first_img HBO Max Scores Exclusive ‘Doctor Who’ Streaming RightsJo Tro Do Plo Plo No: ‘Doctor Who’ Welcomes Back Familiar Monster Stay on target This article contains spoilers for “Extremis,” episode six of Doctor Who season 10.Woah, we’re halfway there: Steven Moffat-penned “Extremis” ironically marks the midpoint of season 10.The Latin term, most commonly used in the phrase “in extremis,” means “at the point of death” (or, more literally, “the furthest extreme”).Luckily, the Twelfth Doctor has another seven episodes (including the Christmas special) to save the world.Still blind (and lamentably still wearing those sonic sunglasses), the titular character must navigate a terrifying text, murderous monks, and one of the most controversial figures in the history of the Catholic Church: Pope Benedict IX.Summoned by the pontiff to read the ancient Veritas—which comes with a death toll nearly as high as the Doctor’s—the Time Lord, Bill, and Nardole take a reluctant trip to the Vatican, where the corpse-like Monks are lying in wait.The mysterious, murdering Monks (via BBC)Draped in red cloaks (perhaps to hide their rotting bodies), the creatures move easily between various locations via luminous portals. In an encounter with the Doctor in the Vatican’s Haereticum Library, they tell him “This is a game.”Literally.In the episode’s final unveiling, the Doctor reveals that all events of the past few hours have taken place inside a computer simulation.Don’t be too quick to scoff at Moffat’s overactive imagination.Last year, auto and space mogul Elon Musk declared that we’re likely “living in a simulation.” And Y Combinator venture Capitalize Sam Altman in October suggested two tech billionaires are secretly employing scientists to break us out of this Matrix world.“There are theories—taken semi-seriously by clever people—that what we are living in is a simulation (which would certainly explain why my coffee cup is never where I left it),” the showrunner told Radio Times about “Extremis.” “Now for me, the most interesting thing about that is the idea that a simulation could be smart enough to figure out that it’s a simulation. Weird, kind of tragic.”Audiences, however, are too distracted to even consider the possibility that these characters (or, for that matter, the actual human race) are operating inside of a video game.The mid-season chapter follows two intertwining stories: One set “a long time ago” at Missy’s pending execution, the other happening in the here and now. Sometimes confusing, never boring, “Extremis” is Moffat’s “attempt at pushing the envelope.”“Bending the show, trying not to break it,” he told Radio Times.Missy (Michelle Gomez) faces her death (via BBC)This episode also has the distinct pleasure of returning Michelle Gomez to her former glory as Missy—now a prisoner on Carnathon, facing her death at the hands of the Doctor.“I’ll be good. I promise. I’ll turn good, please. Teach me how to be good,” the self-proclaimed queen of evil begs for mercy.“I know I’m going to die. I have to say it: the truth,” she continues in a flashback. “Without hope, without witness, without reward. I am your friend.”Whether or not Missy’s speech—bold, yet drained of her usual sassy power—made any impact on the Doctor, both Time Lords walk away from the scene unscathed.At least, as unscathed as you can be fated to live out your next 1,000 years inside a Quantum Fold Chamber (i.e. the vault we’ve been scrutinizing for weeks).“It’s definitely Missy in there, we’re not fooling you about that,” Moffat confirmed.“The story now is what’s going on between them. That dangerous friendship, burning away—who else will be lost to the flames?” he teased. “‘Show me how to be good,’ she asks him. Will the No. 1 liberal do-gooder of the universe be able to resist?“And we gave it away early because I know Doctor Who fans—they’ll have had it figured out by the end of episode four,” Moffat added.(For the record: I did!)Sadly, Gomez, this week announced her planned departure from Doctor Who at the end of season 10; she joins “pals” Peter Capaldi and Moffat, also leaving the show later this year.Bill (Pearl Mackie) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) go toward the light (via BBC)But Missy isn’t the only kick-ass lady in the Doctor’s life: Bill has held her own for five installments. Which makes it feel even more disappointing when she was pushed into the background of Saturday’s story.After weeks of strong showings from newcomer Pearl Mackie, Moffat undeniably turns the focus of this episode onto the Doctor and Nardole, shining a spotlight on the actors’ talent, without really moving their characters any further forward.Even without his sight—which is temporarily restored using a machine that looks like the Gallifreyan equivalent of shock therapy—the Time Lord saves the day but warns that “something’s coming.”“Something very big, and something possibly very, very bad.”“For me, the whole point of the story is the Doctor is still the Doctor, even in extremis,” the executive producer said. “Even when he’s not real, even when he’s a simulant on a hard drive, and there is no possibility of escape or reward, he holds true to the man he wants to be. Never cruel, never cowardly—and never giving up till he wins.”Missed episode five of Doctor Who? Check out our recap of “Oxygen,” as well as our review of Class episode “Detained.”last_img