***SOME SPOILERS BELOW***
I don’t have a lot to say about this episode. I didn’t think it was great, but it wasn’t bad, either. It’s clear the invasion of the Monks is meant to be this season’s centerpiece, but two episodes into the three-episode arc it’s actually interesting me the least of any of the stories so far. I’m still having trouble with the idea that the Monks can simulate all of Earth’s history, from the very beginning, including every single person on the planet and all their memories, with their technology. It just doesn’t make sense. You would have to know a great deal about the planet to create that simulation, and if you already know that much about the planet you wouldn’t need the simulation. Additionally, I suspect there would have been — or would be in the projected future — plenty of other times when the Earth was vulnerable besides this weird lab accident involving genetically modified bacteria that, thanks to a stray decimal point in an equation, is somehow turned into an airborne threat to all life on Earth. It’s all a bit hard to swallow. The invaders’ insistence on being invited to rule the Earth out of love, with consent specifically not given out of fear or strategy, also strikes me as needlessly convoluted. I get that the episode’s co-writers Peter Harness and Steven Moffat didn’t want a run-of-the-mill alien invasion with the villains simply stating that they’re taking over, but as I said it’s all a bit hard to swallow.
The Monks themselves, however, are kind of fascinating. It’s revealed in “The Pyramid at the End of the World” that what we’re seeing isn’t their true form, that they took it to simulate humans. The reason they look like corpses is because, to them, that’s what humans are, short-lived and doomed. The pyramid itself is also an illusion, a specific Earth icon purposely chosen for its recognizability. There’s an implication that the Monks are somehow outside of the normal flow of time, able to accurately simulate and observe both the past and future with their technology. They have an empathic or even possibly telepathic ability, which lets them understand people’s motivations, as well as the ability to disintegrate people with a touch. I’m hoping the third and presumably final episode of this arc next week will answer some of my lingering questions about the Monks, such as why this so-called pure form of consent is so important to them and why they seem so out of phase with time around them. I mean, even their mouths don’t move right when they speak!
I didn’t know where they were going with the Doctor’s continuing blindness, but I wasn’t expecting it to be a plot point that eventually leads to the Monk’s invasion going forward. When Bill makes a deal with the Monks to restore the Doctor’s eyesight, and thus save his life as he tries to escape the soon-to-explode bacteria lab, in exchange for the planet, I realized this had been the writers’ plan since two episodes before. It pays off very well and very organically.
Next episode, it looks like our heroes enlist the help of Missy to kick the Monks off of Earth. That won’t go well for the Monks, although I imagine it won’t go well for anyone else, either.