Remember when a few weeks ago we bemoaned the lack of two-parters in this series of Doctor Who? Yeah, well, whilst we were wrong to assume there would be no multi-episode stories this series, its wonderful to be proven so right, as this week’s thrilling episode makes a strong case for stories told over multiple episodes.
The second instalment in the ‘Monks Trilogy’, The Pyramid at the End of the World takes the ongoing arc plot of the Monk’s stratagem to invade the earth (as established last week in Extremis) in an entirely fresh direction. A global scale and an impending doomsday combined with a strange ancient pyramid that appears out of nowhere certainly has the hallmarks of a typical alien invasion plot, but writers Peter Harness and Steven Moffat imbue proceedings with a neat twist – the Monks will only invade with the consent of the human race. Otherwise, humanity will be extinct in less then a year through some fault of its own.
Its a genius concept for the villains to essentially hold the world to ransom by withholding knowledge that could help humanity avoid inevitable catastrophe. A creeping sense of foreboding dread creeps throughout the episode, lending an ominous feel to events as we slowly see humanity step ever closer to doom at it’s own hands. It also helps that the Monks feel like a credible threat, their unlimited powers over time and matter setting them up as challenging, dangerous and cunning foes not to be reckoned with.
Some in the audience will struggle to keep themselves invested in what is essentially a very talky, slow-moving episode. For the most part, its the Doctor, Bill, Nardole, some soldiers and a UN diplomat debating for a solid 30 minutes, first the nature of the Pyramid, then whether humanity should surrender and relinquish control of the planet to the Monks. All of this whilst two scientists slowly set events in motion that will cause humanity’s destruction in a lab.
But Pyramid rewards with some great dialogue, thought-provoking dilemmas and a final 10 minutes that really pack a punch! The Doctor’s blindness becomes his ultimate undoing, and with Nardole unconscious, Bill is forced to make an emotional and wrenching decision, one that leads to a whopper of a cliffhanger! Kudos to the excellent Pearl Mackie, who really sells it in the closing scenes, and director Daniel Nettheim, whose directorial skill is concurrent throughout, ensuring a high degree of tension washes over the episode.
Pyramid benefits from being the middle instalment of a three-part epic. There’s room for big concepts, moments of genuine threat and character-defining scenes that would likely fall by the wayside were the events of the Monk invasion condensed into one single 45 minute instalment. Thankfully, we’re instead treated to the aforementioned trilogy, which (fingers crossed) will wrap up in splendid fashion next week.
Slow? Yes. Talky? Definitely. Excellent? You betcha! The Pyramid at the End of the World is another feather in Series 10’s cap, and looks set to have major repercussions in next week’s epic conclusion.
Doctor Who is back on BBC One next Saturday. Be sure to drop by Critical Popcorn for our review.