Doctor Who: “The Pyramid at the End of the World” Review

Finally, my Doctor Who review for last week. Sorry for the lateness. The Monk Trilogy continues as the Doctor attempts to save the world yet again…only this time, he’s got competition.

The Quick & Spoiler-Free Verdict

Despite an exciting premise and the promising set-up of last week’s episode, this episode does end up suffering from sagging-middle syndrome. Fortunately, the surprising ending goes a long way toward making up for that. It’s a global-crisis episode in the mold of the Russell T. Davies era that feels slow at times but which is satisfying overall.

The Good

I don’t think many people would agree with me on this, but I consider the Monks to be some of the most frightening monsters Steven Moffat has ever created. True, they lack the visceral, childhood-fear-exploiting terror of the Weeping Angels or the Silence. But they have a more cerebral scare factor that goes deeper and is arguably more disturbing. Monsters who create vast simulated copies of planets to determine when they will be at their lowest ebb are unnerving enough. But on top of that, the Monks don’t just want to forcibly take over like the Daleks or the Cybermen…they seek to manipulate populations into loving them. If that’s not freaky, I don’t know what is.
These unique foes put the Doctor in an intriguing position, as he’s fighting against would-be saviors instead of mere invaders. They also (so far, at least) represent a worthy new addition to the Doctor Who canon instead of a one-off monster or a return appearance from a known enemy. It’s nice to see that Moffat, despite the fact that this will be his last year on the show, is being experimental and telling new, interesting stories instead of resting on his laurels.
Also, kudos to the show for casting Rachel Denning without making her height a plot point in any way or even referencing it at all. Well done.

The Bad

I can’t really give a final verdict on this episode’s plot yet, as the story won’t be finished until part three of the trilogy. I will say that the pacing this week was a little slow. There was too much deliberation about the problem presented by the Monks, and too much preaching about themes that were already addressed in detail in the Zygon two-parter of Series 9.
Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the biggest problem with this episode: absent characters. I’m assuming Moffat used new supporting characters instead of Kate Stewart and Osgood in an attempt to make this episode not feel like the The Zygon Invasion/Inversion all over again. Personally, however, I think having Kate’s UNIT team on board would have made a lot more sense. Granted, I say this partly because I’ve just finished listening to the fantastic UNIT: Assembled series from Big Finish–not to be missed.
Speaking of missing…okay, sorry, that was a terrible pun. But she should have been around too. The end of “Extremis” seemed to imply that the Doctor would be asking for Missy’s help in this dilemma. At least, that’s the impression I got. It was disappointing that she didn’t even make a brief cameo, especially considering Michelle Gomez’s recent announcement that this will be her last year portraying the character. I’d like for Missy to be included as much as possible before we have to say goodbye to her.

The Final Word

“The Pyramid at the End of the World” is a little weird, and ever-so-slightly boring at times. That’s not to say it’s a complete let-down, however. I’d rank “Oxygen” as the worst episode of Series 10 so far; “Pyramid” is definitely a cut above that story. But its ultimate success or failure will largely depend on whether the final episode of the trilogy can deliver on everything these first two installments have set up.

I guess we’ll be finding out soon enough…

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