WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
The “Monks” trilogy of Doctor Who has concluded with the best episode in series10 so far: an ambitious episode – but its viewing figures suffered because of the Champions League Final and Britain’s Got Talent.
“The Lie of the Land” takes place six months after the events “The Pyramid at the End of the World” and the Monks have taken over the planet. However, their propaganda videos hosted by The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) make people believe that The Monks have been a benevolent overseer of humanity since the dawn of time. Even Bill’s (Pearl Mackie) mind starts to get distorted by the propaganda.
When Nardole (Matt Lucas) arrives at Bill’s door he tells him where The Monks have been holding The Doctor hostage and it’s to The Doctor’s companions to save the Time Lord.
“The Lie of the Land” had a great opening where The Doctor presents a video of the ‘history’ of mankind’s relationship with The Monks and family getting raided after one of the members questions what’s Monks’ story.
This first third of the episode bares some similarities to the George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and since Nineteen Eighty-Four is my favourite novel these references automatically gave the episode some brownie points.
“The Lies of the Land” shares Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s ideas that authorities in control can alter historical facts, therefore controlling reality, and The Doctor’s broadcasts have an air of Big Brother’s in the novel.
Director Wayne Yip captured the look of a dystopia world – giving the world a drab, grey colour pallet, everyone wears similar clothing like in Nineteen Eighty-Four and all around are statutes to humanity’s overlords and propaganda screens.
The episode also has some similarities to Series 3 finale “Last of the Time Lords” where The Master and the Toclafane take over Earth and the Doctor is held hostage – leading to the companion having to find a way to save him. Elements of the Series 1 episode “The Long Game” were also used where humanity is being manipulated by dubious media and that there is some sort of psychic force infecting people.
The episode also shares elements with the Series 6 two-parter “The Impossible Astronaut”/”Day of the Moon” because The Monks have reality altering powers like the Silences. The Silences were secretly controlling the world because people cannot remember seeing them.
The Monks’ completely rewrote history and their headquarters has a defence mechanism that affects any infiltrates trying it. At the end of the episode the Monks were about to erase humanity’s memory that they were ever occupied.
“The Lie of the Land” is the most emotional yet in the series, helped by the music from Murray Gold and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The series has had some of the best music for a TV series and Gold amplified the moments between The Doctor and Bill as they explore their relationship and face the dangers when trying to defeat The Monks.
Throughout the Series, Bill’s love and grief for her mother (Rosie Jane) has played a major part of character development and in “The Lie of the Land” she appears in Bill’s imagination as a coping mechanism. Bill’s mum plays an important role in the finale of the episode. It was cheesy but this is Doctor Who. It’s a show that can get away with a bit of cheese.
This revelation also struck the right tone of making Bill more than ordinary – without it being overbearing. The writing for previous companions showed Rose and Martha developing unrequited love for The Doctor whilst Clara suffered because was made out to be the most important person in the universe. Bill had a relatable issue – her love for her deceased mother and that gave her the strength to defeat The Monks.
“The Lie of the Land” is a more thematic and expansive Doctor Who episode and that gives this story its greatest strength – exploring ideas about fear and media control as well as having some emotional highs (or lows depending on how you see them). The episode is strong dystopia story and the reality distortion allowed the series to explore new territory.