NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Doctor Who” are present in this review
After one excellent episode and one pretty good episode, the so-called ‘Monks Trilogy’ is poised for an effectively exciting climax with this week’s episode of Doctor Who. For the most part, “The Lie of the Land” gave us exactly that as well, as the world becomes re-written to a dark future where the Monks have always lived alongside an oppressed humanity, with The Doctor seemingly becoming a propaganda mouthpiece for them as well.
This initial episode hook is pretty awesome, especially when things begin with a harsh detailing of what the Monks do to so-called, “Memory criminals”, or people who do anything to contradict the world history that the Monks have laid out for Earth. Even merely possessing comic books appears to get you a prison sentence in a labour camp, with Bill quietly toiling on by trying to keep her down, while explaining to her non-existent mother that she knows something is very wrong with the world. It’s naturally easy to draw a parallel with the modern ‘fake news’ epidemic of our real world, even though it’s obviously exaggerated here, creating an episode that feels just as timely as it is clever.
Fortunately, Nardole eventually manages to make contact with Bill as well, with the two finding a way to sneak aboard a prison ship to locate The Doctor. They do so, but The Doctor surprisingly calls the guards on them, saying that he’s joined the Monks, and has no plans to stop them from taking over humanity. This would have been a heartbreaking scene, not to mention an intense one, as Bill would become the last and only hope for a humanity that doesn’t even have The Doctor on its side anymore…
… Except the episode frustratingly wimps out of this idea, by having The Doctor merely pretend to spout propaganda for six months, because he was waiting for Nardole to go find Bill, so that he could goad Bill into shooting him with guards that are actually undercover resistance members, thus proving that Bill is still Bill, which Nardole would have already determined anyway. Yeah, if it sounds like this plan is stupid, convoluted and doesn’t make much sense, it’s because that’s basically what it is. The Doctor even faking a regeneration (somehow) as Bill inexplicably shoots him feels like a needlessly over-the-top fake-out that was only there to rile up the fans too stupid to obviously see through it. Come on, Doctor Who, you’re better than this!
Once we get the headache of The Doctor’s non-sensical plan to reunite with Bill out of the way however, the episode mostly proceeds on a strong note. The Doctor comes to the realization that the only way to defeat the Monks will involve consulting Missy, who has dealt with them off-screen in the past. Michelle Gomez proves to be a big highlight, as usual, with Missy casually recounting how she once broke the Monks’ psychic link by pushing a little girl into a volcano, but nonetheless helping The Doctor learn that’s necessary to rid Earth of the Monks. Apparently, with Bill being the one to give pure consent, Bill has become the source of their ability to influence the human minds and history of Earth. If that psychic link is broken, then Earth will be freed.
The Doctor, of course, takes issue with the implication of either killing Bill or turning her into a vegetable (it’s a bit unclear as to why Missy suddenly thinks it’s better to force Bill into a vegetative state in Earth’s case), though Bill is ready to do whatever it takes to save humanity. This comes together in a pretty solid climax, as The Doctor and his resistance members must use audio recordings to try and distract from a transmitter that’s psychically dominating humanity’s thoughts, before The Doctor, Bill and Nardole come into the center of the Monks’ operation. After The Doctor tries and fails to use his own mind to overload the Monks’ psychic dominance though, Bill steps up and uses the memory of her mother to successfully destroy their control over humans, forcing the Monks to retreat from Earth as the world returns to normal, complete with all former memory of the Monks erased. It’s a little schmaltzy and convenient, but I suppose it works, even if Bill surviving is pretty unrealistic, considering that not even The Doctor’s mind was safe from being fried by the Monks’ psychic network.
“The Lie of the Land” delivered a mostly strong and satisfying conclusion to the three-episode Monks Trilogy, even if it could have dialed back the fan-baiting fake-outs, especially with The Doctor pretending to side with the Monks when he inevitably didn’t. I guess the show was worried about making The Doctor look like a coward if he defected to the enemies’ side, but ironically, it kind of ended up doing that anyway, since, considering his character, he never really had any reason to pretend to kiss up to the baddies, especially since he just blatantly defies them the second that Bill returns to his side anyway. Outside of some of those head-scratching moments, we still got a strong and interesting episode though, one that continues to have Missy’s supposed ‘rehabilitation’ taking new and interesting turns, while Bill got her latest brave, if slightly contrived chance to do some good for her planet. Now that the Monks have finally been driven off of Earth though, it will be nice to fully get back to some different adventures for The Doctor, Bill and Nardole next week.
- Great 'fake news'-fueled concept with the Monks' takeover
- More interesting development with The Doctor's imprisoning of Missy
- Bill's standout courage continues to inspire
- The Doctor faking loyalty to the Monks doesn't make much sense
- The Monks' defeat by Bill is rather improbable and schmaltzy