The Pyramid and the Lie   Leave a comment

The two make an intriguing pair: the low and the high of the season so far. “Pyramid” suffers from that variety of plausibility problem that Peter Harness is about to become known for. Eggs that gain mass as they grow? Spidery single-celled organisms? Biological laboratories with timed ventilation that can’t be turned off? Not to mention obscure Middle Eastern/near Asian locales not remotely real enough to believe in.

(It’s the same country, Turmezistan, that Harness created for “The Zygon Invasion.” It doesn’t work any better here.)

I did enjoy the setup, the end of the world already in motion. I really liked the scientist Erica. As Whithouse did in “Under the Lake,” here Moffat/Harness introduce a character who is different – and whose difference has zero impact on their competence or their humanity. I wish Erica had returned in “Lie.”

However I had serious questions about the resolution of this episode. The Doctor unable to cure himself is already a stretch. The combination lock with no tactile element pushes things further. But the lack of a video component in the sonic sunglasses takes things right over the edge. There is no way he can’t transmit an image of that lock to Bill’s phone. There is no reason a) the lab should vent to the outside under any circumstances whatsoever, b) the Doctor should be unable to get himself out of this particular mess, or c) Bill should decide that giving over to the Monks is the best option. I like that Pearl gets to stretch emotionally here, but I wish she had better motivation.

(My husband points out that like his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor can do anything – as long as it’s plot-convenient. Otherwise he suddenly can’t.)

And then Toby Whithouse returns, with one of his strongest episodes and definitely one of the strongest of this season so far. Post-Brexit, post-Trump, so full of fake news and fake history it’s hard for even the toughest to resist. The Monks’ world is beautifully depicted. The turncoat Doctor so close to believable, it’s no wonder Bill loses her faith. And there’s nothing better than imaginary Mum saving the day. I loved it. I start to wish that Whithouse instead of Chibnall were taking over next year. His stories just keep getting better.

Mark Gatiss’ episode next week looks simply delightful. “The Empress of Mars” brings to mind classic Edgar Rice Burroughs, Empress of the Racnoss, Kage Baker. The Empress herself may be the first female Ice Warrior we’ve seen. I look forward to meeting her.

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