Doctor Who Discussion: Two Writers Try to Remember How Nails Work

Welcome to Living Authors’ Society‘s latest Doctor Who Discussion. Jaden C. Kilmer and J.A. Prentice take a look at Saturday’s episode, Lie of the Land, the conclusion to the story begun in Extremis. Read on for our thoughts.


There are SPOILERS ahead!

JA: Overall thoughts?
Jaden: They done messed up.
JA: OK, I thought I’d have to be the negative one.
Jaden: Sadly no. I think we’re back to “screw it, I’m winging it” Moffat series arcs.
JA: I have a theory and I’m sure it’s true.
These episodes were not written as a three-parter.
Jaden: I hesitate to even call them a three-parter as is.
Though that’s not really how theories work you know
JA: They were conceived as three separate ideas and then stitched awkwardly together.
Jaden: I think you might be right. I personally blame Mathiewson
JA: Mathisseus. Mathelon. Something.
But all three episodes had different premises.
Extremis: aliens have created a computer simulation of Earth down to every detail to practice invasion.
Pyramid: aliens come offering an “easy out” from our problems while an apocalypse is breweing in the background. They have incredible powers but can’t use them without consent.
Lie: Aliens use fake news/history to brainwash the population but have no real power.
Jaden: Yeah… that sounds plausible. To be honest that would be better than them genuinely thinking this was worth three episodes from the start.
JA: This is why a three-parter with three different writers was an iffy idea.
All three stories are great ideas.
Jaden: Also, the monks act differently in each one
JA: Exactly.
Jaden: Also also, the world’s least dramatic series mystery winds up being much ado about nothing. The worst part about this is it’s retroactively worsening the entire series
JA: I thought the Master scenes actually worked really well this episode. They were my favorite part.
Especially since her criticism of the Doctor’s ethics actually makes sense.
Jaden: I kinda like the scenes on their own but not when there’s all this drama and build up over what could be in the vault and EVERBODY knowing who it is from the start
And she’s there for five minutes
JA: I wish they hadn’t made it a mystery.
Because the Doctor having the Master prisoner is a great idea, but trying to make it surprising…
It might have worked before Missy showed up, but as it was it was just too obvious.
Jaden: Well also there’s this. The Doctor at the end of Extremis says he’s probably gonna need her help, that he doesn’t know if he can win on his own. And then he rejects her help.
JA: Well, he asks for her help but refuses her solution.
Jaden: Well its more about how quickly he rejects it. All that build up over who’s in the vault. Then it’s revealed it’s who everyone thinks it is. Then they set up that he’s gonna want her help. And it’s like a 90 second conversation.
That’s the payoff to the running arc of the series
JA: It’s not, though.
We have more episodes coming.
This is more build up, not the payoff.
Jaden: I thought I read she wasn’t in these? Though who the hell knows what’s real on the internet
JA: She’s definitely in more.
As in, I know for sure. Not speculating.
Jaden: Well that’s encouraging I guess.
JA: I think the scenes work much better keeping that in mind.
Jaden: Though it doesn’t solve the core problem with the episode.
JA: Absolutely not.
Although which core problem are we criticizing?
Jaden: That it was thoroughly undramatic?
There’s a better word than that, I know.
JA: It was all easy.
The opening was genius.
Massive stakes, the creepy monk stuff, the betrayal of the Doctor, Bill pushed to the extreme…
And then the moment the Doctor starts laughing and it all becomes a joke, the episode loses all that.
Jaden: You thought that you were about to be proven right about your theory, didn’t you?
JA: I really did.
My theory would have made a better episode.
For context: the theory was that the Doctor needed to break Bill’s love for him to get rid of the Monks.
Jaden: You were sort of right. Beating the monks did have something to do with love…
JA: But instead it was stupid.
Jaden: I actually am late to this conversation because I facepalmed so hard I cracked my skull and had to have emergency surgery
JA: Seems legit.
Jaden: People often criticize “love” based endings when I don’t think they should, but in this case they’re right to.
What was the ending trying to say? What did the characters learn?
Nothing. It was love saves the day with all the emotional significance of pushing a button.
Jaden: Love says the day somehow making Bill’s mind STRONGER THAN THE FREAKING DOCTOR’S
JA: It’s like Rings of Akhaten only more stupid.
And I never thought I’d say that.
Jaden: That’s… damning.
JA: Yeah.
This episode had lots of brilliant moments and set up and then squandered it all.
The make Bill braindead dillema goes nowhere.
Evil Doctor goes nowhere.
Jaden: Evil Doctor was a trick, I guess?
JA: Yes. But after the intensity of that scene…
Did they really think a fake out would work?
Points to Pearl Mackie for an incredible performance there, by the way.
Jaden: The best fake out scenes are when you realize you should’ve known it was a fake out
The bad ones are when it’s just written like a normal scene and then they go “sike!!!”
JA: Exactly.
The worst part is that the episode assumes up till then that the Doctor’s tricking the Monks. And then – TWIST! – he’s joined them.
But – SECOND TWIST! – he hasn’t.
Just doesn’t work.
Don’t try to make a big deal out of the Doctor not faking and then just say he’s faking.
Jaden: And if the first half was overdramatic the second was under.
Is there a stronger form of the word under?
JA: There are scattered good scenes, but they all end so anticlimactically.
The Monks don’t even DO anything.
So much for them being great new monsters.
Jaden: *grits teeth and groans, mourning what could’ve been*
JA: It was almost so good…
Jaden: I don’t even think it was close to being passable. Unless you mean the three parter as a whole
JA: I meant the three parter as a whole.
And some of the ideas set up in this episode.
The fake history thing could have been a cool episode.
The Doctor working with the aliens was a great concept.
But the execution…
Jaden: It was like a rehash of the Silence episodes, with a side dish of 1984 fanfiction and a sprinkling of the Avatar finale.
Which sounds amazing, but was not.
JA: Avatar finale?
Jaden: Did you not think of energybending when the doctor tried to hack into the monk’s broadcasting thingy and his eyes went all orange?
JA: No. But I can see it now.
Not enough to say they were similar, though.
Jaden: Huh, I thought it was borderline rip off. Especially a certain shot where things switch from soft blue to bright orange.
Also it was the “peaceful” solution that didnt require death
JA: Not really seeing it, but OK.
Jaden: Maybe my mind was just wandering off thinking about days where multi part episodes actually seemed like congruent ideas
JA: That finale was so good.
And this was… not.
I’m just trying to think of the positives before I give my rating.
Pearl Mackie’s acting.
Jaden: I liked the imagery of the monk statues
JA: Capaldi is Capaldi.
The opening with the Monk’s history was cool.
^ Lots of great images and very creepy 1984 themes.
Jaden: “It’s me, Nardie!”
Though it also cheapens the intensity of his dramatic collapse in the episode before
JA: There were a lot of funny lines from Nardole, but some of them undercut the drama.
The neck pinch, for example.
Jaden: I did laugh when he said he couldn’t do it with his other hand for some reason, but yes. You’re right
JA: I thought it was hilarious, but out of place in what was supposed to be a tense scene.
I think that scene sums up a lot of the episode: tense set up, then Whithouse basically shrugs his shoulders and makes a joke to get them out of it.
Jaden: Yeah I think nail met head there.
Or whatever the idiom is
JA: I think it would be head meeting nail, if I understand physical labour correctly. But then, I’m a writer.
No. Wait. The head is part of the nail.
We need to delete this part of the discussion because that was embarrassing.
Jaden: Or keep it as it’s more entertaining than much of the episode.
Closing thoughts or more grievances?
JA: One last grievance.
90% of Bill talking to her mother was unnecessary exposition that repeated what we could see on
Jaden: UGH I forgot about that
JA: It started out as a good idea, then became completely pointless.
Jaden: Kind of like LOST.
JA: I think ultimately this episode damages Pyramid a lot, but I think, thankfully, Extremis still works fine by itself.
Jaden: Well I think we should hand out a bunch of scores. One for this episode, one for the story as a whole, and revised scores for the first two parts
JA: Sounds good.
Jaden: You first, as I make some tea.
JA: For this episode: 5/10.
I wanted to be kinder… But it’s actually not very good. A lot of wasted potential.
Story as a whole: 4/10
It’s lower because the arc just isn’t coherent. Every part is doing its own thing. Frankly, as one story, it’s rubbish.
Revised scores
Extremis: 10/10
Extremis doesn’t rely on the follow ups for much. Other than the set up that the Monks are coming, it resolves all its own plotlines and remains a brilliant, disconcerting work of art. It could have been followed up by In the Forest of the Night and still gotten a 10.
Pyramid at the End of the World: 6/10.
It loses a point for the ending now becoming an anticlimax and, more importantly, for the Doctor’s magic eye restoration not being explained and the idea of consent not really working out or feeling consistent. This story arc was a downhill slope after a nigh-flawless opening. Let’s hope the series picks up again.
Jaden: This episode: 4/10
It just wasn’t very interesting, and there’s only one place to point the finger. The script was so crammed with false drama that it basically cried wolf too many times, and it’s actual, um, “climax” was a trope you know I have an adverse reaction to. Some decent ideas and humor.
Extremis: 9/10
Largely stays the same, though the sting of “ugh, that didn’t actually end up going anywhere interesting” does affect it a bit. It’s not as reliant on the other two as you said and is still very good work.
Pyramid: 6/10
Pretty much what you said.
Story as a whole: The average works out to 6.3, but that’s way too generous. I’m going to go with a 4 like you. It is lesser than the sum of its parts. Quite likely not intended to be one story, and confirmed to not have planned the first two episodes out having the Doctor blind, it’s Moffat showrunning at its worst. And I say that as a guy that worships the ground he walks on. He can’t just wing such a huge, ambitious idea like this one, and it seems like he just didn’t coordinate with his writers well here. Oh well.
JA: I’m fairly convinced he just stitched together three diffeerent – all quite good – pitches for episodes and accidentally screwed them up by doing that.
Jaden: And threw in the blindness from Oxygen.
JA: Yeah. It’s showrunning in reverse and I don’t think it worked.

It’s tragic, because I was hoping for a flawless series before the handoff to Chibnall.
And I’m dreading that.


Join us Next Week for our look at Empress of Mars!

5 thoughts on “Doctor Who Discussion: Two Writers Try to Remember How Nails Work

Add yours

  1. I couldn’t agree with you two more! Personally, I loved Extremis and I thought that was by far the most interesting premise of the three eps. I was a tad confused when Pyramid aired (Me: what the heck does this have to do with Extremis? If it weren’t for the appearance of the Monks, I would have thought I was watching a completely new story arc). Then Lie of the Land aired and I was both extremely confused and disappointed.

    You two pretty much nailed all the problems I had with the arc, so I won’t go repeating anything. I had so much more hope for Capaldi’s doctor and I can’t help but feel like he’s being handed some truly horrible storylines.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I guess there’s still the finale to try and salvage stuff from this story, but it may be better to just let this story go away.

    Capaldi two part series finale with Cybermen doesn’t really intrigue me though. Seeing as we just did that two series ago

    Liked by 1 person

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