Here’s our spoiler-free Doctor Who ‘The Lie of the Land’ review.
Week three of Doctor Who Monk-eying around, and it’s Toby Whithouse’s turn to pick up the story. He’s has the task of delivering a satisfying conclusion to an uneven but entertaining trilogy. No pressure then.
We’re six months on from ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ and said world’s now ruled by the Monks. They’ve been putting up big statues of themselves and plonked their dirty great big Pyramid in the middle of London. Also, as we see in a creepy opening narrated by The Doctor, have been photoshopping themselves into history. They even plus one’d themselves to Princess Di’s wedding. Cheeky!
Turncoat Time Lord
Earth’s now a peaceful totalitarian state and textbook dystopia. Think V for Vendetta meets series 3’s ‘Last of the Time Lords’. Whithouse writes society-gone-to-shit really well (fans of Being Human will recall the apocalyptic vampire-ruled future and be reminded of it here).
Dissenters and ‘memory crime’ violators are rounded up and put into labour camps or getting electrocuted to death by the Monks in a very Silence-y way. Everyone’s dressed in shades of black and grey (no one wears Hawaiian shirts in apocalyptic futures, do they?) and, worst of all, The Doctor’s putting out pro-Monk propaganda videos.
With the turncoat Time Lord seemingly under the same hypnotic influence as the rest of the planet’s population it’s down to Bill to save the day. She also narrates while doing it. Sadly, said narration is the only thing that doesn’t quite work in an episode that is otherwise a lot of fun. There’s a good reason it’s there, but in places it feels clunky, and more like exposition than story.
That’s a minor quibble, though. Especially when ‘Lie of the Land’ trots along at a pace brisk enough to carry you with it.
It doesn’t have any original sci-fi ideas in it – many of them you’ll have seen before, often in this show. That doesn’t matter so much when it has this energy, and so many things to bombard you with. It’s the big third act, stops all pulled out.
The Doctor’s finest foil
‘Lie’ is eager to show you all the stuff from the trailers that’s been getting fans excited. And that includes those Vault doors opening. Missy’s back. Proper back, not flashback. Back, and all front.
Cheeky, ruthless, muy caliente, zipping between accents, and yet displaying new qualities that we’ve never seen before in the character’s 46 year history, Michelle Gomez does not disappoint. Watching her Time Lady is like watching a King Cobra take part in a pantomime; it’s all gorgeously camp and hilarious, but you’re well aware you could die horribly at any minute.
Gomez’s Missy remains the finest foil for a Doctor since the days of Delgado and Pertwee. You can see the centuries-old friendship between them, but also how that friendship wearily rubs up against decades of antagonism and mad cackling.
Capaldi plays the conflict beautifully, almost entirely in the eyes. Watching him, I’m painfully aware that we only have five more Twelfth Doctor episodes remaining.
The girl that you can relate to
This is still Bill’s episode, however. It shows what a strong actress Pearl Mackie is that Capaldi and Gomez don’t eclipse her. Eight episodes in and she still feels like a breath of fresh air, never more so than when calling The Doctor ‘a nutter’ or getting within a consonant’s grasp of another swear word.
Better than that, she feels like a human being. That’s something that’s been missing from companions for a while now. We’ve seen the Girl Who Waited, we’ve met the Impossible Girl, now we have the girl you could imagine sitting next to on the bus or standing behind at the cash point.
She’s pivotal to a plot that fights sci-fi science with that very Moffat-y motif of memory and magic emotion, and that makes just enough sense. It is, then, your classic modern Doctor Who ending. It’s also another reason to invite Toby Whithouse back for future series.
This is a solid, if sentimental, end to this story and the strongest corner of the Monk trilogy. It helps he has all the best toys to play with. Nevertheless, this is another good chapter in a series that has still not had a letdown episode.
Are you still holding your breath, waiting for the 2017 equivalent of ‘Love & Monsters’ to come along and be the first dud of the series? Relax. Breathe out. This ain’t it.
And next week’s episode, Mark Gatiss’ ‘Empress of Mars’ looks bonkers. Utterly bonkers, in the best way possible. I can’t wait. And that’s always way you want Doctor Who to make you feel. Until then, Series 10’s great run continues. No lie.
Check out our Doctor Who series 10 guide, with details and videos of this and the other episodes, here.
Are you looking forward to ‘The Lie of the Land’? Let us know in the comments!