‘Doctor Who’ spoiler-free review: ‘Extremis’ is the perfect beginning of an end

Peter Capaldi Doctor Who Extremis

This first instalment of a three-part Doctor Who adventure perfectly sets up the finale of Peter Capaldi’s time in the TARDIS. 

There’s a piece of text going round online and it makes all who read it want to kill themselves. But enough about my review for ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’, we’ve got a new Doctor Who review to get on with.

The Veritas. It’s a book so strange and deadly that The Vatican keeps it locked up in its own cage in a secret library full of heretical books (it’s a big place too – I’m guessing there’s a lot of Dan Brown on the shelves), and now the translation of it is out there for the world to read. Good on it. Self-published fiction rarely finds a nice big audience.

The Pope asks The Doctor to read it, and so far you’ll have noticed I’ve not said anything that you haven’t already read in the synopsis that appears in TV guides. That’s because there’s frighteningly little I can say about ‘Extremis’ because its entire plot is a spoiler for things to come. Louis is going to have a fair amount to chew through when he does his review on Saturday night.

What I can say is that you do find out who is in The Vault (you already know who it is, but I’m treading carefully here just in case you think it’s a Chumbley or Liberace), you find out who The Doctor made a promise to protect The Vault to, and that CERN has ready access to a far more plentiful supply of dynamite than you’d reckon. It’s like Wile E. Coyote with EU funding.

Beyond that? I daren’t risk saying anything, so instead I’m going to talk around an episode that is perhaps the darkest piece of Who since ‘Dark Water’. That’ll happen when you’re dealing with mass suicides, scary space Monks, and a Doctor unable to operate at his usual A+++ game. He’s still blind and – sadly – not using K-9 as a guide dog. Wouldn’t that have been a treat.

A while back Moffat said something along the lines of this episode being how far he could push the show without breaking it. Well, he pushed. ‘Extremis’ is grim, globetrotting, grand-scale sci-fi, and it’s also Moffat lapsing back into tricksy-plotting, callbacks to the past, and big (albeit not original) ideas over the beans on toast.

If you’ve been enjoying the straightforward plots of series 10 as much as we have, don’t let that description panic you. Every episode so far has built The Doctor and Bill’s relationship and now it’s been brought it to a place where the audience is invested in them enough that show can pour all the crayons out the pack and scribble like crazy. Well, only if you call fusing the works of Plato and Super Mario crazy. Honestly, I’m not making this up.

Crazy then, but not unfamiliar. In one way it’s the ultimate update of a Doctor Who story from a long, long, time ago, but if I told you which one it’d give the game away (I’ll give you the Doctor it featured for free: No. 4).

And at the halfway point of series 10 it also acts a set-up for something bigger. For some things bigger. Think along the lines of ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ or ‘Heaven Sent’, and of a quality smack-bang in between the two. That’s ‘Extremis’. It’s the show going all a bit series 9 again. And that’s no bad thing. After the puddles and racists and Capitalism, it’s nice to have a proper ‘big bad’ alien threat.

It’s an intriguing start to a three-parter that – if you’ve been autopsying the trailers – is going to get a whole lot more intriguing and exciting. It is just that though: a start. ‘Extremis’s value might only be properly judged when the mad Monk trilogy it’s part of is complete.

As starts go however, it’s a strong one. You really don’t want to Miss-y it.

‘Extremis’ airs at 7.25pm on Saturday May 20th 2017 on BBC One.

Pre-order the new season on DVD on Amazon here.

Pre-order the new season on Blu-ray on Amazon here.

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