At the end of the first three-part story of the Moffat era one thing is abundantly clear: he should never do another one. Such was the abysmal lack of quality in The Lie of the Land that it actually has me thinking that my ratings for the previous instalments of the Monks story were a bit harsh. Both Extremis and The Pyramid at the End of the World were entertaining at the very least, whereas The Lie of the Land failed at every turn.
It’s not just the fact that love saved the world yet again (I’m so sick of love saving the world), it’s that The Lie of the Land was filled with so many plot holes it was hard to take anything seriously at all. Before we get to them: because this review is mostly filled with plot hole questions, let’s talk about the episodes most egregious fault: the Regeneration fake-out. The scene itself is a disaster without it as Bill and Nardole confront the Doctor about working with the Monks for six months. What follows is an overwrought scene that features a fine performance from Pearl Mackie as she grapples with the Doctor’s possible betrayal. Except everything in this scene is used to distract from Bill. Fans have long since voiced their distaste with Murray Gold’s score, and here is where I hope on that particular bandwagon. Not only was it too damn loud: make Bill’s dialogue hard to hear at times, it was unsuited to the action. The string arrangement seemed completely out of place for the scene it was soundtracking, making for some major tonal whiplash.
That’s just the beginning though as Bill shoots her friend, and the intention here is definitely to kill him, with the Doctor even beginning to regenerate. Except it was all fake: a test to prove if Bill was being controlled by the Monks. So what exactly is wrong with that? Well, reader let me count the ways. First of all Bill doesn’t know that the Doctor can regenerate. It has been mentioned in passing but the Doctor was stingy with the details. What this means is that starting to regenerate would have meant nothing to Bill: which means it was there for our benefit. Except there was no way that anyone could have been fooled into thinking that this regeneration was genuine, meaning that it was there solely as a piece of footage that would look good in the trailers. Because Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is never going to leave the show because his assistant murdered him for betraying the human race. It’s just dumb, and worse, insincere. Then there’s the incredibly patronising image of a group of men laughing at a woman who thinks she’s just killed her friend. Add to that the fact that Bill is the audience surrogate meaning that the Doctor and his cronies are laughing at you. Cheers Doctor.
Now to the plot holes, and goodness me this episode was full of them. I realise not every episode of Doctor Who is tightly constructed, and even the best episodes have plot holes. What stops that from being an issue is other aspects of the episodes construction: like great performances, good jokes, and a fascinating setting. The Lie of the Land had none of these, it even bungled Missy and I didn’t think that was possible.
So the Monks have been controlling the earth for six months, but to mankind it has felt like their entire existence. Once they are defeated the humans begin to forget they were ever there, which is an old Buffy trick of having the parents conveniently forget that vampires exist. This works in Buffy because it’s usually contained to a small incident. Doctor Who has always been global with its threats. So how to the humans account for those six months. Did no one die in those work camps? Were there no babies born during that time? Do some people have this funny notion that their neighbour maybe sent them to a labour camp? The time limit lets this explanation down. Then there is the Monks themselves. In all of their millions of simulations did this eventuality never come up? Why didn’t they have guards in their pyramids? Didn’t their neural link to Bill mean they knew exactly what was going on?
I never thought I would say this, but Peter Capaldi was dreadful in this episode. Granted, this is Toby Whithouse’s worst script to date, with none of the jokes landing, and the Doctor trying to take credit for Bill saving the world was conceited at best. Then there was Missy. Did the vault remind anyone of a certain Sherlock villain? Wasn’t she in a cage playing a classical instrument too? Seriously, Steven Moffat needs to stop plagiarising himself.
4/10 – This three-part story has felt like a drain on what has been an interesting season. It’s misused the characters, was downright stupid at times, and undermined itself at every turn. This an experiment that has well and truly failed. Get back to the fun stuff.