The second block of Series 10 continues with “Extremis”. The episode opens with a flashback, where a bunch of executioners explain to the Doctor how a Time Lord is killed. Just in case you thought it was the Doctor’s execution coming, Missy appears and it falls on the Doctor, as a fellow Time Lord, to carry out her sentence.
In the present, the Doctor is contemplating his blindness and has a rather one-sided conversation with the Vault, where now we know for sure there’s Missy residing. He gets a message through his sonic shades, which he’s wearing again to establish a telepathic link between himself and the world. He still can’t see but there are some perks to it, like emailing.
After the title sequence a bunch of bishops and the Pope appear at St. Luke’s, asking for the Doctor’s help. They have this super secret and important text, the Veritas, the Truth, that only a couple of people translated but all committed suicide after reading it (all but one, we’ll get back to that later). The Pope and Cardinal Angelo, his translator (because apparently the Doctor doesn’t speak Italian anymore and/ or the TARDIS isn’t translating? ‘kay) ask him to translate and read the Veritas.
In the meanwhile, Bill brought a girl called Penny home. Bill is still living with her foster mom, Moira, as her attempt at moving out was less than successful. Moira is concerned about Bill bringing a man home, but when she sees that it’s a girl she leaves for the pub, relieved. Why yes, Moira is completely oblivious to the fact that Bill is gay and Penny was her date, but maybe some day we’ll get a coming out scene or more about these two’s relationship.
Anyway, with Moira out of the way Bill and Penny are having tea when a wild Pope appears. Penny freaks out when she sees a bunch of bishops and the TARDIS in Bill’s bedroom and leaves. Bill is understandably pissed off at the Doctor, but she still tags along.
Back in the past, a wild Nardole appears to speak to the Doctor before he executes the Master. He tells him what River wrote in her diary and reminds him of how to be the Doctor, even in extremis. After this, Missy begs the Doctor not to kill her and she promises to be good in return. In 2017, the TARDIS arrives in the Vatican and Cardinal Angelo leads Team TARDIS to the secret library, where the Veritas is stored.
Before Angelo can open the cage where the Veritas is, a portal opens up on a wall and he goes on to investigate it. Team TARDIS goes after the Veritas anyway, because who need the cardinal. They find a man there, the missing translator, who says he “sent it” and then runs off with a gun in his hand. He left a laptop behind, and thanks to that the team finds out that what the translator meant is that he sent the Veritas to the European Organization For Nuclear Research. They hear a gunshot, and the Doctor sends Bill and Nardole to investigate, knowing full well that the translator’s dead. He’s totally not going to read the Veritas while those two are away.
Nardole keeps trying to protect Bill as the Doctor told him to, which was actually quite sweet, but Bill was having none of it. Nardole insists that Bill follows his lead, which turned him into a badass in her eyes but took away the sweetness of the scene in mine. They find the body of the translator and a new portal, which they are totally not going to check out by themselves, of course not, they are companions after all.
In the flashback, Missy insists that she’s the Doctor’s friend, always, but he pulls the lever that executes her anyway. He takes an oath to guard her body for a thousand years, since Time Lords are tricky to kill. In 2017, Bill and Nardole are exploring the portals and they end up in the Pentagon and then at CERN.
The Doctor translates the Veritas and gains back his eyesight for a while, although it comes at a cost which he’s not sure about yet. The Monks, the new baddies appear who killed Angelo and now want to keep the Doctor from reading the Veritas. He escapes with the laptop, but before he can read the text on it his vision starts blurring again. He escapes the Monks thanks to a new portal.
At CERN Bill and Nardole realize that the scientists want to commit mass suicide and Bill confronts them about it. One of them runs a shadow test with the two, asking them to say random numbers at the same time. Both Bill and Nardole keep thinking of the same numbers, as well as everyone else, which freaks Bill out but Nardole just wants to get away from the explosives they want to kill themselves with.
At the centre of all portals, Nardole realizes that all of them are projections and therefore not real, and as he steps out of the projectors’ light he fades away. Bill follows the Doctor’s trail to another portal that leads to the White House, where the president killed himself and the Doctor listened to the audio version of the Veritas.
The Doctor explains to Bill that the Veritas tells about a shadow world that’s built solely for the purpose of a creature that wants to conquer the world. Through a simulation, they can get to know it and prepare for an invasion. He tells her that they are in such a shadow world that was created by the Monks to prepare for the invasion of Earth, and the shadow test with the numbers proved it. They are generated by a computer and computers numbers will never truly be random, and every person will think of the same ones.
Bill panics and disappears as a Monk shows up to mock the Doctor about him not being real. Except that the Doctor is still the Doctor because of what he believes in, and so he finds a way to get the upper hand. He recorded the events of the simulation with his sonic glasses and emails it all to the real Doctor. He calls Bill to encourage her to ask Penny out for real as soon as possible, as they are going to be busy fighting off the Monks’ invasion.
The Doctor was still the Doctor in extremis, just like he was in the past when he didn’t really kill Missy, but still stayed true to his word and has been guarding the Vault ever since. He tells her that he might need his friend’s help, and as this is supposedly the first episode of a three-parter, it’s possible that he is going to need the Master to beat the Monks.
Steven Moffatt is back with his convoluted plots that make you question everything. “Extremis” wasn’t as wibbly-wobbly as it could have been, in fact, I would say it was just the right amount. The stakes are rising in the series and we’re moving away from stand-alones but the quality is staying the same so far.
I can’t help but be wary of Moffatt’s episodes and his longer storylines, although Series 10 is still doing well. “Extremis” was just a tad bit darker than all the previous episodes, even the humour in it was of the darker kind, but it didn’t get too far and ended up being just purely depressive. We’ll see where the Monks take the story, but this was a good start to this new threat.
For most people, Moffatt and his episodes seem to be like marmite: either hate it or love it. I can’t bring myself to feel as strongly about Moffatt as I do about marmite (it’s disgusting, alright?). Instead, I simply just enjoyed this episode while not being blown away by it. Each to their own, I suppose. I will say this though: Series 10 has been the most enjoyable out of all the Moffatt era seasons so far.
It’s lucky that the episode didn’t turn too dark because the existential crisis was real as it was. Be sure to catch the BBC’s good old family programme, this week we are going to discuss how all of this is an illusion and that you don’t exist.
Sometimes I wonder how Moffatt gets his scripts through the BBC. It is a good concept, if a bit messed up. It kind of reminded me of “The Almost People”/”The Rebel Flesh” story of Series 6 with the insistence of everyone feeling like they were real and valid lifeforms. You can trust Doctor Who to bring up a concept like this and then just leave you with it, leave you alone with your thoughts. You could say the suicide aspect of the episode was handled poorly, and you would be right, but honestly I was surprised it wasn’t worse. So, “you tried” star? Or maybe, “it could have been worse” star. “It wasn’t bad enough to ruin the whole episode” star.
As for Missy and the Vault, I was genuinely surprised that it was revealed now, in the middle of the series. Of course, everyone has already guessed it was the Master inside, but I fully expected “the mystery” to remain until the season finale. Oh well, not complaining, since this saves us from unnecessary dramatic scenes. The reason why the secret of the Vault was revealed this early on is interesting.
We had a proper subplot for the first time in this series and I hope the point of it all wasn’t just to have the Doctor remember River’s words about extremis. I’m hoping that Missy will get out of the Vault and help (and then betray) the Doctor during this whole Monk situation, otherwise it would be random to have this revelation here. Now that they did it they might as well run with it, just like the Doctor’s blindness. We can still have a twist during the last couple of episodes, another Master is expected to return after all.
There are some continuity issues regarding Nardole. It’s all well and good that now we know why the Doctor is guarding the Vault and who’s inside, but Nardole joining the Doctor at that point makes little sense. If he was following the Doctor from Darillium and then they started guarding the Vault, then when did the events of “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” take place? Nardole certainly didn’t seem to mind being away from Bristol in that story. I am satisfied with where the Vault storyline is going but this does leave a plot hole. Then again, it could have been worse, and from what I’ve gathered many fans would rather forget that Christmas special happened anyway.
Other than this Nardole is starting to prove that he was worthy of getting upgraded to companion, I did love his protectiveness of Bill when it was low-key. After that, it got dangerously close to being annoying, but Bill brushed it off so I guess so should I. I like where the relationship of these is headed, just please do not put patronizing scenes in there, just don’t.
Speaking of, Bill was amazing as always. She didn’t get much to do, but she still had her shining moments. I was glad to get another scene between her and Moira, and I’m hoping we’ll see more of their relationship, possibly even a development of it. Please let us see the companion’s life outside of the TARDIS.
Next week it’s “The Pyramid at the End of the World”, where the Monks are done with simulations and decide to conquer the Earth for real.