We are three-quarters of the way through Season 10, and I don’t want it to end. This has definitely been the Twelfth Doctor’s best season; although I enjoyed his dynamic with Clara, Bill has been a burst of sunshine that’s let new light into DOCTOR WHO, and the Doctor has been all the better for it. It makes it all the more bittersweet when we know his regeneration will be at the end of this season (please don’t go! No matter how many times the Doctor regenerates, I don’t think we ever get used to saying goodbye).
So, “The Lie of the Land” – we enter the last part of a three-part arc with this season’s big villain, the Monks, who have taken over Earth in a very 1984-esque manner (Memory Police and everything), with the Doctor as their mouthpiece, spreading fake news and alternative facts through daily broadcasts that brainwash the human race into accepting the Monks’ presence.
There were times in the Russell T. Davies era where he definitely wasn’t subtle in his inclusion of social issues, but I think Steven Moffat is giving him a run for his money. It’s a timely discourse on the state of the world today, and while it’s perhaps a little on the nose, I think it’s needed, particularly coupled with the message of compassion the Doctor and his companion always provide.
Bill is living alone in London, convinced the Doctor is only pretending in the broadcasts and is coming up with a plan to save the world. Nardole finds her, and they set off to find the Doctor. They arrive at the broadcasting location, Bill rushing in to save the Doctor – and for one horrible moment, it seems he truly has been brainwashed. He seems to have been taken in by the Monks, changed and been robbed of his compassion for humanity. He tells her letting the Monks take over was kind – and suddenly Bill finds herself faced with a choice.
What if your hero was no hero after all? What if he was actually working with the enemy to destroy your free will? What would you do?
Bill makes an interesting choice here. In choosing to shoot the Doctor, she puts aside everything he’s taught her about compassion and second chances. Do you remember the Tenth Doctor as the Man Who Never Would? Well, Bill has, and this is where I think the episode breaks a little.
The overall message, shown later by Bill’s created memory of her mother helping to destroy the Monks, is love conquers hate, violence, and death. Yet here, when Bill shoots the Doctor, it seems to be a contradiction of that message. Is she justified in taking the shots? We know she’s young, she’s desperate, she’s been waiting on the Doctor for six months and now it turns out he’s working for the other side – but does that excuse her actions?
We never really get to find out, because it turns out the whole thing is a set up by the Doctor to test her and make sure she hasn’t been affected by the broadcasts. To be fair to Bill, I would have wanted to punch them all, too.
It’s a clever twist, but I think it would have been truer to the show if the Doctor actually had been brainwashed, and Bill was the one who brought him back – the companion is the one who keeps the Doctor human, after all (or, as human as a Time Lord can be). I think it would have been infinitely more powerful to watch the Doctor come out from the Monks’ influence as Bill tried to reach him. I think it also would have reinforced the message that you can’t wait around for someone to save you – Bill waited for the Doctor to save her, and he couldn’t. It would have been a great message, with these unstable political times and the Resistance in the US, to emphasize standing up for yourself and not waiting for someone to save you. Taking back free will, compassion – Bill ends up saving the world, but I would have loved to have seen her fight for it without waiting on the Doctor.
The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole find their way to “Fake News Central,” where the Monks are beaming out their mind control wave. It was a great plot point to use the Monk statues as transmitters, and then when they finally find the source of the wave, the Doctor can’t defeat it; it has to be Bill. And Bill saves the day – woohoo!
So now we’re left with the plot thread that’s woven throughout the episode – Missy’s in the vault, and the Doctor is trying to make her quit being evil, “cold turkey.” Doctor, when in the last two thousand years has that ever worked? Though, I suppose he wouldn’t be the Doctor if he didn’t try.
I like the contrast of the Doctor’s relationship with Bill versus Missy. He loves them both, but with Bill it’s more of a deep friendship, almost a paternal kind of bond; with Missy, it’s a deep friendship, too, but a guarded one, where he has to keep her at arms’ length, and she knows that. What to make of her tears at the end, then? Is she truly sorry? Or does she have something else up her sleeve?
Considering the Monks are now defeated, and we still need a big bad for the season finale, I would call those crocodile tears. She wants out, and I think she’ll manipulate the Doctor into doing it. We’ve still got four episodes left in the season, though, so it may be a bit before she gets her chance. See you back here next week for Mark Gatiss’s new episode (oh, please be better than “Sleep No More”) “Empress of Mars!”
Season 10, Episode 8 (S10E08)
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9PM on BBC America
Cailin is a screenwriter and an aspiring TV writer. When not writing, she’s busy convincing random passersby that Firefly was the best show ever, converting her co-workers into Whovians, and waiting for the next season of Sherlock.
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Cailin Coane | Contributor