I’m sorry to say it, but “The Lie of the Land” is the worst episode of Doctor Who in quite some time. This whole three-episode arc involving the Monks has been a real nadir for the 10th season, which started off so promisingly, and this final episode in the trilogy is the worst of them. Everything I thought was interesting about the Monks is left unaddressed. They’re shape-shifters, so what does their natural form look like? We don’t get to see. Their ship is camouflaged as a pyramid, so what does it actually look like? We don’t get to see. Why do the Monks require someone’s consent to invade a planet, given their enormous power and ability to control minds? We get a hand-wavy explanation about needing the brain waves of the one who gives the consent in order to broadcast their mind control to the populace, despite the fact that the one who gave the consent this time, Bill, seems to be the only one who can resist the mind control, even though it’s her brain that’s transmitting it…oh, never mind. It doesn’t make a lick of sense.
Honestly, though, very little in “The Lie of the Land” makes any sense. The Doctor and Bill enter the vault to talk to Missy, whereupon we discover the vault, which we saw rise out of the water on the executioners’ planet as a complete metal cube, is apparently dimensionally transcendent like a TARDIS, with the inside looking like, well, an unused wing of the university, with a piano at the center surrounded by a protective force field. How the vault is dimensionally transcendent is left unexplained, maybe it’s Gallifreyan technology, although I had assumed it belonged to the executioners, not the Time Lords. Anyway, Missy tells the Doctor how to defeat the Monks because she’s met them before on her own adventures, but the Doctor doesn’t take her advice because it would result in Bill going brain dead. So Bill defeats the Monks in a different way, one that doesn’t make any sense involving memories of her departed mother, but her sacrifice works, except she’s fine afterward, not brain dead at all. The script doesn’t even bother handwaving that one away. There’s no explanation given.
Not that it mattered to me, because I’d already checked out of the episode long before then, following an absolutely ridiculous scene where Bill and Nardole rescue the Doctor from his shipboard prison. As tests go, the one the Doctor puts Bill through makes no sense — even he can barely explain it afterward — and the fake regeneration scene was so mind-bogglingly stupid that my interest just shut off instantly. So I guess the news is that the Doctor can fake a regeneration now? Glad it came in handy, I guess, but what was the point of it? For whose benefit was it faked? Not for Bill’s — she doesn’t know what regeneration is or even looks like. Not for the Monks — it’s clear they’re not watching the Doctor, since he immediately reveals his plan right after. Why does it happen at all?
The scenes with Missy and the scenes with Nardole were the only signs of life in this clunker. I’m interested in Missy’s path toward “becoming good,” which I’m pretty sure won’t stick, and Nardole continues to be amusing when he’s not being an unnecessary killjoy. Speaking of Missy, even though her scenes were enjoyable, she’s really a wasted opportunity. Imagine how much better this episode would have been if they’d let her out of her prison to fight the Monks herself. Instead, we’re subjected to Bill’s memory of her mother “going viral” and forty-four other minutes of risible nonsense.
Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.