The Pyramid at the End of the World
|271 – "The Pyramid at the End of the World"|
|Doctor Who episode|
|Directed by||Daniel Nettheim|
|Written by||Peter Harness and Steven Moffat|
|Produced by||Peter Bennett|
|Executive producer(s)||Steven Moffat|
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Running time||46 minutes|
|First broadcast||27 May 2017|
"The Pyramid at the End of the World" is the seventh episode of the tenth series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It is written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat and was broadcast on 27 May 2017 on BBC One. "The Pyramid at the End of the World" received generally positive reviews from television critics.
The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) investigates how a pyramid appeared in Turmezistan overnight and confronts an ancient enemy ready to destroy humanity. It is the second of three loosely connected episodes called "The Monks Trilogy".
A five-thousand year old pyramid appears overnight in a disputed area of Turmezistan between American, Russian, and Chinese forces. The Secretary-General of the United Nations recruits the Twelfth Doctor, as President of Earth, to help. The Doctor is still blind ("Oxygen"), a secret he is keeping from Bill.
The Monks who occupy the pyramid cause every clock in the world to display a time counting down to midnight in the manner of the Doomsday Clock. The Doctor has the military leaders use coordinated attacks on the Monks, as a show of strength, but the Monks easily deflect them. The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole soon join the leaders as they negotiate with the Monks. Using the computer running their simulations ("Extremis"), the Monks show that the Earth will become lifeless within a year. They offer humanity their help to stop a pending cataclysmic disaster, but only if they "consent". The Doctor warns that this consent would have unknown but everlasting consequences. The Secretary-General offers his consent, but the Monks disintegrate him, saying he gave it out of fear, not "love".
The Doctor realises the Monks are misdirecting them to believe a military disaster is imminent, and instead suspects the threat is biological. He and Nardole find several laboratories performing bacterial work and briefly override their internal camera systems to determine which one the Monks are watching. Bill stays behind as the Doctor and Nardole travel in the TARDIS to the lab.
Through a series of inconsequential events, two scientists have accidentally created a super-bacterium capable of breaking down all living organisms, and it is about to be vented into the atmosphere. The TARDIS arrives, but the Doctor sends Nardole back for his safety, unaware that he has been contaminated. Inside the TARDIS, Nardole collapses unconscious. Meanwhile, Bill, in communication with the Doctor, joins the military leaders as they offer to surrender. The Monks still disintegrate them, considering it a strategic move. The Doctor, with the help of Erica, one of the scientists, crafts a makeshift bomb to sterilise the bacteria and destroy the lab. However, he becomes trapped inside, unable to see a combination lock to free himself, use his sonic screwdriver on it, or get Nardole's assistance. He is forced to admit to Bill he is blind.
Bill, representing the Doctor's authority, offers her consent to the Monks, insisting they restore the Doctor's sight. The Monks accept, as this consent came from her love for the Doctor. The Doctor regains his vision and escapes the lab, while the Monks assert their control of Earth.
The Doctor resumes the title of "President of the World", given to him in the episode "Death in Heaven", to be called upon in times of worldwide crisis. The fictional country of Turmezistan was previously introduced in "The Zygon Invasion".
The Doctor compares the Monks' countdown to the real Doomsday Clock and includes a bit of the history behind its rationale. The three military commanders all agree to set aside hostilities and "give peace a chance", a reference to the Plastic Ono Band song. The Doctor, in congratulating Erica, calls out "By George, she’s got it!", a line from the musical My Fair Lady.
Harness originally wanted the human delegation to consist of Korean, American, and British leaders who were thinly-veiled versions of Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump, and Jeremy Corbyn, but had to change them to three generic military personnel when this was not permitted.
Broadcast and reception
|Rotten Tomatoes (Average Score)||7.78|
|Rotten Tomatoes (Tomatometer)||87%|
|The A.V. Club||B|
|New York Magazine|||
"The Pyramid at the End of the World" received generally positive reviews from television critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the episodes has an approval rating of 87% based on reviews from 15 critics.
Alasdair Wilkins of The A.V. Club gave the episode a B rating, feeling that the events of the episode itself were mediocre, describing it as "mostly just unobjectionably decent", and how many of the characters in the episode had been memorable or as compelling as the other one-off characters that had featured in the series. However, he went on to praise the ending of the episode and how it saved the episode itself, finding the similarities with the second part of the Tenth Doctor serial "The End of Time" and how the Doctor managed to save the world, but at a cost. Wilkins commenting on the unexpected ending, stating that it is "probably what I'm going to remember from "The Pyramid At The End Of The World," especially when thinking of it as the middle entry between the brilliant "Extremis" and the seriously intriguing-looking "The Lie Of The Land.""
Kathleen Wiedel of TV Fanatic gave the episode a 3.5 out of 5 star rating, noting the ambiguous nature of some parts of the episode, and the issues concerning certain elements, such as the promotion of the Doctor to "President of Earth" and how this was mostly ignored, and how the necessity for "consent" from the Monks was not explained. She went on to praise the number of continuity references in the episode, and Rachel Denning's role as the scientist Erica.
Ross Ruediger of the New York Magazine gave the episode a perfect score of 5 out of 5 stars, complimenting the work and scripts of Peter Harness yet again and his repeated themes of "monumental life and death decisions for humankind", and also director the Daniel Nettheim and how he "took two great scripts and made utterly compelling yet very different end products out of each". Ruediger also commented on how "politically charged" the episode was. He also commented on his reservations about how the initial references to terrorism had been removed from the episode due to the Manchester Arena bombing, and while it was "understandable", he stated how the sequence posed questions that were relevant to the story.
Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times gave the episode a rating of 4 out of 5 stars, describing it as "a peculiar blend of the deadly serious and hilariously hokum". He stated that the best part of the episode was the story line of the two researchers and the slow reveal towards deadly disease as the climax of the episode, and how it was reminiscent of Terry Nation's 1970s serial Survivors.
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- Alasdair Wilkins (27 May 2017). "Tonight's Doctor Who is nothing special, at least until it uncorks an all-time great ending". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- "Doctor Who recap: 'The Pyramid at the End of the World'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
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- "'Doctor Who' Review: The 'End of the World' Only Delayed Us From Getting Back to Missy". IndieWire. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
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- Patrick Mulkern (28 May 2017). "Doctor Who The Pyramid at the End of the World review: "a peculiar blend of the deadly serious and hilariously hokum"". Radio Times. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
- Jackson, Daniel (28 May 2017). "Doctor Who Series 10 Episode 7 Pyramid At The End Of The World Review: A cracking exploration of cause, effect and hubris". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
- "The Pyramid at the End of the World – Reaction". Doctor Who News. 31 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
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