We find ourselves in familiar territory on this week’s Doctor Who. Only our date with the Doctor and his two companions is interrupted by the U.N. Secretary General… and the end of the world. But let’s do as River Song would advise and not skip ahead just yet.
The United Nations has extracted the TARDIS, where the Doctor’s been holed up, and is flying him, Bill, and Nardole to Turmezistan — which some Whovians might recognize from last season’s two-parter “The Zygon Invasion/Inversion” — on account of a giant pyramid appearing out of nowhere in the intersection of a war zone that sees the Americans, the Chinese, and the Russians on three different sides. Upon arrival, Bill quickly figures out it’s an alien spacecraft disguised as a pyramid, and she’s proved right when the monk creatures appear and address the Doctor (or rather the “President” of the Earth) when he investigates.
But after he tells them they’ll have to go through him to take over the Earth, the monk creatures say they won’t just be invited to take over, it will also happen at the end of the Earth. However, the timeline for that particular event has been moved up now that the Doomsday Clock — a symbolic clock face created by some atomic scientists in the ‘80s that counts down to global disaster — is now only three minutes away from Midnight (a.k.a. said disaster).
In a literal race against the clock, the Doctor surprisingly agrees with China’s decision to attack the pyramid. He instructs Russia and America to do so as well. Because a coordinated attack will show that the Earth is united against this threat. But that doesn’t work. The pyramid literally pulls a plane out of the sky, and a submarine out of the water. So then they go to Plan B: Negotiation.
However, that’s unsuccessful as well. After the monks tell the Doctor, Bill, Nardole, the U.N. Secretary General and the military leaders of all three countries that a sequence of Earth-ending events has been set in motion, they invite them to touch the strands of time at the center of the ship. The monks use this to model the Earth’s future as they attempt to stop a catastrophe. Having witnessed what will happen to the Earth, the U.N. Secretary General takes up the monk’s offer and gives them his consent — despite the Doctor’s warnings. And because his agreement came from a place of fear instead of love, he’s disintegrated. (Looks like someone read How to Win Friends and Influence People.)
Plan C is agreeing to a three-country truce. But when that doesn’t work the Doctor realizes this whole pyramid deal has been one big misdirect. It isn’t World War 3 that’s going to end the world. It’s a bacteria-related mistake. Therefore it must be on a watch list. His solution? Putting all the top-secret files of the world online so that the whole team can Google their way to a solution. (Last week’s solution was emailing. So I guess the moral is “Never underestimate simple technological functions, kids.”)
But even as the Doctor and Nardole narrow their search terms — GM biochemical trials that have reached stage 2 — the generals aren’t happy with how long this is taking. So they decide to go give their consent. Sigh. The Doctor sends Bill with them, while he and Nardole follow his latest idea.
In the TARDIS, they hack into UNIT’s database and shut down all the security cameras of the labs that are being monitored by the government. Their plan works as the monk creatures turn the feed of the lab they are monitoring back on. Within no time at all, they’re at the Agrofuel Research Operations lab, where scientist Erica is dealing with her dead colleague Douglas’ mistake. He accidentally entered in the wrong decimal place, leading to the creation of a toxic strain of bacteria that turns humans into gunk. Unfortunately, Douglas’ many mistakes mean that the lab wasn’t properly sealed, meaning the bacteria could be released into the air, despite the lab being on lockdown. Given the toxic atmosphere, the Doctor sends Nardole back to the TARDIS, but what he doesn’t know is that he’s already showing symptoms.
The Doctor, with some help from Erica, puts together a bomb designed to blow up that lab, thus sterilizing that particular strain. But his attempt to escape from the lab is foiled by lockdown procedure as he’s required to enter in a particular combination into the lock. However considering he can’t see, and Nardole’s not responding and Erica can’t really get a good look, he’s stuck. (The sonic screwdriver can only tell him what the combination might be. It can’t enter it.) Good news though: the Doomsday Clock is reversing itself.
As he stands there and beholds the fire that kills off that bacteria — and lament’s Bill’s decision — the monks welcome him to view their world.