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Three parters are a strange beast for the new series of Doctor Who. The first parts either act as prequels to the second and third episode or a totally unconnected story, and whether they even count as 'three parters' is always a hot topic for discussion in the Whovian fandom. Personally I tend to count the prequel-part two-part three structure as a three part and the 'unconnected story' structure as something separate. That means Turn Left/The Stolen Earth/Journey's End and Name/Day/Time Of The Doctor are not three parters in my book, but Utopia/The Sound Of Drums/Last Of The Time Lords on the other hand certainly is.
Extremis/The Pyramid At The End Of The World/The Lie Of The Land counts too.
The strange thing is that whilst all three are a part of the same story, at the same time they explore three completely different areas of science fiction. The first part, Extremis, is set inside a Matrix-style computer simulation run by the Monks as a way to plan a successful invasion of Earth. Pyramid At The End of The World, meanwhile, is an apocalyptic episode where the Monks are using the approaching doomsday as leverage to persuade the United Nations and leaders of the three most powerful armies in the world - America, Russia and China - to give consent for the Monks to invade. The Lie of The Land, meanwhile, is set in an alternate dystopian world where the Monks have been given consent and Bill (Pearl Mackie) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) are the only ones who know the truth.
It's a clever format for the three parter, and a great way to keep things fresh. Unfortunately it feels like the three parter could have been more easily a two parter, as the first part Extremis fails to deliver the exciting promise of its hook: a book that tells its reader the truth of the world they live in, and all those who read it commit suicide upon their discovery.
It sounds like a relatively simple and exciting premise, but the computer simulation angle results in a confusing mess and is a case of Steven Moffat trying to be too clever. It's not entirely clear how much of the episode is a simulation and how much is real, and the climax doesn't make a great deal of sense as it relies on the simulated Doctor (Peter Capaldi) using email to contact the real Doctor, despite the simulated world not being real. The email received by the real Doctor is ridiculously unspecific - two words: 'save them'. What's the real Doctor supposed to make to that? Why not 'The Monks want to invade the Earth'? And how does the real Doctor know about Bill and Penny's (Ronke Adekoluejo) date? Was the real Doctor watching the simulation through his Sonic Shades? Even so, how would he see Bill and Penny's date? The simulated Doctor wasn't there to record it.
The flashback sequences with Missy (Michelle Gomez) are the most interesting here. These see Missy placed on trial by an unnamed species, and the Doctor is her executioner. This should have been Extremis's main story as it is much more engaging than the over-complicated computer simulation plot and placing the Doctor as Missy's executioner plays well with the character's compassion and long-standing frenemy relationship with The Master. It also contains one of Michelle Gomez's best performances as Missy, her portrayal toned down compared to Series 8 and Series 9 and veering even closer to Degaldo's Master. Michelle Gomez gives another outstanding portrayal in The Lie Of The Land that actually leads you into feeling sympathetic towards Missy as she claims to regret her past villainous acts (although it's probably a ruse to trick the Doctor into trusting his friend again).