WhovianNet.co.uk Advanced Preview: Extremis

May 20th, 2017
Warning! This article and its comments may contain spoilers...
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Series 10 continues this week as the Twelfth Doctor’s final string of adventures reach their dramatic halfway point in the aptly-titled Extremis. It’s all guns blazing for our heroes as they unravel a brand new conundrum in the first instalment of what already looks set to be a thrilling three-part adventure, as well as a defining chapter of the closing Moffat/Capaldi era.

And a Moffat script it most definitely is. As with most – if not all – of his episodes, you wouldn’t even have to see his name on the opening credits to know that this was the outgoing showrunner embracing the extremities (see what we did there?) of his ever expansive element. The pre-titles sequence alone, which, as all good pre-titles sequences do, takes place “a long time ago…”, has his unique style and tone written all over it, and you’ll understand what we mean by that when you see it. As is now wholly expected after his eight years at the show’s helm, what comes next is a far-reaching foray of madcap Moffat mayhem interwoven into the realms of sheer, science fiction fantasy. The story takes us from present day Earth to the Vatican to the Pentagon and back again but, inevitably, not everything is as it seems. By which we mean, absolutely nothing is as it seems. Steven sure likes to keep us on our toes, doesn’t he?

At this point, though, we wouldn’t have – nay, want – it any other way. The end of Steven’s tenure might be nigh but his latest script is as fresh as it is familiar, however we couldn’t help but pick up on a distinct “Sherlock-y” vibe, particularly in certain aspects of the Doctor’s dialogue and characterisation, lurking in the shadows as the lines between the Moff’s two formidable franchises become arguably and increasingly blurred. Saying that, it still feels like a quintessentially Doctor Who adventure, and a bloody good one at that. There are twists, turns, mid-directions, scares (the Monks are truly terrifying), shocks and everything else in between, with the majority of the action taking place within the confines of a seemingly forbidden library (not tot be confused with the Library featured in Series 4, however a certain beloved character who was introduced in that iconic two-parter does play an important part in this episode). Harry Potter, eat your heart out…

And that certain boy wizard gets a special mention from Bill, too, who once again brings her personable Potts perspective to add a touch of honourable humanity to the alien mystery that surrounds her. That is, after her date gets rudely interrupted by the leader of the Catholic Church. We’ve all been there, right? Speaking of Bill, Pearl Mackie really gets the chance to shine with Matt Lucas throughout this episode, as her on screen alter ago and Nardole establish themselves as a deliciously dynamic duo in their own right. With the Doctor (literally) tied up with other things, Bill and Nardole carry the story off in their own direction and it’s wonderful to see the companions being entrusted with the responsibility of conducting their own investigations, especially when their chemistry is as endearing as Pearl and Matt’s.

And then there’s Missy. Unless you’ve been living inside a Vault for the last year, you’ll know that the bitch is finally back in this episode, and you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear that you won’t have to wait very long at all for her to grace our screens once more. Her inclusion in the story is told in the form of a series of flashbacks running concurrently with the Doctor’s present day dilemma (another classic Moffat motif) and, while the circumstances of her latest comeback don’t allow her to be as over the top and maleficent as her previous appearances, we do get to see a whole new side of the renegade Time Lady which Michelle Gomez delivers with an air of heartbreakingly sinister poignancy. By the end of the episode, the Doctor and Missy’s rocky relationship has taken on a whole new life of its own. With Michelle recently suggesting that she’ll be departing Doctor Who alongside Peter, combined with the imminent return of John Simm as her character’s previous incarnation, we’re now even more intrigued to discover how her arc will develop throughout the remainder of the series in the build up to the grand finale and the Twelfth Doctor’s forthcoming regeneration.

As you can probably gather from all of the above, there is an awful lot to be crammed into this 50 minutes. For all its scale and scope, however, it is essentially setting up the events to come, as well as serving as an enjoyable standalone adventure. Just as you start to get your head around what the hell is even going on, the plot is turned upside down which makes this slow builder an exhilarating ride nonetheless. There is a lot to be said for its ambitious narrative structure, brought to life by Daniel Nettheim’s dramatic direction, which wouldn’t feel out of place as a finale. In fact, if Series 10 had been split into two parts, Extremis would have made for a marvellous mid-series conclusion. Thankfully, though, the show will go on next week. If this episode is anything to go by, the second half of this year’s series will be in a completely different league than the first. And the first has been pretty damn good. If they can maintain the momentum, Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat will definitely be going out on a high. But is there any other way to go, daddio?

Oh, and we finally discover what’s inside the Vault this week, too, so be sure to share any of your last minute theories in our discussion, here. What, you mean you haven’t figured it out yet…?

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