Discussing Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World

Doctor Who The Pyramid at the End of the World

It’s the end of the world and Kevin and I feel … excited about next week. “The Pyramid at the End of the World” appears in the middle of a fictional Middle Eastern nation and everything goes crazy, so let’s talk about it.

Kevin Harvey is the author of All You Want to Know About The Bible in Pop Culture and a fellow Whovian who enjoys watching and breaking down the latest adventures of the Doctor. You can follow him on Twitter at @PopCultureKevin.

Previously, we went to the extreme in“Extremis,” breathed in “Oxygen,” opened the door of “Knock Knock,” stepped out on “Thin Ice,” emoted about “Smile” and navigated “The Pilot” If you need a refresher on last season, here is our recap of season 9.

If “Extremis” kickstarted the season last week, “The Pyramid at the End of the World” was the rocket booster. What did you think of part two of the midseason trilogy?

Aaron: As pivotal as “Extremis” seemed in the moment, it almost seems inconsequential after this week (outside of the reintroduction of Missy). The computer simulation serves as ice-breaking conversation for Bill with Penny and just as a reference point for how formidable the Monks are. But other than that, we have moved far beyond it. I say that as a good thing.

The best writing allows the current moment to feel as if it were the most important and previous moments were only leading to this. All the questions that really need answering are the ones still unanswered. That’s what Doctor Who has done in these last couple of episodes.

Specifically, “Pyramid” was an excellent exploration of power and consent (which we will talk about in a second). But I love the irony of the Doctor being the “most powerful person in the world,” but being powerless to open a combination lock and needing help from Nardole or Erica. Bill seemed more like the tagalong to all of the powerful people, but she was the one who made the call to ask the Monks for help.

Kevin: I appreciate that there was no let-up from the urgency that “Extremis” ended with. Too often many shows (mostly American) introduce extreme matters that feel that they must be dealt with immediately, but then we soon learn that the characters won’t take it up again until May sweeps begins. But that is certainly not the case here.

From the very beginning, with Bill being on the date the Doctor clearly pressed her to go on knowing the war that was forthcoming, as well as the Doctor’s opening monologue/meditation about the end of the world, there was clearly no putting to the side the urgency brought forth by the Monks in the previous episode. Even the Doctor being willing to attack the pyramid with weapons of mass destruction showed that he felt the Monks posed a much greater threat than the usual nemesis.

My only complaint at this point is that the Doctor got his sight back so quickly. As was hinted at last week, I had expected to see Missy helping the blind Doctor fight the Monks, which I believe would’ve made some great television. Bill getting the Monks to restore his sight felt like a copout. How could they restore his sight? And why would Bill have even concluded that they could do such a thing?

I fear the writers might’ve set themselves up for some contradictions next week. I mean, if the Monks have the power to supernaturally restore sight to someone thousands of miles away, shouldn’t they pretty much be able to stop him from doing anything he intends to do to stop their hostile takeover of earth?

More than conquest, there’s something sinister about waiting for consent to take over the world. What did you think of the Monks this week?

Kevin: I imagine that at least one of us will probably dive more into this in the below question about spiritual takeaways, but the idea that evil has no true power over us until we give it consent is straight out of Satan 101. I am really anxious to learn more about their plan to rule the world.

At this point, all they’ve done is brought attention to a biochemical accident that would’ve wiped out the entire world had they not landed their ship on earth, refuse to kill the American and Russian soldiers who had tried launching missiles at the pyramid, and restored the Doctor’s eyesight—saving his life as a result.

And yet we should all have chills at how sinister and evil we know they are. They don’t just want humans to be their slaves, such as what we see with most alien invasion stories; they want them to consent their power to them out of love … I can’t wait to see why.

Aaron: I appreciate the spiritual parallels and as a fan of good, original storytelling, I appreciate doing something different. Virtually every sci-fi show or movie has the powerful alien race come as an invading army. How do you handle the all-powerful aliens who want to save the planet, but only if you surrender first?

You’re right in that the writers have essentially created an omnipotent and virtually omniscient alien race that will somehow have to be defeated by a human, a humanoid robot and a Time Lord.

Depending on how they eventually go down, the Monks have to be one of Moffat’s better monster creations. While they certainly don’t rise to the level of the Weeping Angels, they could be a fun one to bring back in the future. Or maybe we’re still living in the computer simulation …

The Doctor or the world—why would Bill choose the Doctor?

Aaron: What does it profit a companion if she gains the whole world, but loses the Doctor?

We know why we, the viewer, would choose the Doctor. We’ve seen him save the world and the galaxy repeatedly. But why would Bill? Traveling around space and time seems to quickly deepen a relationship.

She makes the call after he reveals he’s still blind, which he only was because he saved her life. I suppose she feels responsible for his situation. There could be a bit of a father/daughter relationship developing that heightens her connection. Many of the previous episodes have built on that idea of family, to the point of the Doctor having pictures of his granddaughter and wife on his desk.

Kevin: I think plot points like these fail at times when a new companion comes along, because the writers want them to instantly make the same kind of decision about the other that, say, Amy Pond would make after two years and a lifetime of adventures with her mad man in a box.

But I honestly don’t think it makes any real sense to make the decision she did. She had seen four cowards get turned into dust for wanting to give their consent. Now the Doctor had foiled their plan and was ordering her not to trade her consent for his life. But if we have learned anything from the Bible, it’s that sacrificial love never makes sense except to the one making the sacrifice.

Maybe she felt that though one plan of the Monks had been stopped, they most likely had multiple other times they knew of where they could offer to stop Armageddon. And if the Doctor died, earth would have no chance then.

The Doctor has his sight back, but the Monks are in control of the world and the world-ending bacteria knocked out Nardole. Where are we headed next week?

Kevin: I’m assuming Nardole is just sleeping one off; otherwise the Doctor would’ve been a bit more urgent in getting him back on the TARDIS. Other than that, I am clueless where we’re going next week, which is how I like it. I always avoid the previews, so I go into each week completely surprised with where we’re going.

How do you exile from earth an alien race who basically built the Matrix in order to play out a million different scenarios, has been given consent to rule the earth, and (as mentioned above) apparently has supernatural power, even over other aliens thousands of miles away?

I’m actually a little disappointed that we’re only in midseason. Anything that may come later feels like it could be a letdown, since we know that something is coming that will bring to an end Capaldi’s time as the Doctor.

Aaron: This does have the urgency of a season finale, which is good. But you’re right; it does make you wonder what’s going to happen in those few episodes leading up to the final story.

Who knows what Bill has actually done? What this means for the Doctor? Or how Missy will play back into the story? Again, we have so many of our previous questions answered, but we are left with so many more. This is Doctor Who at its best.

Did you have some favorite quotes or one-liners?

Aaron:

“Is it OK if I get an Uber?” — Penny, who after hearing how the computer simulation date went—a surprise visit from the Pope, gets the real world date interrupted by the Secretary General of the UN.

“How did they get it out of my office? The windows aren’t big enough.” — the Doctor
“Oh … uh … they are now.” — UN guard

“You don’t look much like guardian angels.” — US general
“We have assumed this form to look like you.” — Monk
“You look like corpses.” — US general
“You are corpses to us.” — Monk

“Fear is temporary; love is slavery.” — the Doctor

“Without our help, planet Earth is doomed.” — Monk
“Yes, well, it’s been doomed before. Guess what happened? Me.”

“Can you hack them?” — the Doctor
“Of course I can. I’m not just sexy.” — Nardole

Kevin: Thanks for taking all my favorites. Here is my B-list.

“We know you.” — Monk
“Then you’ll know that there is a line in the sand, and I’m the one on the other side of it. You’ll want to keep me that way.” — the Doctor

“We’ve been having a chat. World War Three… What do you think? Basically, we’re against it.” — the Doctor

“Being smart is not giving away your planet.” — the Doctor

What are some spiritual takeaways from this episode?

Kevin: The New Testament is filled with verses such as “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7); “Do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27); and “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

They all clarify for the believer in Christ who has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside him that the devil has no power over us except that which we give to him. This is not to minimize the devil or make him seem like a cute little rat that can’t really bring harm to us other than some little nibbles that barely break the skin. The Bible also calls him “a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He is truly the Enemy of the world and seeks to destroy us.

But for the Christian, his power over us is based on our “consent,” such as that which was described by the Monks. Giving the Monks consent, giving the devil consent, is the trap that must be avoided. Unfortunately, Bill fell into the trap, as we all do at different times in our lives. I’m curious to see how she and the Doctor take that power back.

Aaron: The story does have a Garden of Eden type feel to it. You can have what you most want if you give up your rightful place as stewards of this world. While Bill made the choice for her love of the Doctor, so many others were willing to give it up for the chance at security and safety. Now there’s a spiritual lesson we can discuss: Christians who have made safety their god, live in fear of others and never take any risks in their walk with Christ.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something that was pointed out to me by a Catholic friend on social media. He noted that many of Moffat’s villains have taken something holy and made it evil—from the Weeping Angels to the Monks. As a Protestant, I have to admit that I’d never noticed that, but it does seem to be a trend.

But my main spiritual takeaway would be the importance of the small. Some broken reading glasses and a night spent drinking too much almost led to the end of the world. That’s some high stakes for such a small choice. It just shows how we can miss just how vital everyday moments can be.

King David fell because he didn’t go out to war and lingered on a gaze too long. Virtually every biblical character who suffered a similar fate begun their collapse in a similar way. It was a gradual fall that they barely noticed before it was too late. Numerous modern day pastors and leaders have suffered similar falls.

The same is true from the other end as well. One prayer, one encouraging word, one moment to talk about Jesus can shift the course of this world for the better and even change the eternal destiny of an individual, a family, a nation.

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.