Well, it’s time to review the seventh 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 Pyramid At The End Of The World”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.
The episode begins with a recap of the previous episode, intercut with new scenes of Bill and Penny spending the evening together and talking about The Doctor.
However, after Bill tells Penny about the Pope interrupting them during the simulation, there is a sudden noise and the room is swiftly filled with soldiers!
The soldiers are guarding the Secretary General of the UN, who wants to talk to Bill because she knows how to find The Doctor. As is standard in all world-threatening emergencies, the Doctor has been appointed temporary president of Earth and the UN need to find him.
When Bill asks why, the Secretary General shows her a map of a disputed area, with the US, Russian and Chinese armies nearby. There is a pyramid in the middle. A 5000 year old pyramid. A 5000 year old pyramid that wasn’t there yesterday…..
One of the first things that I will say about this episode is that it seems to be another two-part episode. However, unlike the previous episode, this episode is much more of a thriller-style episode.
The zombie-like aliens inside the pyramid want to force humanity to ask for their leadership (with the rationale that love is a better form of control than fear, despite using all sorts of scare tactics to obtain said love) and The Doctor has to come up with some stratagem to stop them manipulating humanity into agreeing to their proposals.
There is some interesting political stuff here, such as the UN and military characters eventually deciding to informally take back political control of Earth, despite appointing The Doctor president a while earlier. In some ways, the entire episode is possibly a musing on the nature of democracy – especially since the antagonists in the episode constantly ask for the “consent” of humanity (I’m guessing that this could possibly be a reference to Herman & Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent“, but I haven’t actually read this book)
Another interesting thing about this episode is the sub-plot, which takes place inside a GM food laboratory in Yorkshire that handles dangerous chemicals. In many ways, this part of the episode reminded me a bit of something from a brilliantly cheesy old TV show called “Bugs“, which was kind of cool.
However, the events of these segments of the episode are somewhat predictable (eg: a hungover scientist working with dangerous chemicals etc..) and they undercut the mystery of some earlier parts of the episode.
Yes, the makers of the show need to get the audience up to speed with what is happening. But, given that a central part of the episode is The Doctor trying to work out how the aliens are going to force humanity to ask for their help, actually showing this to the audience before The Doctor knows about it robs the episode of some of it’s suspense. Even so, it is still a good set up for the episode’s shocking cliffhanger ending.
Although this episode is a thriller episode, it is an old-school thriller with the focus placed firmly on strategy, thought and experimentation rather than on mindless action. This is all backed up with lots of really well-written dialogue that is filled with the kind of witty lines and pithy observations that define the show. The relative lack of action in the episode also helps to give the episode’s fantastical events a slightly more “realistic” tone.
Plus, the suspense is also increased by the enormity of the threat that the Earth faces. At one point the Doctor actually orders the three armies to launch a strike on the pyramid as a show of strength. Yet, even this uncharacteristic moment of belligerence doesn’t exactly end as planned:
The set design and special effects in this episode are also fairly good and are on par with a mid-budget movie of some kind or another. The coolest location in the episode is probably the centre of the pyramid, where the aliens view various possible timelines via a cool-looking glowing thing.
All in all, this episode is a surprisingly compelling thriller episode. Yes, it seems to be the set up for the much cooler next episode (which, from the preview, seems to be proper old-school dystopian sci-fi 🙂 ), but it does this really well. Yes, the cliffhanger ending is a little annoying and the scenes set in the lab should have been saved until later in the episode, but even so it’s a proper old-school sci-fi thriller episode.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would just about get a four.