Doctor Who Series 10, Episode 8
“The Lie of the Land”
Posted by Kim
In a world where things like Brexit, the President of the United States declaring mass media “fake news,” and the former FBI director essentially calling said President a liar on national television are ACTUAL things, “The Lie of the Land” hits a little too close to home, no? I have to admit I’m of two minds about this episode. On one hand, I am always here for my favorite show launching a scathing and not-so-thinly veiled attack at the state of the world and all of the political madness we’re enduring. (I think I actually shouted “TOO REAL GUYS” when Nardole uttered the line “However bad a situation is, if people think that’s how it’s always been, they’ll put up with it.”) On the other hand, like most of this Monk storyline (and most of this series if I can be honest), I found the episode incredibly problematic and a wee bit too heavy-handed. (There were way too many guns, y’all.) Something is OFF about this series to me and I can’t quite put my finger on it. But I’ll get to that later. Let’s talk about this episode first.
Six months after the Monks have arrived, the world has basically devolved into a dystopian wasteland where everyone dresses in drab blue like we’re in The Handmaid’s Tale or The Hunger Games‘ District 12. Statues worshipping the Monks are everywhere. People are arrested for violating the “Memory Crimes Act” (aka trying to tell the truth about the Monks) which definitely sounds like some sort of decree that Umbridge would hang in The Great Hall. Basically, things are complete and utter shit. The Monks have a new spokesman in The Doctor who is doing all sorts of propaganda videos saying that the Monks have been by our sides for all of humanity’s triumphs…even HIS triumphs. It’s fucked up. Poor Bill Potts is just trying to cling to the fundamental truth that SHE knows: that The Doctor is good, the Monks are bad, and humanity is in deep deep shit. She repeats these facts to the memory of her mother every day, if not several times a day. Good ole Nardole shows up (I actually really love Matt Lucas and Pearl Mackie together? Also now that I know Nardy’s purpose, I am so much more open to his presence) and says that after months of searching, he’s finally found where the Monks are keeping The Doctor. It’s time for a rescue mission.
AND THEN THIS SHIT HAPPENS.
Okay, the first time I watched this episode, I thought the scene was incredibly powerful. I mean I knew in my heart of hearts that the Doctor was faking (or spewing this shit under duress) but damn if he didn’t make it convincing. It’s not terribly hard to believe that after all the death and destruction that the Doctor has seen over the course of his lifetime that SOMETHING would finally make him say “Fuck it,” you know? Human beings are a damn mess. I think it every day when I turn on the news and feel that we are creeping ever so closer to World War III, repeating the same mistakes over and over again, never LEARNING from them. I GET the Doctor’s rage. It’s so visceral and terrifying and it absolutely makes sense.
The Doctor: You had free will, and look at what you did with it. Worse than that, you had history. History was saying to you, look, I’ve got some examples of fascism here for you to look at. No? Fundamentalism? No? Oh, okay, you carry on. I had to stop you, or at least not stand in the way of someone else who wanted to, because the guns were getting bigger, the stakes were getting higher, and any minute now it was going to be goodnight, Vienna.
Also incredibly visceral? Bill’s rage that the ONE person she had believed in, the person who she clung to in her darkest moments because of her sheer belief that he would save the day, seems to have given up. Not just given up but completely betray everything that has kept her alive for the past six months.
Bill: This, this is real? You, you’re actually, you’re actually doing this? Do you have any idea how hard the past few months have been? How hard it’s been to hold onto to the truth? It would have been so easy to just, just, just give in and believe their lies. But I didn’t. I fought against it, for you! For when you came back. And now you’re saying you’ve joined them? You’re helping them?
Honestly, it’s no wonder she pulls a gun on him and shoots him three times in the chest in a fit of rage. It’s the ULTIMATE betrayal of trust. (Her FACE when she realized what she had done.) Thus, we got that shot of regeneration that had us all screaming in the trailer because we are THAT unprepared to see Peter Capaldi go. But The Doctor doesn’t regenerate. After a very dramatic show, the regeneration energy vanishes and the Doctor fucking LAUGHS and cries out “Good Girl!” like he’s some sort of deranged Willy Wonka finally about to reward Charlie with the Chocolate Factory. Everyone laughs and applauds Bill as she stands aghast. It was all a long con to make sure Bill hadn’t been brainwashed by the Monks. OKAY.
Yeah, the second time I watched the scene, I was filled with rage.
Okay, seriously. What the actual fuck with this scene?
The Doctor goaded his companion into committing COLD BLOODED MURDER just to test her. And then he LAUGHED. Think about that shit. He was completely unapologetic for the absolute HELL he put her through for six fucking months whilst he worked out his plan. Not only did HE laugh at her but everyone else in the room did too. And he DIDN’T EVEN APOLOGIZE TO HER. He traumatized her and made her question every single thing that she believed in just for shits and giggles cause there HAD to have been better ways to determine whether or not she was under the Monks’ influence. They didn’t need to have her murder him. Did she even know about the proper rules of regeneration? (Her face and reaction after shooting him says no.) The Doctor has mentioned it in passing, but he’s never explained what happens to him. ALSO…she’s going to remember doing this? He doesn’t alter her memory, so she’s always going to remember that one time that she shot her mentor in a fit of rage and it was all a fucking joke to him. It’s so CALLOUS. (And I am SO bothered by the fact that they didn’t even allow Bill to process what she had done AND what had been done to her.)
That…that’s not my Doctor you guys. That’s not ANYONE’S Doctor.
That’s not the Doctor who believes in the strength of intellect and compassion over brute force and cynicism. That’s not the Doctor who TWO EPISODES AGO proudly declared that he was unarmed to those wannabe Time Lord executioners. (Yeah, the Doctor never held a gun here, but that’s semantics.) He drove Bill to MURDER HIM. I can’t get past this. What the fuck were Steven Moffat and Toby Whithouse thinking? Did they do it just for the fake-out regeneration scene because we all know Peter is leaving? If so, that’s really fucking cheap and Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie (who both delivered beautiful performances here) deserve better. The characters deserve better. The audience deserves better. GUNS AND VIOLENCE ARE NOT DOCTOR WHO. It never has been…so what the FUCK was this? (Sage on gChat just now: Keep it on Being Human, Whithouse.) The scene was dramatic as hell but to me it betrayed the very DNA of this show. The longer I think about it, the madder I get. Honestly, if someone has ANY defense of the way this scene was handled, please tell me, because I find the whole set-up to be pretty unforgivable.
And no, the touchy-feely end of the episode does NOT justify the means that the Doctor used to get there. They just don’t. SORRY. TRY AGAIN PLEASE.
After making at pit stop at the vault to pick Missy’s brain (believe me, I’ll get back to that), The Doctor and Bill formulate a plan of attack. The problem? Bill is the lynchpin allowing the Monks to stay in power because she is the one who consented to them being here in the first place. (“It has to be a properly consenting human mind. A pure request, one without agenda or ulterior motive.” Me = NOT THIS SHIT AGAIN.) According to Missy, Bill has to die in order for the Monks to be defeated. Not just die, but be brain dead, a living vegetable, because her vacant brain activity would wipe out all the false memories. Naturally, the Doctor doesn’t take too well to that idea.
After they infiltrate the pyramid and have way too many guns and shooting again (SERIOUSLY WHY), Bill, Nardole, and The Doctor make it to Fake News Central aka the heart of the Monks’ operation where a lone Monk’s brain is plugged into a mass transmitter that implants false memories in people. The Doctor tries to plug his OWN brain in, and it works. For a while anyway. Then it knocks him out and Bill knows what she has to do. We get a very touching goodbye scene between Bill and the Doctor that was very reminiscent of “Face the Raven” minus all the tortured romantic subtext and then Bill plugs her own brain into the Monk computer. At first the Monks start to hijack her memories as the Doctor watches in horror. Until…they find a memory that isn’t really a memory after all but a coping device. A security blanket. Her mum. Bill has openly talked to her mother ever since we met her and it’s that construct she’s built in her head that ends up saving her. (Don’t get me started on the “All the pictures I gave you. I thought I was just being kind, but I was saving the world.” line cause really it just pissed me off that the Doctor was taking credit for this? Like, Bill talked to her Mom before he came along, all he did was give her a visual. SORRY HE’S JUST ON MY SHIT LIST RIGHT NOW.)
I don’t know maybe I’m just a bitter and cynical person or maybe I just REALLY hated this story/arc, but I found myself a bit unmoved by the whole Deus Ex Machina “Love Saves the Day” bit. The whole thing just felt manipulative and cheap to me. And I am MAD because Pearl Mackie’s performance is so fucking beautiful. LOOK AT HER FACE. I am a little like if she can do THAT with this kind of SHIT, imagine what would happen if they gave her good material.
I did love the line “A glimpse of freedom. But a glimpse is all you need.” though. That’s some realness right there.
Thus the Monks do “what oppressors always do when they realise who’s really in power. They run.” The whole thing feels a LITTLE anti-climatic, especially for a three episode arc. The scene with Bill and the Doctor at the end is super sweet, even if it’s a but ruined for me by the Doctor’s actions earlier in the episode. Humanity is doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again, The Doctor says. So why even bother? Because there are people like Bill Potts. And Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble, Amy Pond, Rory Williams, Clara Oswald and the many other companions the Doctor has loved and lost over the course of his lifetime. They are the ones who enable him to face every day and NOT say “fuck everything,” you know? They are the best of him, the ones who make it all worth it.
(Now if only the writers would treat the companions with the same esteem.)
- Peter Capaldi’s evil smile though. Can he PLEASE be cast as a villain that we will all not so secretly love?
- I screamed at the shout-out to “The Idiot’s Lantern” with Magpie Electrical
- “It’s like they’re saying they’ve been here for ever, and I know they haven’t, but part of me is starting to think that it’s real. Every day I have to, I have to remind myself that everything that you, me and the Doctor did actually happened.” = Me every day since Donald Trump took office. #Resist
- HOW was Ross Mullan not playing one of the Monks????? Was he too busy on Game of Thrones?
- Peter was SO Scottish in his speech about why he had joined the Monks. It was a lot.
- Remember what I said about Peter needing to be cast as a villain? I give you Exhibit B:
- “I wanted you back by my side because it’s the safest place in the world.” *cries blood*
- “The things that I could change just by thinking. Racism. People who talk in cinemas.”
- MY QUEEN.
- OKAY LET’S TALK ABOUT MISSY. God, I love Michelle Gomez. I love how she OWNS every single scene she is in. I love the way she and Peter Capaldi bounce off each other. Missy’s initial scene was really all about that energy and relationship. It’s all Missy has ever wanted, really. To be part of the game WITH The Doctor. They may have different ideologies, but they are the same at their very cores.
- If I tried quoting every zinger or line that made me squeal with glee, I may as well just copy and past the full transcript of this Missy scene. So I’ll just say Missy asking for a pony was my favorite. Because she totally WOULD ask for a pony.
- How offended was Missy when Bill said “It’s just a woman?”
- LOOK AT THEM:
- Okay I lied, I have to mention this moment too because I screamed “YOU TELL HIM GURL” at my TV screen.
- So it seems the Doctor is attempting to make good on his promise to help Missy to learn how to “be good”. But what I LOVED is her calling him out on his shit: “You know, back in the day, I’d burn an entire city to the ground just to see the pretty shapes the smoke made. I’m sorry your plus one doesn’t get a happy ending, but like it or not, I just saved this world because I want to change. Your version of good is not absolute. It’s vain, arrogant and sentimental. If you’re waiting for me to become all that, I’m going to be here for a long time yet.” THE TEA IS HOT.
- Or should I say the tea is caliente? It’s Spanish for hot.
- I think the biggest takeaway for me from that scene is that Missy wants to change but she wants to change on HER terms. She still wants to be herself…just maybe a slightly less deranged version of herself. Or maybe she’s pulling a long con here. WHO KNOWS.
- But I want to believe Missy’s journey of self discovery is genuine. Why? BECAUSE THAT LAST SCENE. Like, Goddammit, Michelle Gomez. I truly believed that Missy was processing real remorse as she looked back on all the wrongs she’s done.
- “You didn’t tell me about this bit.” “I’m sorry…but this is good.” “Okay.”
- Going WAY back to my comment about this series as a whole so far: something is MISSING for me and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I love Bill. I love the Doctor (even when he’s pissing me off). I love their relationship. Hell, I’ve even warmed up to Nardole. So why am I not shouting from the rooftops about this series like I was with 8 and 9? For me, I think it’s boiling down to the stories they are choosing to tell. There…no sense of immediacy in this series to me? Despite this whole arc with the vault, it feels…disjointed? A bit adrift? A bit like they are throwing everything at the wall instead of distilling it down to the best of the best of Doctor Who? I don’t feel like we’re building towards anything? I’m super bummed about it. We’re heading into our final four stories and I hope against hope that something turns it around.
What are your thoughts on “The Lie of the Land” and the Monks Arc as a whole now that we have all three pieces? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.