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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.
The Lie Of The Land by Toby Whithouse sees a dystopian world where the Monks have taken over. The population of Earth believe that the Monks have always been a part of Earth's history, and Memory Police take away anybody who remembers that in reality they have only been here six months. Bill and Nardole both remember the truth, whilst the Doctor appears to be making propaganda broadcasts for the Monks. If that synopsis reminds anybody of George Orwell's 1984, where the UK population are working in a dystopian society where the government are purposefully rewriting historical documents and creating a new version of history, that's because the plot is very similar. The Monks have rewritten human history so that they were present in historical events, and the Doctor's past victories against The Daleks and Weeping Angels are now Monk victories. That doesn't mean the episode is unoriginal; instead, it very much does its own thing.
The episode suggests the very intelligent notion that if we as humanity believed something was always there, we would ignore it as it would have always been the case. This is a great twist on the usual alien invasion story, and gives the Monks an implied power that means they don't need to offer much resistance as the people of this dystopia have no reason to fear them. Some have complained that this episode rarely depicts any conflict from the Monks towards the Doctor, Bill and Nardole but to me it makes sense as they assume the Doctor's plan to rewrite what the Monks have done won't work. We are told that if either the Doctor, Bill or Nardole attempt to change things back the mind technology that the Monks use will fry their brains - why would they bother fighting them when the Doctor or his companions will be dead if they attempt to rewrite everything back to normal anyway?
In this final part of the three parter in particular, the current TARDIS crew of The Doctor, Bill and Nardole function impressively well together. They feel like a unit, more so than the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack or the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory. When The Doctor says 'I've got the gang back together', he hits it totally on the ball - this current crew really feels like a gang. Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie and Matt Lucas have so much chemistry that you can't imagine one without the other. It's hard to believe now that the early episodes featured Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie with Matt Lucas merely making cameo appearances; The Doctor, Bill and Nardole are a package much like Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May were to Top Gear. Pearl Mackie in particular gives a very emotional promise, and you feel sorry for The Doctor and Nardole's cruel manipulation of her. The manipulation was justified, and Bill does forgive the pair and move on so it doesn't ruin the core unit feel but the lead up to the manipulation reveal plays to Pearl Mackie's acting strengths.
My only criticism of The Lie Of The Land is the fake regeneration. Somehow the Doctor manages to trigger a full regeneration without changing his face, and it's never explained how he manages to avoid becoming thirteen. It's not even like the regeneration had only just started, been siphoned off or only focused on one part of the Doctor's body; the golden glow covers everything and disappears without 12 showing a different face. An explanation would have been nice - was it a projection, for instance? Also: why does he ask if the regeneration was 'too much'? Bill doesn't know anything about regeneration, so why would he even need to fake it when he shoots her? He could have simply pretended to die.
Overall, the Monks trilogy starts off poor with Extremis but by the second and third parts it soon improves. Extremis is too confusing; basically Steven Moffat trying to be too clever. Pyramid At The End Of The World on the other hand is a classic and shows off The Monks at their very best, whilst Lie Of The Land portrays an interesting dystopian world. The Monks trilogy isn't the show's finest three parter - that honour still lies with Utopia/The Sound Of Drums/Last Of The Time Lords - but it does provide some nice variety, with all three parts exploring three distinctively different forms of science-fiction. Some may argue it's not a three parter, but to me it most certainly is.