[The Following Review Contains SPOILERS!]
I found myself dreading watching The Pyramid At The End Of The World when I noticed one name in the credits – Peter Harness. Responsible for the worst episode of Series 8 – the uneven and unsubtle abortion parable Kill The Moon – as well as Series 9’s The Zygon Invasion, Harness has yet to produce a Doctor Who story I’ve found enjoyable. Even with Steven Moffat holding his hand, as in The Zygon Inversion. Harness’ best work to date has rated as merely tolerable.
The story this time sees The Doctor – once again press-ganged into the role of Secret Emergency President of Earth – and once again sent to the non-existent but real sounding country of Turmezistan. Here, the American, Chinese and Russian armies have been locked in a stand-off, which is broken by the overnight arrival of a 5000 year old pyramid. How the pyramid’s age was determined is never explained but it turns out that it is the spaceship of The Monk aliens from last week’s Extremis. They claim to have foreseen the end of The Earth and say that they can prevent it for a price – the consensual enslavement of all humanity!
The Pyramid At The End Of The World is some of the worst Doctor Who has to offer. This is the sort of story that taints other stories by association, making me have second thoughts about Extremis and how enthused I was about it last week. It takes forever for any of the various disconnected subplots to get anywhere. The characters’ personalities and motivations spin on a dime, with career military people ready to follow The Doctor because that is what protocol demands until the script decides that they’re done listening to the wise man who has saved their lives because reasons.
The only praiseworthy thing I can find to say about this episode is that it has a better grasp of how the BDSM culture operates than the Fifty Shades of Grey series. “Love is slavery,” as The Doctor notes in a conversation that was almost certainly penned by Steven Moffat in a reflective moment, but slavery requires consent. And The Monks need consent in order to enslave humanity because they just wanted to be loved because ruling through fear is inefficient. And they have a problem with that because reasons.
Apart from that, the kindest thing I can say about The Pyramid At The End Of The World is that it did me a service by reminding me of the much better Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams stories that it aspires to emulate. The title itself is reminiscent of Only The End Of The World Again and The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe. The Monks’ bargain here is taken straight from Gaiman’s We Can Get Them For You Wholesale. Would that we could have gotten Neil Gaiman to come back and write another episode rather than suffering another of Harness’ uninspired tributes!