[The Following Review Contains SPOILERS!]
Since before the earliest days of mankind – indeed, from the moment when the first amphibious life crawled out of the sea – the race of aliens known as The Monks have shepherded the destiny of the Earth. Benevolent and wise, The Monks have offered their support and council to humanity in exchange for nothing more than blind obedience.
It is a fair bargain which has served the human race well for as long as The Monks have been here. And The Monks have always been here. No matter what The Memory Criminals claim, The Monks have always been here.
Bill Potts is a Memory Criminal. She doesn’t meant to be one, yet she keeps having flashbacks to memories of a man called The Doctor and his friend Nardole, with whom she used to travel around space and time. She remembers offering The Monks the world in exchange for saving The Doctor six months ago. Still, she isn’t sure what to believe, until Nardole arrives on her doorstep, assuring her that she is not crazy… and The Doctor needs them to save him!
I’m not sure if it was an intentional irony that the montage of how The Monk’s shaped human history conspicuously featured Thomas Edison – the patent thief and union-buster who marketed himself as a great inventor and was recorded by history as such until recently. Such prominence would be fitting given that The Lie Of The Land is built around a literal interpretation of that famous George Orwell saying, “History is written by the winners.” The fact that this quote is more often attributed to Napoleon, Churchill and even Hitler only heightens the irony!
With mention of “memory crimes”, it’s clear that Orwell’s writings had a influence on this episode, which also takes some visual cues from the Orwell-inspired They Live. Thankfully, writer Toby Whithouse and director Wayne Yip go far beyond paying homage to other works and build upon the same dystopic themes and visuals to create something unique in the way that only a good Doctor Who story can manage.
The performances of the core cast help to build the episode up from what could have been a fairly standard story. Peter Capaldi has proven a frightening presence as one of the more surly and shouty Doctors in history, yet his performance as the ever-smiling Big Brother figure on the telly instructing people to report their families if they even think they might be memory criminals seems even more unsettling and disturbing. The high-point, however, is the interactions between Pearl Mackie and Matt Lucas as Bill and Nardole, who are finally given a chance to play off of each other extensively after Lucas spent most of the Series to date out of the action.
Though it was written and filmed several months ago, The Lie Of The Land seems oddly prescient and incredibly relevant in these days when honest journalists on both side of The Pond are decried as peddlers of fake news and political spokesmen insist that their masters have the legal power to redefine the English language. A strong episode from start to finish, the only thing wrong with this episode is its unfortunate but necessary link to last week’s The Pyramid At The End Of The World.