Sunday 21 May 2017

Doctor Who - Extremis

Exreme Missy

Doctor Who - Extremis
Airdate: 20th May 2017

Warning: This one’s going to have to have spoilers in it right from the outset, I’m afraid. Apologies.

Well this doesn’t seem to have been a very well liked episode if my Twitter timeline is anything to go by. People are afraid the series will get cancelled if episodes like this are what they have to look forward to. I can understand that the casual watchers well might drift away with less than excellent episodes like this but, honestly, I think they already lost the most people they could lose two series' ago so I don’t think the odd poorly received episode like this is going to make that much difference. As I remarked recently to someone on an entirely different subject... you need to see the bad ones to appreciate the good ones. So there’s that.

As for myself... I didn’t see this episode as a disaster at all. Far from it. Although I do admit to being disappointed in the actual content and end games of the story.

Let me cover the good stuff first.

The story deals with an email to The Doctor from, it turns out by the end of the story, The Doctor. But not as we know him. The Doctor is still blind and he, Bill and Nardole are summoned by The Pope to enter the secret library in the Vatican and read from the forbidden text Veritas. Anyone who reads it will die by their own hand... and have been, frequently.

That’s the plot and there are some lovely bits in it. The atmosphere of the dark, musty, labyrinth of library corridors is good stuff and there’s also a load of humour in it. Meanwhile, we also have the startling ‘revelation’ that the Doctor has The Master, I mean Missy, in the Vault. Which is a real let down and it’s implied that’s where she is because The Doctor rescues her from execution but is duty bound to guard her body for a thousand years in said vault. The fact that she is still alive is neither her nor there to The Doctor. And then we have some scenes in The Pentagon and CERN which are... what they are... but the really nice stuff was in the library and, also, a scene where Bill currently lives at the start of the episode...

Bill has a hot date and the lady in question is back with Bill in the lounge area for a cup of tea and something more hotter later when the sound of the TARDIS can be heard coming from Bill’s bedroom, which she explains away as pipes. Then The Pope rushes into the lounge and starts talking excitedly in Italian and... the reaction from Bill and her date is priceless. This is a nice comedy moment and it’s probably the highlight of the episode... for me at any rate. Such a shame it’s not really Bill then...

Which of course leads me into the bad stuff.

Don’t worry, it was all a dream. Or rather, don’t worry, the whole episode was a computer simulation of our regular characters because a weird alien race build a shadow, virtual reality programme to run, unaware it’s not the real thing. to figure out how to defeat The Doctor and invade the planet. Which is a really old idea and, though it manifests itself in some, really not bad moments... like the way in which computers (at least old computers) can only generate pseudo-random strings of numbers... it really is “a load of old pants”. Which, I’m told, means something a bit less than good to the young audience out there. Or has that phrase been superseded already?

Another big problem of going down that route, of course, is that a) it made no sense and b) we absolutely didn’t need to have dodgy aliens stealing cardinals in the library because, really, what for? Also, there’s no way, surely, The Doctor can send an email from his sonic sunglasses to the real version of himself when it’s all just a simulation being run for the benefit of the aliens. And furthermore... how come computer glasses can allow a blind character to see where walls and people are but can’t actually display text in a book? That really makes no sense at all and these things - the email, the glasses, the fact that The Doctor can’t regenerate his eyes but he can grow new limbs at will - just seemed to me like lazy writing. I mean, when the technology and physics of the Whoniverse are being rewritten because they get in the way of story ideas... then it’s time to rewrite the situations which call for such preposterous decisions, not just say the technology or people can’t do that particular thing so the story can function sensibly. This was bad writing, I feel.

And then there’s the whole thing with it being Missy in the vault.

Really? What an anti-climax. I know a lot of people are disappointed in the so called ‘revelation’ of something they’ve made so obvious that there had to be more to it than that. Myself included.

However, a little part of me is saying, hold up. You don’t usually reveal what’s happening with something from the reverse end of the situation. We assume Missy is in there and, to be fair The Doctor is talking to Missy openly through the Vault doors. However, we haven’t actually seen the reveal from this end, have we? Is it really just Missy in there or is there going to be something far more spectacular and Moffat is just throwing us that bone, halfway through the series, to throw us off the trail. Or is it the case, as I mentioned in my first review of this series, that the whole vault thing is just a giant red herring to distract us from the real revelation coming later in the series. Let’s hope so, eh? Otherwise this is not exactly one of the the most clever seasons of Doctor Who written, that’s for sure.

There you go then. That’s all I’ve got on Extremis. It’s not the mess that everyone seems to think it is, I reckon but, as I think I’ve demonstrated, it’s not an episode that’s without its disappointments. Next week’s episode looks like it will be dealing with the real life fall out from this one so I can’t say I’m particularly looking forward to it but... hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised and the series will begin to perk back up again. Who knows? Apparently.

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