The Monks trilogy wrapped up in the latest episode of Doctor Who with “The Lie of the Land” but unfortunately it ended up being the weakest of the three. The fight against The Monks isn’t very epic for a three episode story arc and the resolution is more of a fizzled out thought. Continuing after Bill gives consent to The Monks in exchange for The Doctor’s vision, The Monks successfully invade Earth and imprison The Doctor. Though the premise behind this episode is fantastic; propaganda, brain-washing, and doctored truths, the episode itself never quite hits it’s stride.
Bill, Nardole and The Doctor have some fantastic scenes together, and Bill gives The Doctor a run for his money with her very passionate and powerful performance against The Monks. But this episode is more exposition than action moving the story forward, with The Monks never revealing their true selves. After invading, The Monks rewrite our history as to make it seem that they’ve always been around. Only Bill and a few others remember the truth, that The monks have only been around for a few months. In what looks like a very occupied London, those who question The Monk’s truth are charged with “Memory Crimes” and imprisoned. The Doctor can be seen on a television in the background at Magpie Electrical (nice touch if I do say so myself), spewing Monk Propaganda and praising them on their success at peacefully guiding humanity. Bill is only able to keep her mind clear by having conversations with the imaginary figure of her mother.
Every day, it’s harder to remember what’s real anymore. – Bill
Nardole, having spent 6 weeks healing up after the super bacteria got him, also remembers the truth about The Monks and sets out on the hunt for Bill. He and Bill begin creating a plan to rescue The Doctor off a ship where he is presumably being help captive and forced to create propaganda videos for The Monks. After breaking into his prison, Bill is devastated to learn that The Doctor has decided to work with The Monks and becomes distraught. She steals a gun off one of the guards and actually shoots The Doctor, who appears to begin regenerating. A moment that I gasped at and definitely was not ready for. Luckily, the whole scene was a test for Bill, to be sure she hadn’t been brainwashed by The Monks, and The Doctor only faked the regeneration flare, though with Peter Capaldi leaving at the end of this season it was a terrifying scene to witness. Off to find more answers, The Doctor and Bill head back to The University to talk with Missy and see if she has any insight to offer about taking down The Monks. We learn that The Monks have brainwashed the masses and how they keep that control is by broadcasting the fake version of history via statues built in their honor all across the planet. These statues are enabled by a psychic link to the person who originally consented, so Missy implies that by killing Bill’s brain activity, The Monks influence over Earth stops and they will flee instead of fight. The Doctor has decided there must be another option and that he isn’t willing to sacrifice Bill, even if her giving consent is what got them all here in the first place.
The Doctor, Bill, Nardole, and his “security guards” make a plan to storm The Monks pyramid headquarters in London. The Doctor believes that if he can hijack their broadcasting system he will be able to break false historical transmission with his own mind and set the people of Earth free. The Doctor links with the monk controlling the transmission and they battle back and forth before the monk regains control. Bill, refusing to let The Doctor try again, decides to connect her own brain into the transmission and sacrifice herself to save her planet. Bill begins broadcasting images of her mother, that strong of a memory, filled with love, is enough to break The Monks transmission and the people of Earth begin to remember the truth. The Monks leave Earth and erase themselves from our memory, leaving humanity with no recollection of them ever having been there.
I’m sorry your plus one doesn’t get a happy ending. – Missy
We do get to see Missy in this episode, however The Doctor still hasn’t agreed to let her out of The Vault, but even she seemed a bit bored with this episode. She does have a powerful statement for The Doctor when explaining why killing Bill would likely end The Monks invasion (see above quote), and at the end she also does experience remorse over those she has killed. Though she doesn’t believe that being good has to qualify to The Doctor’s standards, she really is trying to be a different Timelord. We know that John Simm’s version of The Master will be returning at some point this season, but with only 4 episodes to go, is it getting more and more likely that his appearance will be what causes The Doctor to regenerate?
The quote from Bill earlier in this review, about remembering what’s real is the theme that carries throughout the entire Monks trilogy. “The Lie of The Land” has a wonderfully Orwell, 1984 feel to it. Propaganda, brain-washing, mind-control of the masses, “memory crimes” and fake broadcasts should make for a great episode, but this episode falls just a bit shorter than the others in The Monks trilogy, leaving me wanting more from it.
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