Doctor Who Extremis review – The Doctor is in!
The exciting thing about “Extremis” is while the wonderful chemistry of The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Bill (Pearl Mackie) is still magical, The Doctor gets to shine in this episode.
Cool fact: “Extremis” was filmed on Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, exactly 53 years after the very first episode of Doctor Who aired. Extremis is directed by Daniel Nettheim of “The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion” directing fame. While Bill has a little less do to in this episode she helps ground the episode as it turns out the events occur in a virtual reality VR world(s).
Even the still blind Doctor can see the importance when the Pope (Joseph Long who previously starred as Rocco Colasanto in the 2008 story, “Turn Left”) pays a house call. Luckily Nardole (Matt Lucas) is on hand to hide the Doctor’s blindness and help him process the information of an ancient text that makes anyone who reads it kill themselves. The Doctor is also aided by the sonic sunglasses that feed information into his brain much like old computer black and green display.
Nardole makes an appearance in one of many flashbacks. This can normally make for confusing or even lazy storytelling but Nettheim uses it for an enriched storytelling device and a powerful showcase for Capaldi’s acting chops. We’re transported to right after “The Husbands of River Song”. We see Missy here and at first think she is about to be executed. It turns out the Doctor is being forced to execute Missy. Missy and the Doctor’s relationship during this scene appears much more complex than we’ve seen thus far in Capadi’s run. Missy says she is the Doctor’s friend and is that a spark of goodness we see in her plea to spare her life? Does this play into why the Doctor spares Missy’s life and instead imprisons her for a thousand years?
The sweetest moment of the episode comes when the Doctor has to tell Bill that they are not real, they are simulations for a race of weird monks who are trying to figure out how to invade earth. Capaldi’s Doctor shines as a compassionate but honest Doctor. The real thrill comes after Bill’s VR program disintegrates the blind VR Doctor is programmed so well as the true Doctor that he uses his wits to send the true Doctor an email about the alien monk invasion. The Doctor is sitting in front of the vault that imprisons Missy and he first calls Bill to tell her to enjoy a date because trouble is coming and she’ll be busy as well as to ask Missy if she really is his friend. There is such vulnerability in his questioning plea for help that Capaldi is close to becoming my favorite Doctor of all time.
It’s odd “Oxygen” crammed so much in it really needed to be a two partner while “Extremis” is dense but the flashback help the story progress and land the narrative pacing needed to allow the episode to breathe.
Magnificent episode six. Can’t wait for next week’s episode “The Pyramid at the End of the World”.