Real, or not real? Peeta and Katniss aren’t the only ones asking that question as this week’s Doctor Who found a way to step into the Matrix, only it was someone else’s simulation. And just like that, we not only meet what’s probably this season’s Big Bad, but also get the “Veritas” (a.k.a. truth) about who’s in the vault. Non-spoiler alert, as I’ve been discussing for a few weeks now, it’s Missy. (Sigh.) But let’s take a minute from my disappointment that it’s not Jenny, or Bill’s mum, and dive into this complete mind-bender of an episode. Allonsy!
The Doctor is still blind, and so he’s back to the sonic sunglasses! But our Gallifreyan Matt Murdock is still not 100 percent up to full strength as evidenced by the fact that he doesn’t realize the Pope is standing right in front of him as he stands in front of his pretty dark lecture hall (not that he’d notice). Luckily, Nardole is a wingman for the ages and helps narrate many things the Doctor might miss otherwise.
The Vatican entourage is here because there’s a text called the “Veritas” and it’s resulted in multiple deaths — the people who’ve read it have gone mad and killed themselves. Before things get extra Dan Brown-y, the Doctor and Nardole, and the Pope and his cadre of Catholic priests, take a pit stop at Bill’s foster mum’s place and interrupt her date with Penny, who promptly runs off. (Bill deserves better, and not just because of this.) The Doctor instructs Nardole to fill in his latest companion on the situation, except for the fact that he’s blind, because it would make her worry about him, and she should be worrying about herself on their adventures. Aww.
At the Vatican, Cardinal Angelo takes them into a library of forbidden and heretical texts, which is guarded by a painting of Pope Benedict IX, who the Doctor jokes was a woman. If he’s not thinking of Pope Joan, then this would make her the second female Pope, but I digress. Inside, the layout is as confusing as the Dewey Decimal System, made only more confusing by a white portal that appears on a wall. Angelo goes to investigate and is pulled in by an alien hand. Not that the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole realize he’s missing. They’ve made their way to a cage containing the translation of the Veritas. Only one of the last surviving translators is there. He jumps out, carrying a gun, and runs off into the darkness… and kills himself.
But that doesn’t stop the Doctor from sending Bill and Nardole after him. They figure he’s trying to get rid of them, but go anyway, giving them a good chance to bond as Nardole insists on Bill walking behind him so he can protect her. He tells her he’s the only one officially allowed to kick the Doctor’s “arse” if needed, and he’ll do the same to her if she endangers her safety. (Aww.) We also get this gem of an exchange:
BILL: “Are you secretly a badass?”
NARDOLE: “Nothing secret about it, Babydoll.”
The white portal appears, and both of them walk toward it. Once inside, they’re in a chamber with multiple portals, each of which leads to a different place, like the Pentagon, or CERN. (Coincidentally, where one of Dan Brown’s books is briefly set.) Here they meet a bunch of physicists who’ve read the Veritas (it was emailed to them via a laptop in the cage) and are now going to blow themselves up. They make Nardole and Bill guess random numbers, they keep saying the same ones… along with everyone else in the room.