Doctor Who Series 10, Episode 6
Posted by Kim
THIS IS WHY I HATE SPOILERS, PEOPLE.
Listen, any Whovian with a brain could have deduced from episode one that Missy was in the vault. There was no one else it could have been. We knew but we also KNEW because they freaking TOLD us Michelle Gomez was back. Ergo, it takes all the suspense out of the whole “Who is in the Vault?” thing. Could you imagine what this episode would have been like had we NOT known but also known? We would have collectively lost our minds. As for me, when Missy was brought out of that cell, I was like “Oh right, we knew she was coming” cause they were TELLING US ALL DAY. Can we all just chill with the spoilers, please? It’s my greatest wish.
(In the same vein, we all KNOW that when The Doctor eventually opens the vault that John Simm is gonna waltz out, right? Because that whole “in case of relapses” line was NOT accidental and BECAUSE THEY TOLD US HE WAS COMING. That’s the one I’m really bitter about, honestly. That would have been a moment that would have automatically made the Head Over Feels Top 20 Moments of 2017 list. Now, I’m just waiting for him to show up. A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES.)
What “Extremis” DOES do effectively is tell us how we got here. The episode opens a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away. The Doctor is in boat in a cavernous river straight out of Middle Earth (Seriously, I was expecting to see the Argonath when they rounded the corner) being led to a castle that looks like an evil version of Hogwarts. The Doctor is met on the shores by some dudes wearing robes that would make Rassilon jealous. They are a group of executioners bound to carry out the deaths of any species…they just need someone of the same species to do the dirty deed. The Doctor KNOWS who he is here to kill — there is only one other of his kind (that he knows of) traipsing about the universe. Out comes Missy, sporting some killer blue eyeshadow. The Doctor’s dread is palpable; it’s written all over his face. (PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME PETER CAPALDI.)
We don’t know what Missy did (this time) to merit a death sentence; all we know is that she’s been hanging with the Daleks, thanks to her quip about The Doctor finding domestic bliss with River. (Ouch.) All I know is that the instant I saw Michelle Gomez, I was like I’VE MISSED YOU SO MUCH. Seriously. She’s so magnificent in this role because you see that in her heart of hearts that she’s fucking terrified to die. She covers it up with quips and her signature dramatics, but you see it in her eyes (much like you see the agony in The Doctor’s). “Please…I’ll do anything. Just let me live.” It’s so genuine. Or perhaps not. Perhaps I am just as gullible as The Doctor when it comes to Missy.
Maybe it’s not gullible though. I think it’s just giving the benefit of the doubt to a person you love with every fiber of your being. The Doctor and The Master have been here before. It’s their never-ending dance…and The Doctor has an endless well of forgiveness towards The Master because he ALWAYS thinks that maybe this time he’ll be lucky. Maybe this time his friend will stay. It’s gotta happen…happen sometime. Maybe this time he’ll win.
(I AM OFFICIALLY FIRED FROM THIS SITE.)
The thing that was incredibly well done about the whole beginning of this story is that I actually thought that The Doctor’s well of forgiveness had finally run dry. His face was so incredibly cold and the way he flinched away from Missy’s touch was terrifying. He was actually going to fucking pull that lever…until Nardole showed up FINALLY justifying his existence.
Nardole: Greetings, sinner. Only in darkness are we revealed.
The Doctor: I never sent for you.
Nardole: Goodness is not goodness that seeks advantage. Good is good in the final hour, in the deepest pit without hope, without witness, without reward. Virtue is only virtue in extremis. This is what he believes, and this is the reason above all, I love him. My husband. My madman in a box. My Doctor.
Missy: I’ll be good, I promise. I’ll turn, I’ll turn good. Please. Teach me, teach me how to be good.
It is a universally acknowledged truth that The Doctor NEEDS a companion to rein him in. Anyone that’s traveled with him, no matter how long, recognizes this about him. Donna Noble knew it on her first trip. (“Find someone.” “I don’t need anyone.” “Yes, you do. Because sometimes I think you need someone to stop you.”) River may not have been able to leave Darillium with The Doctor but she did the most loving thing she COULD have done in her stead: she left him her words. (Well…her words and a Cyborg who takes the whole “permission to kick The Doctor’s ass” thing VERY seriously.) She may not be there with him, but her words are there to remind The Doctor of who is at his very core. And he is not an executioner. Not for The Master anyway.
“Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up. Never give in.”
(MAYBE THIS TIME I’LL WINNNNNNNNNNNNNNN.)
It rings even more true for The Doctor when Missy repeats River’s words back to him. “I know I’m going to die. I have to say it, the truth. Without hope. Without witness. Without reward. I am your friend.” It is in this darkest moment that The Doctor truly reveals who he is…and that is a man who will give his friend infinite chances to be good. He pulls the lever…but he changes the wiring to merely knock her out. (When did he do this? We don’t know! Who cares? He just refused to kill The Master who cares about the how of the whole thing?)
Naturally, wannabe Rassilon is pissed that The Doctor bent the rules. (Have you MET The Doctor, sir?) “I swore an oath I’d look after her body for a thousand years,” The Doctor smirks. “Nobody mentioned dead.” Wannabe is like “I WILL END YOU” and The Doctor essentially goes “I’d like to see you try.” Seriously. He tells Wannabe to look up HIS fatality index. The mere mention of the number of fatalities The Doctor is responsible for is enough to send Wannabe’s cronies running. And THEN we see who The Doctor really is. He’s the man standing between his friend and the people who want his friend dead. Even if his friend deserves to be dead, they’re gonna have to go through him first.
Did The Doctor make a colossal mistake in saving Missy? IT’S VERY LIKELY. But it’s a mistake he’ll be able to live with. That’s the only thing that matters.
And that’s the story of how Missy ended up in the vault and how The Doctor ended up earthbound for 1000 years. (How did they GET the Vault to earth though?)
In the present day, we have the Veritas storyline. I KNOW this is a story that is clearly setting up the arc for our big bad for the rest of the season. I know this to be true. But after watching “Extremis” three and a half times to prepare for this recap, the only thing I can compare the story to is Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons meets The Matrix. GUYS THAT’S WHAT THIS STORY IS.
Think about it. We have the mild-mannered professor type with big hair. (Tom Hanks’ Robert Langdon could only DREAM of the Capaldi mane.) We have shady dealings with the Vatican and a shifty Cardinal. We have an ancient text that has universe-altering implications driving people to kill themselves after reading it. We have a secret Papal library designed to make the uninitiated get lost easily. We have a lovely young companion for the professor type. We even have a cameo from freaking CERN. THIS IS A DAN BROWN NOVEL.
All jokes aside, there’s a reason Dan Brown novels are always best sellers and it’s not just because of the lowest common denominator of popcorn entertainment and twistory conspiracy theories. Like Angels and Demons, “Extremis” is incredibly well-plotted and every minute ratchets up the tension. The segment at CERN with the crowd getting drunk while they wait to commit mass suicide was genuinely terrifying, especially once the entire room started chanting the numbers along with Bill and Nardole. The whole episode left me breathless and a bit confused and I loved it? But also didn’t? Help.
“Extremis” goes ultimate Steven Moffat when we find out that we actually AREN’T in Angels and Demons…no…we’re in The Matrix. Thankfully all these people aren’t killing themselves after reading the Veritas. (That concept was DARK even for Doctor Who.) No. The entire thing is a computer simulation and the people killing themselves are actually just escaping from the matrix. I loved loved loved the scene with Bill and The Doctor in the Oval Office where he explained the whole thing to her. Seems our Big Bad is an unnamed Demon who is creating shadow worlds for the purpose of studying humankind so he can kill them. Bill’s terror at not knowing what reality is was so genuine. (Pearl Mackie is such an incredible actress, y’all. Everything is so visceral with her.) She can TOUCH after all. How can this world not be real? (“Real?” “Real.”)
The Doctor: The trouble is, when simulants develop enough independent intelligence to realise what they are, there’s a risk they’ll rebel. Those deaths, they weren’t suicide. Those were people escaping. It’s like, er, Super Mario figuring out what’s going on, deleting himself from the game because he’s sick of dying.
Bill: No, I’m real. I feel real!
The Doctor: Those pretend people you shoot at in computer games. Now you know.
Bill: Know what?
The Doctor: They think they’re real. They feel it. We feel it.
I’ll never play MarioKart the same way ever again.
The climax of the scene gets a little convoluted, but that’s Steven Moffat for you. I don’t really get how emailing himself before it happens can stop a time loop from HAPPENING? Is the Pope going to still show up in his office? Won’t he kick himself out of the simulation faster (or the computer will kick HIM out) now that he knows what’s going on? Plot-schmlot. Who cares about specifics when we can get a Doctor Hero moment like this one?
The Doctor: Funny. I don’t believe much. I’m not sure I believe anything. But right now, belief is all I am. Virtue is only virtue in extremis. I take it that your intention is to invade the Earth?
Monk: The simulations have been run. The Earth will be ours.
The Doctor: Well, consider this a warning on the eve of war. I am the Doctor. I am what stands between you and them.
The Doctor may be blind but he will never ever give up. Even if he has to unleash The Master to help him fight his way through the dark.
- I’m a little squicky about The Pope interrupting Bill’s date with Penny. On the surface it’s very HA HA but like…Bill was just reassuring Penny that what they were doing wasn’t wrong? So Penny is clearly wavering about being on a date with a woman and is perhaps dipping her toe into exploring her sexuality for the first time. (Or at least that’s how I read it.) And then the POPE shows up effectively confirming her fears and scaring her off? It’s a CHEAP GAG and the show should do better.
- Okay, is Bill not out to her Moira? Or has she come out time and time again and Moira is being willfully blind, so Bill just keeps stating things like “not as strict as mine” matter of factually? That scene could go either way. And both ways make me sad.
- Okay was it just me or did the Lady Pope look like Pearl Mackie?
- “The layout is designed to confuse the uninitiated.” “Sort of like religion, really.” #BURN
- “Harry Potter!” “Language!”
- There have been so many Americans this season? Too many American accents on this show confuse me. That being said, I loved Bill and Nardole’s faces when they showed up at the freaking Pentagon.
- Also, I really dug Matt Lucas and Pearl Mackie together in this episode. Once Nardole’s purpose was revealed, I immediately became more accepting of him. Plus, I feel like this was the first episode Matt Lucas had material that wasn’t just exposition or comic relief and he really RAN with it and it showed.
- “Of course there’s wi-fi. It’s a library.” Bill Potts has left the library. Bill Potts has been saved.
- “You know, I’ve read a lot of books that this chair would be quite useful for. Moby Dick. Honestly, shut up, and get to the whale.”
- I can’t be the only one who thought of this when The Doctor emailed himself.
- “I won’t read this without you.” OKAY BUT WHEN IS HE GOING TO GET HIS SIGHT BACK?
- “Whatever you need you can always borrow. As long as you pay it back.” I get high key stressed whenever he talks about his future regenerations, y’all.
- “Pain is information.” Truth.
- I’m fine with this being 12’s new motto:
What did you think of “Extremis”? Let us know in the comments.