By Lee Travis
The Lie of the Land
Escapism is a well-welcomed trait in any form of entertainment. Stories are drawn from reality, but with a nice coat of paint, they are just enough removed from the sobering reminder of what we face day to day. “The Lie of the Land” strips that shiny coat away, leaving the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole in an all to the real world, a world that, at points, closely resembles ours.
Fake news, distributed by the Monks, controls those who refuse to see past it. The six-month gap from the previous episode shows how fast the Monks have subjugated the earth and the population. By controlling past events; people are more willing to tolerate the security state that the world has become. Upon closer examination, this lie can be broken, but for most, it leads to imprisonment or worse. For the few who can escape, a rebellion is born.
Bill and Nardole find themselves as a team trying to free the Doctor. The first act of “The Lie of the Land” is exhilarating and tense. The payoff from “The Pyramid and the End of the World” works. The Monks have fulfilled their promise. Our planet is theirs. Full stop. With the Doctor sending out videos in support of this new regime, the odds are stacked against the duo. The planning and botched breakout plot are welcomed. The emotional climax occurs early on in the episode as Bill faces the possibility that the Doctor has turned his back on humanity and it in line with the Monks.
Bill pulling the trigger and shooting the Doctor was real to her. It was real to me as well. Until it wasn’t. Rug pulled from under us. Again. Though I was glad to see the Doctor as humanity’s last hope, how we got there didn’t feel fulfilling enough. The rise in action was masterful, yet the execution from the remainder of the episode failed in comparison. Missy’s involvement felt tacked on, as did the ultimate climax with the Monks. The concept of how the Monks controlled humans through fake news is a much more interesting story, but it quickly becomes noise in the background rather than the predominate feature it deserved to be. Would it have been a harder story to tell? Yes. Would the payoff have been better? Possibly.
Don’t take my negativity towards “The Lie of the Land” in a bad way. I enjoyed what the episode did and how it pushed the envelope closer to our reality. The mashup of aliens plus a story ripped directly from a show like Black Mirror worked well for the first half, but the resolution didn't feel earned. The Doctor and Bill being status quo episode after episode is becoming too predictable. Yes, smaller changes happen and shape the characters, but nothing monumental. The Doctor asked a student back at University if she remembered what just happened, the student brushed off being fed false memories by aliens who controlled the world for six months as a film shoot. Poof, just like that any chance of a meaningful outcome gone as well.
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