centre. But “Turn Left” had very little actual plot, and had more time to really explore this new reality. “The Lie Of The Land” is not only more plot-led, it’s also the climax of the trilogy, has a very lengthy scene tying Missy into the season plot arc and also has to spend valuable time servicing that red-herring of regeneration scene.
All of which means we never really get the full-on “life on the Planet of the Monks” experience. The opening montage and the first few scenes work really hard to sell the concept – with Orwellian talk of memory crime – and they’re successful to an extent. But the episode never truly rams home the horror of living under a totalitarian rule that’s stripped you of your free will. Although we wouldn’t really have wanted this particular mini-arc to stretch to another episode, “The Lie Of The Land” could have benefitted from being a two-parter, with Bill’s search for the Doctor being the first half and the Doctor’s regeneration as the cliffhanger.
a) That’s been done before (with the Tenth Doctor in “The Stolen Earth”), and…
b) Imagine how disappointing the resolution to the cliffhanger would have been! Swizz!
As it is, the episode only just gets away with the, “Oh, I was only joking!” punchline, because of the deliberate bathos. You’re still left wondering if the Doctor couldn’t have found a less callous way to get the say point – to call his plan over-theatrical is like calling Graham Norton a bit camp. There’s a suspicion that the whole thing was calculated purely to create a trailer clip that would cause a stir on the internet.
The other thing that gets somewhat lost in the episode is the rather intriguing fact that there are only 12 Monks on the planet. That pretty much explains their pedantic planning when it comes to an invasion; they’re really low on manpower so they have to rely on rigorous procedures to make the invasion work. The episode does pay lip service to this uniquely pragmatic method of conquering the galaxy but it may well have been lost on those who weren’t paying full attention. We love the idea that – according to Missy – if they do have to abandon an invasion, they just chalk it up to experience. So if we ever do encounter the Monks again, we suspect the episode won’t be called, “Revenge Of The Monks” but rather, “The Slightly Better Thought-Through Invasion Of The Monks”.
All of which moaning is doing a disservice to Pearl Mackie, who has a great episode as Bill, especially in the early scenes, her first encounter with Missy and her ultimate (near) sacrifice (we loved the fact she tied up the Doctor to prevent him rescuing her – go girl!). Blimey, she even almost sells the idea that she might actually shoot the Doctor. We may have bought into that scene more if she’d spent longer searching for the Doctor – and the search weren’t quite so easy – but as it was, the moment did seem a little extreme.
Michelle Gomez was also excellent as a more retrained Missy, rather than the usual Mary Poppins on acid. Both her scenes were immensely powerful and mesmerising. We’re kinda hoping she is on the road to retribution, but we’re pretty certain a twist is coming.
There were also great action scenes (the fight set to Bill’s audio recording was especially eerie), some excellent visuals (if you can forgive some ropey Photoshopping in the montage) and the usual quota of zingers.
A good episode, then, that annoyingly looked like it could have been great if it didn’t all feel so rushed in some places and saggy in others.
- The opening montage.
- The long Missy scene…
- …And the rather poignant, shorter final Missy scene. But are they crocodile tears?
- Pearl Mackie has some fantastic moments throughout the episode, and even Bill’s cool dystopian haircut seems to help her up her game.
- The really simple editing trick to indicate the Monk’s mind control. It’s surprisingly effective.
- “Everyone exchanged their ammo for blanks.”
“Did you forget, Dave? You forgot? Well, that really would have blown the plan, wouldn’t it?”
- “Why have you got a woman locked in a vault. ’Cos even I find that weird and I’ve been attacked by a puddle.”
- “I’ve got some requests. I want some new books, some toys – like a particle accelerator – 3D printer and a pony.”
- “I once made a gun out of leaves. Do you think I couldn’t get through a door if I wanted to?”
- The Monks’ newly revealed lightning attacks and express-print 3D shields are great.
- The way Bill finds the Doctor feels too easy. Okay, he wanted to be found, but for the viewer, one spot check and a boat trip is hardly thrilling.
- It’s difficult to believe Bill would ever shoot the Doctor.
- The revelation that the Doctor’s “just pretending” feels a little anti-climactic, and his reasons for doing so are questionable.
- “We could have snuck back in, but the Doctor being the Doctor…” So had he deprogrammed everyone on the entire ship? Were there no Monks on board? Why make such an ostentatious return to land that was bound to give the Monks a bloody great clue where he was headed? None of these are plot holes exactly – you can easily fill in the blanks (especially as we lter learn there are only a dozen Monks on the planet – but so many “hang on…?” questions in one go does propel you out of the plot for a few moments.
- The ending is a little soppy – love (albeit familial love) conquers all. We’ve seen that so many times in sci-fi it’s kinda losing its value. Plus, does that mean everyone on the planet thinks Bill’s mum is someone they know now?
- “Regeneration a little too much?”
“No. I thought it was a nice touch.” Is that deliberate fan-baiting?
And The Random:
- The clip of the Daleks is from “Into The Dalek” while the clip of the Cybermen is from “Nightmare In Silver” – both set in the future and not on Earth, so they’re rather odd clips to choose (unless new ones have been swapped in by the time of transmission)
- Magpie Electricals was an electrical shop that first appeared in the David Tennant Doctor Who story “The Idiot’s Lantern” (2006). Goods produced by Magpie Electricals that have since appeared on the show include a microphone in “Voyage Of The Damned” (2008); Martha Jones’s television in “The Sound Of Drums” (2008); the monitor, the typewriter, the keyboard and a miscellaneous control by the mustard dispenser in the eleventh Doctor’s first version of the TARDIS console room; a power control device in “Vincent And The Doctor” (2010); River Song’s scanner in “Day Of The Moon” (2011); and an amplifier in “The Magician’s Apprentice” (2015) and “Before The Flood” (2015). Sarah Jane Smith also used Magpie Electricals computer in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode “The Mark of the Berserker” (2008). Finally, a branch of Magpie Electricals was also seen on the spaceship in “The Beast Below” (2010).
- The tune that Missy is playing on the piano when the Doctor first enters the vault is “Trois Gnossiennes” (published 1893) by French composer Erik Satie. Later she plays “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin (1902).
Review by Dave Golder