'The Pyramid at the End of the World' has the definite feeling of a mid-series slump.
Despite last week’s episode of Doctor Who ‘Extremis’ coming under fire from Moffat haters, an open minded fan would give the next two parts of this trilogy a chance before judging the story as a whole. However, Part 2 – ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ – makes the haters sound more like a voice of reason, as Steven Moffat’s final season continues to enjoy a serious mid-series slump.
The episode centers on a mysterious pyramid that materialises in the middle of contested land in the fictional country of Turzmenistan (making a reappearance from last year’s ‘The Zygon Invasion’). American, Chinese and Russian forces are all in close attendance, and to deal with brewing conflict, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is called to be ‘President of the World’ once more by the UN Secretary General. With the Time-Lord still blind following the events of ‘Oxygen’, a secret he continues to keep from companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) with the help of hapless Nardole (Matt Lucas), the scene is set for another ‘average at best’ Saturday evening.
‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ suffers from a similarly disjointed plotline as its direct predeccesor, cutting awkwardly between the central storyline and two scientists trying to prevent accidentally unleashing a biological disaster on the world – though apparently the specifics of how this virus will destroy humanity aren’t on a ‘need to know’ basis. All we understand is it turns people into gunk. Because, science.
The Monks themselves, though aesthetically of good standard, also continue to underwhelm. As if the ‘dream cliché’ sequence wasn’t bad enough, now it transpires their only apparent motive for opposing the Doctor is to be loved. They also have a largely familiar feel with their need for the ‘true’ consent of a planet to invade it – apprently it doesn’t qualify as proper acceptance to welcome help from armageddon if you’re… well, afraid. But let’s change tyre and drive swiftly on from that plot hole…
Peter Capaldi is once again brilliant. Series 10 has highlighted that he’s a certain contender for most underrated Doctor, and Pearl Mackie’s portrayal of Bill is one of the show’s biggest saving graces in recent years. In a bigger twist of events, I’m even close to liking Matt Lucas’ Nardole. But the show’s plot in the last two episodes definitely has the feel of a mid-series slump, which is evermore frustrating when we’ve seen these actors deliver a redemption of sorts for Moffat in the recent series.
Despite some pretty dodgy CGI fire, ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ does deliver a strong closing sequence that provides a milligram of intrigue heading into next week’s final part, but frankly the rest of the episode is very ‘Series 8’ (a.k.a. very badly paced, very over-complex, and worst of all, quite boring). Unlike the pyramid this episode focuses on, this particular installment of Doctor Who is definitely not one of the Wonders of the World.
Doctor Who continues next Saturday on BBC One. Check out our Series Guide.