Doctor Who – Extremis Review (or “The Worst of Steven Moffat”)

There’s always that point when you watch something when you decided within yourself how good it is.

Last week, during the scene where Bill wakes up after the airlock and the Doctor is revealed as blind, I knew I was watching one of the best stories in a long time. Good times.

This week watching Extremis, around the time the Doctor used some kind of special device to get his eyesight back for a few minutes and realised some faceless slithering creatures were right on top of him, I sadly realised I was watching the poorest episode of the season so far.

And when the episode ended, my first words were “Well that was a load of crap”.

I don’t like to dislike episodes of Doctor Who, but here’s why I did this time…

Doctor Who – Extremis Review: What’s This One About?

Underwhelming twists, the plot from the Android Invasion (yay?) and 45 minutes to get to the least shocking reveal in television history.

Thoughts – The Worst of Steven Moffat

I think we can all agree that when he’s firing on all cylinders, Steven Moffat is a brilliant and imaginative writer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; The Girl in the Fireplace and Blink are two of the finest

“If you look inside the vault, I’ve got a little surprise for you…”

episodes of Doctor Who ever written.

But he’s also prone to taking a good idea and recycling it so often that it becomes annoying. He did it in Coupling and he’s done it a few times in Doctor Who.

In Extremis, we once again get an ghoulish alien with a warped face lurking behind the scenes. So it’s like the Whisper Men who were like the Silence. For crying out loud let’s have something different.

Hell, even the plot is entirely unoriginal. It’s just The Android Invasion with a modern lick of paint. And that was hardly a brilliant story in its own right.

Then on top of that there were references to River Song, talk of future regenerations, another trip to the Oval Office, the return of that biography-cum-diary and all that nonsense with Missy.

Twists For The Sake Of Twists

The other major issue with Extremis was that it had twists for the sake of twists.

Again this goes back to Steven Moffat thinking he’s cleverer than he is at times. Either that or he doesn’t credit the viewer with being able to work out the simplest of things.

Now fair enough, this is the first part of a three episode story, but the conclusion to 45 minutes of viewing – that nothing we’ve seen actually mattered because it was just a simulation – felt to me like a waste of time

“Oh. Missy. Great.”

rather than a warm feeling of shock, surprise and satisfaction.

And as the story aimlessly jumped between that world and the scenes with Missy, do you think anyone hadn’t seen it telegraphed that it was indeed Missy in the vault? My jaw didn’t exactly hit the floor at that revelation.

So the big feeling was that this was recycled and aimless and tried to be too clever by half.

It Wasn’t All Bad

But let’s not kick this Extremis to death. It wasn’t all bad and may of course redeem itself in the next couple of episodes (though I doubt I’ll come around to those awful monsters).

There were elements that were enjoyable.

I liked Bill again and found her contribution to the episode to be generally strong, while there were also plenty of amusing lines of dialogue and scenarios early on.

But those were smaller moments of relief in an otherwise tedious affair.

Random Observations

  • How come the Pope wasn’t speaking English? Does the TARDIS’s universal translator not work on leaders of the Catholic Church?

    Look, it’s more spooky monsters who look the same as the last few

  • Nardol was a bit hit and miss. He’s a good character for the most part, but in spite of Matt Lucas’s comedic skills I’d rather he was kept slightly more serious.
  • I’m surprised at how well received this episode has been from some. It definitely feels a bit Marmite though; some will love it while others will…well let’s just say they won’t love it.
  • As good as the cliffhanger was in Oxygen, I remain to be convinced after seeing this episode that the Doctor being blind has even the shortest term life span. I was getting tired of his inability to see pretty quickly.

Doctor Who – Extremis Review: Final Thoughts

Taken as a three-part piece, Extremis might turn out to be the beginnings of a good story, but as an individual episode, it was all fluff with very little substance to it.

I felt it was derivative, dull and if I was merely a casual viewer, I doubt I’d be inspired to tune in next week.

But then I’m not a casual viewer, so I will tune in on Saturday and hope to be impressed.

Fingers crossed

More Doctor Who Reviews

Remember that you can read a select amount of my Doctor Who reviews on this blog and all of them in my two ebooks, available here from Amazon

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6 Responses to Doctor Who – Extremis Review (or “The Worst of Steven Moffat”)

  1. Moo says:

    You simply didn’t see the same episode I did. I saw one of the easiest 10/10 episodes ever broadcast in the history of the series.

    • sgmilne says:

      Like I say, it’s a bit Marmite.

      I saw Radio Times gave it 5 stars.

      I just saw a rehash.

      • Moo says:

        Ha, fair enough. I can definitely see the marmiteyness (Is that a word? It’s should be.) of the episode.
        I always enjoy reading your reviews, the perspective you have is often different to mine and gets me to see the episodes in a different light – enough to generate a comment this time round!

  2. Slavin Ivanov says:

    Re: The Pope
    Apparently that translator for him was entirely unnecessary, as the Doctor was able to understand the Pope perfectly without him, but he apparently decided that someone else also had to get a salary for this episode. Oh, well…
    Yeah, but the monsters were not original or particularly threatening in the slightest, but the episode wasn’t that bad. If we were to have hindsight at the moment, it would be different.
    Most confusing twist, though.
    I hope Moffat isn’t simply torching the series
    🙂

  3. Frivolous says:

    I was skim-reading this and saw a massive spoiler, so stopped, but I see also a podcast says something similar but I think this has been the best episode so far rolling on from a good one last week.

    Whilst you are correct about the Android Invasion – even though I hadn’t thought it – there is the “so what?” element but also this is very modern thinking we people considering that if we could attains such a level of computer technology how do we all know that we aren’t in some sort of simulation right now?

    I am loving this series so much more since I stopped watching the trailers. I watched the trailer of this afterwards and counted eight or nine plot of visual spoilers in it. It’s so much more exciting if you don’t know what’s coming.

  4. Sombra says:

    I don’t think comparison to Android Invasion is sound, since the similarity is only superficial. However, let’s put a pin in that for a second and just agree that’s it basically Dr. Who revisiting the same premise again. Hardly a precedent. If there is a premise that warrants a revisit I’d say that “A malevolent force creates a projection of earth” is one, given that since 1975 (when the Android Invasion was broadcast) we’ve learned (obvious mental shortcut) that it’s basically an accurate description of reality, although without the malevolent force’s involvement, probably. It unfortunately gets bogged down by mentions of computers and the fact that Moffat, apparently doesn’t know how sending emails works. Nevertheless the ‘projection room scene is magnificent, and the whole visually representing metaphysical abstractions thing (in this case actually a physical theorem) is something that Moffat’s absolutely brilliant at. Also ‘the companion crosses a literal threshold to reach the denouement’ is the most ingenious scriptwriting (and it was the only thing good about the Name of the Doctor, where it was brilliant as well).
    Also I’m a sucker for meta twists, so obviously I loved that resolution. As far it ‘being all a dream’ criticism I don’t mind it all that much, Dr Who does that fairly regularly (as well as hitting a reset button) and it does that more often than not rather well. Of course in the end we land in the real world, leaving the projection behind. You know what they say, reality is stranger than fiction.
    As far as Pope not being translated is concerned I find it curious that you’ve failed to realise how the Tardis translation works. The Tardis translates everything, unless it is funny for her not to. I don’t think we should overanalyse the joke and ponder on its implications for narrative. Because it’s funnier that way is justification enough.

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