Here’s our spoiler-free Doctor Who ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ review.
Look, I’m not going to lie to you: The Pyramid at the End of the World is mostly set-up.
It’s set-up for a cliffhanger that you’d have to be without sonic specs not to see coming, and set-up for next week’s The Lie of the Land, where it’s now clear the real meat of this meddling Monk three-parter is taking place. If Extremis, Pyramid, and Lie were a sandwich, that sandwich would be bread, then bread, then tasty filling. A very gluten-heavy open sandwich then. A sci-fi croque monsieur.
And though ‘Pyramid at the End of the World’ is not a crock, it’s nothing outstanding either, simply because it has to show the lay of the land before ‘The Lie of the Land’ comes along next week.
It doesn’t help that, in setting things up, the sense of coherency and strong character work that has defined this great run is sacrificed. You don’t expect that from a Peter Harness script – this is the man who wrote Twelve’s stirring anti-war speech – but ‘hark!’, The Moff’s name is attached as well, and perhaps the waters have been muddied by a need to lay foundations for the larger architecture of the rest of the series.
But in the here and now we’re off to Turmezistan – last seen in Harness’ brilliant series 9 ‘Zygon Invasion/Inversion‘ two-parter – where a 5000 year old polyhedron has popped up overnight in the middle of territory that China, Russia, and the US are in dispute over. What sort of pyramid scheme are these Monks attempting? Are they trying to provoke war, or is it something more insidious?
Bring in The Doctor, aka President of the World. He’s still blind but now, thanks to his spacey Ray Bans, he has a slight vision update – glasses that can see plot points when it’s convenient, but leave him blind when a ‘deus specs machina’ would cause the script to fall apart. There’s a moment where they do something seemingly impossible, only for them to be useless later for what you’d think would be an easy task, all for the sake of the plot. It’s an inconsistency that’s vexing. I’d love to say more, but I’d be killed. Unlike The Doctor, you’ll know it when you see it.
Despite the armies on the doorstep there’s no war-war but a whole lotta jaw-jaw. This does allow some further insight into what the Monks are (after last week’s Plato allusions we’re keeping it Greek and nodding toward The Fates), and some classic Capaldi one-liners, but there’s also more standing around and debating than there needs to be, as well as minor characterisation that feels so broad it could’ve been written with a paint roller.
It’s a surprisingly small group of people making stupid decisions that funnels the story down to the place it needs to be: a final 5 minutes where everything happens, and aficionados of composer Murray Gold’s work can get a quick thrill. It’s a classic Who cliffhanger, but after such a ‘by the numbers’ lead up it doesn’t feel deserved. ‘Extremis’ was good, ‘Pyramid’ doesn’t match it, and yet it still isn’t the dud that we’re all braced for. Fingers crossed, series 10 really is looking like the strongest since Ecclestone’s tenure.
It’s now down to ‘Lie of the Land’ to prove how effective this mid-series trilogy will be overall. Judging by the ‘Next Time’ trailer, it looks like all this set-up will be worth it.
You can check out our Doctor Who series 10 episode guide here.