Doctor Who 10×08 was the conclusion to the strange arc introduced in the series’ sixth, then continued in its seventh, episode of the season. While still sprinkled with plot holes and sloppily-written moments of “wtf” that smacked of a determination to get from point A to point B with the least amount of effort, Doctor Who 10×08 was easily the strongest episode of the three. Somewhere, underneath the garbage, Doctor Who 10×08 delivered an important message: Our history is what defines us. And knowledge defeats dictators, whose sole methods of maintaining power are often propaganda and fear.
Doctor Who 10×08 gets off to a rough start.
Anyone with half a brain knew that Bill Potts’ decision to “consent” to the Monks was going to end badly. She had no idea what they were offering or what consent really meant. But anything to save the Doctor, who wasn’t going to die anyway, right?
The consequences of Bill’s actions were revealed right at the beginning of Doctor Who 10×08, as a schmaltzy, melodramatic reel played, giving the Monks credit for all of humanity’s advances. They even took credit for the Doctor’s victories, with mentions of their defeat of the Daleks, Cybermen, and weeping angels.
Excuse you, Monks. Somewhere, Martha Jones was thinking, “I’m not traveling the world to tell people the truth and save the Doctor’s ass again.” Either that, or she was dead. What’s a timeline?
Humanity was under the influence of the Monks’ lies — something we’d learn the exact details of later in Doctor Who 10×08 — and those who failed to conform, who somehow managed to remember the truth, were punished. One of the most memorable moments in Doctor Who 10×08 was the raid of a citizen’s home. Her crime? Telling the truth. She possessed “propaganda” in violation of the “Memory Crimes Act of 1975,” which she knew to be fake. Her fate, as we learned from more (actual) propaganda from our leaders, was most likely a “merciful” death.
The woman’s fellow citizens did nothing when she was dragged away. They were either under the influence or too afraid to speak out. In just six months, everything had changed. Knowledge was no longer free. And human history, as we knew it, had been wiped out. Dictators move quickly. Doctor Who 10×08 got that detail perfectly right, regardless of any missteps.
Enter our heroes.
Bill Potts, who (for better or worse) was responsible for the Monks’ assault on reality, fought to remember the truth. She had imaginary conversations with her dead mother, telling her just how much had changed and in how little time. Bill’s guilt over the whole situation was evident, but she kept the faith. Surely, the Doctor, despite being part of the propaganda machine, had a plan. He was just biding his time and would save everyone.
As the Doctor does.
Then for the third time in as many episodes (seriously, Moffat, get creative), Bill’s intimate conversation was interrupted by a commotion at the door. This time, instead of the Pope or random heads of state, Bill’s visitor was much more welcome:
Nardole survived the toxin, but he was laid up for six weeks. He spent the rest of the past six months looking for the Doctor and only came to Bill for help once he found the guy. That makes perfect sense, in a Moffat-logic sort of way. I guess.
Nardole found a random device in the TARDIS, amidst other clutter like takeout menus, that helped him track the un-trackable location from which the Doctor’s broadcasts came. So, he and Bill hopped on a boat and made an easy journey to the Doctor’s prison. A Monk creepily sniffed them both onboard, but that was not at all a thing that mattered. Evidently, the Doctor’s two known companions, sneaking onto a supply ship and coming to the Monks’ lair, was totally normal.
Doctor Who 10×08’s “Gotcha” moment.
Bill’s first meeting with the Doctor in six months was not at all what she expected. At least not initially. He called for guards and started, well…To be honest? A lot of what the Doctor said wasn’t wrong. Certainly anything involving supporting the dictators who were “fixing” the problem and making the world safe was wrong. But the Doctor’s message wasn’t.
You deserve an explanation. Human society is…stagnating. You’ve stopped moving forward. In fact, you’re regressing.
The Doctor told Bill that history warned humanity of fascists and fundamentalists, but we never learned anything from our history and kept letting them come back anyway. He even said Bill was lucky that the latest overlords were a “benevolent” race like the Monks (weeee bit wrong here) and not the Daleks (definitely lucky they’re not taking over).
If the Doctor seemed to be acting out-of-character, it’s because he was doing it on purpose. It was all a big show, complete with a display of regeneration energy, just to make sure that Bill hadn’t been brainwashed.
Sure, Jan. We can go for the regeneration fireworks as a test…but we couldn’t just tell Bill we wouldn’t die to keep her from consenting to the Monks, causing all of this to happen in the first place?
Hello? Could somebody tell me what the hell is going on?
Same, Bill. Same.
God! I am going to beat the shit out of you two!
Also same. But this was pretty badass, no?
Speaking of awesome women in Doctor Who 10×08: Michelle Gomez as Missy.
Missy was, according to the Doctor, the only person he knew who was “almost as smart” as himself. Considering the fact that Missy knew everything about the Monks and had previously defeated them, I’m not sure that “almost as smart” was exactly the right description. So, after a totally over-the-top (and stupid) display with a ship, the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole made their way back to the university to consult with her.
Imagine you’re the Monks. Your greatest threat is the Doctor. You’re just going to chill while he puts on a show like that, right? Sure. Logic.
The Monks were sort of just…there? But they didn’t seem to pose any real threat as the Doctor and his companions made their way toward the vault. They’ve supposedly learned everything there is to know, but…yeah, ok. Right.
We shouldn’t care how sloppily the journey back to Missy was written, though. We should care that Missy saved Doctor Who 10×08. As always, Michelle Gomez’s character was brilliantly sassy and just the right amount of sinister. She alternated between sarcastic quips and actually helpful, if somewhat bullying, hints to help the Doctor figure out how the Monks were controlling the minds of billions. And she did it all with a certain sense of flair.
You’re literally on fire and caliente. That’s Spanish for hot.
Also, there was this:
Of course. I’ve had adventures, too. My whole life doesn’t revolve around you, you know.
Missy’s whole life doesn’t revolve around the Doctor. Can you believe a female character’s life doesn’t revolve around some man’s?
Granted, her suggestion to kill the idiot who asked for the Monks’ help wasn’t the best. But Missy’s knowledge was what ultimately led to Bill’s big win.
The truth will set you free.
The Doctor and Bill found the command center being used to broadcast the Monks’ message to the world. Then, of course, they made their way there. How do you get closer and closer to a signal that’s taking over the minds of every human on Earth? Headphones, of course. That makes perfect sense, except for the part where it 100% doesn’t.
Again, Doctor Who 10×08 was not exactly what we’d call intelligent.
The Doctor’s plan was about as simple as any of his plans gets: He was going to take over the signal with the power of his own brain. But it wasn’t powerful enough. The Monk fought back, blasting the Doctor to the other side of the room. Insert cool images of history being written and rewritten here.
But Bill was the linchpin for all of this. According to Missy, the only way to save the world was to remove her from the situation. Rather than outright killing herself, though, Bill decided to (literally) try her hands at a takeover. In a scene that would’ve been super emotional, had I had any belief that Doctor Who 10×08 would be the last time we’d see Bill, the Doctor begged Bill not to take action. He was concerned for the safety of her weak, human brain, after all.
But through the power of an untainted image of her dead mother and the strength of her own convictions, Bill Potts saved the world. With truth. Martha Jones would be quite proud, if I do say so myself.
For as powerful as the image of that woman being dragged away for telling the truth was, Doctor Who 10×08’s most lasting picture was that of the people toppling the Monks’ statues. Just as has happened throughout history, the people took back what was theirs and removed the very visibility of the dictators who’d stolen everything.
…but maybe if we could still hold on to the memories, we wouldn’t keep finding ourselves needing to desperately cling to the truth.
Additional thoughts on Doctor Who 10×08.
- “Humanity’s doomed to never learn from its mistakes.” He’s not wrong. I wish he was.
- “You clever, brilliant, ridiculous girl. Look at that! All the pictures I gave you! I thought I was just being kind, but I’m saving the world!” A dude taking credit when a woman saves the world. Go figure.
- “In amongst seven billion is someone like you. That’s why I put up with the rest of them.” Ok. Better. More of this, Doctor. Less of the above.
- When the Doctor has fun, it’s almost possible to forget the sloppy writing. Peter Capaldi’s pure glee at several otherwise bleh moments in Doctor Who 10×08 were everything. He nailed that creeper grin before the opening credits and was full of delightful, bubbly energy after the Doctor played his trick on Bill. And then there was the madman’s cackle on that stupid boat. I’m here for these things — just wish they would come from better places.
- That feel when Bill calls Missy “just a woman.” Girl, no. Not only is there no such thing as “just a woman,” but also? You have no idea.
- “You’ve got all your stereo, headphone, i…thing?” Old Man Doctor with the lulz.
- “Your version of good is not absolute. It’s vain, arrogant, sentimental. If you’re waiting for me to become all that, I’m going to be here for a long time.” She’s not wrong.
- 10 years in a labor camp for possession of comic books. Nerds, we’re screwed.
- “I didn’t know I even knew their names. You didn’t tell me about this bit.” Missy pain. This was awesome. I need more of it.
Make sure to tune in to the next all-new episode of Doctor Who next Saturday.
I can’t believe Doctor Who 10×08 had that big moment with Missy and then just…ended. More?
1 of 1