The Doctor Who Regeneration Review is a weekly column cataloging all the times Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor nearly regenerates, or dies, in the latest episode of BBC America’s popular science fiction show. Since this is the
Scottish “cross” character’s final season — a fact the showrunners have enjoyed teasing in the promos — we decided to tease back. Most items are serious, some silly, and all measured with the Doctor’s ?.
Aside from star turns in “The Pilot” and “Oxygen,” Doctor Who has given new companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) little to do this season. Thankfully “The Lie of the Land” writer Toby Whithouse, whose past writing credits include “School Reunion” and “The Vampires of Venice,” channeled Rose Tyler’s (Billie Piper) literal swing into action from the first season’s premiere episode — metaphorically, of course. After all, Bill’s mission to find and rescue the Doctor from the alien Monks’ control in the first 20 minutes bears all the hallmarks of a fully-formed, ready-for-action companion.
And her moment doesn’t end there, for Bill and the powerful memories of her mother first previewed in “The Pilot” take center stage throughout the episode. This connection informs her as she fights for, briefly against and alongside the Doctor in their quest to defeat the Monks, which first turned up in “Extremis” and invaded in “The Pyramid at the End of the World.” It also helps her to turn the invaders’ plan on its head when the Doctor’s characteristically boastful attempt to do so fails. All of which is great for Bill, though it all may inspire a little bit of déjà vu for devoted Doctor Who viewers.
As Mackie noted in a promotional video, “Lie of the Land” marks the third and final chapter of a trilogy — a serial device often employed by showrunner Steven Moffat, his predecessor Russell T Davies, and others in the show’s 50+ years of existence. Which isn’t a bad thing, per se, though the particulars of this story bear a striking thematic resemblance to those displayed by Davies three-part conclusion to the third season. “Utopia,” “The Sound of Drums” and “Last of the Time Lords” pitted David Tennant’s 10th Doctor and Freema Agyeman’s Martha Jones against John Simm’s Master. Coincidentally, “Lie” features the Doctor, his current companion, and Missy (Michelle Gomez) — a new iteration of the longtime villain.
“Your future is taken care of” (?)
“Pyramid” ends with Bill consenting to the Monks’ rule in exchange for granting the Doctor his eyesight. As a result, the aliens gain access to the entire planet, which they rule in a fashion reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984 and other similarly dystopian stories. Somehow they convince humanity they have been with them since the beginning, and it has something to do with regular broadcasts dubbed “The Truth” narrated by the Doctor. “Your future is taken care of,” the previously rebellious Time Lord explains in one. It’s almost as if he’s come under the Monks’ spell, is being threatened, or both.
“Did you actually just call them, you nutter?” (??????)
Following this distressing introduction, viewers are quickly tuned into Bill’s secretive, isolated efforts to stand up. She does this by remembering, as best as she can, the time before their arrival and by questioning the Doctor’s broadcasts. Eventually, she and Nardole (Matt Lucas) regroup and sneak onto a ship where the Gallifreyan is presumably imprisoned. Once there, however, she discovers the Doctor is apparently in league with the Monks, and he rings them up to let them know intruders have boarded the boat. Confused and furious, Bill grabs a gun from one of the soldiers and shoots the Doctor, supposedly triggering a regeneration.
“I thought you had some kind of monster in here” (???)
Or so she thinks, as it turns out the Doctor, Nardole and the guards are actually in league with one another against the Monks. The Time Lord has been broadcasting, yes, but in an attempt to gain the aliens’ trust. That said, their control over the planet is ironclad and the Doctor knows they’ll need help, so he and Bill sneak into the vault to ask Missy for it. “This is just a woman,” Bill exclaims. “I though you had some kind of monster in here.” Anyone familiar with Missy’s track record these past few seasons — let alone the Master’s murderous path throughout all of Doctor Who — knows all too well she is, in fact, a monster.
“You tricked us” (?????)
Simply being in Missy’s presence is enough to make the Doctor nervous, but the short encounter proves uneventful — unless you factor in her suggestion that killing Bill is the only way to break the Monks’ control. Of course the Doctor refuses, so he and his team hatch a plan to break into the pyramid and take over its mind-controlling broadcast. Bill, Nardole and the soldiers wear headphones to mask the transmission’s effect, but a well-placed bullet destroys one fellow’s tape player — resulting in yet another gun pointing at the Doctor. This one doesn’t have blanks in it, but thankfully the soldier never has the chance to fire.
“I didn’t agree to this” (?????)
We already know that Bill will save the day, but not before the Doctor tries and fails to do so first. Finding a lone monk at the helm of the transmission, he attempts to hijack the stream and erase the implanted memories of the aliens from humanity’s history. A mental duel ensues, at which point the panicked hero exclaims, “I didn’t agree to this!” The Monks obviously aren’t willing to let the Doctor just come in and undo everything they’ve accomplished, so they fight back against him, thereby blocking his attempts to re-rewrite history. The invaders’ counterattack succeeds, launching the Doctor across the room.
New episodes of Doctor Who air Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on BBC America.