“I’m not sure I believe anything, but belief is all I am right now.”
This week on Doctor Who the Doctor visits the Vatican, or so we thought, until about thirty-five minutes into the episode, where we realise it is far from it. Honestly, until you rewatch this episode, it may be hard to get your head around; in this case it is place as well as time which is loopy, well, beyond loopy. We start the episode ‘A long time ago…” which in Doctor Who terms means hundreds of centuries. And finally, will we be finding out who is in the Vault? We also meet an old friend of the Doctor’s, Missy. She is on trial, for something we haven’t seen her do yet, but time will reveal all. This scene plays out in between the larger plot of the episode. Quite cleverly, we never quite see enough to connect the dots until the very end of the episode.
Back on earth the Doctor has an unexpected meeting with the Pope, only he doesn’t recognise him as he is still blind after the events of the last episode. This plays a larger and much more problematic part in the episode later on. On realising his mistake, he voices what we’re all thinking “You don’t do this. The Pope doesn’t zoom around the world in his Popemobile, surprising people.” The reason, we find out, is because in the Vatican’s library there is a text, but the language of the text is lost. They did however manage to translate the title somewhere along the line as Veritas, literally meaning ‘the Truth’. The thing about the text though is that everyone who has read the text has died, and their translations have disappeared soon after. A new translation had been made but anyone who worked on it, as well as anyone who read it is now dead too. The big thing is though that they don’t just die, what the Pope refers to as a secret drives all who know of it to take their own life. They then precede to ask the Doctor to read the Veritas. Yes, I said read. The complication of the Doctor’s lack of eyesight aside, if reading the text means death you would think the Doctor would refuse…but, no. Of course, the Doctor has a device which will temporarily restore his eyesight, the downside of this is that it takes time off his lifespan. He shortly crashes Bill’s date to pick her up, and she, the Doctor, and Nardole, along with the Pope go to the Vatican’s library. Not without a very frustrated Bill, and I don’t blame her, I wouldn’t want the Doctor and the Pope crashing my date either!
It doesn’t take long for Bill to notice something is up with the Doctor, as it’s difficult to miss the sunglasses which he is wearing inside. What she doesn’t know though is that the glasses work as a scanner feeding into the Doctor’s mind – he can see vague outlines of things, and the sonic glasses also give readings of nearby people. This isn’t the only thing odd about the situation – beside the unusual number of deaths due to a three-page text and the library, there’s also the mysterious clawed hand which takes the Pope’s translator into the wall; never to be seen or even mentioned again. In an attempt to further hide the secret of his eyesight from Bill the Doctor sends her and Nardole to investigate further while he sits down with the translation of Veritas. I was surprised that Bill didn’t put up more of a fuss, or interrogate the Doctor about the glasses – although she still did ask, it wasn’t with her same determination or flare. This isn’t the end of the matter, as once she’s away from the Doctor she begins to question a lot more, and in turn, so do we.
It is here that the episode gets, well strange, and we realise who the big bad is for the episode, and honestly, it’s not what is expected. I mean, portals to other places start opening up in the walls, and Bill and Nardole are asked to say numbers aloud and end up reciting the same ones in unison, but this episode goes from strange to bizarre within a matter of minutes. Who would have suspected an earth simulation created by aliens to practice taking over the world? Not me that’s for sure! This episode had me still puzzling over the ins and outs of the logistics of it all, but I’m getting there, and it looks like the next episode will (thankfully) continue this plot. Something else this episode did was give us context both for Nardole’s reasons for sticking with the Doctor and an explanation about who is in the Vault. With the revelation of it being Missy (the Doctor’s childhood frenemy) this episode opens up the question as to why she is there, something we will soon discover I am sure.
Though complicated, this episode delivered on excitement and mystery, as well as introducing not just a terrifying alien race, but a smart alien race. It will be a long wait to see just how the Doctor really gets out of this debacle, but I have a feeling whatever happens, it will be epic.
Plot: 3.5/4 – Character: 2/3 – Monster (‘Misunderstood Alien’) of the Week: 2.5/3