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Recap / Doctor Who S36 E8 "The Lie of the Land"

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Dare is not an option, in case you were wondering.

"I can't remember how I escaped, Mum. I asked for their help and then, and then there's nothing. And then I woke up and the Monks were here, and they'd always been here. Everything they told us, all that we believe now, is a lie. But I don't understand it, because no-one's saying anything. It's like, like they've been brainwashed. I travelled with a man called the Doctor and his friend Nardole, and I did this to save him. I'm trying to stay strong without them, but every day it's harder to remember what's real any more. And I know, I know how it looks, Mum, with all of the stuff that he's been saying on the telly. But it's all right, because I know he has a plan. One day soon, he's going to come back and save us all."
Bill Potts
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The one where the Doctor and company consult the Missy-in-a-box.

The conclusion of the three-part "Monks Trilogy" that began with "Extremis". Written by Toby Whithouse.

In the previous episode's Cliffhanger, Bill Potts consented to let the Monks conquer Earth in exchange for the Doctor, halfway around the world and about to die in a lab explosion that would save humanity, having his sight restored so he could unlock a door to freedom. Over the phone, she told him "Tell you what old man... you better get my planet back." Her consent was born of the pure love the Monks needed to conquer — her love for the most remarkable person she ever knew, the one man who could save her world.

But the Monks told him telepathically, as he watched the lab burn, "Now see our world"...

Six months later, Bill Potts is back in London. Earth is now a giant police state where the Monks not only walk the streets alongside humans but are adored as benevolent rulers, with statues in every great city. After all, they've always been on Earth, protecting poor lowly humanity from every threat that it ever faced and helping them achieve all it has, haven't they? Bill knows that's not true, but few others do and they quickly become targets of "Memory Police" if they dare speak up. And as for the Doctor? He is the Monks' greatest propaganda tool — never seen in public, only on television, speaking of the "Truth".

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Reuniting with the Doctor's "valet" Nardole, one of the few who still sees the real truth, this pair must undertake a mission to a prison ship to rescue the Doctor and see if he can be reasoned with. They will also have to open the Vault and seek the help of Missy, one of the most dangerous criminals in the universe, but also the Doctor's oldest friend and the only person who might have knowledge of the Monks' weaknesses. And either the Doctor or Bill might have to pay the ultimate price for humanity's freedom...and possibly at the hands of the other at that.

(The Doctor also crashes a boat. Just because he can. And because stealth is boring and not him in any way...)


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Tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: The Twelfth Doctor becoming the Monks' Propaganda Machine in their Villain World may well be one to Peter Capaldi's most famous role prior to Doctor Who: Malcolm Tucker, the ruthless government spin doctor of The Thick of It and the film In the Loop.
  • All for Nothing: At the end of the previous episode, Bill agreed to let the Monks conquer Earth so they would restore the Doctor's sight and allow him to escape the lab explosion — and from there, save her and humanity from them. Now he's serving them. Except not — he's only pretending to, as she'd been hoping.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Even psychotic Time Ladies. Missy demands one as part of the payment to explain how to defeat the Monks.
  • All Part of the Show: In the penultimate scene, the Doctor asks a passing student what the blown-up remnant of the Monk statue at Bristol University is, and she responds that she thinks it was for some kind of filming, to demonstrate that the Monks have erased themselves from human minds as they fled.
  • Always Save the Girl: The Doctor is as reluctant as ever to sacrifice a companion, even though Missy says It's the Only Way and Bill is entirely willing to give her life to atone for her allowing the Monks in in the first place.
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: Bill gives the Doctor a Last Kiss on the cheek when she thinks she's going to make a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Apocalypse Maiden: Missy says that someone "opened the door" to the Monks' conquest of Earth, thus serving as this, and if that person is killed, the Monks will be stopped. Bill Potts is that person, but the Doctor won't let her die and they Take a Third Option.
  • Apologetic Attacker: The Doctor tells Bill "I'm sorry, Bill, I really wanted to make you see!" as something terrible is about to be done to her. He's actually just doing a Secret Test of Character.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: In order to free humanity from the Monks, the Doctor tries to hijack the signal being sent by their leader to rewrite history. Though he's successful at first, the Giant Monk fights back and overpowers him. Then Bill has a go at it. Though the Monk starts rewriting her memories, he's unable to rewrite a memory of her mother which Bill made up on her own. Seeing this, the Doctor has her think of nothing but that fake memory, which overpowers the Monk and frees everyone.
  • Been There, Shaped History: The Monks have fooled humanity into thinking they've done this; whatever man has achieved, it was due to their influence. Why, they even showed up at the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana!
  • Being Good Sucks: Missy is not enjoying going "cold turkey" from being evil via her vault imprisonment, expects payment for telling the Doctor and his companions what she knows about the Monks, and resents him expecting her to live up to his "vain, arrogant, and sentimental" ideals of goodness rather than just being a Pragmatic Hero. Also, if she really is feeling remorse for all the people she's slain over the years, she's not enjoying that either ("[The Doctor] didn't tell me about this bit.").
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The Monks have long been capable of observing all of humanity, past, present, and future, and used this to conquer Earth in the first place. They continue to put their abilities to good use in this new world, which makes it odd that they can't locate the Doctor after he's escaped, even when he leads forces to their pyramid.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The outside of the Vault, as shown back in "Extremis", isn't large enough to contain the room on the inside. It is Time Lord technology, after all.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: It is explained that the Monks cannot kill Bill or else the psychic link between them and humanity will break. This does not explain why they do not seem to do much to obstruct the Doctor's attempts to stop them; they are rather easy to avoid and the only battle between the Monks and the soldiers the Doctor recruits ends very quickly. Admittedly, there are only twelve of them, but they don't even put in that much effort. Moreover, given that they know his history on Earth full well and could observe him from afar at any time, it is strange that they so easily believed him when he joined them in the first place — rather than just killing him outright — and do not seem to notice his plotting, deprogramming, disappearance...
  • Brainwashed: Thanks to Mass Hypnosis, almost all of humanity believes that the Monks have been on Earth forever, serving as their benevolent rulers against any and all threats. Several people seem to be able to resist it to varying degrees of success, with Bill as the most successful. The Doctor, Nardole, and Missy also seem immune.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The Doctor seems to be this. Although he recalls the way things were before the Monks took over, his speech about The Evils of Free Will reveals that he thinks that humanity has no future unless the Monks keep them from destroying themselves. He turns out to be faking it.
  • Brick Joke: During the Secret Test of Character, Bill mentions that the Doctor assigned her to write a 3,000-word essay on free will. At the end, he tells her she still has to write the essay, which is now six months overdue!
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Subverted. Missy thought she'd lived her life like this, but as a result of her apparent Heel–Face Turn, she realizes she was wrong.
  • Call-Back:
    • The only reason Bill has such a vivid image of her mother in her mind is because of the pictures the Doctor took of her and left for Bill back in "The Pilot", as he points out. He was just being kind, feeling he owed her something in return for the Christmas present she got him, but this act allowed Bill to save the world.
    • As a Spot the Imposter test, Bill asks Nardole and later the Doctor about events from "The Pilot", "Oxygen" and "Thin Ice".
  • Cardboard Prison:
    • The prison barge, because the Doctor has already suborned the guards.
    • Missy points out that if she really wanted to escape, a mere door wouldn't hold her in the Vault. She's held in a forcefield too, but this is the Doctor's Evil Counterpart (and smarter too, despite what he claims) so it's likely she's not bluffing.
  • Cassandra Truth: Bill knows everyone who's Brainwashed is in danger... but because they're brainwashed, they can't believe her. This is why she talks to her imagined mother about her concerns and fears in this brave new world — she can't talk to her foster mother, friends, etc. (none of whom appear in this episode, in fact) — with the Doctor and Nardole gone, she has no one else to turn to whom she can trust with the truth, lest she be picked up by the Memory Police.
  • Character Development: This episode is the point where Bill's character development over the course of Series 10 is tested. She gets put through a Secret Test of Character to prove she is not under the Monks' control, and upon finding out her death will stop the Monks she is willing to do so.
  • *Click* Hello: The Doctor discovering one of his soldiers has fallen under the Monk's control.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The Monks and their Memory Police soldiers wear red, while the downtrodden populace tend to wear black. During the Battle in the Center of the Mind, red and blue are used to signify which side is winning.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Thanks to the Monks' Mass Hypnosis abilities and the Propaganda Machine making them believe the former always existed alongside humanity and have its best interests in mind, the people of Earth are by and large okay with and even happy to be ruled by creatures who resemble decayed corpses and have established a Police State that crushes dissent. Nardole even points this out; "that's 90% of the job done".
  • Consummate Liar: The Doctor outdoes himself here — he convinces the Monks that he is on their side and becomes their secondary Propaganda Machine spreading lies to the world, the Monks never suspecting he's putting them on too. Then he manages to fool Bill into thinking he's gone bad to give her a Secret Test of Character.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: The opening sequence is a montage, narrated by the Doctor, chronicling the alternate history of Earth that the Monks have created and humanity now believes in, referencing many previous stories and alien races in the process. Among other things, the Monks defeated the Daleks, Cybermen, and Weeping Angels.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Twelfth Doctor pretending to defect to villains to begin a plan to stop them is similar to the Fourth Doctor's scheme to defeat the Vardans who want to conquer Gallifrey in "The Invasion of Time". As in that serial, it is kept secret from other characters — including the female companion — and the audience for a while that he's faking it, and thus he honestly seems to have gone mad.
    • The Seventh Doctor seeming to turn upon Ace was crucial to the resolution of "The Curse of Fenric"; here the Twelfth Doctor seems to turn upon Bill.
    • Early on, a crowd is seen in front of a Magpie Electricals shop watching one of the Doctor's broadcasts. For bonus points this episode and the previous one to feature a Magpie reference, "Before the Flood", are by the same writer.
    • Most of humanity is brainwashed by a signal created by the villains, who have built a network of transmitters to boost the signal. Only a small fraction of humanity are unaffected, and the first unaffected person to be seen confronted by the villains is a woman with short blonde hair, like in "The Sound of Drums". Her arrest, being dragged out of her house by armed goons, shouting the truth, and shoved into a police van while the companion watches, is quite reminiscent of Clive and Francine Jones' arrest in that episode as well.
    • This is not the first episode where a companion, after a Time Skip, must free a conquered Earth from the villains without the Doctor's help, and the Master is involved in events. Both episodes also have a scene where a human woman shoots a Time Lord in the chest — Lucy shot the Master in "Last of the Time Lords", and Bill shoots the Doctor here — and conclude three-part stories.note 
    • Bill choosing to take the Doctor's place in the Battle in the Center of the Mind to defeat the Giant Monk, even though it will kill her, recalls River Song's sacrifice for him in "Forest of the Dead" — and given how much River meant to this particular incarnation of the Doctor, he might actually be thinking of that as Bill heads off to meet her fate. Luckily, she survives.
    • The police state the Monks create is similar to the one established in an Alternate Universe England in "Turn Left", including work camps. Both settings are doomed because the Doctor is not around to protect humanity; in "Turn Left" it is because he never met Donna Noble and died for good while saving the planet from the Racnoss; here, it is because he has joined an alien race as its Propaganda Machine — though unlike in the other story, he returns to help once he's pulled his plan together.
    • As in "Journey's End", the Doctor manages to stave off a full regeneration when he's shot. In this case, the gun contains blanks and the regeneration is just for show.
    • Bill is the only person she knows who can remember the truth, and she's having a hard time convincing herself that her memories are true, similar to Auton Rory back in "The Pandorica Opens".
    • This episode has many similarities to "The Wedding of River Song": Earth and humanity have been plunged into a mad new reality thanks to a woman who loves the Doctor and saved his life when he was effectively destined to die. Only a few characters remember how things once were. The companions become part of La Résistance to an alien race that has religious connotations, can toy with what people's minds, and has been observing Earth for millennia. An imprisoned Time Lord is consulted for advice. An unusual pyramid is a central setting. Said woman shoots the Doctor but he somehow survives without completely regenerating. These connections are only strengthened by one of the good guys (Nardole) having been an associate of River, and the Twelfth Doctor having been the incarnation who truly returned River's love.
    • This is not the first time motherhood impacts a psychic link.
    • The climax is similar to "The Rings of Akhaten" — in both stories the Doctor fails to overpower a mighty entity in the way that seems most obvious. Eleven tries to overwhelm the memory-eating parasite with his memories, Twelve tries to use his Time Lord brain and knowledge of Earth's history to overpower the false truths of the Giant Monk. Then their companion overpowers it in a less obvious way: Clara gives it the leaf that represents the infinite possibilities/memories lost when her mother died, while Bill gives it a false, and thus unchangeable, memory of the mother she never knew except in photographs. Yes, both women draw upon their dead mother's memory.
    • The Twelfth Doctor once again performs a Secret Test of Character on a companion that climaxes when that companion believes she has doomed the Doctor to death, as happened with Clara Oswald in "Dark Water".
    • An Enemy Mine situation with Missy was also key to "The Magician's Apprentice"/"The Witch's Familiar".
    • The Doctor's subverted Evil Costume Switch has him in the same tatty coat he had in the flashback scenes of "Extremis", which were set shortly after he said his final goodbye to River Song and ended up in a depressed, self-neglecting state. Previously, he did an actual Evil Costume Switch in "Hell Bent", in which he traded his red Crombie coat for a black trenchcoat upon becoming a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
    • Bill thinks it's weird that the Doctor locked a woman in the Vault, and she's "been attacked by a puddle"!
    • Missy's piano appears on screen.
    • Missy refers to Bill as the Doctor's "plus one." The Ninth Doctor referred to Rose as his "plus one" on the spacestation in episode "The End of the World."
    • This is also not the first time the Doctor has proven really incapable of sneaking into anywhere - previously he sneaked into somewhere eating loud crunchy food and this time he crashes a boat - loudly. Into a dock. With people on it.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: The Twelfth Doctor strikes this pose as he almost regenerates. It must be for his ego, given that the whole thing was for show, and admittedly "a bit much".
  • Curse Cut Short: When Bill realises that Nardole knew about the Doctor's Secret Test of Character towards her, she says one as she tries to punch Nardole.
    Bill: Oh. My. God. I am going to beat the sh
    The Doctor: (stepping in between her and Nardole) No, no, no!
  • Day of the Jackboot: For all their talk about ruling through love rather than fear, the Monks have resorted to the usual authoritarian tools of propaganda, secret police, rewriting history, Disproportionate Retribution for activities they deem subversive, and prison camps in isolated locations.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Knowing her death can stop the Monks and seeing the Doctor fail causes Bill to decide to perform a Heroic Sacrifice because all this suffering and death is ultimately her fault, and she's had six months to stew in it. Luckily, she is capable of finding another way.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "The lie of the land" is a phrase referring to both actual physical geography and the current state of a society. In this case it can also be taken in a very literal sense as referring to the mass delusion affecting everyone but Bill, Nardole, and Missy... and the Doctor.
  • Driving Question: What exactly are the Monks' intentions for humanity, and how can they be stopped? Their method of rule involves brainwashing everyone into thinking they have been around since forever, and that their intentions are benevolent. They can only be stopped by whoever allowed them entry to Earth in the first place.
  • Dynamic Entry: The Doctor crashing his own prison ship on the shore, while cackling from the deck.
  • Easily Conquered World: Thanks to brainwashing.
  • Egopolis: But it turns out the ubiquitous Monk statues are actually their brainwashing transmitters Hidden in Plain Sight.
  • Empty Shell: Missy explains that the ideal solution to stopping the Monks would be keeping Bill alive but leaving her braindead. Dead, the signal would stop but would take a while to fade. Alive but braindead, the signal would instead switch to nothing and people would snap out of it on the spot.
  • Enemy Mine: The Doctor and Bill go to Missy for help in stopping the Monks.
  • Evil Costume Switch: The Doctor is wearing the same coat he had in the Missy flashbacks of "Extremis" while he appears to serve the Monks. The black coat is noticeably more worn than his others; in that story, it suggested self-neglect out of sorrow after River Song's death. Subverted, as he is only pretending to serve the Monks.
  • The Evils of Free Will: When Bill asks the Doctor why he is helping the Monks enslave humanity, pointing out that he's always believed in free will as one of his guiding principles (to the point that he once assigned her to write a 3,000-word essay on the topic), he explains:
    The Doctor: You had free will, and look at what you did with it! Worse than that, you had history. History was saying, "Hello? I've got some examples here of fascism you might want to look at. No? Fundamentalism? No? Okay, you carry on." I had to stop you. Or at least not stand in the way of someone else stopping you. Because the guns were getting bigger, the stakes were getting higher, and any minute now it was going to be "Goodnight, Vienna".
  • Evil Wears Black: Averted with most of the Monks, who wear richly coloured robes, but played straight with their leader and most of the Brainwashed human authorities who serve them. (Some get to wear maroon uniforms instead of black ones.) Meanwhile, the rest of humanity is stuck in dark grey, navy, or black.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change:
    • Bill sports a more subdued, yet elaborately braided, hairstyle to reflect how the Monks' new world order calls for the eradication of all outward signs of individualism and that she's found a way to rebel in a small way.
    • Missy looks considerably the worse for wear since being imprisoned in the Vault, with her hair now a ratty mess.
  • Eye Motifs: Humanity only "sees" the truth the Monks want them to see, and they want those who don't — such as Bill — to see it too. See also Glowing Eyes of Doom below.
  • Fake Memories: Almost everyone on Earth has had their memories altered by the Monks to make them believe that the Monks have been on Earth since time immemorial. Those who realize and try to promote the truth... don't last long.
  • Fake Defector: Bill held out hope for six months that the Doctor was doing this while he was making those propaganda broadcasts, and she's proven right.
  • Fatal Family Photo: A family photograph of the dissidents who get arrested is knocked to the floor and trodden on by the boot of the Memory Police.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: The Monks' control takes the form of a fascist police state crushing any dissent, but this is both unnecessary and ineffective; the mind control is what is keeping people in line (with the police handling those few who resist the control), and once it is removed the people easily oust the Monks. Worse, Missy mentions that apparently the Monks have never figured this out even after controlling planets for thousands of years. They work hard to control the world, and then the lynchpin who they have forgotten about gets killed, and they are immediately defeated.
    Missy: They just chalk it up to experience.
  • For Your Own Good: The Doctor's speech on The Evils of Free Will (see above) is his way of explaining to Bill that he joined the Monks because they would stop humanity from destroying itself.
  • From Bad to Worse: Bill Potts may have let all humanity be conquered by the Monks, but she did it to save the Doctor, knowing that As Long as There is One Man he will fight — oops, he's under their power now. Subverted when it turns out he was faking it and has just spent time working on a plan from within the system.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The Memory Police are responsible for ensuring that no one questions the Monks' historical narrative. Their uniform consists of a red jumpsuit, black helmet and face-concealing gas mask.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: The Monks turn out to be this. Even Missy doesn't seem to know their Backstory or what motivates them to conquer and enslave civilizations, they have no individual personalities, and no goal they expect humanity to achieve for them.
  • The Glomp: Bill encountering Nardole for the first time in months.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Doctor places his hands on the Giant Monk's brain in its throne room and as its power is sent through him, his eyes take on this look. It also happens briefly to Bill when she does it.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Six months with no company did Missy no favors in the sanity department. Turns out being imprisoned tends to make someone think about the untold scores of people they've killed.
  • Good Is Not Nice: What Missy argues. Before she was willing to burn whole cities For the Evulz, but renouncing her evil ways doesn't mean she has to accept the Doctor's view of what 'good' is.
    Missy: Your version of good is not absolute. It's vain, arrogant and sentimental. If you're waiting for me to become all that, I'm going to be here for a long time yet.
  • Godzilla Threshold:
    • The Doctor claims the Monks were needed because humanity had reached the point where it could accidentally destroy itself without them.
    • The Doctor consults Missy for help in stopping the Monks because she's the only person on Earth who might have any information about them that he doesn't already know. This one is a downplayed case because they stop short of freeing her; in fact, despite the Vault's interior size she is made to stay within a containment field, at least when he visits with the companions.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: And French, from Missy.
  • Heel Realization: Missy, possibly, at the end, remembering all the people she's killed. While it might just be a mind game — we're still talking about the Master, after all — she seems pretty repentant.
  • Hey, Wait!: One of the prison guards does this just to troll Nardole.
  • History Repeats: One justification the Doctor gives for joining the Monks (see The Evils of Free Will above) — humanity never learns! Although he's faking his Face–Heel Turn, he does honestly believe this trope applies to humanity and discusses it with Bill at the end. She supposes it's "part of our charm", but he replies "No, it's really quite annoying."
  • Hope Spot: Against the odds Bill and her allies make it to the Doctor's office/cell on the prison ship... only to learn that he doesn't want to be rescued; he joined the Monks. Then it is subverted as it is a Secret Test of Character.
  • Hotline: The Doctor has one — a bright red phone — in his "office" on the prison ship. It connects to the kitchen, though as part of his test he claims it's to the Monks.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: The Doctor says that he had no choice but to join and help the Monks to make sure humanity would not destroy itself. It's subverted as he was just looking for a way to stop them from inside.
  • I Like Those Odds:
    Nardole: Are you sure? This will be an incredibly sophisticated transmitter, powerful enough to beam highly detailed propaganda to the entire world 24 hours a day, and you're going to plug your brain into it?
    The Doctor: I know. It doesn't stand a chance.
  • Imaginary Friend: Bill's mom is this for her and helps her to stay sane by listening to her. Nardole used to have one, but he left Nardole for someone else.
  • Immune to Mind Control: Bill is able to resist the mass delusion holding humanity in its grip much better than anyone else, in part because she was the one who gave consent but also because she uses her mother's memory as Psychic Block Defense. Nardole, the Doctor, and Missy also seem immune, probably because they are not human.
  • In the Blood: Though the Monks don't remain in control of Earth long enough for it to be relevant, Missy says that the link between the Monks and their slaves is passed down to the descendants of the first person who agreed to give them control. When that family line eventually dies out (either through accident or intent), the Monks lose their power.
    • It goes undiscussed that Bill is (by her own account) primarily interested in women, and thus might very well not have even had bloodline descendants.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: The Doctor argues this to Bill by way of explaining why he joined the Monks during a Secret Test of Character; "the guns are getting bigger and the stakes are getting higher" etc.
  • Internal Retcon: As epic as you can get. The Monks create a history where they've been our benevolent overlords since the beginnings of life on Earth.
  • It's All My Fault: Bill feels this way about Earth becoming a Villain World thanks to her Deal with the Devil to save the Doctor's life, and thus believes it is her duty to undo it however she can, even if that means Heroic Suicide.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Though one guard forgot to exchange his ammunition for blanks — good thing Bill didn't pick that weapon.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Missy's idea would actually work and free the humans - sacrifice one human to save all of the rest.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Bill is faced with shooting the Doctor — her tutor, best friend, amazing intergalactic hero, and the man she made a Deal with the Devil to save — if she can't make him see the truth about the Monks. This proves to him she is not brainwashed by the Monks, and he reveals that he knew the truth all along and has secretly been trying to stop them.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: When the Monks leave, they make everyone on Earth forget their six-month rule. Only Bill, the Doctor, and presumably Nardole and Missy remember.
  • Living MacGuffin: Bill is the lynchpin for the signal the Monks are using to control the Earth. Filtered through her mind is the revised history they want the populace to believe.
  • Mass Hypnosis: The delusion that affects almost everyone on Earth — Bill, Nardole, the Doctor and Missy are the key exceptions — into thinking that the Monks have always existed alongside them as their kind, benevolent superiors. There is a brewing La Résistance of people who know they only appeared six months before and are trying to stop the cruel regime, however, so along with constant surveillance and Secret Police coming for dissenters, the Doctor serves as a Propaganda Machine to the masses, constantly assuring the public that the Monks are kind and good no matter what anyone else says.
  • Mood Whiplash: The dramatic standoff between the Doctor and Bill, culminating with her shooting him and causing him to begin to regenerate, is suddenly revealed to all have been a Secret Test of Character for her and everybody but her is all smiles and laughs.
  • Motifs: For Series 10:
    • Mothers: Bill creates a mental image of her mother to help her resist the Monks' brainwashing, which proves instrumental to defeating them.
    • "Villains" who aren't evil: All the human authorities serving the Monks (they're Brainwashed) and the Doctor, who claims to be on the Monks' side but is giving a Secret Test of Character.
    • Exploitation: Those who are Brainwashed are unknowingly enslaved to the Monks. Dissenters may be put to work in labour camps.
    • Imprisonment/Release: Bill has to find a way to free humanity from the Monks' power. She and Nardole have to storm a prison ship to rescue the Doctor. Then there is the Vault where Missy is...
    • Truth: The Monks have humanity deceived, and Bill and the Doctor must convince them to see the real truth. In a parallel, over the course of events Bill herself finally learns the truth about the Vault (and Missy), the Doctor's oath to watch over it, and gets a hint at what regeneration is — all things she asked him about in previous episodes that he refused to go into detail on.
    • The value of individual lives: The Doctor is insistent that Bill's life not be sacrificed to defeat the Monks, and when she decides to make a Heroic Sacrifice after his battle with the Giant Monk knocks him out, he pleads with her to let him have another shot at it instead. This follows on from his pointing out (as part of his What the Hell, Hero? speech) that he didn't want her to sacrifice her and humanity's freedom just to save him by making a Deal with the Devil in the first place. At the end, Missy claims to the Doctor that she remembers the names of those she's slain over the years after all (thus individualizing them).
  • Motive Rant: The Doctor lectures Bill about The Evils of Free Will and how History Repeats (see above) to explain why he joined the Monks, much to her confusion and horror as before they conquered the planet he firmly believed in free will and the value of every sentient life. This is part of a Secret Test of Character for Bill, though he really does find the History Repeats thing to be annoying.
  • Mood Dissonance: Bill's calm voice providing a Psychic Block Defense over the soldiers headphones in the middle of a desperate shoot-out with the Monks. There's a Mood Whiplash when a tape player gets broken and we suddenly cut to the sound of the firefight.
  • Mr. Exposition: Nardole catches Bill up on what's happened to everyone else since the Monks took over, while Missy explains (or rather, allows the Doctor to guess in a game of "hot and cold") what exactly they are and how they can be defeated. Her scenes also reveal how the Vault works and what it looks like on the inside, as it must be entered to consult her.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Bill, after she sees what the Monks have done after she let them invade.
    • And Missy, at the very end of the episode, thinking of all the people she's killed over the centuries. There are tears!
  • Mythology Gag: The Twelfth Doctor becoming a Propaganda Machine servant of the Monks he was trying to defend humanity from, leaving his companion desperate to bring him back to the side of right, is similar to the Eleventh Doctor's first Story Arc in Doctor Who (Titan). Pitted against a Peace & Love, Incorporated organization that offers anything its clients want at the cost of their freedom and individuality, Eleven tries to buy them out but instead becomes their Brainwashed and Crazy Chief Executive, leaving his three companions Jones, Alice, and ARC to bring him back to his senses. The main difference is that Twelve is faking it.
  • Narrator: After the Doctor's Opening Monologue, Bill Potts narrates her own A Day in the Limelight story to her (imagined) mother.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Among all the other fascist paraphernalia, note the lightning bolt SS in the Monk's Sigil Spam.
  • Near-Villain Victory: The Monks have completely conquered Earth, but they haven't quashed all resistance. Because some people can remember that the Monks have only been here for months, they can fight back. The "near" couldn't be removed for a couple generations or so.
  • The Needs of the Many:
    • Missy invokes this: If Bill's death is required to save the Earth, surely that's an acceptable price. While the Doctor prefers to Take a Third Option, Bill takes her words to heart and is prepared to make a Heroic Sacrifice if that's what it takes to stop the Monks.
    • The Doctor serving as a Propaganda Machine to gain the Monks' trust and formulate his plan to free humanity means that he's culpable for the imprisonment and deaths of dissenters because he was encouraging others to turn them in (even if the brainwashing did the bulk of the work, he still contributed). His mindset then isn't any different than Missy's is, but he still refuses to risk Bill's life — giving the impression that he didn't care about the victims of the Memory Police because he never knew them personally.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • The trailer, with the exception of a scene featuring Missy, only uses clips from the first fifteen minutes of the episode. This makes it look like the episode is about Bill stopping the Monks on her own and potentially being forced to kill the Doctor to stop them, as opposed to the Secret Test of Character the scene actually is. All this also hides how much the Doctor actually contributes to the plot.
    • In addition, the Series 10 full-length trailers featured clips of the regeneration-that-isn't, suggesting that the Twelfth Doctor would regenerate by the end of the season instead of in the post-season Christmas Episode. In fact, the first Series 10 trailer ended on one of those clips. Because Series 10 had already been confirmed as Peter Capaldi's final season in the role, there was frenzied speculation for months that the first mid-season regeneration since the original run of the show (Five became Six in the penultimate story of Season 20) would take place.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: The Giant Monk didn't even appear in the previous two episodes, giving the effect that the Monks had no leader at all. He is immobilised in the propaganda machine and doesn't even seem to notice the Doctor's party. Even when they're directly interfering with him, the best he can seem to do is fight back mentally.
  • Noodle Implements: Missy asks for books, a particle accelerator, a 3D printer, and a pony.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • What Bill was doing for six months.
    • Missy's encounters with the Monks, which included pushing a girl into a volcano. (Which she pronounces as Volkeeno!)
    • Missy once made a gun out of leaves. As she points out, she's had her own set of adventures that doesn't involve the Doctor.
    • Nardole learned Tarovian martial arts. Also, his left hand isn't his original, but his tale of how he got it is cut short.
  • Not Himself: The Doctor fought tooth and nail to stop the Monks in the previous episode, ready to lay down his life for humanity... but in this episode he's the smiling Propaganda Machine of the Monks. Turns out he was just looking for a way to stop the Monks from within their ranks.
  • Not So Different: The Doctor is tempted to use the Monks' machine to brainwash the human race; not just to free them from the Monks, but to improve humanity. Yes, eliminating racism is good, but it's the same anti-free will mindset which the Monks have.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Bill realizes the Doctor has changed since she last saw him as he lectures her on The Evils of Free Will. That she recognizes this and is mad at him about it to the point of shooting him proves she isn't a servant of the Monks.
  • Ominous Multiple Screens: The leader of the Monks has a throne room with many triangular screens set in its walls which show all the changed history he is broadcasting.
  • Opening Monologue: The Doctor narrates the Continuity Cavalcade opening montage.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: While the threat of the Monks had already spurred the Twelfth Doctor to allow military force to be used in "The Pyramid at the End of the World" and he is pretending to be brainwashed in Act One of this episode, those acts were/are treated as O.O.C. Is Serious Business. But much of his characterization is off in this episode without comment/justification.
    • The Doctor was not willing to use precious regeneration energy to heal his eyesight in previous episodes, so his using it as a trick in this one is bizarre — especially as he hadn't explained the concept to Bill (showing reluctance to do so back in "Knock Knock") and thus he could have just keeled over after being "shot". One could say it was just a fake light show, but that would just raise more questions! It's also out of character given what his feelings about the prospect of regeneration are revealed to be in "The Doctor Falls" at the end of this season — he doesn't want to regenerate and suffer Loss of Identity, so there's no reason to hold back on an act that could keep him from regenerating again.
    • The Doctor Doesn't Like Guns and military force in general, but has no problem with deprogramming, recruiting, and collaborating with the Monks' security forces and later having them fight off the Monks in ground combat. Looks like he's an officer after all.
    • The Doctor crashing the prison ship into a dock with people on it, laughing maniacally as he does so, is a great Incoming Ham moment but between that and his bizarrely chipper behavior after his ruse was revealed in the previous scene, many fans were wondering if he were undergoing a Sanity Slippage or the early stages of a Face–Heel Turn that would be confirmed in later episodes and lead into the regeneration! Turned out he wasn't, so it's just this trope instead.
  • Phoney Call: The Doctor makes a phone call and pretends to be informing the Monks that Bill has arrived. He has actually phoned the kitchen. He sends one of the rebels down to apologise to them because they are going to be very confused.
  • Police State: The Monks have plunged humanity into one, with Brainwashed human police serving and protecting them and keeping the rest of the people in line. Bill and Nardole better have their papers on them...
  • Power of Trust: Double subversion: Bill asked and trusted the Doctor to save humanity after she made the Deal with the Devil to save his life, holds out faith that he has a plan he's working out in secret while he serves as a Propaganda Machine, and is thus crushed when he tells her he's joined the Monks. However, this was a Secret Test of Character. He really does have a plan, but he needed to make sure she was herself before revealing it to her so the enemy wouldn't find out.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Missy claims to the Doctor that this is as much of a hero as she is capable of being when he objects to simply killing Bill or leaving her braindead to defeat the Monks instantly, and mocks his insistence that they should instead try to find another way to stop them. In fact, the Doctor was acting pragmatically for six months by serving the villains and keeping himself alive formulating the means of escaping his prison and making allies in secret. It would seem now that he's free, he's going to take the higher route again if he can and not let anyone else die if he can protect them.
  • Pretend to Be Brainwashed: The Doctor, who ingratiated himself into the Monks' trust so he could work on his plan to defeat them.
  • Propaganda Machine: The Doctor serves as a spokesman for the Monks, talking about how great they are and how they have helped humanity as part of their "fake news". In truth, his actions were unnecessary to them. It was the head Monk in the Home Base that was broadcasting the real, essential, propaganda.
  • Psychic Block Defense:
    • Bill uses the memory of her mother as a sentinel against the Monks' brainwashing and an anchor into her previous life. She's been doing this every day to keep herself sane and has, in fact, been doing this for years. The Doctor's Christmas gift of a box of pictures of her mother (she had not known what her mother looked like until then) makes it work better.
    • When attacking the Pyramid, the humans wear headphones playing a tape of Bill's voice reminding them that the Monk's version of history is not real. When a tape player gets smashed by a stray bullet, that soldier quickly falls under the Monks' control.
  • Pyramid Power: The Monks have a thing about these and triangles. They have relocated their pyramid spaceship to London, and the Giant Monk's throne room within is capped by an inverted pyramid that glows with power.
  • La Résistance: There are people trying to undermine the Monks by convincing people that they're being fed a fake history by the Monks. The Doctor has also been forming one in his cell. He spent his spare time deprogramming others.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Doctor's eyes turn red when the Head Monk is winning their Battle in the Center of the Mind.
  • Redshirt Army: The Doctor recruits his own, who are literally wearing red shirts.
  • Rule of Three: Bill punches Nardole on each shoulder, and is told to stop each time because it really hurts. The third occasion she goes to hurt him for real and has to be held back.
  • Running Gag: The Doctor is still reluctant to admit that anyone is smarter than him, even The Master/Missy (who for the record, beat the Doctor in cosmic science at the Time Lord Academy).
  • Sadistic Choice: Bill has to choose between letting the Monks continue to enslave humanity or perform a Heroic Suicide. Luckily a third option exists.
  • Secret Police: "Memory Police" capture all those who object to the Monks' regime and send them off to either forced labour or execution.
  • Secret Test of Character: When Bill comes to rescue the Doctor, he still keeps up his pretence of supporting the Monks, in order to see whether she's still her own woman or a Monk stooge testing him. What finally convinces him that she's genuine is when she shoots him.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Bill consenting to the Monks' conquering humanity was partially motivated by her hope that once they restored the Doctor's sight (thus saving his life), he would go on to save her people and planet. Unfortunately, he's on the Monks' side now. Subverted as the Doctor really was working towards stopping the Monks.
  • Shock and Awe: The Monks can shoot electricity from their hands. They can use it to create shields for themselves that bullets cannot penetrate, or to fry those who object to their rule.
  • Shoot the Dog: Bill Potts finds herself facing the possibility of shooting the Doctor on the prison ship when she can't make him see reason. This is exactly what she needed to do to pass the Doctor's test.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Police State created by the Monks is very similar to that of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
    • The Monks' Shock and Awe ability to shoot lightning from their hands to slay dissenters is reminiscent of Emperor Palpatine's powers, especially when combined with their cadaverous appearances and robes.
    • Missy thinks Nardole looks like an egg; this may be a homage to how Matt Lucas was the lead of the 1997 Cadbury Cream Egg Adverts.
    • The Doctor is held in the middle of the North Sea, near where Azkaban would be in Harry Potter, and the Monks resemble Dementors.
    • Nardole says he found the signal tracker he uses to locate the Doctor lying around in a drawer along with some takeaway menus and some Danish kroner. This is likely a reference to Michael McIntyre and his famous "man drawer" routine.
    • The Monks' soldiers, when wearing their helmets, strongly resemble the Crimson Guard from G.I. Joe.
    • A Stealth Pun — Missy's suggestion of how to defeat the Monks is "Kill Bill".
    • Nardole uses a neck pinch to disable a soldier, something he learned from an alien planet. It's very similar to a Vulcan nerve pinch.
    • The monks brainwashing people into complacency and ignorance via a broadcast that alters their perceptions—one that's dependent on a single transmitter to work—is the basic setup of They Live.
    • The Doctor says it's time to put the band back together.
  • Sigil Spam: The Monks' "Truth" insignia, a triangle overlaid with an X formed from two jagged lines, sometimes with a circle behind it, appears everywhere in this world — on posters, uniforms, TV screens, in your brain...
  • Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Missy, though she discusses exposition with the Doctor instead of serenading him.
  • Scooby Stack: Bill and Nardole do this when peaking around a corridor on the prison ship.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: When the Doctor and Bill go to consult Missy, she's confined to one section of the Vault by a force field that's invisible except for one shot where it appears as a sort of blue ripple when the Doctor gets up close to it.
  • So Proud of You: The Doctor is overjoyed that Bill passed his Secret Test of Character, even though she just shot him as part of it.
  • Spanner in the Works: Bill created a fake image of her mother to help block the Monks' propaganda. That image is completely untouched by the Monks, so blasting it through their Propaganda Machine breaks the link brainwashing humanity.
  • Splash of Color: The Doctor's office aboard a prison ship is near-devoid of colour — mostly white, with grey and black for "variety". The sole exception is the Hotline on his desk, which is bright red.
  • Spot the Imposter: Bill does this with both Nardole and the Doctor by asking them about incidents from past episodes.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Long-fingered humanoids who dress in human clothing but have disturbing alien faces, have apparently been present throughout human history influencing events on Earth, use religious terminology, are capable of messing with people's memories and blasting lightning out of their hands; are we talking about the Monks or the Silence?
  • Tactical Reminiscence: Bill assumes that the Doctor is only pretending to play along with the Monks, so she mentions the incident of the creature under the River Seine (when it was actually the Thames). However the Doctor immediately reveals what she's doing; it's at this point that Bill starts to freak out, believing that he really has changed sides.
  • Take That!:
    • Missy says that when Bill is left as a braindead husk to stop the brainwashing, she wouldn't even be able to compete on Celebrity Love Island.
    • The Doctor calls the propaganda control room "fake news central".
  • Tempting Fate:
    • The Doctor boasts that a brainwashing machine covering the entire globe is no match for him. Turns out it is.
    • Nardole says they'll be alright as long as the prison guards don't do an identity check. They do (turns out the guard was on their side and just trolling Nardole).
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Bill is surprised to find that the terrible monster hidden in the Vault is just a human-looking female.
  • Third Act Stupidity: The Monks. They spent so much time planning and seeing through their actual invasion over the previous two episodes, and are Reality Warpers capable of observing the entire planet's history or just one person from afar and sensing ulterior motives. Once they have the planet in their thrall, they blindly trust the man who fought them tooth and nail to be a Propaganda Machine with no ulterior motive at all for six months, allowing him to slowly put a plan into motion all that time, rather than just killing him. They don't think to imprison or at least keep an eye on Bill despite the importance of her being kept alive. They don't notice how many people the Doctor is converting to his side. They don't do anything to stop the prison ship from returning to the mainland. They don't have the pyramid's exterior guarded by anything more than the psychic field that is easily endurable via Walkmans. They don't have the throne room's interior guarded by anything at all! The only reason for all of this is that if the Monks had been as competent in this episode as they were in the previous two, they would be nigh invincible.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Bill feels she must bring the reign of the Monks to an end because she was ultimately responsible for their being able to conquer Earth. The Doctor is desperate to keep her alive and believes he can take her place, but in the end it is indeed she who pulls it off... and survives.
  • Thoughtcrime: The Memory Police seek out those who commit the crime of insisting that the Monks weren't always ruling humans. One kid was sent to a labour camp for possessing comics.
  • Time Skip: The action picks up six months after the events of "The Pyramid at the End of the World", with Earth long since conquered by the Monks.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: Part One was "Extremis", which introduced the threat of the Monks to the Doctor and the audience but was primarily a character study of the Doctor with a Two Lines, No Waiting/Meanwhile, in the Future... structure that was as much concerned with his and Missy's mutual past as with the Monks, revealing little about their nature and motivations; it could work as a standalone story. "The Pyramid at the End of the World" and this episode serve as Part Two, depicting the Monks' invasion of Earth and its undoing. They're also connected by a conventional Cliffhanger.
  • The Unsmile: This trope has long been associated with the Twelfth Doctor, but as this image — from one of his propaganda broadcasts in-universe — shows, when he's on the side of evil (even if he's faking it) it borders on Slasher Smile.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Bill and Nardole discover, to her horror, that the Doctor doesn't want to be rescued. Subverted — he's faking it.
  • Villainous BSoD: Missy appears to be going through this in the last scene, as she says she keeps feeling remorse for all those she killed.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Thanks to both Mass Hypnosis and a Propaganda Machine, most of humanity honestly believes that "The Monks are benevolent. The Monks are kind. The Monks are the Truth."
  • Villain World: Earth has been turned into a pacified playground for the Monks. Images of the Monks and their "Truth" insignia are everywhere, everyone aside from the Monks dresses in dreary dark colours, and the Doctor broadcasts propaganda. Few remember a time when the Monks weren't around. But the Doctor, as Bill hoped all along, has a plan...
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: Missy exaggerates this given the scope of her crimes. First, she demands to be paid for telling the Doctor and his companions what she knows about the Monks who have enslaved Earth's populace. Then when he objects to her suggestion to just kill or render braindead Bill to stop the Monks, Missy points out that she's destroyed whole cities just to see the pretty patterns that rose from the smoke of their burning and she cannot be any more of a "good" person than she is being now, taunting him that he'll have to watch her and the Vault for a long time to come if he can't accept that and let her go.
  • Weirdness Censor: Thanks to the Monks wiping everyone's memories of their conquest.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Many people were sent to labour camps or executed during the Monks' reign. What became of them and/or their families and other loved ones, especially given that no one remembers the events of the last six months?
    • At the end of the previous episode, the Doctor invited Erica to travel with him. She doesn't appear in this episode, nor is she mentioned at all.
    • Also in the previous episode, several high-commanding global commanders were executed by the Monks including the Secretary-General of the U.N., and there's no word of what became of them.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Bill has this reaction when the Doctor tells her he joined the Monks when she asked him to fight them and save her world.
    • The Doctor also calls Bill out on handing Earth over to the Monks in the first place just to save his life — when he explicitly told her not to do so. It may be part of him testing her, but it is still rather accurate.
    • Missy scolds the Doctor for being vain, arrogant and sentimental when he refuses to save humanity by brain-killing Bill.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Missy tells the Doctor that the quickest, easiest way to defeat the Monks is to kill the being who forged the connection between the monks and their race... which, in this case, would be Bill.
  • The X of Y: "The Lie of the Land".

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