My first reaction coming off of Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 7 pretty much amounted to, "Wow, that was intense."
Some will doubtless criticize this episode for apparently pulling the "it was all a dream" type gambit, but that really wasn't happened here at all.
I was actually reminded of a computer game I loved, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, where a question was posed: what if I am just a brain in a vat somewhere, and my entire life an illusion? Do my reactions ultimately have any sort of meaning?
In fact, the "brain in a vat" theory is a very old philosophical conundrum, one linked to the "evil demon" concept of philosopher René Descartes. It basically describes an idea that there is powerful, evil entity that directs all its efforts into misleading a person.
Rather similar to what was happening here, now wasn't it?
Even more to the point, the term "evil demon" was actually used verbatim in this episode when the contents of The Veritas were revealed!
The Veritas tells of an evil demon that wants to conquer the world. But to do it, he needs to learn about it, first. So he creates a shadow world. A world for him to practice conquering. Full of shadow people that think they are real.The Doctor
It's all very mind-boggling to think about for any length of time, this sort of deep-level philosophy. And this episode had some exceptional lines of dialogue to match. (Check out our Doctor Who quotes page!)
Of course, some of it was silly, just to lighten the mood, too. But most of it... yeah:
It’s like Super Mario, figuring out what’s going on. Deleting himself from the game, because he’s sick of dying.The Doctor
The funniest moment in the episode was undoubtedly when the pope popped into Bill's place just when she's trying to have a nice time with her date. Poor Bill.
Anyone speak Italian and able to fill me in on what he was going on about?
That actually brings up a minor curiosity about this episode: was it a clue that the Italian was untranslated? If the TARDIS were actually present, the Italian should have been rendered as English. It does that for French, after all...
On a side note: It was a bit unclear if the pope in this episode was intended to be Pope Francis, the current Catholic pope, or a fictional counterpart. The fact that he was speaking Italian leaned towards the latter.
(The realization that none of it was even real in the context of the show further complicates the question, too!)
Further side note: Pope Benedict IX was a real person. There is no historical evidence that this person was female, though there are many salacious rumors about this person.
We got to see Nardole's reunion with the Doctor (at Missy's apparent execution, no less!), which probably left viewers with even more questions than before.
Is it Missy in the Vault (clearly, which is what we are intended to think)?
How did Nardole end up with River's diary (last seen in The Library, left there by the Tenth Doctor after River's death)?
Nardole had previously indicated that the Doctor had reassembled him, but the Doctor certainly seemed surprised to see him here.
In any event, the mention of River Song no doubt elicited the love it/hate it reaction from viewers. While she's got a sizeable fanbase, there seem to be just as many who wish she never existed.
Nardole, oh, Nardole. I know that some people dislike his character, but I honestly love him. Especially when Matt Lucas gets to let loose, like this little gem of a moment:
Okay, Bill. Miss Potts. [removes his glasses] I’m the only person you’ve ever met or will ever meet who is officially licensed to kick the Doctor’s arse. I will happily do the same to you in the event that you do not align yourself with any instructions that I have issued which I personally judge to be in the best interest of your safety and survival. [puts his glasses back on] Okay, Bill?Nardole
Yes, Bill. He is secretly a badass.
Now, to what most people are probably conflicted over: the ending. "But it was all a dream!" some cry. "None of it happened!"
Ah, but it did happen. Choices were made, and they did have an effect on the main characters. The Doctor, the real Doctor, has opened Heisenberg's box and seen the cat inside.
By observing the Shadow-Doctor's memories, the Doctor now has knowledge that will affect his actions. It already did, actually, when he urged Bill to call her would-be date that night instead of waiting.
(If you really want to get depressed, go watch Star Trek: Voyager Season 5 Episode 18, "Course: Oblivion." It had a similar set-up, but absolutely nothing came of it. Yikes.)
Furthermore, and more importantly, the fact that the shadow realm wasn't real actually played into what Nardole told the Doctor earlier:
Only in darkness are we revealed. [...] Goodness is not goodness that seeks advantage. Good is good in the final hour, in the deepest pit, without hope, without witness, without reward. Virtue is only virtue in extremis. This is what *he* believes, and this is the reason above all I love him, my husband. My madman in a box. My Doctor.Nardole [quoting River Song]
Maybe no one would know what the Shadow-Doctor did, what any of them did. But that's not the point. It's never the point. Whether we are real people, living real lives, or merely computer simulations (or brains in vat), what we do has meaning.
I think, therefore I am.
Finally, I would like to point out that an alien capable of accurately replicating sapient lifeforms and their unique, individual reactions with such accuracy should have little difficulty in conquering the Earth under normal circumstances.
Why would they want to, though?
We're now halfway through the season! You can watch Doctor Who online if you'd like. And tune in Saturday, May 27, 2017 at 9/8c on BBC America for Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 8, "The Pyramid at the End of the World."
So, what did you think of "Extremis"? Genuinely creepy and disturbing, or too bogged down in philosophical meandering? Is Missy actually in the Vault that the Doctor's been guarding?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!