Now it has a plan where the world will beg it to take over. It involves making a pyramid, and counting on the military to make a big mistake.
The Monk is ready to play. So is the Doctor.
However, the final result is caused by someone else, and the reason is actually disappointing.
According to the Doctor, the end of the world “is a billion billion tiny moments, and somewhere unnoticed, in silence or in darkness, it has already begun.”
This episode looks at two such moments: the sudden appearance of a pyramid near the U.S., Russian and Chinese armies in Turmezistan, and a woman named Erica (Rachel Denning) who works at a biotech lab in Yorkshire, where a big mistake is about to be made.
The Monks (voiced by Tim Bentinck) are keeping close tabs on both, since either could result in world domination. They built a pyramid to make things more tense at a political hot spot. The Doctor, Nardole and Bill head there, thanks to the Secretary General of the U.N. (Togo Igawa). The Doctor gets there to meet with the Monk, who says he and his other Monks will take over Earth with full consent. The Doctor says he won’t allow it.
The military, though, has other ideas. It tries to blast the pyramid, but the Monks are able to disable the weapons. They also change time to 11:57 PM, matching the Doomsday Clock that measures how close the Earth is to total destruction (usually by nuclear weapons).
They tell the Doctor and the military they can shape the future by preventing catastrophes before they start. All they ask is those with power give “pure consent” to hand over the Earth to them. Otherwise, Earth will be destroyed in a year thanks to flashes of the future. It’s the intergalactic version of “Only I can fix this.” The Monks can only rule by consent because it’s better than ruling by fear.
“Fear is temporary. Love is slavery,” the Doctor says.
George Orwell is smiling somewhere.
The Secretary General is the first to “give consent,” but because it wasn’t pure, he is killed. That gets the Doctor to tell the Monks the deal is off…at least, for now.
Meanwhile, in Yorkshire, Erica is conducting an experiment involving plants sprayed with a bio-chemical mix. Something, of course, goes wrong, and it produces a deadly bacteria that reduces living matter to sludge. A co-worker disintegrates right before her eyes, while she’s in her protective suit. No wonder the Monks are interested.
The Monks use just enough fear to get the military willing to hand over the Earth for a better future. It’s interesting the American colonel, Brabbit (Eben Young), is the most eager to surrender. Bill still thinks giving up is insane, saying she would never make such a choice.
Eventually, the Doctor figures out that the end of the world won’t involve armies, but deadly bacteria. He also thinks the lab is on a UNIT watch list, and the Monks are looking at them all. He cuts their feed, and notices the first feed they restore is that biotech lab where Erica and the deadly bacteria are.
Still, the military insist they’ll talk to the Monks if the Doctor doesn’t stop the bacteria. He does find Erica, who’s stunned to see him appear out of nowhere. He discovers what happened (a misplaced decimal point?), and decides to kill the bacteria by blowing up the lab.
Now this is where some may think the episode stumbles, despite a surprising ending.
First, the military surrenders to the Monks, thanks to their fear of the future. Since their consent wasn’t pure, they are killed.
Then the Monks ask Bill, since she represents the Doctor. She is stunned they consider her important. It’s almost as weird as the Secretary General interrupting her date with Penny, asking her where the Doctor is. Suddenly Companions are important according to the U.N. and aliens? Times have changed.
It’s also a swerve, as the Monks hope maybe they can beat the Doctor through Bill.
That means he can’t help the still-blind Doctor, who also discovers he can’t use the combination lock to get out of the lab because he can’t see it. He’s forced to admit to Bill he’s blind.
The worst thing about this twist is what the lock looks like. It’s four wheels with numbers, and he can’t feel them to tell what the numbers are. It couldn’t be touch-tone or voice-activated. It had to be a lock he could not see, which was too convenient.
Still, Bill decides to give the Monks the world so the Doctor can see again, despite him trying to stop her. It’s really painful seeing Bill surrendering to the Monks to save the Doctor’s sight. Is it because she knows his blindness was related to what happened to her in “Oxygen”? Could that have affected her decision?
Then again, can we also blame the Doctor for this, too? He kept his blindness a secret out of pride, or shame because he was afraid she would blame herself. Maybe he, or even Nardole, could have told her sooner and we’d get a different ending.
So, the bad aliens win and they change the world to their liking, thanks to Bill’s consent. Going back to “Oxygen,” the Doctor says the one thing wrong with the universe is “it’s all your fault…Now what are you going to do about it?”
Next week, Bill must answer that question, as she tries to convince the world it’s doomed. It even means turning to someone she’d rather not ask for help.