Sunday, May 28, 2017

In Which I Review Doctor Who (10x7)

One of the my all time favorite shows is "The West Wing" and, in a early season one episode, the Deputy Communications Director Josh Lyman tells us all how the next world war begins: "That's how it's gonna be, a little test tube with a... a rubber cap that's deteriorating... a guy steps out of Times Square station...smashes it on the sidewalk... there is a world war right there." One tiny mistake, one slip. It's not an abundance nuclear bombs and it's not the Cold War; it's infiltration of everything humans need to live: the air, the water, the food. That's how the world ends. Not in an inferno but with small bacterium that infest everything. In this week's episode "The Pyramid at the End of the World" we learn more about the mysterious Monks encountered last week and the Earth shuffles closer to its end all while begging the question if it's better to die free or live a slave. Grab your consent forms and let's go!

I don't believe this one requires too much thought. It's the second installment in our "Monk Trilogy" and if last week was our introduction then this week is setting the stage for the conclusion, whatever that may be, of next week. We learn very little about the Monks except that they operate much like the Muses of Greek (and other) mythology. The simulation we were in last week's episode looks, to these Monk-ish aliens, like thousands of threads woven together and branching off; this is something only they can read and it allows them to scan the history of the Earth, from the past and the present and the future. These corpse-like creatures have the ability to tell when the world will, effectively, end. The idea of the world ending is often played up in science fiction but here it means less the end of the actual planet and more a global disaster that causes all living things to be turned to "gunk" as the Doctor called the pile of green goop that was once a drunk scientist named Douglas. This, then, is where the Monks come in, offering help and safety if only the human race will give up their freedom and consent to being oppressed. Can you actually consent to oppression? After all, how can it be oppression if those in power asked for it? If the consent to remove free choice was given out of love, and neither fear nor strategy, then it's not tyranny or a dictatorship; help was asked for and it was given. The Monks are like looking at the Doctor through a mirror, darkly. The Doctor too comes along and saves the world on a needed basis and when asked, a point he makes quite a bit in this episode when everyone around him wants to consent to the "hostile" takeover and he has to stand firm that there must be another way. But the major difference is that the Doctor never asks for anything in return; he doesn't want the human race to worship him or give up their free will. He might be the President of the World but it's only when the World really needs him. Other times, he's just an idiot, flying around, helping out. The Monks on the other hand demand that the consent come from love, from a deep need to make the world great again despite the overwhelming horror that would come with that. It's hard to say how much of the current political climate is playing into this week's script but given that the President of the United States got a shout out and that the show introduced the Doomsday Clock as part of its play--which famously moved one second closer to midnight after a certain Presidential election--I think the writers are consciously playing with the fallout from November. It might not have been a majority (three million people voted a totally different way!) but our democratic system--and the untold millions who did vote a certain way--consented to our current political, social, economic, and foreign environment. In the end, it's not the U.N. or the armies who hand over the planet to the Monks. It's Bill. It's scared, sad, and extremely human Bill who's worried not for the planet, but for her friend and mentor. To hell with the world, with personal freedoms and with free will, as long as Bill's friend and confidant are saved, then it's worth it. It's not our planet anymore; it's theirs. We've consented to it.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Pyramid At The End Of The World 

--If the Monks can choose to look like anything (in this case, corpses) then it follows that they can make their ship look like anything. So why a pyramid?

--"I wouldn't have voted for him. He'"

--"The end of your life has already begun."

--There's a nice ticking clock music that plays throughout certain sections of this episode. It's a nice touch given the countdown to midnight.

--"It's not my first dead planet."

--"What do you depend on?" "Air, water, food, beer."

--The sonic glasses can do everything possible except see numbers on an old fashioned combination lock. That's some pretty silly writing, sorry.

--"Hello, I'm the Doctor! Saving the world with my eyes shut."

--"Enjoy your sight, Doctor. Now see our world."

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