‘Doctor Who’ Regeneration Review: Welcome To ‘The Pyramid At The End Of The World’

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 ?.

The Doctor is still blind, and after the dour note last week’s “Extremis” ended on, such a handicap seems preferable to the alternative. In “The Pyramid at the End of the World,” life on Earth as everyone in the real world (and not the mummy-like aliens’ simulation) knows it is about to end, and it seems the soon-to-depart Peter Capaldi’s titular character can’t do much about it. Why? Because a whole new, yet again horror-themed enemy devised by outgoing showrunner Steven Moffat has the planet in its grasp.

Of course, the Doctor is going to do everything he can to oppose them, but with their simulations calculated and completed, the invaders possess every advantage. That, and the hero of the story is blind. He’s quite literally blind, but he also cannot see the growing concern Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) has for him and his more-ornery-than-usual manners as of late. To make matters worse, the Doctor is blind to the fact that, despite humanity’s relative ease at putting all their hopes for salvation from annihilation on him, they have to want to be saved. And not just saved by anyone, but saved by him specifically.

Such is the main crux of the aliens’ (here commonly referred to as “The Monks”) plan, which involves identifying a potential global catastrophe and offering humanity its services in exchange for their “consent.” Not out of fear of death or avoidance of the inevitable, but for the love of their invaders turned saviors. Which is where Bill, the Doctor’s new Rose Tyler-like companion, steps in. “Pyramid” begins and ends with her character and what she desires, the latter of which plays a crucial role in determining the fate of the Earth and the Time Lord’s eyesight.

“The end of your life has already begun” (?)

Ever since the 12th Doctor went blind in “Oxygen,” Capaldi has imbued his character with a strong sense of finality. It’s like the first chunk of this season, and some of the ninth season’s happier moments, didn’t even happen. It’s like Doctor Who rewound its antagonist back to his decidedly more morbid beginnings in season eight, when he constantly peppered Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) with questions like, “Am I a good man?” It made sense then, but opening an episode with sad guitar riffs and sadder monologues doesn’t necessarily promise happier days are on the horizon. If anything, it’s like he wants to regenerate… and soon.

“Three minutes to Midnight” (???)

Aside from making a small appearance in the Watchmen comics and film adaptation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock is a very real thing. The “symbolic clock,” as the Doctor describes, is meant to indicate how close humanity is to annihilating itself via nuclear (or other world-ending) means, so that the Monks are using it to show everyone how close they are to the end is rather apt. Throughout “Pyramid,” the minute hand continuously moves closer to Midnight, approaching its signified fate within seconds before everything concludes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

“You are corpses to us” (????)

…because the dangers posed by the Monks are very real. Especially when the Doctor, Bill and the representatives from the United Nations, the United States, China and Russia enter the pyramid to “talk” with their would-be extraterrestrial saviors. The Monks — who chose their corpse-like form because, as they explain to the American general, “You are corpses to us.” — reveal they know how and when the world will end, but refuse to tell anyone else. To do so, to act, requires the consent of a figure with the power to do so. And not simply because they are afraid of death, but because they love the bringers of their salvation.

“Oh my God.” “No, I’m the Doctor.” (????)

If facing the very real dangers of the Monks’ consent (which kills would-be consent-givers who aren’t “pure”) wasn’t enough, the Doctor and Nardole ultimately find out what brewing disaster will kill every living thing on the planet. A nondescript laboratory, in which scientists are experimenting with various chemicals on biological life, inadvertently concocts a deadly mixture capable of turning anything organic into goo. The pair arrives in the T.A.R.D.I.S. just in time to identify the problem and try to stop it, but not before Nardole apparently succumbs to the “toxic” environment the Doctor can somehow withstand.

“I consent” (?????)

Being blind, however, the seemingly all-powerful Doctor cannot survive the very circumstances he co-engineered to insure Earth’s survival. Mainly because, as he finally reveals to Bill, he’s been blind since their adventures in “Oxygen” and cannot see the numbers on a door code he must enter to escape the coming explosion. So to save her tutor and traveling partner, who unsurprisingly protests, Bill lovingly consents to the Monks — asking them to restore the Gallifreyan’s eyesight in exchange for the planet. It works and the Doctor escapes certain death, but at what cost?

New episodes of Doctor Who air Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on BBC America.