Although the tile of this post is that of the first, and best, part of “The Monks Trilogy” of Series Ten, this fan edit is a compilation of all three of those episodes: Extremis, The Pyramid At The End of The World and The Lie of The Land.
The edit was compiled from files made available on the net soon after broadcast by those kind fellow fans who know how to do that sort of thing, and manages to combine three episodes into the much more watchable equivalent of just two and a bit. Not bad going for an edit that was knocked up in just a couple of hours, so obvious were the cuts that needed to be made to the source material.
Originally I wasn’t going to call this edit Extremis either, though that would certainly work as an overall title for the entire trilogy since, when you think about it, pretty much everyone in the story is acting, as per the Latin, In Extremis…
… instead I wanted to call this one The Doctor And The Monks, thinking it would give me the perfect excuse to try and create a “clean” set of Capaldi Titles. You can try this at home if you really want to by locating the point at which the “trapcode” swirly bits match up with themselves at an earlier point in the sequence…
… after that it’s simply a case of erasing everything on screen right side of the Tardis to create a series of composite images with no title caption… but in the end I couldn’t be arsed and instead went with the easier option of creating a caption card that I could lay over the top of the original.
Extremis, the first of the three, or Dr Who Does Dan Brown as it will surely come to be known, is certainly the best of the “trilogy” and, for Whoflix, the best one yet of Series Ten, at least it is for now until John Simm turns up.
Apart from scary monk monsters, the intersection of the science of Quantum Theory and Biblical Cosmogony in the concept of a holographic universe and the vault giving up its secrets, this was an episode that continued the mid-series “Blind Doctor” arc, an appetiser before we get to the meat and potatoes of the Master and Missy and the metal men from Mondas and Bye Bye Twelvy.
Watching The Pilot, the only viable theory at that point about the vault’s contents was that it held either The Master, Missy or a squad of Mondas Cybermen. Given the options, Whoflix went for the latter.
But it soon became clear that it was a single person inside, which narrowed it down to one of the first two but if those were your two choices then it was always going to be her, wasn’t it! Like a dimensional game of Find The Lady, nobody knew for sure that it was Missy in the vault until Extremis came along, though ABC’s Whovians [which is so much better than the Beeb’s The Fan Show, in the same way that Magpie was often better than Blue Peter] had some fan fun trying to work out who it was.
And so once again The Moff has a woman locked in a glass prison, just like he did in Sherlock with Euros, an idea they got from Skyfall. And that’s not the only thing in these episodes that we’ve seen before…
The structure of the episode, cutting between the flashbacks to what led to Missy getting put in the vault, and the story proper, was one that didn’t really work for me. With too many annoying Fades To Black for my liking, my initial idea for fan editing this episode was to pull the two story strands apart so the story of the Veritas could stand on its own. It only really has a tangential link to what happened to Missy, so splitting the scenes up meant you would gain more than you lost. The whole Missy sequence felt like it should be a prelude, like The Doctor’s Meditation from Series Nine.
But putting all the Missy & Vault scenes together in a Tales From The Vault fan edit is something that will have to wait for the DVD release and a 5.1 sound mix as it’s impossible to do with the full broadcast mix this edit was made from. Yes, I could have waited until the DVDs came out but it’s always better to have a go at editing when the impetus caused by your initial enthusiasm for doing it is still there. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to wait. And editing from a full mix brings its own challenges…
Since this is the setup ep of the three, there are very few cuts. The first couple are to Bill & Penny’s date night, and am I the only one who thinks that “Howard” could turn out to be a Harold Saxon lookalike with a goatee beard? Either way, the Pope plays gooseberry a bit quicker in this version!
We also lose the naff Fade To Black that occurs after the “without reward?” flashback so we go straight back to the Haereticum, which puts me in mind, and you too if you know your Virgin New Adventures, of the Library of St John The Beheaded in All-Consuming Fire!
Forbidden texts, secret sects, cover-ups and conspiracy theories always make for a good yarn, as a certain Mr Daniel Brown’s bank balance can prove. It’s this familiar territory that Extremis ventures into, and it does it well.
Pyramid doesn’t work quite so well as it’s never explained how the Monks would undo Douglas’ disastrous bioshambles if the Doctor hadn’t intervened, and the whole thing just feels like an excuse to get the Monks in charge. Land works even less well as, when they are rumbled, the Monks simply leave which means the ending lands a bit flat. Yes the Monks’ departure has echoes of the Ancient Astronaut hypothesis, they are in a pyramid after all, but there’s no UNIT v Monks shootout, no human uprising. The Monks just…leave. And then everyone forgets they were ever here. Not a very dramatic ending.
And so it’s Extremis itself which is the standout ep of the three, and I can’t help thinking that the Monks should have been kept to one solo outing, or at least stayed within the Dan Brown-osphere in which they function so well. Whoflix recommends Angels & Demons over any of his other books but would advise caution before plunging into the plethora of non-fiction concerning itself with various Vatican-based conspiracies. Even if the Vatican does, at some point in the future, proclaim that God was an alien and not Brian of Judea, I very much doubt that He’ll turn out to be a DW Monk!
Getting from Extremis to Pyramid was achieved by using the end of Bill’s abortive second date to get us on a much sorter plane journey to Tuzmenistan, followed by a non-backstory visit to Douglas and Erica’s ill-fated experiment. And the humans don’t make a show of strength so we can keep things moving and get Twelvy into the pyramid as quickly as possible so the Monky Men can get on with turning peeps into dust.
The Beeb’s Diversity Dept must have been well chuffed given that, on top of mainstreaming the minority sport of melanin-loaded lesbianism, in this episode NuWho gave us our first ever “Hobbit” in lady scientist, and Twelvy’s flirt-fest, Erica. Rachel Denning is a bloody good actor who just happens to have dwarfism, and I’d be more than happy for Erica to be Bill’s successor but she’s probably going to be another Sally Sparrow. Race always outranks disability or gender for the Lefties who make our telly for us, so don’t hold your breath for a companion of reduced stature or even one in a wheelchair.
Getting from Pyramid to Lie of the Land, the weakest of the three eps, was achieved by using the montage shot of the Monks’ statues as well as the opening of the Series 8 music cue A Good Man to get us straight into the Doctor opening up the Vault.
Yes, that’s right. In this version there’s no fake regeneration.
Having teased us with the question of Who or What was in the vault, the Moff then goes on to make his triumph over the fanboys complete by pranking them with the tease of shots of an early regeneration in the trailers, with the reveal in the episode that in fact it was no such thing.
Which would be fine if we hadn’t already been down this road before – twice – with DWM turning Paul McGann into Nicholas Briggs and RTD having David Tennant regenerate into David Tennant. For Twelvy to pull the same stunt here just doesn’t work, and not just because we’ve seen it done better before. Diegetically, once Bill has shot him there’s no need for Twelvy to continue the test, so the only reason he engages in a biological firework display is for the non-diegetic reason that The Moff knows the fanboys will go ape over it. Naughty Moff!
And if you’re a fan there are some questions that it throws up that the episode fails to answer. Even though it’s only fans that care about this sort of thing, and hopefully they will get an answer in Moff’s DWM column before he leaves, they’re worth going over:
So can a regeneration be self-induced now? Isn’t that a bit like Time Lord suicide? And if the whole thing was a set-up, how did Richard know that Monk would walk through the door just as he was about to check Bill’s ID?
And most glaringly of all, why the hell doesn’t Bill comment on the regeneration that wasn’t? Okay, so she’s still in shock from being fraped but you’d think she would at least mention Twelvy going all November the 5th after she shot him. But she doesn’t. WTF? Much better to skip it altogether and get on with wrapping up the story…
And another thing – if Bill is so fixated on her dead Mum, why hasn’t she done a Rose yet and asked Twelvy to take her back to see her? And did she hear him when he said it was him that gave her the photos of her Mum? Has she really not worked out yet that he went back in time to when her Mum was alive to take them? Is she so fixated on Penny that she hasn’t worked it out yet? Seriously?
The knock on effect of losing the first half of the episode, the Doctor’s imprisonment and escape, was that I then had to remove all the references to it in the scene following the one with Missy. The scene set in the railway carriage, where all the best rebels have their hideouts. The fact that removing the references means that this is now the first time we’ve seen the Doctor’s soldier allies isn’t too problematic, as he was always going to be have some of them onside. But the bigger question is where are UNIT, Kate Stewart and Osgood in all of this? Wouldn’t Twelvy have tried to get them onside too? But it seems they fell prey to the Monks’ mind control, along with Erica…
The third episode ends where the first began, with Missy, and it’s good to have her back, especially for her show-stealing cameo in episode three. And once again we find ourselves in familiar territory as Missy plays the Doctor like a violin in the coda. Just like Davros did the series before…
Okay, I know the Doctor believes there’s a spark of good left in his arch enemy but he’s off his rocker to do so. Missy is irredeemably bad, she’s the black widow spider of space’n’time and if the Doctor thinks there a chance she could ever be otherwise then he really is a madman who’s out of his box…