In the eighth episode of the tenth series of Doctor Who, the Monks have taken over Earth. But one memory will save everyone. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of fascism
Hi, wow, this episode really went IN on the rise of fascism, didn’t it? At least further than I expected it to. It’s undeniable that Toby Whithouse’s script for “The Lie of the Land” is rooted in a world we’ve all come to inhabit: one where fake news is sent over the airwaves; one where a sizable portion of the populace believes a history that did not happen; one where the neo-fascists in power portray themselves as benevolent hands while oppressing the very people who love them. IT’S A LOT, OKAY.
In the span of just over forty minutes, we’re given a glimpse at the horrifying world of the Monks. I love that so little of them is explained in terms of where they came from and what they ever did outside of this. Does it really matter? I didn’t find myself needing that information. Instead, I was taken in by the depiction of a history in which the monks were loving guides of human development. It was so creepy, wasn’t it? The Monks, through their psychic link with Bill, were able to insert themselves into every great moment of human history. What’s telling, of course, is that they didn’t eradicate the negative aspects either. There’s an insinuation that they were there to save us from our darker selves, which makes no sense whatsoever. But I don’t think it’s supposed to! The psychic history is full of holes, its nonsensical, and it appeals to the worst emotional sense in people.
Which is why it’s so significant that through it all, Bill fought back. She fought back against the brainwashing, and she did so with the memory of her mother. A memory she constructed, mind you, and that’s the key to all of this. It’s why the Monks couldn’t reach Bill: she already had an alternate reality in her head, one where her mother was alive and provided her with comfort during this nightmare. BILL IS THE KEY. And that’s meant in more ways than one, too!!! She was the key to the control that the Monks wielded over humanity, but she was also the key to dismantling it all. Honestly, this episode really felt like we got the screentime with Bill that we needed, more so than “The Pilot,” though the preceding events had to happen to bring Bill to this point.
But I also want to step back from the story itself—which I adored—to talk about Pearl Mackie. She has a number of show-stopping scenes in “The Lie of the Land,” and the one that I gravitate to is her heartbroken performance when she realizes the Doctor really is working with the Monks. Y’all, I don’t know what else she’s been in, but I’d watch Mackie in ANYTHING after that scene. Mackie has this masterful command of her facial reactions that just makes me believe everything that Bill is going through. What’s also so striking about that sequence is that Mackie had to sell us on her epiphany, not just for the audience but because the Doctor had to believe Bill. He had to believe that Bill would turn on the Doctor over supporting the Monks. And isn’t that a powerful contrast to the end of the previous episode? She was willing to consent to the Monks’ help to save the Doctor, but now? She was willing to SHOOT HIM. The Doctor knew that you can’t fake a turn like that, right???
So, with Bill back with the team (which now includes plenty of others who have broken the brainwashing), this episode goes to an INCREDIBLE place. Y’all, I am just so, so happy that I get more of Michelle Gomez playing Missy. She truly feels born for this role, and I loved that scene in her vault. Gomez plays Missy as existing on a precipice. Is she working on being good? Is that even possible with a character like her? (AHHH THAT LAST SCENE.) Missy seems to revel in being edgy and in being transgressive. I wondered, then, while watching this if the Monks would finally get the Doctor to break his oath. This got real close to that, but I actually think in terms of the longer story being told, the Doctor just had to seriously consider it. I imagine that Missy is going to play a larger role later this series. UGH BUT I LOVE HER, I WANT SO MUCH MORE.
Anyway: I gotta go back to Bill and her memory of her mom. I just can’t get over the imagery here, y’all. Grief can be a powerful force, but Bill’s memory is so overflowing with love that she breaks the Monks’ power. I am absolutely a sucker for that kind of storytelling, for love being a force that cannot be reckoned with. But the scope of what Bill does here feels so huge to me, too! She saved the whole world by sending out an image of her mother, an image she probably would not have had if the Doctor had not given Bill all those photos he took of her. HELP, I AM VERY EMOTIONAL ABOUT THIS.
This trilogy in the midst of series 10 has been such a cool thing to experience, y’all. I love that not one of these three episodes feels like the other, that it still works as three single stories as well as one larger narrative. I really love series 10, friends. It’s so good!
The video for “The Lie of the Land” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– The paperback edition of my debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now OUT! If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.