Doctor Who: Extremis Review

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Doctor Who took us for a unique trip this last week with, “Extremis.” I will admit that I had to give this episode a re-watch before I fully appreciated exactly what the episode was doing. “Extremis”  is all about truths, regarding both who is inside the vault and in the world outside of it, “Extremis” is the first of three semi-connected episodes, nicknamed “The Monks Trilogy.” This episode unfolds in such a theatrical fashion before completely pulling the rug out from underneath both the characters and viewers alike. Though we do learn who is in the vault through flashbacks, the main bulk of this story happens when the Vatican calls upon The Doctor to investigate a mysterious text, the Veritas, which prompts even the most devout Catholics to commit the mortal sin of suicide after reading.

We open with a visit from The Vatican, where Nardole urges The Doctor (who is still blind and using his sonic sunglasses) to listen to their plea. They have an ancient text, the Veritas, which causes anyone who reads it to kill themselves afterwards. The Doctor agrees, and ends up very awkwardly interrupting Bill in the middle of a date. Nothing says romance like your bedroom door opening and a Catholic priest and The Pope stepping out yelling at each other in Italian. (Side Note: as they arrived in Bill’s flat via the TARDIS, why wasn’t the Italian translated automatically? Was this a clue to the viewer that not all is what it seems?) From here the investigation begins, we follow The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole into a secret library at the Vatican to read the Veritas. It seems that we aren’t alone in the library, weird portal type lights appear and disappear, and there are old mummy-looking priests in red robes wandering about in a sinister fashion.

Image Credit: BBC One

We find the Veritas being read by another priest, who apologizes and says “I sent it” before running elsewhere in the library. Looking at his laptop, Bill finds that he sent a copy of the Veritas to the CERN research facility, deeping the mystery even further. The Doctor, being guided by Nardole through some pretty hysterical auditory cues (“Oh look a bright light has appeared about ten feet in front of us to the right), sends Bill and Nardole to find the priest who sent the email so he can get to work on the text alone. He has a device that will steal some eyesight from a future regeneration, but as Bill still is in the dark about his current impairment, doesn’t want her around when he uses it so he can look at the Veritas.

Image Credit: BBC One

Bill and Nardole end up finding one of the weird portal lights again and decide to investigate it further. They end up in a weird white transporter type room, with many different doors. After popping in one and ending up on the 3rd floor of The Pentagon, they go back through and try another door. This door places them at the CERN research facility, which is worth some investigating since the Veritas was sent here. They run into a lead scientist who takes them to the dining area where everyone is gathered for a big event. Some look forlorn while others are doing shots of vodka and counting down with a big clock on the wall. Realizing that there is dynamite strapped to the bottom of each table and that this is a mass suicide, Bill questions how blowing themselves up will help save the world, to which the scientist replies, “This isn’t the world.” The scene gets infinitely weirder when he prompts a number guessing game that ends up illustrating just how weird and off everything really is before Bill and Nardole run back to the main transporter room. Nardole at this point, has figured out that they are in some kind of simulation, and just like that is deleted from it, leaving Bill on her own.

The Doctor, finally getting a good look at one of the red-clad priests realizes that they are actually aliens and running a simulation to see all the different outcomes before deciding upon how to effectively overtake Earth. The Doctor confronts both one of these aliens and Bill, in the oval office after the President has killed himself upon reading the Veritas. He uses the best quote ever to describe to Bill what is really happening and that they are indeed just in a computer simulation, they aren’t real.

It’s like Super Mario, figuring out what’s going on. Deleting himself from the game, because he’s sick of dying.

Bill is also deleted from the simulation and The Doctor quickly emails himself the entire file via those (dang) sonic sunglasses so he can at least warn the real Doctor on the real Earth what is coming. That email, titled “Extremis” is what keeps this episdoe from falling into the “it was all just a dream” trap, because though the characters we spent the bulk of the episode with were in fact not the *real* characters, The Doctor is able to do something about it that will actually carry over into the real world we are used to. But this episode isn’t just about what’s real or what’s true for the main trio, that aspect also carries over to the big reveal of finding out who exactly is in the vault.

Image Credit: BBC One

The episode opens on a planet inhabited by a race of executioners, setting up a futuristic guillotine device that is capable of ending even a Time Lord once and for all. At first it is unclear if the executioners are there to kill The Doctor or someone else, with the delay of Missy being escorted out, it’s a great way to start the entire episode off with an uneasy suspense. The device was designed to not only stop both hearts, but also simultaneously end all future regenerations from occurring. Catch is, they need another Time Lord to carry out the execution, which is why The Doctor is there. After a quick unexpected visit from Nardole, reminding The Doctor that this is not what his late wife, River Song would have wanted, The Doctor is able to re-work the wiring in the system and instead of killing Missy as it was intended, The Doctor ends up being in charge of her soul for the next thousand years in the fashion he chooses, inside of a vault. Though I am extremely happy to have Missy back (and The Doctor choosing to save her), the way the executioners just kinda run away after The Doctor threatens them was a bit lackluster after all the effort of setting up the device specifically for a Time Lord. The fact that The Doctor saves Missy, says more about him than it does about her, begging that she can try and be good. The scariest part though, is that at the end, after reviewing the email he sent to himself, The Doctor realizes that he needs Missy’s help in stopping this impending invasion. With The Doctor still being blind, that opens up a whole new realm of story-telling in the fact that any enemy or foe, Missy included, can use that to their advantage if discovered.

Were you surprised at who was in The Vault? Do you think The Vault has any other surprises in store? Let me know by leaving a comment!

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Michelle Harvey