You could almost be forgiven in thinking The Lie of the Land was the season finale, were it not for the next time trailer at the end of the episode. Inescapable world-ending scenario, a companion destined to die, the Master, and even a Regeneration to boot (sort of) – this conclusion to the Monks Trilogy has almost all the hallmarks of a high-stakes end-of-series epic.
For whilst the central conceit of The Lie of the Land is big and bold, the story itself is played out in a more low-key manner. That’s not to say the episode isn’t compelling or enjoyable, but it is yet another episode this series that takes things at a snail’s pace, before ramping up in the final 10 minutes or so.
Writer Toby Whithouse, a veteran Doctor Who scribe with multiple episodes under his belt, certainly makes the smaller scenes burst with excellent character moments and dialogue both witty and sweet. Bill’s discovery that the Doctor is truly in league with the Monks is well-handled, as is the scene at the end of the episode between the Doctor and a somewhat surprisingly repentant Missy. If a slow pace results in such powerful character development like we get here, then perhaps it’s not entirely remiss to play out as such.
Michelle Gomez‘s return after her brief appearance in Extremis is very welcome, even if her screen time here is as minimal as in that episode. She still oozes deliciously evil charm and insane one-liners, but there’s hidden depths revealed here, as the script sets about peeling back layers of the character we’ve never seen up till now. Suffice to say, Gomez handles both assets of the character with ease.
The relationship between the Doctor and Bill is also back to the forefront this week and provides a strong driving force for the plot, as Bill makes the ultimate sacrifice to defeat the Monk’s unorthodox invasion. Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie are both tremendous, giving sweet, endearing performances that compliment each other’s perfectly. The bond between their two characters remains as strong as ever, despite the turmoil it is put through this week.
As a conclusion to a three-episode arc, The Lie of the Land plays with great ideas and most of them are pulled off without a hitch. Director Wayne Yip handles the scenario well, with some excellent editing and some great music from composer Murray Gold lifting even the most basic of scenes. As a character piece, The Lie of the Land works extremely well. As a solid piece of Doctor Who, it perhaps doesn’t hit the mark as quick as it should, but still manages to be a tight and imaginative bit of Saturday night Sci-Fi.
Doctor Who returns to BBC One next Saturday. Be sure to head to Critical Popcorn for our verdict.