Review: “Doctor Who – The Lie Of The Land” (TV Show Episode)

Well, it’s time to review the eighth episode in the new series of “Doctor Who”. Again, although I’m not sure how many of the new episodes I’ll end up reviewing or how long it will take me to review them. But, I’ll try to review as many as I can.

So, that said, let’s take a look at “The Lie Of The Land”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS. Likewise, this episode seems to be the final part of the recent three-episode story arc. So, although this week’s episode possibly works as a stand-alone episode, you’re best watching the previous two episodes first.

The episode begins with a propaganda broadcast, where The Doctor talks enthusiastically about how the monks are good for humanity. This is accompanied by altered footage of Earth’s history, with the monks being present at all key moments.

There’s even a Vitruvian monk too!

Fun fact: The “M” in “E=MC2” stands for “monk” in this timeline.

This montage is then revealed to be a propaganda broadcast that the Doctor is presenting. Needless to say, Earth has been turned into a gloomy, drab totalitarian dystopia, in the style of something like “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, “V For Vendetta”, “SS-GB”, “Half Life 2” or “Children Of Men”. There are even thought police too!

Who, like Judge Dredd, have the power to sentence people on the spot. However, their ominous red and black uniforms are a little unimaginative though.

Whilst all of this is going on, Bill is sitting in a room and imagining a conversation with her mother. Every day it becomes harder for her to remember life before the monks arrived. Plus, every few minutes, her mind is filled with images of the monks. Yet, she is determined to hold on to the memory of Earth’s true history.

The episode also contains occasional voice-overs of Bill talking to her mum too. These voice overs also help to add extra atmosphere to the episode too.

Then, suddenly, there is an ominous knock on the door! Luckily, it’s just Nardole (who has been ill for six weeks following the events of the previous episode). He tells Bill that the Doctor is being held on an old prison hulk moored off of the Scottish coast. Needless to say, it isn’t long before they begin planning a rescue mission. However, things don’t quite go to plan….

And, no, Bill isn’t pointing that gun at the guards!

The first thing that I will say about this episode is that it is an absolutely brilliant piece of old-school dystopian sci-fi! But, although I’d expected it to be slightly slower and more contemplative episode that would be more in keeping with many other things in this genre, the episode’s twist-filled story moves forward at a surprisingly fast pace.

Even though this is a refreshing change from the slightly slower pacing of the previous episode, the idea and premise behind this episode is so good that the episode just feels too short. There’s lots of fascinating stuff and thrilling drama here, but it almost seems to flash past too quickly. If only this episode had been twice the length! Still, forty-five minutes of high-quality dystopian sci-fi isn’t exactly a bad thing either.

Of course, it still contains several classic tropes of the genre, such as the plucky band of resistance fighters…

Although the episode is fairly light on humour, and the storyline goes in some fairly serious directions, the episode manages to avoid becoming too sombre or depressing due to the fast pacing, the intriguing premise and the emotional ending.

Yes, this isn’t really a comedy episode.

One of the central themes of this episode, like with the first episode in the story arc, is the theme of truth and lies. Not only is this reflected in several of the episode’s plot twists, but this theme is handled in both a topical and a slightly more “timeless” way.

On the one hand, the monks’ rewriting of history and the Ministry Of Truth-like propaganda pyramid that the monks have built in London have echoes of George Orwell.

Likewise, thinking about it, the pyramid is probably also designed to evoke old American conspiracy theories about the “illuminati” too.

Yet, at the same time, there’s also more topical stuff too – like a brief comment about “fake news” and a destroyed statue (which is vaguely reminiscent of the toppled statues of Saddam Hussein during the 2003 Iraq war).

This mixture of old and new really helps to lend the episode a suitable level of gravitas, whilst avoiding the heavy-handed politics of some other episodes in the series (like this one or this one).

Another outstandingly good thing about this episode is the set design and lighting design. Dystopian sci-fi is a genre that consistently has astonishingly beautiful set design (Blade Runner” being the classic example) and this episode really doesn’t disappoint here.

The set designs here are reminiscent of films like “Children Of Men” and “Blade Runner”, with a slight hint of the BBC’s recent “SS-GB” TV series too. Seriously, this is one of the most cool-looking episodes of “Doctor Who” so far this series!

This room manages to look wonderfully retro and ominously modern at the same time 🙂

The lighting in this scene is reminscent of both the later scenes of “Blade Runner” and some parts of “SS-GB” too 🙂

Then there are these docks, which look a bit like both the opening scene from “Blade Runner” and the first level of the original “Deus Ex” too 🙂

In addition to all of the stuff that I’ve mentioned, this episode also somehow finds time to deal with some of the over-arching backstory of the series. Not only does Missy make another appearance, but she also has some extra character development too.

This little scene at the end of the episode is especially surprising. Then again, who knows if Missy was really being serious?

Plus, the cool moment in the first episode where The Doctor gives Bill a box of photos takes on a slightly greater level of significance in this episode.

All in all, this is an incredibly dramatic episode that somehow manages to cram a lot of storytelling into just 45 minutes. The set designs are beautiful, the story is compelling and it is a suitably dramatic conclusion to the recent three-part story arc. Yes, I’d have liked to see more of the dystopian world that the monks have created but this is a small complaint about a really good episode.

But, from the preview at the end of the episode, the next episode seems like it will be a thoroughly silly episode about Victorian soldiers on Mars (it even includes the phrase “walking crocodiles!” [or “upright crocodiles”, I can’t remember] said in a suitably stuffy and indignant way LOL!).

Well, if this preview is anything to go by, I guess that the serious drama of this story arc will be balanced out by something totally silly next week.

Anyway, if I had to give “The Lie Of The Land” a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.

2 comments on “Review: “Doctor Who – The Lie Of The Land” (TV Show Episode)

  1. babbitman says:

    This trilogy of episodes kind of worked for me but even though the action took place over almost three hours it still felt a bit rushed. Throwing complex plot twists, huge threats to the earth, the nature of reality and consent, dystopian history revision and still having cohesive character interactions seems a bit of a bridge too far. Perhaps less would have been more? On the whole I’d say it gets about 3.5 or 4 out of 5.

    • pekoeblaze says:

      I don’t know, I’d agree that the first and last episode (the last episode especially) of the trilogy were a little bit on the rushed side although I’d call the overall pacing of the trilogy more “uneven” than “rushed”, given how much the story arc slows down in the middle episode (“The Pyramid At The End Of The World”). But, yeah, it would have probably been slightly better with a more focused storyline – I mean, if they’d managed to stretch the story of “The Lie Of The Land” out into 2-3 episodes instead, then this would have been even better.

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