So The Doctor is running about time and space blind, and nobody seems to notice much of a difference in his behaviour yet. While that says wonders about the erratic nature of a Time Lord who is known for making up his own endings, it probably has something to do with the giant alien object that threatens the security of the Russian, Chinese and U.S. armies. No, it’s not the 45th President of the United States.
Following the events of ‘Extremis,’ those rascally Monks have plonked their ship down in the middle of a strategic disputed territory, with the promise of saving the world from imminent disaster if the human race offers unconditional consent. Meanwhile, scientists in a lab unwittingly release a biochemical bacteria. It’s a literal race against the clock as the Monks set the Doomsday Clock a few minutes closer to midnight.
The notion of The Doctor of the President of the World has never been an entirely easy fit, but it’s one of Stephen Moffat’s quirky trademarks that has just become part of the evolving fabric. The ultimate decision is always going to come down to The Doctor being the last line that the aliens have to cross before conquest.The minor political commentary is not as overt as this season’s ‘Thin Ice,’ but the major hurdle in this episode is the pissing contest between nations on the road to that decision.
The real issue with the episode is the reliance on the bacterial virus trope, which feels tacked on and poorly executed. The climactic locked-door scene that ultimately decides the fate of the next few episodes is straight out of the Big Book of Thriller Endings, although at least it finally forces The Doctor to confront the lie he’s been telling Bill for the last few episodes.
Yet it’s thrilling from moment to moment, taking all of the set-up of the previous week and converting into forward momentum. Where ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’ leaves us is reminiscent of Season 3′ ‘The Last of the Time Lords,’ with a vastly different reality to contend with and the villains in charge. It’s altogether appropriate given that John Simm is set to return as The Master at some stage this year. Or maybe it’s all still a hologram, and always has been, making it a…erm…Simm-ulation. We’ll just see ourselves out.