Citizens of Earth: all is lost. The Monks rule the planet and The Doctor now works for the enemy. In this week’s episode, deception is never far away – both on and off the screen.
The Lie of the Land, from the pen of Toby Whithouse, is an episode that starts out strong. Set 6 months after Pyramid, human history has been rewritten. Opening with a disturbingly calm montage, there are unmistakable Turn Left vibes as famous events – including some from the Whoniverse – are retold. The mood is delightfully dystopian, taking more than a few cues from Orwellian novel 1984. Memory police hunt down those who dare speak against their crusty, robe-bearing rulers. Meanwhile, The Doctor has vanished, only seen via broadcasts to spread pro-Monk propaganda. It’s a brilliantly bleak premise and conceptually very sound.
Naturally, Bill knows the truth and it’s up to her to save the day. Picture Martha in Last of the Time Lords and you won’t be far off. With the help of Nardole, she devises a plan to rescue The Doctor and get him back on side. But the question is: does the Time Lord even want to be saved? It all builds to a climactic face-off between The Doctor and Bill on board a prison ship. It’s a tense, dramatic showdown that might well be Pearl Mackie’s defining performance from the series so far. By all means, it’s one of the best scenes in the episode.
“Human society is stagnating…”
But that’s (literally) only half the story. At the mid-way point, Lie shifts gears and never quite recovers. That’s not to say that what follows is bad. Far from it, in fact. There are some wonderfully surprising moments featuring Missy. But the second half is infinitely more formulaic than the first. The central conceit would easily have worked for the entire 45 minutes, and the episode would have been more tightly focused as a result.
To put it simply, Lie wobbles under the weight of its own expectations. After two solid set-up stories, the Monk trilogy’s potential stumbles somewhat at the final hurdle. Although, that’s not really the fault of the episode itself. Looked at in isolation and on its own merits, it’s a pretty good episode. But the promotional material doesn’t do it any favours, not entirely unlike Gallifrey’s return in Hell Bent. The Monks, it seems, are not the only ones here whose modus operandi is deception. Certainly, we’re expecting Twitter to be quite interesting on Saturday night following one very specific internet-exploding moment. Yes, you will know the one.
Our advice? Ready yourself for untruths and temper your expectations. While it’s arguably not on the same level as Extremis or Pyramid, there’s still a lot to love in The Lie of the Land. Just remember: anything, and everything, could be leading you up the garden path…
- The Pyramid at the End of the World (from, well, The Pyramid at the End of the World) makes a return appearance.
- Have your Doctor Who monster bingo cards at the ready! Quite a few familiar faces flash up in the early moments of the episode.
- For those who prefer more subtle continuity nods, you’re also in luck. Eagle-eyed viewers should be on the lookout for a Series 2 reference in the background.
- Cheekily, one character makes a sly jab at an ITV programme. And no, it isn’t Victoria or Broadchurch.
“hulks, they used to call them.”
“I USED TO HAVE AN IMAGINARY FRIEND, ‘TIL HE LEFT ME FOR SOMEONE ELSE.”
“EVEN I THINK THAT’S WEIRD AND I’VE BEEN ATTACKED BY A PUDDLE.”
“whatever it takes, i’m going to save you from yourselves.”