“You’re Version Of Good Is Not Absolute. It’s Very Arrogant, Sentimental…”
Whilst both “Extremis” and “The Pyramid at the End of the World” were indeed both bold and exciting tales of science fiction wonder, their role as pre-cursor for this week’s episode heeds a huge sense of pressure on the concluding part of the story this week, one which needs to sustain its’ predecessors greatness in order to really conclude whether the trilogy has ultimately worked as a whole rather than falling under the weight of the sum of its’ parts. Thankfully, taking paranoid, dystopian cues from the likes of Orwell and highlighting notions of a controlled state which has been rife in cinematic entertainment for years, “The Lie of the Land” continues the courageous recent writings by offering a narrative which concludes the past few weeks’ story in an effective and well played manner, but one which too falls short of greatness due to some middling false steps. As with most of Capaldi’s reign as Doctor, his performance continues to cement my argument that his portrayal is the first real true contemporary incarnation of the “classic” mould of the travelling Time Lord, whilst Pearl Mackie’s Bill really has the opportunity to shine this week, proving to the naysayers that her inclusion this year is indeed one of the real stand-out positives of the series.
Whilst the threat of the Monks ultimately does come across as rather limited and anti-climactic, with the trilogy not entirely providing an effective stance of their ultimate show of power, the scene in which we witness soldiers heading into battle against the background of Bill’s recorded voice, one which acts as a blocker to the brainwashing power of the Monks. is superbly done. The lack of sustained threat however does ultimately resign the Monks to a limited memorability factor, with them not entirely hitting the standards of classic Who villains by any means and this negative attribute is one of the reasons why this particular trilogy doesn’t exactly transcend to any more than something which is brilliantly bold instead of the contemporary masterpiece I believe I think it wants to be. Whilst “Extremis” is still the best of the three episodes, the differing nature of each could arguably allow for future viewings without the need to see the entire trilogy, and whilst this is a good sign for moderate viewers of the show, the overarching success of the trilogy suffers from this, but as an individual episode, “The Lie of the Land” is effective enough to be regarded as a solid win.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Who Composed Beethoven’s 5th?”
Beginning this week’s latest episode of The Doctor’s travels in time and space was an unusual change of atmosphere with the fourth wall being well and truly broken by Mr. Capaldi in a vein that heavily reminded me of John Normington in The Caves of Androzani when, after misunderstanding the script and stage direction, directly addresses the viewer with his lines, much to the enjoyment of both the producers and die-hard Doctor Who fans across the globe who all agree in coherence that Peter Davison’s farewell was rather splendid indeed, with that scene in particular being one to remember. Although “Before The Flood” is not entirely in the league of classics that include “The Caves of Androzani”, the concluding part of Toby Whithouse’s two-parter definitely attempted to stir the brain-cells with more mind-bending timey-wimey action, a frightening, if underused, monster-of-the-week, and a final moment to ponder upon cemented around the confounding notion of The Bootstrap Paradox, a theory in which the fourth wall was shattered down and explained to the audience by the guitar-wielding Twelfth Doctor of whom we all are beginning to cherish and love.
If last week’s episode upped the ante on the scares and solidified a focus on character development, aiming towards more of a direction of horror, then “Before The Flood” chose to replace such with full-out monster mayhem; think Aliens rather that Alien, with The Fisher King being a ominous presence from start to finish, who although seemed way too much of a physical threat for The Doctor and co, was defeated in roundabout fashion, linking back to one of the questions that was being asked right from the start of Whithouse’s two parter; what or who is in the stasis chamber? Surprisingly, all of the remaining questions that were left hanging at the conclusion of “Under The Lake” were all dealt with in a satisfactory fashion, particularly the origin of The Doctor’s ghost form and the real point of the creepy apparitions in the first place. Where the episode ultimately succeeded however, was the way in which the origin of the Bootstrap Paradox, in which the legend of Beethoven was well and truly questioned, fashionably attempted to cover all the holes opened wide by the timey-wimey nature of Whithouse’s script, emphasised by the final shrug and smirk of the Doctor, who, like us, must have been pondering on whether his meddles in time and space actually do make sense after all.
Overall Score: 8/10
“They’re Ghosts! Yeah, Ghosts!”
I can’t help but think that the amount of influence that Peter Capaldi has had since his arrival as the formidable, highly sarcastic, yet inherently heartwarming Twelfth Doctor is one of the few reasons why in the latest series of Doctor Who, we are being treated to a wider range of two-part stories, an obvious hark back to the classic era of Doctor Who where stories were not just told over the course of a brief 45 minute stint, but in fact, over the course of weeks leading into months. Take one of my favourite Doctor Who stories for example in the form of Jon Pertwee’s Inferno, a story so laced with atmosphere and tension, that to squeeze it all into a shorter amount of time would have no-doubt have prevented it from the classic Who story it has become, and ironically enough, this weeks’ adventure into an underwater base features a heavy breeze of old school Who, something of which those who love the classic era were bound to enjoy regardless of its’ rather over-lapping familiarity.
Although ghosts, yeah, actual ghosts, may not have been privy to the Doctor and his travels thus far in his many years of exploration, other parts of “Under The Lake” surely must have felt extremely familiar to the self-proclaimed madman in a box, with the setting of a scarce, cut-off base being something that has been presented before (“The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit”) whilst the cliffhanger in which we see our beloved Doctor take the form of a other-worldly style doppelganger being an almost complete mirror image of the cliffhanger to the Matt Smith two-parter, “The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People”. Aside from the overly familiar tropes of “Under the Lake”, the episode was actually quite creepy on occasions, with the scene in which our beloved heroes attempt to trap the ghostly entities overly nail-biting whilst the ways in which the crew were being slowly picked off was indeed quite alarming, adhering to the “darker side” of NuWho which the show has attempted to swing towards.
Within all the hammer-horror moments of the episode was Capaldi at his sharpest, with the Doctor’s intense amount of knowledge and experience being truly put to the test in the face of an unknown danger, whilst the scene in which Clara helps the Doctor act out his more human side with the aid of different cue-cards, wholly entertaining and suiting Capaldi’s take on the Doctor to a capital T. Of course, acting as a first of a two-part episode, “Under The Lake” essentially involved a heck of a lot of buildup for the conclusion of the story next week which sometimes made the episode drag ever so slightly, but if the teaser for next week is anything to go by, the second two-part story of this current season of NuWho is set to be something rather magical.