And so Doctor Who brings its epic three-part 'Monks' storyline to a close. It's undoubtedly some of the best big-concept sci-fi the show has done in a while, and the final chapter in the story does not disappoint. What began in Extremis as a Philip K. Dick/Wachowski drama of reality, evolved in to a borderline cold-war analogue/Terry Nation's Survivors pastiche for The Pyramid at the End of the World, concludes in The Lie of the Land as a hard-minded Orwell/Huxley-esque satire. Penned by veteran Who writer Toby Whithouse, Lie delivers on all the promise of its predecessors, and develops a few crucial points of the Doctor and Bill's relationship.
As per the end of the last episode, the Monks now control the world. Bill gave them the consent they needed to seize control of the planet, now they are using her as a conduit to broadcast memory-altering mind waves to the entire Earth. They have the human race convinced that the Monks have been there for centuries, appearing throughout history as helpers. Anyone who tries to espouse the truth (that they have only been there six months) is sent to a labor camp. What's more, it appears that the Doctor is helping them spread these lies. Bill must find the Doctor, find out what's going on, and find a way to sever the Monks' mind link to humanity. Help in doing so ends up coming in some unexpected forms…
An episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor uses the phrase "Fake News"… and who said Doctor Who didn't know how to be topical anymore? In a year that has seen a huge resurgence of interest in works like 1984 and Brave New World, it is probably, in retrospect, not at all surprising that Doctor Who would attempt a story like this. What is surprising is how effective the episode is at telling its own story and not getting bogged down in the satire. This could have been a laborious allegory for the Trump administration and the rise of the Alt-Right, instead, all of this is gently in the background, and the audience is worried, mainly, about creepy Monks doing mind control.
"a moment involving Bill, The Doctor, and gun is likely to become iconic of the Capaldi era"
This episode also has a Missy cameo. We finally see inside the vault, and, as we had all guessed by this point, it's Missy inside. Her prior dealings with the Monks, and her take-no-prisoners attitude prove invaluable in the plan to stop them. Michelle Gomez is, once again, allowed to bring her performance down to a simmer, and its great to watch. Her first interactions with Bill are interesting, but, as per usual, the real sparks are between her and Capaldi's Doctor. It's also worth noting at this point, that this is the first time the Master has been a (kind of) series regular since his first appearances in the Jon Pertwee era. Back then it was because of the incredible chemistry that Roger Delgado had with Pertwee. The reasoning seems to be the same this time around as well.
The episode is not perfect. The ending is a little too easy, the final solution to the Monks, while not quite a deus ex machina, is a little out of left field. Despite some telegraphing it still comes off a little too lucky that something random Bill happened to be doing turned out to be a thing she would need to save the world. More prosopon ex machina than deus, if you will. However that doesn't stop the episode from being a jolly good time. The Monks are creepy as ever, the 'Truth' propaganda is layered in brilliantly, and a moment involving Bill, The Doctor, and gun is likely to become iconic of the Capaldi era. All in all, a strong outing.
Next week… the Ice Warriors are back!