Doctor Who: “Extremis” Review

Doctor Who’s latest episode tells a mind-blowing story about ancient secrets, scary monks, Missy, and…faith?

The Quick & Spoiler-Free Verdict

Wow. An astonishing, gut-wrenching, beautiful piece of television. Doctor Who hasn’t been this good in…well, possibly ever. If you haven’t seen the episode—and I cannot emphasize this enough—DO NOT let yourself be spoiled. I’ll refrain from any big spoilers in here just in case.

The Good

Everything.

Okay, I guess I need to be a little more specific than that.

I must admit, I was a little apprehensive when I found out that the Vatican was going to be playing a major role in this episode. Doctor Who does not have the greatest track record in showing the proper respect for people of faith. The Twelfth Doctor in particular has been very dismissive and even hostile toward religion at times. So the tasteful handling of religion in “Extremis” came as a very pleasant surprise. I’m not Catholic, so I can’t speak to how certain remarks about Pope Benedict IX were received by members of that sect. But as a Christian, I found nothing overtly offensive in this story. In fact, I considered the theme of “virtue in extremis” to be very inspiring from a Christian perspective. Kudos to the atheist Steven Moffat for writing a religious-themed story this tactful and relevant.

The plotting was brilliant on so many levels. We learned the contents of the Vault this week, but we also learned that the Vault really isn’t the point of Series 10. The reveal was not particularly startling, and yet immensely satisfying in the larger context of this year’s arc. With “Extremis,” all the puzzle pieces of this season begin to fall neatly into place. The episode raises some new questions, but also answers several of the lingering ones. The tie-in to “The Husbands of River Song” was especially clever, explaining Nardole’s presence and making a much-missed character’s presence felt in a powerful, heartwarming way.

Also, Peter Capaldi is amazing and should be the Doctor forever and ever. That is all. His performance here surpasses even the very high standard he set in “Heaven Sent.” Michelle Gomez does a stunning job as well—but I can’t say too much about that because spoilers.

The Bad

None. Literally. Even if the subsequent installments of this three-parter end up dropping the ball, “Extremis” will still be amazing.

The Final Word

“Extremis” is a daring experiment which ultimately proves a resounding success. In the end, it’s not about who’s in the Vault or what evil schemes Missy is up to now. It’s about what the Doctor does when there is literally no hope. And ironically, the message it leaves us with is very hopeful indeed.

Is it Saturday yet?

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