They change the world while we aren’t looking.
The foolish humans get peace and harmony without useless things like freedom or basic rights, and they don’t even notice.
A girl named Bill notices, because she let it happen. Last week, she gave the alien Monks the world so that the Doctor could see again.
Now what will she do about it, and how far will she go?
The three-episode arc with the alien Monks is the longest one in the modern Doctor Who history. It’s almost like the old days when it had stories that lasted six weeks. The overall story has been compelling as the Doctor fights creatures who change reality and memories.
It’s also been pretty rough for Bill (Pearl Mackie), who knows her consent made it happen. All the time, she pretends she’s talking to her late mother (Rosie Jane), hoping the Doctor will find a way to get the Monks out.
It doesn’t seem that way. For six months, he’s been giving people wonderful testimonials about the Monks, and how they beat the Daleks and Cybermen. He conveniently leaves out details like the arrests of people who are denying the Monks’ version of the truth.
Fortunately, Bill gets help from Nardole (Matt Lucas), who was out for six weeks because of the mutant bacteria from last week. He does find out the Doctor is being held in a prison boat, and they manage to get in. All the time, Bill is telling her mum what she’s doing to free the world.
Once they do find the Doctor, they’re stunned that he seems to side with the Monks. He says he did it for mankind’s own good. He also reminds Bill she gave the Monks the world so he could see again, and he didn’t ask for that.
That’s enough for Bill to give up…and shoot the Doctor four times.
This is a shocking scene, and Mackie does a great job showing the emotions of a woman hanging on to hope, then letting it go when she thinks the Doctor has turned his back on Earth.
So, the Doctor starts to regenerate…..except he’s not.
He’s still pro-Earth, and it’s all a test to show Bill’s also on his side (Nardole’s idea, really). He even has a few soldiers who are free of the Monks’ influence. Bill is stunned, and wants to hit someone, but the Doctor says what’s important is to figure out how to break the Monks’ influence. He also escapes in typical fashion: he just steals the prison boat.
To do that, they have to turn to Missy (Michelle Gomez), who is still in the vault with her piano. Since Bill hasn’t met her until now, she doesn’t know how devious and evil Missy can be. That’ll change. Anyway, Missy says she has beaten the Monks before, and she’ll help…for a price. Let’s say it includes a 3-D printer and a pony.
She says the Doctor has to eliminate the person who let the Monks in, which is course is Bill. He further figures that they are using a psychic link with her to maintain the false reality, with massive statues as transmitters. Missy says Bill has to die, or more specifically her brain, to break that link. The Doctor isn’t happy with that idea, but Missy says, at least she’s trying to help. Accepting the Doctor’s version of “good” will take a long time for her, since she has been quite evil for a long time.
However, there may be another way: the Doctor thinks he can hack the Monks’ transmitter with his own brainwaves. When he does a mind meld with the Monk tasked with maintaining the fake reality, it works for a while, until the Monk fights back.
Bill sees no choice. This was her fault. She sacrifices her brain to save everyone, and the Doctor’s protests won’t stop her.
Then a weird thing happens. As she mind melds with the Monk, she thinks about her mother, thanks to the pictures the Doctor found back in the season opener. That memory shatters the Monks’ grip because those photos create a memory they could not control.
Yet it’s not long before everyone forgets what happened. The Doctor isn’t surprised. Bill asks him, “Why did you put up with us then?” He answers, “In amongst seven billion, there’s someone like you. That’s why I put up with the rest of them.” Of course, that goes for all of the Companions.
Finally, something unusual happens in the vault: Missy is having regrets about her evil ways. She even sheds a tear. She even seems surprised she could even do that. It’s a great moment, and could set off a very interesting situation very soon.
The climax to the Monks arc was a bit cheesy, but it was a moment where Bill is able to redeem herself for causing the Doctor’s blindness, trying to cure it with a difficult choice, and then undoing it through a special love. It gives Bill Potts a special place in the Whoverse. Still, people may remember Missy’s tear more than how photos beat the Monks.
It’s also interesting the Monks didn’t have any dialogue this week. They expected the Doctor to speak for them, and just keep the delusion going. They didn’t see those photos coming.
Next week, the Doctor faces an enemy he hasn’t seen in more than 40 years…but are they really the enemy this time?