The tenth season of the post 2005 Doctor Who continues with another experimental episode by Steven Moffat, and I must admit it’s one of his best. After a string of back to basics episodes of Doctor Who that felt very much like a good reboot, this one is far more complex and deserves to be so now that viewers are eased back in and Bill has finally been fully established as a presence on the show. Read on for my review of “Extremis”
So there are basically two running plots going on in “Extremis”. The main plot line of the episode sees the Doctor contacted by the Pope to help them discover what is written inside the Veritas in the Haereticum within the Vatican. The revelation that everyone who reads it ends up committing suicide is incredibly dark, and it’s great to see the show keep up this tone following how dark “Oxygen” was. The secondary plot, set a long time ago, sees the Doctor called to take part in Missy’s execution which also reveals very early in the episode that she’s the person inside the Vault. To be honest, who was really surprised by that. But really, I don’t ever think the “who” was the biggest question of the Vault mystery but the “why” – these are all questions set to be answered, and hopefully now that we know Missy will return in “The Lie of the Land” we may get those answers. It’s better that we are slowly getting answers to the Vault mystery this early in the season because it means there won’t be a huge info dumping moment in the finale which no doubt would disappoint fans and cause lots of people to moan.
I genuinely love both plot lines of this episode as they offer up so much to the episode. The Veritas plot is intriguing from the beginning and the deeper we get into the mystery the more interesting it becomes. Seeing all the layers peel away and eventually learning that the world isn’t real actually doesn’t take away from the story but adds to how dark it is. The threat of the episode, the Monks, are rather creepy and are actually the most memorable new monsters the show has had in a while. They didn’t do too much in the episode so hopefully they show some real menace in the next two episodes. The dynamic between Bill and Nardole is also great in this one and thankfully the issues I had with Bill in “Knock, Knock” and “Oxygen” were not present in this one and she was back to the character I liked at the start. Her date being interrupted by the Pope was also one of the funniest moments from the season. Nardole is great too, and I can safely say now that I love him. I’m so glad that he’s part of the series now and I can’t wait to see what else he does. It’s great to see him paired with Bill for the episode and their scene in CERN is truly one of the most tense of the episode. The revelation that they were all thinking the same numbers was chilling and was the point in the episode where I truly began to think this was more than just a simple episode of Doctor Who. I also loved how it was Nardole who worked out they were inside a simulation, which showed that he is a lot more intelligent than the bumbling character we’ve gotten in the past.
Peter Capaldi was amazing in this episode too, which his blind story arc adding are real lair of vulnerability to the character that we’ve rarely seen. He was also stunning in the flashback sequences which were a strong addition to the plot. The moment where the Doctor carried out the execution truly made my jaw drop. However I did think the moment where Nardole uses River’s diary as a way to change the Doctor’s mind was excellent. I love how River’s loss really is being felt this series, which is strange considering there was never any feeling of an aftermath in 2008 or after any of her other appearances that the Doctor was sad knowing that she dies. Michelle Gomez was fantastically subtle during these scenes and it was cool to see her back in the fold. I do wish we can find out what her clever idea from “The Witch’s Familiar” was. She also provided one of the most hilarious moments when she told off one of the characters for being disrespectful after her execution. Love it!
If there’s any criticisms I have about the episode I do agree that it is one massive tease for what is to come and in particular there is one REALLY STRANGE editing choice halfway through the plot. It just seems to fade to black so suddenly and I found it very jarring to watch. It kind of leads me to believe that perhaps something was removed from the episode at the last-minute which is why it looked so strange.
In the end I love that the fact episode was all fake doesn’t actually take away from it the plot because technically it did all happen or else the real Doctor wouldn’t receive the email to warn him. This was an episode to show that even a Doctor who learns he isn’t real is a Doctor who doesn’t gives up when there is no hope left. Would he still keep up those ideals of never cruel and never cowardly when pushed to the brink. And that’s an excellent plot to show. Just because nothing is “real” doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining to watch or doesn’t have some sort of effect on the world outside. It does, it informs us of something major to come, and acts as a way for the Doctor and those in the real world to begin preparing. It’s not worthless. Gosh even Agents of SHIELD‘s third arc of episodes in season 4 basically never happened, and they took up far more time than “Extremis” did.
Come back here next week from my review of “The Pyramid at the End of the World”. Love you long time!
Series 10 Ranking (So Far)
- Oxygen (10/10)
- Extremis (9.5/10)
- Thin Ice (8.5/10)
- The Pilot (8/10)
- Knock, Knock (7.5/10)
- Smile (7.5/10)