“The Pyramid at the End of the World” begins with Bill telling Penny about the simulation, therefore the recap of the previous episode is cleverly inserted into the plot. It does make you wonder why Bill would even tell her date about all this craziness, but I guess it does fit her character. Just when they are at her flat and discuss how ridiculous it is for the Pope to interrupt a date, the UN shows up, looking for the President. No, not the orange one, but the President of the World, the Doctor. They hijack the TARDIS with the Doctor in it and invite Nardole for the ride—well, flight—to “Turmezistan”, where a 5,000-year-old pyramid appeared out of nowhere right in the centre of three armies: NATO, Russia, and China.
The Doctor goes right up to the pyramid to confront the Monks, but they just tell him that humanity will welcome their invasion and they are waiting for it. He gets all the leaders of the armies together and gets them to unite against the Monks. To demonstrate humanity’s strength they all attack the pyramid but the Monks stop the attack before any damage happens to them. Realizing that humanity is not strong enough, Team TARDIS and the leaders all go into the pyramid to negotiate. The Monks show them the potential future of the Earth, where all life is gone within a year. Only the Monks could stop that and so they ask humanity for consent to rule over the Earth because, apparently, they need to rule through love and not fear. They are misguided but at least the aliens seem to value consent. The UN Secretary-General gets killed after the Doctor warns him not to make a deal but he goes for it anyway. Turns out, consent needs to be pure and not out of fear.
Everyone assumes that a potential World War Three would cause all life to vanish and that’s why the Monks chose this particular moment in all of human history, but even after the three leaders agree to cooperate and not cause a war the countdown of the Monks is still on. That’s because a subplot is going on with two scientists in Yorkshire and a biological experiment gone wrong (because of course, Yorkshire would be the place where the end of the world starts). The Doctor knows that something else must be going on so he finds this lab with Nardole, and Bill goes with the leaders who want to surrender to the Monks.
The Doctor and Nardole narrow their search down to “Agrofuel”, a bio lab where a hangover and a broken pair of glasses resulted in creating a poisonous gas… or something. It’s sci-fi, doesn’t have to make sense. The point is, Douglas, the one with the hangover, is already dead and Nardole passes out in the TARDIS, so it’s up to the Doctor and the other scientist, Erica to save all life on Earth before the Monks do. They want to sterilise the air by blowing the lab up while the leaders of the three armies are planning on consenting. The Monks sense that they consent out of strategy and not love, so that leaves them with Bill as the representative of Earth and the greatest power on it, the Doctor. He tells her not to give in as he’s on it.
Before he can blow it all up though, the Doctor needs to get out. But he gets stuck in the airlock and can only get out by manually entering the code. Problem is, he’s still blind, and now he tells Bill about that small detail. Hasn’t he learned not to keep secrets from his companions? Bill realizes that he’s going to burn along with the poisonous bacteria if she doesn’t do something, which the Doctor accepts, but she doesn’t. She consents for the Monks to take over the Earth if they give the Doctor his eyesight back, and because it’s out of love that she asks, they do it. Bill saved the Doctor but doomed the world, although she does make him promise that he’ll set things right.
Even while watching the episode I felt like it was rather thin plot-wise and after writing up this recap I definitely feel like not an awful lot has happened. This doesn’t mean it was bad, but if you have a three-parter you kind of have to justify it with the plot. “The Pyramid at the End of the World” did deserve its own story, but I feel like more could have been done with it; there was time for that. Well, at least what we got was decent, a good continuation to “Extremis”, maybe a bit slow with the feeling that it was still just a setup for the next episode.
The consent thing with the Monks seemed a bit random, even if their justification wasn’t illogical. I guess that’s what you can expect from a calculating and cruel race. All the armies working together was a touching moment, but what’s more interesting is how unafraid Series 10 is to throw some shade and be quite unsubtle about the current political climate. It’s not just capitalism that’s been under fire this season (although arguably mostly that), and now we had Bill Potts talk about Trump plus the whole potential World War Three thing. Out of all of human history, humanity needs to unite and demonstrate their strength now more than ever, Doctor Who is telling us so.
It’s fascinating to me that throughout the whole thing the soldiers’ logic was to surrender so they can live to fight another day and that’s the opposite of what the Doctor wanted. He was more than willing to sacrifice himself for humanity, but then Bill saved him so he can live to fight another day. There’s also the fact that he’s not blind anymore, though who knows if that will last for the rest of the season. I thought it would feel cheaper to have him regain his sight before regeneration, but because it came with sacrifice it didn’t. He went blind in the first place because he sacrificed his helmet for Bill, and now Bill sacrificed her planet for him. It seems like the stakes are rising for these two, and I’m very much hoping that saving the Earth will also come with a price. I like this new, “actions have consequences” kind of direction that the Moffat era is taking.
As I said it felt like a short story, even if it was a normal length episode. I guess this whole three-parter makes more sense when viewed together, even though all three episodes have their own stories. Next week’s “Lie of the Land”, more specifically its trailer reminds me of “Last of the Time Lords” and I wonder if the resolution is going to be similar. We’ll have the Master appearing again, that’s for sure, so it’s pretty much guaranteed to be an interesting episode.