Saturday, June 3, 2017

Doctor Who 10.06: "Extremis"

“You don’t do this. The Pope doesn’t zoom around the world in the Popemobile surprising people. Why would you do that?”
-The Doctor

“Extremis” was a rather experimental episode of “Doctor Who,” even during an era that has been rather experimental in general. It was existential, really, in the vein of “The Matrix.” Are we really alive, or is our experience just a simulation? If we’re in a simulation, are we as “real” as people not living in a simulation? How does survival instinct play into it? I thought the story generally held together, although I’m still anxious for the show to move on to the post-Stephen Moffat world. It takes a lot of work to follow the plot in each episode this season, and not in a good way. I like challenging television, I don’t like nonsensical television trying to be “deep.” I will be very interested to see where the big reveals in this episode (the person in the vault and a major threat approaching Earth) will take us through the rest of this season.

Let’s begin with the big reveal. As many of us predicted, the vault the Doctor and Nardole have been guarding contains none other than Missy. We learn how this came to be through a series of flashbacks. Missy has been sentenced to death, and apparently there’s a planet that specializes in that sort of thing. The people of this planet have devised a mechanism specifically for killing Time Lords, but it involves 1,000 years of observation post-execution to make sure the death sticks. It also requires a Time Lord to actually pull the trigger. The Doctor is the only Time Lord who could be found, so he’s been drafted into being Missy’s executioner. Just as the proceedings are about to get started, he is interrupted by Nardole, who was sent by River before her death, with permission to kick the Doctor’s ass. Nardole insists that River would not approve of the Doctor killing Missy. Obviously, the Doctor doesn’t go through with killing Missy, but he does vow to watch over her for 1,000 years.

Meanwhile in the present day, the Doctor is sitting outside the vault talking to Missy when, through his sonic glasses, he gets an email with the subject line “Extremis.” Next that we see him, he is in a lecture hall when he is waylaid by a bunch of Cardinals and the Pope himself. They need his help, naturally, and he comes highly recommended by Pope Benedict IX (who was a woman, incidentally). The Cardinals explain that a text called the Veritas has been stored in the most remote library at the Vatican, and any time someone reads it or translates it, they commit suicide. They figure it must say something horrible, since these were all very pious individuals who would consider suicide a mortal sin. The Doctor picks up bill to get her assistance, but unfortunately, he whoops the TARDIS into her house right while she’s in the middle of a date with a woman named Penny. Penny, who is new to the whole same-sex relationship thing and is feeling kind of guilty about it, completely freaks out when the Pope arrives on the scene, and she nopes right out of there, much to Bill’s chagrin. Anyway, once that drama has settled, we learn that the Vatican wants the Doctor to read the Veritas.

The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole are taken to the Hereticoma, the library of blasphemy deep within the Vatican. One of the monks warns that it is easy to get lost in the library if you don’t have a guide. An incident happens when the Doctor thinks he can detect some sort of door opening, but the monks waive him off that and take him to a reading area, which is a cage with a chair you can strap yourself into. A priest is already there, and he apologies about sending something out before running away and ultimately killing himself. He was the one person who had read the Veritas who hadn’t killed himself yet up until that point. The Doctor sits down to read the Veritas and sends Bill and Nardole off to explore (probably because he doesn’t want Bill to realize he’s blind, because as Nardole put it, then the blindness would be real). The Doctor hooks a device up to his head and tells a figure in the distance that it will either temporarily restore his vision or completely blow out his brain.

Meanwhile, as Nardole and Bill are doing their exploring, they come across what seems to be another portal. They step through and end up in a round hub-type space, with portals all around. The first portal they happen to go through ends up being the Pentagon, and when they realize their location, they high tail it right out of there before they can be caught for a security breach. The next portal ends up taking them to CERN. Of note, the priest who emailed out the Veritas en masse definitely emailed it to CERN. Their response was “pray for us.” Bill and Nardole quickly encounter a scientist, who tells them to join everyone in the cafeteria, because they all want to be together at the end.

We quickly find out that all is not as it seems in the most significant ways. The Doctor starts to get some very fuzzy vision (interestingly, he says he will pay a price for that in the future, although he doesn’t know what just yet), and he sees the outline of one of the monks. He asks for help getting chained into the reading chair, and the monk obliges. As his vision improves, the Doctor realizes that this is definitely no human monk. Instead, he’s a corpse-like alien of some sort. The alien tries to take away the Veritas, but the Doctor thinks a few steps ahead. He frees himself from the chair and takes a laptop that has the Veritas on it with him. What follows is a chase scene where the Doctor is trying to avoid the now angry monk alien things. When he finally has a few seconds to look at the Veritas, his vision starts going fuzzy again.

Bill and Nardole follow the scientist to the CERN cafeteria, where everyone is drinking wine and looking morose. The scientist says everything is ready to go and points out a countdown clock that has about five minutes left on it. Then Bill and Nardole notice that explosives are wired up under all the cafeteria tables. The scientist says they’re trying to free themselves, because they are not in the real world (at least according to the Veritas). He gives Bill and Nardole a “shadow test” where he asks them to recite the first numbers that come into their mind every time he hits his hand on a table. They do indeed say the same numbers every time, and soon the whole cafeteria joins in. Bill and Nardole are freaked out, and the countdown is coming to a close, so they hightail it back to the hub room before CERN blows up. That’s when they realize that the hub room looks like of like a projector, and Nardole starts hypothesizing that the Vatican, Pentagon, and CERN were all actually holograms. Then he realizes that, since he piloted the TARDIS perfectly to the Vatican, they’re probably simulations, too. He goes to the center of the room, out of the light of the projectors, and promptly disintegrates. Bill toys with the idea of doing the same, but she ends up following a trail of blood to another portal, hoping to find the Doctor.

Bill next finds herself in the Oval Office (poor thing) with a no longer living President slumped in a chair by the window and the Doctor sitting at the Resolute Desk. He tells Bill that he has listened to the Veritas, and they are part of a simulation. He compares the people who have committed suicide to Super Mario deleting himself from his game. There’s some existential conversation on the meaning of reality, and then Bill starts to disintegrate. A monk appears from behind where she was standing, and the monk wants information. The Doctor is on to the aliens’ plans. They’ve been running their simulation to practice invading Earth. The Doctor has his own plan, though. He uses his sonic glasses to email his memories of the last few hours to the “real” Doctor outside of the simulation. He claims that anything, even the simplest subroutine, can send an e-mail, but I’m dubious on that. Regardless, the Doctor receives the message, and he calls Bill. He tells her to call up Penny and ask her out because something bad is coming, and she might as well have some fun first. He also may need Missy’s help to fight whatever it is.

No comments:

Post a Comment