Series 10: The Lie of the Land Advance Review
Note: Doctor Who TV’s pre-air views aim to be as detail-free as we reasonably can while still offering a critique, but as everyone’s spoiler sensibilities are different, we advise you read on at your own discretion.
After three weeks, the Monk trilogy finally reaches its conclusion this weekend on Doctor Who, with “The Lie of the Land”.
Following on several months after the events of “The Pyramid at the End of the World”, Earth is now under complete control of the Monks. History has been re-written and the majority of the population has fallen in line with the lie. Unfortunately even the Doctor is seemingly now on the wrong side. Bill is the only one who knows the reality of the situation, but can she stop it all before it’s too late?
Long-time New Who writer Toby Whithouse (more recently responsible for 2015s “Under the Lake” two-parter) returns to pen the conclusion to this particular saga. Last week’s ending set things up nicely, so does it deliver a satisfying conclusion? In short: not quite.
Let’s start with the positives though. It’s a bold story in many ways, one that is rather relevant in today’s times, where George Orwell’s “1984” increasingly feels less like fiction. The first half shows almost complete hopelessness in a world where the enemies have won, humanity has been essentially enslaved and spied upon, and to top it off even the Doctor has seemingly turned. Admittedly Doctor Who has explored similar ideas in episodes like “Last of the Time Lords” and “Turn Left,” but what we have here is still enough to standout on its own.
Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie are excellent and given plenty of strong material to play off. We get to see a very different side to the Doctor, and Capaldi is clearly enjoying playing with the audience’s (and poor Bill’s) expectations. Mackie is also given a slightly more pronounced role as a result of the Doctor being out of commission early on. Bill’s the anchor of the story and the only voice of sanity (even if she’s now imagining people) in an upside down world.
After her omission last week, Missy is also back. And we even get a good look inside the vault at long last. Gomez acts her heart out, and much like what was set-up in “Extremis”, she is not playing the villain here. Can a leopard really change its spots though? If Moffat follows through on the idea (presumably in the final two episodes), it would go against the character.
It’s directed with flair by new to Who director Wayne Yip (although it’s not his first entrance into the Whoniverse having worked on spin-off Class last year). The music is also strong, and features a beautiful arrangement of one of Murray Gold’s best.
Now on the disappointing side of things, Doctor Who has often struggled with resolutions when the stakes are raised, and this episode unfortunately is one such case. It’s especially hard to talk about this in the confines of an advance review, but after all the set up, let’s just say the final resolution feels a bit too easy; a mawkish trope where science-fiction gives way to sentimentality. Something Doctor Who has used more than one time as a magic fix all. One major moment earlier in the episode also doesn’t quite work as well as it should, and seems more designed to create a shock trailer moment.
For all their power and planning to get where they have over these last three episodes, the Monks never put up much resistance either. In fact they’re seen quite fleetingly. There’s one little skirmish towards the end, stylishly directed, but it feels a bit insubstantial. There’s not really a big confrontation as such. It all just ends with a bit of a whimper, rather than the bang that would have cemented them as a foe to remember.
To conclude, “The Lie of the Land” is not an awful episode by any means, but in this reviewer’s opinion, it falls a little short in a few areas of being the finale this trilogy deserved.