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“The Pyramid at the End of the World” is the worst episode of the tenth season of Doctor Who so far, undoing a lot of the goodwill earned by excellent episodes like “Oxygen.” As with last week’s review, a SPOILER WARNING is in order. Key plot points from this episode and others before it will be discussed in detail.
“Extremis” left us with the knowledge that the Earth is about to be invaded by a dangerous new enemy. “The Pyramid at the End of the World” kicks things off when a mysterious 5,000 year old pyramid appears at a strategic hotspot for the greatest military superpowers on Earth. As president of the world, The Doctor, still blind, is invited to the site to asses the situation. The corpse-like alien monks that were behind the simulation in “Extremis” and are responsible for the pyramid, offer humanity a choice. They have foreknowledge of an impending disaster that will destroy all life on Earth and are willing to help prevent it, but in return, they ask that humanity turn over control of the entire planet to them.
“The Pyramid at the End of the World” starts off on the wrong foot with a very bizarre way of recapping the events of “Extremis” – a combination of a “Previously on” segment spliced with new scenes of Bill recounting what happened to her date Penny. It’s unnecessary and only seems to be there so that the episode can do a variation of the really funny Pope scene from the previous episode, with the awesome new addition of being derivative and not funny at all.
Then there’s the main plot, which is just a cavalcade of complete nonsense. The monks want to rule the world, but can only do so if they’re invited. They need consent, but it needs to be “pure,” which apparently means it has to be motivated by love. Love for the alien creatures that look like corpses dressed as monks that are essentially blackmailing humanity into accepting their rule because otherwise they’re all going to die. Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense.
They’re really hung up on the whole “purity of consent” idea as well, which is bizarre, since apparently they only need the approval of a representative of Earth to take over. Why does a single individual’s “purity” matter so much if the rest of the planet will be subjugated unwittingly and probably unwillingly to boot?
Also, why would anyone trust any information about the future given by creatures that are capable of creating advanced, highly detailed computer simulations? It’s not that no one is aware; it’s clear The Doctor briefed everyone on what happened in “Extremis.” Yet at no point does anyone suggest that the end-of-the-world scenario might be a ruse to get consent. The Secretary-General of the UN makes an impulse decision to surrender the planet because what the monks show him “feels real.” Give me a break.
As it turns out however, the impending end of the world is not a ruse. It’s actually about to be caused by quite possibly the two dumbest scientists in existence. Seriously, these two give the crew of the Prometheus a run for their money. One of them, Douglas (Tony Gardner) is so hungover that he makes critical measurement mistakes that result in the creation of world-ending bacteria and also, like an absolute moron, takes off his protective gear in a hazardous environment. That’s not even getting into him handling hazardous materials with his bare hands, while still not having the foresight to actually put on his damn helmet.
The other scientist, Erika (Rachel Denning), is just as responsible for nearly destroying the world as that idiot. Meekly suggesting that Douglas should go home when he’s grossly unfit to do his job – you know, the one that involves handling extremely dangerous biochemicals – is not good enough.
All of this is the big nonsense of the episode, but “The Pyramid at the End of the World” is also full of bits of little nonsense. Whether it’s the military leaders of China, Russia, and the USA nonchalantly deciding to give world peace a shot with a handshake and then being distraught when it doesn’t work, or Nardole suggesting that the opposite of a war ending the world is bacteria doing it instead – and the Doctor thinks that’s actually smart – this episode just keeps on thinking of new ways to be stupid and nonsensical.
A show like Doctor Who always depends on a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief to move along, but “The Pyramid at the End of the World” is so woefully inept that it’s impossible to suspend any disbelief. Nothing in this episode adds up, which completely undercuts anything even resembling drama, intrigue, or suspense.
In addition, the ending seemingly reverses The Doctor’s blindness. Since the monks were responsible, it’s possible that The Doctor will lose his sight again once they’re dealt with. If not, that would leave us with just two episodes that explored the really cool and interesting idea of a blind Doctor – one of them was a simulation, so most of the character development didn’t carry over, and the other didn’t do much of anything with it.
The Doctor eventually tells Bill about his blindness in this episode, but it’s in a moment of urgency that’s used to advance the plot instead of building character and exploring the relationship between the two.
While the cliffhanger sets up what could be an interesting story for next week, “The Pyramid of the End of the World” is an absolute mess and a disaster of an episode. Easily the worst of the season so far.