Steven Moffat announced his impending departure from Doctor Who on January 23, 2016. Since then, the whole damn world has seemingly lost its mind in a myriad of ways. The UK is leaving the European Union. Donald Trump (allegedly) Manchurian Candidated his way into the White House. And American Idol is coming back.

Admittedly, one is less consequential than the other two, but, seriously, why is ABC bringing back American Idol? It’s only been gone for one season. Aren’t you supposed to wait at least a couple of years before you revive a TV show?

Either way, the changes underway in the UK and US combined with the never-ending drumbeat of scandal, terrorist attacks and sabre rattling between nations seemingly hell bent on going to war has led some inti depression, fits of anxiety, political action or willful ignorance. Others, of course, are celebrating the actions of the people they voted for. Still, it’s understandable to be freaking out just a little bit. Heck, the literal doomsday clock has been moved up!

However, times of trouble have a way of giving rise to amazing art and other forms of entertainment. A normal person might not know what to with the news about the doomsday clock. Moffat, though, saw the perfect opportunity for a Doctor Who story. When our reality begins to look like fiction it’s up to our fiction to fight back, and that’s what “The Pyramid at the End of the World” did, positing a scenario where the next Doctor Who alien threatening to invade Earth devises a dastardly plan to simply sit back and wait for us to stumble into a world threwtening scenario of our own making because, to paraphrase Terminator 2, “It’s in our nature to destroy ourselves.”

As the second part of a trilogy, “Pyramid” is arguably a filler episode, possibly disappointing, even, since it punts Missy’s part in helping the Doctor into next episode. However, as if with most of season 10’s efforts I found it to be wildly inventive, a taut thriller with ample humor and a cracking climax whereby the Doctor – for the second week in a row – beats the bad guy but still loses.
Spoilers Ahead

Here’s what I liked and didn’t like about the episode:

What I Liked

Everything.

What I Didn’t Like

Nothing.

That about sums it up, really. There was nothing about “Pyramid” which I didn’t like, from the clever “previously” and “now” re-working of a standard “previously on” segment at the beginning to the Doctor’s lie about his eyesight coming back to bite him in the ass at the worst possible moment. So, there will be no nitpicking or criticisms from me. Instead, here are some of the elements of “Pyramid” which particularly stood out to me:

The topical nature of the story. Doctor Who is no stranger to social or political commentary, but it’s been quite a while since the show has felt quite as of the moment as it was in “Pyramid,” an episode in which all an invading alien race has to do is simply pop down in a strategic point between US, Russian and Chinese military forces and watch their leaders scramble to work together ala Arrival. Predictably, those leaders eventually turn on/lose faith in The Doctor because while he’s anointed President of Earth in this particular crisis he’s also an outsider, one sympathetic to humanity’s cause, sure, but an outsider nonetheless. That the episode sees fit to kill off all three of those leaders might seem to be in poor taste, but for me it only contributed to the boldness of the story. They gave peace a chance. It didn’t work. Sorry, John Lennon. Then they gave surrender a chance, and that too didn’t work because the bad guys will not accept rule granted by fear.

-The twist. Of course, while everyone worries about World War III there’s a deadly disease constantly threatening to break out of some lab somewhere, caused, in “Pyramid”’s case, by nothing more than a simple and honest human error with a decimal point. That “Pyramid” chose to tell this side story through two characters with an equal chance of mucking everything up – one a man who’d partied too much the night before, the other a dwarf whose reading glasses had been broken on the way into work – speaks both to the suspenseful nature of the story as well as to Doctor Who’s on-going inclusiveness since the mere fact that one of these characters is a dwarf is never commented on.

-The notion of an intelligent alien race which recognizes we are ultimately our own worst enemy. It’s a very 2017 sci-fi story to feature aliens who’ve run the computer simulations of Earth and realize, “Guys, if we just sit back and let the humans destroy themselves eventually they’ll not only need us to save them but they’ll love us for doing it. This is going to be so easy.” It’s very Moffat to create monsters who choose to look like human corpses because, to them, we all look like walking corpses. Plus, hey, those red robes they wear give them a slightly decaying Imperial Guard feel, which is nice.

-Bill acting out of love and not fear or self-preservation. Ahhh, you guys. Bill’s just the best, although I predict that before the end of the season she will finally get to have a proper date with that girl, one which doesn’t end with some world leader bursting into her kitchen at the worst moment possible.

The ongoing humor of Nardole covertly acting as The Doctor’s eyes. Turns out, this modified Cyrano act only lasted two episodes since The Doctor now has his eyesight back, but it was good while it lasted and also cleverly sucked us in with the jokes before pulling the rug out from under us and paying everything off with a climax the Doctor’s reliance on Nardole to help him see fell apart at the worst possible moment.

What about you? What did you think of “The Pyramid at the End of the World”? Let me know in the comments.

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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

9 Comments

  1. Hey so I’m a massive fan of Steven Moffat purely because of Sherlock. This Doctor Who stuff sounds and looks really interesting but I’ve been intimidated away from starting to watch it for fear that the ancient backstory of the franchise will mean I won’t be able to understand anything of whats going on. If I start watching Doctor Who from where Moffat started his run, will I be able to enjoy it as standalone TV?

    Reply

    1. You can start with the Matt Smith era and be good. Obviously, some things here or there will make more sense if you’ve seen seasons prior to that, but when Moffat took over he essentially rebooted everything, even the logo and visual design of the show. It was designed to be a good starting point for new fans, and it really worked on that level.

      Frankly, you could also just jump into the current season, starting from the season premiere of course, and also kind of be good since much of the continuity of the prior seasons has been deus ex Machina – ed away giving the current season a fresh start with a brand new companion who asks lots of questions thus forcing the show to sort of re-explain itself.

      So, if you don’t have a lot of time give the season 10 premiere a shot. However, if you have a little more time on your hands start with season 5. That was more cleanly designed to be accessible too franchise newbies. Plus, if you like Guardians of the Galaxy and/or Legends of Tomorrow Doctor Who season 5 shows you Karen Gillan before she became Nebula and Arthur Darville before he became Rip Hunter.

      Reply

  2. Why would you risk alienating a potentially large portion of your fan base by inserting politics into your reviews. Both Trump supporters and Trump haters can enjoy (and/or love to criticize Doctor Who). So, why the need to piss off part of your audience with something that has nothing to do with what you’re reviewing?

    Reply

  3. You can start with Eckleston’s Doctor and not miss any critical back story.

    Reply

  4. I enjoyed the show with a few annoyances…

    * None of 4 “world leaders” brought into the pyramid had any actual authority to bind the earth into the kind of agreement the aliens appeared to require — if the consent required a request based on love, (the stated reason being that if it’s based on force there’s always resistance) they weren’t going to get that from the entire earth because of one UN president and the generals of three armies.

    * The alien said Bill represented the greatest power: that of the Doctor. But, she did not “represent” him. In fact, she was going directly against his wishes. So while her love for the doctor may have been pure, her authority to bind the world — or even the Doctor is non existent.

    * For a race who’d been intimately studying humans for centuries, they sure lacked any understanding of them. Not even rudimentary understanding. 1) They said they took their form so the humans could better relate to them. Really? 2) They expected a “loving” request for help after the humans have only been threatened. Where, in their simulations, did they determine THAT would work?

    * The Doctor couldn’t come up with ANY way to have someone else see the combination lock? In that entire lab, there were no mirrors? Nothing with reflective surfaces? And didn’t a previous version of his sonic sunglasses actually transmit full video? Lots of ways he could have used someone else’s sight. And he didn’t even THINK of anything like that.

    * The premise of the two lab people handling potentially dangerous chemicals — with one unable to read due to broken glasses, and the other sick and dizzy — and neither of them thinks maybe they shouldn’t be working just now? Or maybe getting 2nd opinions before committing to anything risky? For that matter, you’d think there would be one or two “double-checks” before committing to something like the exact chemical mixture.

    Reply

  5. well done Who starting with 2 black girls developing a relationship with some good script writing and despite of being a family show before the watershed. Setting the way for others I hope to not play it safe and recognise that you don’t have to play it safe with heterosexuality all the time. I am bizarrely enjoying this show for two reasons. 1) the sidekicks are unusual. They aren’t your typical role models or mainstream interesting characters, they are different with different traits to bring in supporting the doctor. One of them isn’t human which is odd for this new era of doctor who. 2) the show is running as a soap opera with continuing issues and developments rather than the doctor outfoxing everyone by the end of the hour. There are a series of issues with the monks, missy, the sidekicks, bindness all rumbing on and you get the feeling for the first time that the doctor is struggling with it all and perhaps out of his depth. This is a shame as seeing the 12th doctor series finally grow is frustrating as we know it will all change very soon with Moffat going and Capaldi. Surely they shouldn’t build and improve only to knock it all down with a reboot. This isn’t spiderman afterall. Oooh and what about the next time review showing Bill shooting the doctor. Could this be his regeneration?

    Reply

  6. The biggest shock was learning there are 5 more series of doctor who planned and thanks to a special deal with the CHINESE? AGAIN the Chinese influencing TV now as well as film. I am expecting some changes to the show to be influenced by this.

    Reply

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