So remember last week when I said this was a surprise Doctor Who two-parter? Turns out this is a surprise three-parter! And that wasn’t the only surprise this week, there’s a lot more to dig into. Wow, this week’s episode, “The Pyramid at the End of the World,” has a lot, so allons-y!
As always, beware of spoilers after the break!
To sum up; the world almost ended because a guy went to work hung over. The end.
We start off cutting back and forth from a recap of last week’s adventures with the zombie monks, to Bill’s (real) date with Penny. The two are interrupted once again, this time by armed policemen bursting through the door. Apparently, the Secretary General of the UN would like to speak to the President, meaning The Doctor. You see, in times of crisis, The Doctor is in charge of the earth. Poor Penny calls an Uber as Bill gets whisked away.
The reason for all the fuss is a mysterious pyramid that has appeared in a no-man’s-land location. Chinese, Russian, and American troops have surrounded it, but the structure seems dormant. It’s dated to be 5,000 years old, but it wasn’t there yesterday.
Bill interrupts The Doctor from having a moody moment of monologue with his guitar inside the TARDIS, and The Doctor makes it clear he wants no part in this pyramid business. Unfortunately for him, the UN has demolished the wall to his study, put the TARDIS on a plane, and they’re almost at the location anyway.
Meanwhile, a woman (later revealed to be named Erica) gets her glasses crushed on her way to work in a lab. Her co-worker, Douglas, is grossly hung over and says they’re going to “stage two” today and she suits up in some sort of biohazard uniform. As Erica looks over some plants sprayed with chemicals and turns a few knobs and cranks, one of the monks is reflected in the glass.
The Doctor and Co arrive at the pyramid, and as Nardole narrates what is happening through a microphone in his coat toggle, The Doctor approaches the pyramid structure. As he arrives at its base, a door opens up in front of him and one of the monks appears. The monk says they’re going to take over the world because they will be asked to, and retreats back into the pyramid.
An alarm rings. It appears every clock in the world is now the Doomsday Clock and are all set to 11:57 PM or 3 minutes to midnight. The monks aren’t delivering a threat, but rather a warning that the end has already begun. Back at the lab, Douglas is making some calculations (Erica cannot because of her broken glasses) and the monks are watching.
The Doctor gathers the military leaders from Russia, China, and the US to hold a conference, saying “What do you think? WWIII. Basically, we’re against it.” He explains that the monks are here now because they believe humanity is at its weakest and surprisingly recommends that the three military powers attack in a coordinated effort. Everyone’s clock jumps to 2 minutes to midnight.
After Bill confronts Nardole, it looks like The Doctor is FINALLY going to tell Bill that he is blind. However, they’re distracted by a huge light shining up from the top of the pyramid. The monks have intercepted both the plane that was en route to bomb it, and a missile that was just launched from a submarine. Although the attacks failed, the coordinated gestures sent a message and it appears that the monks are ready to talk.
Meanwhile back at the lab, Douglas is not handling his hangover well, and Erica suggests a nap as the chemicals spray the plants in a the sealed chamber next door.
In the desert, the world leaders and time travelers enter the pyramid, knowing full well that they are walking into a trap. They are led into a room with many glowing cables hanging from the ceiling. This is the monk’s simulation machine, and each thread is a chain of events. The monks offer everyone a string, and they are shown one year into the future in which the world is destroyed. Everyone’s clock changes to one minute to midnight as the monks explain that they will save the world if the power to control it is transferred to them. There is a lot of fine print to this agreement however: the transfer of power must be consensual and done through love. The Secretary General immediately agrees, but is destroyed because he acted out of fear of the terrible future they’ve been shown.
Simultaneously, Douglas and Erica are checking on the plants. Douglas takes off his helmet as the plants all suddenly die. Erica runs out of the airlock and Douglas grabs a plant and follows. (At this point while watching I was screaming “YOU DUMMY” at my screen. Seriously, take the contaminated experiment out of the airlock? Why Douglas, why?)
Back at the pyramid, the three world powers decide that their countries are not going to fight each other and shake hands. Despite this enormous step towards world peace, the clocks remain set at one minute to midnight. Their agreement didn’t make a difference because the three armies were never the problem.
The Doctor has figured out that the pyramid is a misdirection, meant to distract them all from what is really going to destroy the world. The group has deduced that there is a bacterial mistake occurring somewhere, and The Doctor uses his sonic to put classified intelligence documents online so that everyone can search them for clues.
In the lab, Douglas collapses. Not only has he been contaminated, he left the airlock chamber is open! He disintegrates as Erica watches in horror (wisely keeping her protective gear on).
Meanwhile at the pyramid, the three soldiers have had enough with the research and decide that they want to make a deal with the monks. As they head over, Bill and The Doctor discuss their decision. Bill reveals that she would not make the deal if she had a choice, but as it seems they don’t actually have one, she agrees with the soldiers that they should talk to the monks. Once again it looks like The Doctor is finally going to tell Bill that he is blind, but he is distracted by another idea.
The Doctor decides to blind the monks. (Really at this point Bill should have figure it out.) In the TARDIS, The Doctor switches off the security cameras at every lab in the world to cut off the monk’s feed. Doing so hasn’t stopped the chain of events, so when the monks turn on the cameras at the one lab they were observing, he zips off stop the imminent disaster.
Erica is just realizing that Douglas misplaced a decimal point in the chemical ratio sprayed on the plants, creating a horrifying poison, when the TARDIS appears. The air in the lab is toxic, and The Doctor orders a coughing Nardole back into the safety of the TARDIS. Erica explains that there is an automatic filtration system, about to pump the toxins into the atmosphere in less than half an hour. They decide to destroy the bacteria by setting the lab on fire (because of course).
Back in the pyramid, the soldiers attempt to transfer rule over the world to the monks. Unfortunately they are acting out of strategy, not love, and are all killed. The monks then turn to Bill, because she represents The Doctor.
Bill, understandably, stalls.
At the lab, The Doctor sets up a bomb to blow in 2 minutes. Erica stands outside of the airlock, and The Doctor begins the countdown as the Doomsday clock starts to turn back inside the pyramid. However, Erica can’t open the door to let The Doctor out of the airlock. To escape he needs to use the combination lock, which he cannot see. The Doctor calls Nardole, but it is revealed that he is lying unresponsive inside the TARDIS. Bill calls, and The Doctor finally, FINALLY tells her that he is blind.
Bill decides that she’s not going to let the Doctor die. She goes back and agrees to hand the earth over to the monks provided that they restore The Doctor’s sight. Her motivations are pure, and The Doctor can suddenly see again. He exits the airlock and the lab blows up as the monks cryptically tell him to enjoy his sight and see their new world.
I enjoyed this episode more than last week’s, and actually a lot more than I thought I would overall. I thought that if there was ever a message to hammer on home, the importance of consent is a good one.
There are two things that did bother me though. One was The Doctor’s offhand comment to Erica as they were outlining their plan that she would “develop a pretty intense crush” on him. Why oh why must every single woman be attracted to The Doctor? Bill has escaped this so far, but I am certain that if she were straight we would be going through the whole “this isn’t my boyfriend” dynamic all over again.
The other thing that bothered me was the utter lack of basic safety precautions at the lab. Granted, this was a huge plot point but I was still cringing the entire episode. They were eating in there! And drinking coffee! At least it was acknowledged that you shouldn’t take off your helmet willy-nilly, but I didn’t see any sort of decontamination process after they left the room with the toxic gas. Every time they cut back to the lab all I could think about was the safety lessons my high school chemistry teachers drove into me. (The basics being: wear your safety goggles and closed-toed shoes at all times, no food near the chemicals, and wash your dang hands!)
The lax safety precautions at the lab also left me wondering… isn’t the bacteria inside the TARDIS now? Wasn’t Erica covered in the stuff when she stepped out of the airlock? If either is true, then why did the doomsday clock reverse?
I will end on one final note, and that is to point out the amazing fact that Bill has a space phone case! So neat!
We’ll see you next time, Whovians, with the conclusion (maybe??) to this one.