Well, in a series that’s so far seen nothing but noticeably short titles, this one comes along and ruins everything. That’s kind of how I feel about the Monk Trilogy in general, which is largely due to my reaction to the following episode, which I’m not particularly looking forward to revisiting tomorrow. This one, however, I recall quite liking on broadcast, but I think my knowledge of what’s to come has put a downer over the whole thing, and made me nitpick at things that I didn’t notice the first time.
The biggest one comes in the climax, which I thought was thrilling and tragic at the time, bringing as it does the culmination of the Doctor’s blindness plot as well as affirming and demonstrating Bill’s love for him. But that was rather undercut when it occurred to me (and no doubt thousands of others before me) that when he was unable to see the numbers on the combination lock and was on the phone to Bill, the whole thing could have been sorted if he’d just made a video call. Even sending a photo of the current configuration of the numbers would have done.
And because I noticed that, it meant that I’m now not sure what I think about Bill asking the Monks for help, and thus being the one to bring about the subjugation of the human race. The Monks begin to annoy me somewhat during this episode. It’s not so much them – they look great and are impressively powerful, and I love the way that their complex simulations basically allow them to unerringly predict the future – it’s more the way that people act around them. One of the key considerations that underpins the decision on whether to accept the Monk’s help is that we don’t know what the Monks want in return. Did nobody think to, you know, ask them?
That part annoyed me even on first watching – I was willing them to just ask the bloody question, for which there were many opportunities – and it slightly ruins the otherwise interesting element of the Monks requiring consent in order to enact their undeclared dastardly plans. That and the fact that, thanks to this project, I’ve realised that pretty similar ideas have previously been used in both Sarah Jane and Class.
Regardless of all of these things, there is plenty to like about this episode. For the record, and to justify the fact that the below rating is way more positive than the blog entry thus far suggests, these include: Bill’s date being ruined becoming a running gag, with the Secretary General of the UN gatecrashing this time; the trick with all the world’s clocks being turned into the Doomsday Clock; world peace being declared and it not making a blind bit of difference; and the Doctor figuring out which lab the Monks are monitoring by turning off the security cameras in hundred of labs and seeing which one gets turned back on.
In fact, the bulk of the episodes is pretty good overall, it’s only in the last third that it starts to fall apart. I liked the clusterfuck of potential catastrophes, and the one strand that was consistently good was the aforementioned lab, in which disaster came about because a pair of glasses got broken, and because Tony Gardner went on the piss. Special shout-out to what is still among the rarest of things to see on British TV – a disabled actor playing a part in which their disability isn’t relevant to the character or the plot.