Doctor Who: The Moffat Scripts - EXTREMIS

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Dr. Moo is a secret badass.


Extremis is an odd beast to pin down. It’s a sequel to Jamie Mathieson’s Oxygen, it’s also the first in a trilogy of stories that will continue over the next two weeks, it’s also a prequel to the entire tenth season, and it also manages to include a compelling character study on exactly who the Doctor is and what he stands for, relying entirely on a Shyamalan-esque twist at the end for it to stick the landing. Also it has to tread delicately on religious imagery with the pope himself showing up. It’s also got a globetrotting storyline with scenes not just in the UK and the Vatican but also CERN and the Oval Office.

And it has to do it all in 45 minutes.

No pressure, Moffat!

I will never not be impressed that this episode actually works.


Part of how it works is the pacing. Moffat makes the decision to place the two storylines – the Monk invasion and the vault reveal – in parallel with the episode switching to the other one as appropriate.

The vault backstory could feasibly have been put into any other episode, but it makes sense to have it here. Enough teasing, show us what’s going on! The reveal that it was Missy in there is not especially shocking, and some criticise the episode for it being too obvious but that misses the point. The question was never “What’s in the vault?” but instead of why it was in there. Turns out the Master has been taken in for her various crimes and the Doctor and Nardole (whose role as keeping the Doctor in-check is revealed here) have taken on the task of guarding her prison.

Missy is locked up without witness and without reward. Which sounds awfully familiar when you compare this to the main plot of the episode with the Monks.


The Doctor is tasked by the pope with reading a secret text which has caused everyone who looked at it to take their own life, the Doctor’s mission is to find out why. The only problem is that he’s still blind after the last episode. He still manages to read it by recklessly stealing future regeneration energy to temporarily restore his sight.

Then the monks show up. And what a monster design! These walking corpses dressed up in religious robes with their open mouths and outstretched hands look so creepy that it’s amazing the BBC let them be broadcast on television.

As the Doctor struggles against them to read the text, Bill and Nardole find themselves in a projected room with portals leading around the world. They take on to CERN where they are challenge to quote random numbers and end up getting exactly the same. Something is very wrong, and that’s as creepy as anything. The people at CERN blow themselves up because of this revelation… it turns out the entire Earth is a simulation!

Then Nardole steps outside the projection and dissolves.


It all comes to a head in the Oval Office where the president is dead. The Doctor tells Bill that the entire Earth is a simulation by the Monks, used to plan their invasion. A Monk confronts him and he surrenders. It doesn’t matter he explains. The simulation is too good, and he reveals he’s been recording the whole thing on his sonic sunglasses.

And he sends an email to the Doctor in the real world outside the simulation. The true Doctor is now in a position to ruin the Invasion by knowing about it. The simulation is useless to the Monks. The simulated Doctor might not be the real thing but he can still act like it and find a new solution.

It’s a genius twist which really enhances the episode on repeat viewing.

It’s a shame the rest of the Monk trilogy couldn’t live up to this story. But taken on its own Extremis is a work of genius that if there’s any justice in the world will hold up as one of Moffat's finest works.

When he's not obsessing about Doctor Who whilst having I Am The Doctor play in his head, Dr. Moo can usually be found reading up on the latest in Quantum Physics. As you do when you're a physicist.

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