Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Proper Return Of Missy Comes In "The Lie Of The Land"


The Good: Decent performances, Moments of character, Themes
The Bad: Entirely predictable plot, Unsatisfying penultimate scene
The Basics: "The Lie Of The Land" finds Earth enslaved by the Monks and The Doctor is forced to turn to Bill and Missy in his attempt to save the planet.


With a three-part television show, there are usually seeds of the plot resolution in the first of the three episodes. So, for example, on Star Trek Deep Space Nine, the show did one proper three-parter and in the first part, it introduced a new character who shook up the space station crew. The resolution to "The Siege" (reviewed here!) hinged on Li Nalas taking a stand. Doctor Who has reached the climax of its three-parter with "The Lie Of The Land" and its plot structure has been unfortunate. In the first part, "Extremis" (reviewed here!), had a mirroring plot with The Doctor being tested by an alien species in preparation for their invasion and The Doctor carrying out sentence on Missy. Missy, then, was noticeably absent from "The Pyramid At The End Of The World," the second part. So, in some ways, the writers and executive producers made it seem like the resolution that would come in "The Lie Of The Land" would have to involve Missy . . . just to make her appearance in "Extremis" make sense.

From a plot perspective, it made a lot of sense that Missy would be involved in resolving the alien invasion in "The Lie Of The Land" because she is a variable that the alien monks could not have included in their calculations and models of how to conquer the Earth.

"The Lie Of The Land" follows on the events of "The Pyramid At The End Of The World" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without some references to where the prior episode left off. After all, "The Lie Of The Land" begins with the Earth falling under the dominion of the alien monks after Bill surrendered to them in exchange for The Doctor's eye sight. "The Lie Of The Land" instantly creates a sense of menace in that The Doctor presents a propaganda video extolling the virtues of the Monks while a house is raided for creating "anti-Monk propaganda."

Bill witnesses the rounding up of people on the streets and retreats to her home. There, she confesses the truth to her mother (who is not actually there), that six months prior, she made the sacrifice to save The Doctor, but has no idea what happened next. Nardole visits Bill and explains how he survived being poisoned by the bacteria. Bill is confused as to why the Monks altered the past and Nardole explains that if people think things have always been one way, people will not resist. Nardole has tracked The Doctor down to a prison boat and the pair infiltrate the supply boat that resupplies the prison ship.

There, Bill finds The Doctor and when he freely admits that he is working with the Monks to enslave humanity, Bill reluctantly shoots The Doctor. Of course, The Doctor is testing Bill to confirm her loyalty and because he has recognized that some humans have the ability to resist the two sets of memories they have as a result of the Monks' influence. Returning to the University, Bill and The Doctor access the Vault where The Doctor asks Missy about her encounters with the Monks. Missy explains how the Monks exert influence and her information leads her to conclude that the tether the Monks have on a planet must be killed in order to end their ability to control the populace; in this case, Bill. The Doctor refuses to accept that Bill must die and he, Nardole, and Bill head out to find the main transmitter the Monks are using to psychically influence the populace. Together, they work to remove the Monks from Earth and restore humanity's memories.

"The Lie Of The Land" is good, but the truth is it is exactly what fans of Doctor Who would expect of the show. The Doctor, heroic, is obviously not about to let down humanity and allow them to be enslaved. So, when the episode begins with Bill seeing flashes of the Monk's alternate history and her having a conversation with her dead mother, director Wayne Yip manages to illustrate well that memory - if not reality - has been altered.

"The Lie Of The Land," though, is like virtually every other "Earth is invaded" plotline on Doctor Who. The Doctor and his Companion work to stop the invaders without killing anyone. The solutions in Doctor Who are cerebral, not military. "The Lie Of The Land" is not different from, say, "Last Of The Time Lords" (reviewed here!). In fact, it is hard in some ways not to see "The Lie Of The Land" as a retread of "Last Of The Time Lords" as it is Bill, not The Doctor, who bears most of the responsibility of saving the world and working as The Doctor's proxy during the occupation.

Missy's return is a subtle one; Missy has been attempting to un-evil herself without interacting with the world. She is fairly brutal still, seeing life without actually caring about the people who might stand in the way of her goals. Michelle Gomez is able to flesh out Missy well; she is a fairly broken Time Lord in "The Lie Of The Land." Her final scene sets up either an excellent opportunity for Missy to transform as a character or for Michelle Gomez to play a future reveal that restores her version of The Master to being witty, fun and unsettling to watch.

Doctor Who has a decent sense of ethics and theme to it, but in its climax, "The Lie Of The Land" reveals how skittish the writers are. Doctor Who works within the confines of our world as best it can; the writers and producers are unwilling to transform the world and create an alternate present where cataclysmic events like the invasions by the Monks resonate with effects and consequences.

Ultimately, "The Lie Of The Land" is a good episode of Doctor Who that likely would have been a great episode of a series with lower usual standards.

For Doctor Who episodes written by Toby Whithouse, please check out my reviews of:
"Before The Flood"
"Under The Lake"
"The Vampires Of Venice"
"School Reunion"

6.5/10

For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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