DOCTOR WHO – SEASON 10 EPISODE 06
WRITTEN BY STEVEN MOFFAT
DIRECTED BY DANIEL NETTHEIM
So the Doctor is blind and the vault might be/could be/should be opening by now. It’s possible the BBC had a huge reveal that they’ve spoilt for no reason or maybe they’re smarter than that and it’s all a bait and switch. Let’s find out.
We open “a long time ago” with an unknown character giving a voice over about the increasing problem of death and how to kill everyone. He introduces himself as sort some of executioner for all living things and says that destroying a Timelord is a particular honour.
While this voice-over occurs we see the Doctor being rowed to a castle and meeting with the executioners. They show him a device that is designed for killing Time Lords. The device kills a Time Lord and then the body is locked away for a thousand years just in case life finds a way. The executioners explain that the sentence must be carried out by another Time Lord.
A door opens and Missy appears. There is mild banter and Missy is placed in the device.
We cut to today and the Doctor is talking to the Vault/Missy, explaining that no one can know he’s blind. And let’s stop a second. Is it really Missy in the Vault? Seems anti-climactic. I still feel as though a bait and switch is coming.
We cut back to the past and the Vault is being prepared for Missy. As the Doctor is about to pull the lever that will kill her, Missy begs for her life.
Today, the Doctor activates his sonic sunglasses and sees he has an email titled Extremis.
After the credits, the Doctor stands in a darkened lecture hall. A door opens and people come in. We see that through his glasses the Doctor has a form of vision. He can see vague shapes and each person gets a little info box with their vital statistics but nothing else. We see that the people are a group of monks and a cardinal in red who says, “Good evening, Doctor.”
The Doctor fobs them off until Nardole arrives and tells him that what they’re saying is important and he needs to listen. The cardinal says that what he has to say affects everyone and that the Pope needs to speak to the Doctor. The Doctor asks if it’s so important why doesn’t the Pope come there himself and we see that is exactly what’s happened. The Doctor is understandably shocked at the Pope’s arrival. The Pope says, “Extremis.” And we cut to the Doctor’s office.
There is, explains the cardinal, an ancient text in the Vatican’s libraries. It’s older than the church itself and the language of the text is lost. All they have is the translated title: Veritas. The truth. The people who managed to translate it all killed themselves and their translations were lost. But now the Veritas has been translated again. And all of the translators and anyone who read it then killed themselves. Except for one. A translator who has gone missing and is assumed dead.
The Doctor tells them not to assume and the Pope asks if he’ll read the Veritas.
We jump to Bill who has brought a girl home, back to her foster mum’s place (her previous attempts to move out didn’t go to plan). The date goes to the bathroom and Bill does her hair and then – crap! – her foster mum walks in. Turns out she wasn’t supposed to be at home. Also, if you recall, she sucks. She tells Bill off for bringing someone home and explains that she has very strict rules about men (“Not as strict as mine,” says Bill). Bill’s date appears and Foster Mum thinks it’s just mates being mates and goes off to the pub.
Bill makes her date a cuppa and we see the familiar sound of the TARDIS arriving. Bill looks less than pleased. Bill’s date is nervous as she hadn’t really done ‘this’ before and Bill assures her that whatever happens, it’s nothing to feel guilty about (Doctor Woke!).
And then the Pope walks in.
Possibly one of the best Doctor Who jokes ever.
Bill and her date, Penny, follow the Pope into Bill’s bedroom which is now full of TARDIS and Vatican security. Penny runs off and Bill storms into the TARDIS. She gives the Doctor an earful but he is distracted and feeling his way around. Nardole explains why the Pope is there but keeps the Doctor’s blindness a secret. The Doctor shows the cardinal a device he calls a reading aid and explains that it is deadly.
The cardinal offers him the chance, should he want it, to make his confession as he seems like someone regretting something.
We cut back to the past and the Doctor is about to pull the execution lever. A robed man arrives and beckons the Doctor over. The executioner explains that the robed man, a priest, may speak to the Doctor for five minutes before the execution must take place. The priest, who sounds like Nardole, gives a speech about the nature of goodness. “Virtue is only virtue in extemis,” says the priest. ‘This is what he believes. And this is why I love him. My husband. My mad man in a box.” We see the priest (who is Nardole) is reading from the TARDIS journal. “Your missus wouldn’t approve,” he says.
Today, the TARDIS speeds towards the Vatican. The TARDIS lands and everyone disembarks except for Nardole and the Doctor. Nardole tells the Doctor off for keeping his blindness a secret from Bill and asks him why. The Doctor says he doesn’t want her worrying and Nardole tells him that the real reason is that if Bill knows then it becomes real and then he has to address it.
They walk through the Vatican archives with the cardinal who shows them to the library of heretical texts, hidden behind a painting of Pope Benedict IX (who was a woman?).
Back in the past, the five minutes is up. Missy begs for her life again and tells him she’ll be good. “With no hope, no witness, and no reward?” Says the Doctor.
Back in the archives, the cardinal leads them to the Veritas. As they approach a light appears from around a corner. They walk around the corner and see a bright hole in the wall with a person on the other side. The Doctor’s glasses can’t pick up any info about the figure and the light vanishes revealing nothing but a wall. They leave the cardinal investigating the wall and go wandering until they find the Veritas, a book locked in a cage.
They see there is a man in the cage with the book and he apologises to them. He says that he sent it and then he runs away with a gun in his hand.
The cardinal is investigating the wall when a gnarled, monstrous hand bursts through (but doesn’t break the wall.)
They go back to the cage and find a laptop. They see that the apologising priest had emailed the Veritas translation to CERN and others. CERN replies: PRAY FOR US.
They surmise that the priest is the missing translator and Bill says that it’s hopeful because it means at least one person read the Veritas and lived.
A gunshot rings out. The Doctor sees through the glasses that the man’s life signs have terminated but he sends them to check on him anyway. He promises not to read the Veritas and then once they’re gone opens it. He takes out the deadly reading device and attaches it to his head.
Bill and Nardole find the dead translator and another light opening appears. They go for a closer look.
The Doctor preps on the reading device and a shadowy figure with a terrible arm begins to walk towards him. The Doctor turns the device on and it zaps him unconscious.
In the past, Missy declares herself to be the Doctor’s friend and without hope, witness, or reward, she hopes that it is true. The Doctor pulls the lever and kills her. He then makes the oath to guard the body for a thousand years.
Cut to the Pentagon. Nardole and Bill emerge from a cupboard. They realise where they are and walk back into the light which takes them to a large chamber with lots of light portals. They go through another one that takes them to CERN where it seems as though the scientists are gathering in the cafeteria for a mass suicide.
The Doctor wakes up and can see, though it’s pretty blurry. He explains that the reading device is a way to borrow from future regenerations so perhaps his future regenerations will be blind or perhaps he simply won’t regenerate again. (Spoilers: I’m guessing neither of these things is going to happen.)
He asks the cardinal (it’s not the cardinal, it’s a monster but he can’t see it) to strap him into the reading chair, which the cardinal monster does. In his blurry vision, he sees that there are more than just the one cardinal around him. He finally sees the monster who straps him to the chair and takes the book.
The Doctor sonics the lights and in the darkness, escapes from the chair and steals the laptop (which contains the translated Veritas?)
At CERN, Bill and Nardole are shown to the cafeteria where there is a clock counting down five minutes and everyone is crying. Bill looks under the tables and sees sticks of dynamite strapped underneath.
The Doctor opens the translated Veritas on the laptop. As he begins to read his eyes fail and other than A TEST OF SHADOWS he can’t read anything else. The Doctor makes a run for it but monster monks block his path as his vision begins to go again. A light portal appears and he runs through it.
At CERN, Bill talks to the head scientist who explains that this isn’t the world and is amazed they haven’t read the Veritas. He asks them to choose a number when he taps the table. He taps and they both say thirty-six. He does it again and they both say seventeen. Every time he taps the table the same thing happens. He joins in and then everyone is doing it. He tells them it’s the Shadow Test and they run away as the countdown finishes.
They emerge in the room full of light portals. They notice blood stains on the floor and Nardole points to silver monoliths in the centre of the room that are projecting the portals onto the walls. Nardole says that they’re not projecting the portals, they’re projecting the worlds. The worlds aren’t real, they’re projection like VR or the holodeck. Bill can’t believe she’s in a computer game and they can’t work out where it started. Nardole wonders what happens if they move out of the light of the projector. He puts his hand behind the monolith and sees that he is part of the simulation. He screams for help as he dissolves into pixels.
Bill nearly puts her hand behind the monolith but doesn’t. Instead, she follows the trail of blood through a portal and into the White House. A man sits in a chair next to a bottle of pills and the Doctor sits at the desk of the Oval Office.
The Doctor tells her he listened to the Veritas on the laptop and she asks him to tell her what is real. The Doctor tells her that the Veritas is about a demon who wants to destroy the world but who first makes a shadow world in order to learn more about our own. The shadow world is inhabited by fake versions of our world and these shadows can work out who they are by writing down a series of numbers and when you turn the page you’ll see the same numbers if you’re a shadow. The Doctor says that consider a modern version of the story in which an alien race wants to conquer humanity so it runs a simulation to see how the smartest people will react and who they’ll be.
Bill tells him she said the numbers and he tells her he did the same. Bill begins to pixelate and vanish. Once she’s gone we see a monster monk standing behind her. The monk tells the Doctor they have killed him many times. He asks the monk what he is waiting for, he asks to be deleted as he has nothing to offer them anymore, not even hope.
He flashes back to Missy’s declaration of friendship and removes the TARDIS journal from his jacket.
He proclaims that all his is belief and quotes River Song, “Virtue is only virtue in extremis.” He gives them a warning that he is the Doctor and he is what stands between bad guys and the human race.
The monk tells him that he is not real, and the Doctor says that that doesn’t matter as long as you trick the bad guys and use their traps against them. He shows the monk is glasses and tells him that they are psychically wired to the Doctor’s mind and set to record. The past hours will be recorded into his memory. He saves the memories and emails them out to the only person who can help him:
We cut back to the opening scenes and we see the Doctor back at the vault. The whole episode has been the Doctor watching the email recording. Another email comes in:
P.S. Dear Doctor,
The Doctor x.
He jumps to his feet and calls Bill. He tells her she needs to call Penny because something bad is coming and they’re going to be very busy.
The Doctor goes to the Vault. He asks Missy if she’ll help him if she’s all he has left. If she’s truly his friend.
In the past, the guards go to remove Missy’s corpse but she’s very much alive. The Doctor has tampered with the machine and says that his oath was only to look after her body, nothing about her being dead.
In front of the Vault, in the present, the Doctor says to the Vault/Missy that he is blind and something is coming.
“How can I save them,” he says. “If I’m lost in the dark?”
Wow. I loved this. This is why I love this show. This is the good stuff that’s going to make me miss Moffat so much.
The whole thing being a great haunted house story in the Vatican that was inside a bigger story about the nature of reality that was inside a yet bigger story about an alien invasion was incredible and written to perfection. Each twist never felt rushed or unearned and the moment the Doctor revealed the email was the cherry on top.
And now we possibly know who is in the Vault. The Missy scenes were great (because Michelle Gomez is a treasure) though it is inevitable that his act of mercy towards her will ultimately be his undoing just as it has so many times before.
I can’t find a single duff note in the whole thing. Matt Lucas has really come into his own as the snarky Nardole and Pearl Mackie needs to be on this show for a few years before achieving international mega-stardom. Capaldi has, right at the end, made the role his own and he did very well with the blind stuff. It felt very natural and not too pantomime-y.
All in all, an absolute triumph and further proof that this could end up being the best season of new Who in ages or even ever.
Body count: Hard to count if we’re including CERN. On screen, though I guess it’s four (if we count virtual Bill and Nardole). Five if we count the president. Though these were all projections so maybe it’s zero.
Best Line: Nardole’s whole speech to Bill about kicking the Doctor’s arse was great.
Who’s in the Vault? Missy. Maybe. All signs point that way but until I see those doors open I have doubts.
Prediction for next week: More from these monster monks and further adventures in blindness. I can’t wait.
Featured Image: BBC