Sunday, May 28, 2017

Doctor Who, Season Ten, Episode Six: Extremis

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To date, all of season ten has been one off episodes which haven't lead to a larger over arching narrative.  This is perhaps my least favourite style of story telling on Doctor Who.  I love having the big pay off in the end and trying to figure out where the story is going.  In Capaldi's first season, he spent it trying to figure out whether or not he's a good man, only to determine that he's an "idiot with a box". Season nine was taken up with the exit of Clara Oswald and determining exactly who the hybrid is.  This becomes important because though the Doctor claims to have an in-built set of codes he lives by, he tossed them aside at the urging of Clara, leading eventually to Clara's death. When the Doctor goes all Time Lord Victorious bad things happen. Up until Extremis, other than introducing Bill, whom I love, the story has been disconnected. Yes, we know that the Doctor is guarding someone in a box but that's hardly an overarching plot. I think that Exremis is the start to the larger narrative this season, particularly because it's a three part series. 

For me, it really feels as though with release of Extremis that the season has finally begun. Yes, I'm frustrated with the ending because it left us with so many unanswered questions but I recognise that this is how it should be so that Whovians can spend way too much time thinking about where the season is going and the various nuances of the show.  Who doesn't love to argue with other Whovians about what is going on with the Doctor? 

Extremis flips through the timeline to reveal that Missy is the one inside the box. It seems that Missy unsurprisingly has been sentenced to death and since only a Timelord can carry out the sentence, the Doctor is there to see it done. The relationship between Missy and the Doctor has always been complicated because they are different sides to the same coin.  At the end of the day, neither wants to see real harm done to the other, as Missy's rescue attempt in The Magician's Apprentice. It's not an accident that it was Missy who received the Doctor's confessional dial. This is why, I didn't believe for a moment that the Doctor would actually kill Missy, even if she does attempt to kill him from time to time. 

The arrival of Nardole as an emissary for River Song speaks of a larger connection between the two than was originally hinted in The Husbands of River Song. Nardole arrives with River's famous blue diary and makes it clear that River would not approve of his actions.  Of course, the Doctor does not in fact kill Missy but he does imprison her and promise to guard her for 1000 years.  In the present we see the Doctor talking to Missy through her prison, recalling what has past between them and his fear that his blindness will impact his ability to protect earth.  Missy is perhaps the only person who the Doctor can admit his vulnerability to. Nardole suggests that the Doctor doesn't tell Bill because then he would have to deal with the reality of his situation but I think it's because he knows that Bill is dependent upon him to know what he is doing, to see all of the angles and keep her safe. It comes down to the Doctor's belief that he has a duty of care. 

Extremis sets up a situation in which the earth is about to be invaded by robe wearing aliens. To prepare, the aliens have created a fake world in order to be able to predict how earth's defenders will react. What's interesting is that not only do the include the Doctor, the Doctor is blind in this alternate reality as well.  It begins when the Doctor gets a visit from the Pope. It seems that some priests have all killed themselves after reading a text.  Nardole is the one who fills in the blanks for the Doctor because he cannot see.  The Doctor decides to investigate and to do so, he has to pick up Bill, which involves interrupting Bill's date.  This is the first time that Bill experiences how being a companion on the Tardis can really be a problem for one's private life.  When Bill's date sees the Tardis, along with the Pope and a group of Cardinals in Bill's bedroom, she runs out screaming. Given that the Catholic religion has not been kind to LGBT people, her reaction makes perfect sense.

The Doctor brings a device to temporarily restore his eyesight but involves borrowing from his future regenerations. It's a temporary fix which means that we are probably not going to see a resolution to the Doctor's blindness until he regenerates. To read the book, the Doctor sends Nardole and Bill off to investigate a gunshot.  Bill and Nardole's interactions are cute and this marks the first time that Nardole hasn't actively irritated me since his introduction to the series.  It's Nardole who figures out first that they are not real and more like manifestations on a hollowdeck (yes, another Star Trek reference). Bill manages to track the Doctor down in the oval office of all placess and similarly breaks down when he explains to her what is going on.  They aren't real and therefore when the imaginary people living in this world discovered that, they do the only act of resistance they can - they delete themselves.  The fake Doctor confronts the aliens about what they are doing but at this point, having faced this version of the Doctor, they are not concerned.  The Doctor however warns them that they should be concerned and then emails the real version of himself everything that he's recorded in this adventure.

The real Doctor has been sitting outside of Missy's cell this entire time talking about her death sentence and his fears about being able to protect humanity while blind.  When he gets the email, the Doctor contacts Bill and suggests she asks out the same woman the fake Bill was dating. The Doctor now knows that something is coming which will challenge him and this time, he's not certain that he's up to the task.  This is a real moment of vulnerability for the Doctor and certainly not an emotion that we see from him often and with good reason. Given that in the Veritas world, the Doctor and humanity died many many times, this suggests that the monks are well prepared for the challenge ahead. What I'm interested in is what Missy's role will be.  Yes, Missy has tried to save the Doctor but she's also tried to kill the Doctor.  Missy has promised to try and be good, a promise I think we know that she cannot keep. The fact the alternate world didn't include her suggests that the role she plays in defeating the monk aliens will be vital.

I have tons of questions but that's as it should be since Extremis is part one in a three episode arc. How much longer can the Doctor hide being blind from Bill? Given that he was already moving more slowly in this episode than the previous one, I don't think he can keep up the charade for much longer. How did Missy survive the Daleks she met in The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar two-parter? Finally, what is the end goal of these new robed aliens?