As the third and final part to a longer storyline, “The Lie of the Land” opens six months after the events of the last episode. The Doctor is telling viewers and everyone around Earth how the Monks have been with humanity from the get go, nurturing it and being there when humans made their greatest achievements. While he’s listing all that, a woman is dragged away from her home in Bristol for knowing that this is not the truth. She gets sentenced to ten years in a labour camp as Bill watches and then walks away, and we see the Monks’ statues all around the world.
At home, Bill talks to her mother (who only exists in her head) about what has been going on for the past six months. The Monks have been brainwashing everyone into believing that they’ve been on Earth since the beginning, but Bill and some others know better. She starts talking about her travels with the Doctor and Nardole when the latter appears and the two share a heartwarming hug. Nardole tells Bill that he knows where the Monks must be keeping the Doctor and making him do all the broadcasts and so they head towards the North Sea. There they find him but also that he doesn’t want to escape, he joined the Monks because he wanted to. He even calls them on Bill as he explains that their appearance has been good for humanity and that it should stay this way.
Bill tries to find a sign that he has some kind of a plan and is only pretending, but he assures her that he’s serious. Knowing that the Monks cannot be defeated with the Doctor by their side, Bill decides to shoot him. The Doctor begins regenerating, except that he’s fine and the bullet wasn’t real and he and Nardole and the “guards” pulled the worst prank ever on Bill. They wanted to make sure that she really does see through the brainwash and wants to defeat the Monks. Not only was this unnecessarily cruel but I doubt that Bill would have shot the Doctor, so I’d like to pretend that only the moment when Bill got upset by it all exists. Her reaction is entirely justified:
The Doctor being an enormous jerk aside, they go back to Bristol to talk to Missy in the Vault. She tells them that she knows how to get through the Monks’ brainwash: they just have to find the lynchpin (the person who consented to the invasion) and destroy the statues as they help the signal. Problem is, the lynchpin is Bill and she has to be brain-dead for it to work. The Doctor refuses to even consider this as an option and the team goes to London instead, where the pyramid is now located.
The Doctor plans on replacing the transmitter with his own thoughts so instead of the false message humanity will get the truth, but it’s too strong for him and he passes out. When he wakes up Bill is ready to say goodbye, she wants to sacrifice herself and do what Missy said the solution would be. The Doctor is too late to stop her, but instead of killing her the transmitter is overpowered by her idea of her mother. She, as she exists in Bill’s mind, is pure and untouched by the Monks’ lies, she’s a window to everyone to the real world. Bill’s mom, therefore, ends up saving the world and humanity overthrows the Monks. After that, the Doctor and Bill are looking back at their adventure from St Luke’s. The Monks made humanity forget they were even there and so everything is back to normal. Down in the Vault, the Master says she remembers more and more of the people that she killed and that being good hurts.
I liked “The Lie of the Land”. Not my favourite series 10 episode, but let’s just make it clear that I did enjoy it before I get into this because I did have some issues with it. Okay, disclaimer’s out, so let’s talk about how the Doctor’s plan made no sense at all. He wanted the Monks to trust him but for what? Did he really have to wait six months to fill Bill in? It’s nice that he convinced others to join him but didn’t seem to care much when they dropped dead. What was that whole scene, honestly? Such a fake hype around regeneration for nothing. Bill’s reaction was genuinely the best thing that came out of it, that and Pearl Mackie’s brilliant acting.
Instead of doing that pointless and cruel scene, the episode could have expanded on what the Doctor said about the Monks helping humanity (even if he didn’t really believe it), free will, or just what the situation was. They brought so many interesting ideas, like the rest of series 10, but instead of working around those, we had unnecessary moments. The beginning with the woman getting dragged away into labour camp and the general denial of the real truth reminded me of what communism looked like in the Eastern Block right after WWII, the episode could have worked with that, since Doctor Who has already proved that it won’t pull any punches when it capitalism so have a go at communism as well. Or have a go at any problematic ideology, really.
In last week’s episode, it felt like not much has happened at the end of the day and it was the same here, but now they could have worked with so much and then it was just left there to hang. This is why I couldn’t overlook it that easy this week and why overall the Monk storyline fell flat in my eyes. It was entertaining and each episode introduced thought-provoking concepts, but three episode and the only one that was really expanded on was the “nothing is real” one from “Extremis”. I feel like it would have been better if the storyline only had two episodes to play with, maybe it would have ended up as something more substantial. Again, I did enjoy “The Lie of the Land” and the other episodes, but based on what we’ve been having so far it could have been better.
When Bill started talking to her mother for the first time it was both heartwarming and -breaking and I love how she is (and the hole she left behind) an integral part of her character, but the narration was maybe a bit too much as it was obviously just to deal with the exposition, and I’m not too sure how to feel about her being the solution to the Monk problem. On the one hand, I love that we’re not forgetting her and the part she’s still playing in Bill’s life because this feels like a lesson learnt after Clara’s mother was forgotten three episodes in. On the other, I hope this wasn’t her whole purpose as it wasn’t even a good one. Not that I expect Doctor Who to make sense at all times, it’s a sci-fi and a notoriously “wibbly-wobbly” one at that, but deus ex machina’s like this do leave me somewhat disappointed. Still, here’s to hoping that this wasn’t Bill’s mom only purpose and we’ll see more of her – even if only in Bill’s head.
As one last thought let’s talk about Missy. I do love Michelle Gomez and I think she was brilliant here as she always is, but that very last scene and her general mentions of good and bad are bugging me. The only way I can accept her getting all teared up and saying she remembers the names of everyone she killed is that if it turns out she’s just lying. She’s the Master after all, and as undeniably shitty as that character can be, they’ve never been bad for bad’s sake. They always had an ulterior motive, mostly getting the Doctor’s attention, and casualties were collateral damage for the most part. I can’t wait to see how John Simm comes into this because a Master who’s simply just ‘good’ by the Doctor’s standards is boring. She even said so herself, the Doctor’s definition is vain and sentimental, so work with that, show us what hers is.
Next week it’s time to meet the “Empress of Mars” and the Ice Warriors as the series enters its third and final block.