Here’s What The Doctor Who Companion Thought of Extremis!

The DWC all watched Extremis and realised the truth. We all concurred. We all knew what we thought of it.

Except now, that turned out to be a simulation and we all had to watch Extremis (again?) to find out what we thought about it. In his review, Nick Kitchen said:

“I think the part that I had most issue with is how they used the Doctor as a “cause of death” to scare off the people who wanted to put Missy to death. I appreciate the fact that Doctor Who has an occasional darkness to it, and of course, the Doctor has certainly killed before. But the way the scene plays out isn’t your typical “Doctor’s reputation scares off the alien” scene; it makes it seem like he is a notorious killer. The same tactic was used to scare off the Vashta Nerada in Forest of the Dead, but it was solely his reputation there – not the amount of people he’s killed.”

What did the rest of the DWC reckon? Let’s find out…

Richard Forbes

Series 10 has taken a turn for the truly wicked. When the credits rolled, a viewer new to Doctor Who asked me rather exasperatedly how she was supposed to be expected to wait a whole week for The Pyramid at the End of the World after that whirlwind! I couldn’t agree more…

With the rug thoroughly pulled from under their feet, those expecting another ‘standalone’ episode from Extremis would be solely mistaken. Extremis marks the show’s slow, gentle transition of format (see also, Face the Raven) from its X-FilesBuffy genitors to its ‘Netflix’ contemporaries: it’s neither a standalone nor a traditional two-parter; with dramatic flair, Extremis is setting the stage for the series’ coming developments in a fluid ‘linked’ fashion.

The Zygon Inversion director Daniel Nettheim deserves acclaim for his work on yet another instant Doctor Who classic: bringing an unsettling ‘edge’ and a contemporary quality to the show once more with this outing. Meanwhile, Peter Capaldi’s performance as the Doctor – now tested by his failing eyesight – continues to astound and spellbind.

Showrunner Steven Moffat’s latest is really presenting a rather simple concept to viewers – preparatory battle simulations – but it does so with such surprise and gravitas, borrowing elements from The Matrix, Angels & Demons, and Inception, that its execution transcends its plot. Ultimately, the nature of the episode suggests the antagonists it hopes to introduce are immensely intelligent, assiduous, and patient (perhaps too much so for their own good). It’s in that sense, the battle ahead between the Monks and the Doctor promises to be a good one.

(Also, gotta love that Pope gag. Molto divertente!)

Joe Siegler

For the first time since 1989’s Ghost Light, I had this reaction. “What the hell did I just watch”? My initial impression was not a good one. However, with it being Doctor Who, I will always watch it again. That second viewing helped it, as I enjoyed it much more second time around. I do wonder how Bill didn’t catch on to the blindness, as it seemed obvious he was. Speaking of Bill, the look on her face when the TARDIS materialised in her bedroom was gold. Props to Pearl for that bit of acting. The Pope in her flat was also darned funny.

I also found watching it with subtitles on helped me, as I missed some dialogue the first time around. Like the fact this was the first time the modern show mentioned the old Prydonian chapter of Time Lord society the Doctor belonged to.

It’s also the first part of a multipart episode, so it also has a bit of that “not fully baked” feel, which I suspect will be resolved with the other parts. I’ll reserve full judgement until we see all of the parts here.

James McLean

Extremis is a tale filled with non-linear story-telling and mystery – both elements guaranteed to generate intrigue and tension, but the price is always a good reveal, you need to reward your audience for their attention, Extremis fails to do this.

Extremis makes several mistakes – it offers a resolution that makes 80% of the episode an unreal encounter; it offers no big climax; and most importantly, it offers nothing that The Matrix didn’t do, Babylon 5’s finale The Deconstruction of Falling Stars didn’t use, and of course, The Android Invasion didn’t employ. It’s all twenty years too late to be mind-blowing. The reveal also feels disingenuous given the story has played out the inner secrets of the Doctor as part of the virtual simulation, and this simply feels as if it’s a point we’re meant to ignore rather than tackle.

On top of this, there is little fun here either. With Bill’s lesbian date being ruined by the appearance of the Pope (where the date believes the actual Pope has appeared in Bill’s house because… that’s the only way the gag works). There’s a nice “bad ass” moment for Nardole, which is then instantly undermined with a weak fright gag. And Missy looks uninspired throughout.

This has been a very rewarding series so far – each episode has been great. Extremis, while well-acted, produced, and visualised, still feels like a big, big step back by comparison.

Simon Danes

Solid and entertaining but a little bit ‘Moffat by numbers’, as has already been pointed out.

Excellent performances, of course. The programme always works best when you have a ‘dream team’ of the Doctor and his companions: the pairing (or tripling, or quadrupling) of two actors and characters who complement each other best: thus Hartnell and the original TARDIS crew; Pertwee and Jo; Tom and Sarah Jane (and possibly Lalla Ward); Colin and Peri; McCoy and Ace; Tennant and Donna; Smith and Amy.

I have to say, Bill is right up there with the all time great companions: with Sarah, Donna, Ian and Barbara. (And Adric, of course.) With Pearl Mackie, Capaldi has definitely found his perfect team-mate. Clara stayed too long and complemented Smith much better than she did his successor. Jenna Coleman is a good actress; Pearl Mackie is a superb one. Huge depth, subtlety and warmth in the characterisation of Bill. Bravo!

As one of the UK’s five million Catholics, I was a little worried that the episode would sneer at us; religion is a topic best avoided in Doctor Who unless the writer has something intelligent to say about it. On the whole, the Pope and his entourage were presented sympathetically (cf the clergy in the McCoy era), though the Doctor’s comment about religion was a bit silly, and the idea that all the CERN scientists would be non-religious is nonsense. (Where is one of the best observatories in the world? In the Vatican.)

Solid. Not great, but solid. But poor old Moffat is getting tired, and it’s rightly time for a change.

(A bit worried about the viewing figures. Hope some clown at the BBC doesn’t panic and pull the plug. Overseas sales, Netflix, and catch-ups make viewing figures almost redundant as a measure of a programme’s importance or popularity — but when did logic ever influence BBC execs?)

Tony Jones

It may be unfair to judge Extremis without seeing how the rest of the story pans out, but it seemed like a mix of interesting ideas, great moments, and some rather forced pacing in terms of the reveal of Missy. As it stands, it was frustrating and while giving Nardole a great scene with Bill, Bill herself seemed rather minimised throughout. There’s a strong story hiding in here, and let’s hope that’s the one we get as this latest alien threat arrives and gets dealt with.

Until then I’m afraid the jury’s out, but the verdict is unclear.

James Baldock

I called this. I just want that noted for the record. I called it months ago and said that the idea of an unreliable Doctor – one who thought he was the Doctor, but wasn’t – was something the show hadn’t really done yet and that I wished it would. I know the overlap is all wrong, but I’m just going to leave that there. And yes, I know that you don’t have to be real to be the Doctor. But still.

Extremis is a story in which the dramatic climax is someone sending an email. On paper, it must have seemed ludicrous. In practice, it is stunningly effective: it is, like Let’s Kill Hitler, one of those stories where everything works because nothing works, full of crazy ideas and head-scratching nonsense. The action moves from the Vatican to the Pentagon to CERN for no reason other than it can, with a global conspiracy that is almost as needlessly elaborate as the Cyberman’s convoluted plot in The Wheel In Space. It is likely to be divisive. Some people will love it, others will hate it. On its own, it does not easily stand up: as part of a trilogy, history may judge it more kindly. Some will rail against its supposed cleverness; others (like me) will see this as an example of Moffat pushing things as far as he can, and perhaps not quite as far as he wanted (how more daring might it have been had we discovered that every previous episode, and not just this one, had been a simulation, and that it turned out that David Bradley was guarding the vault?). Some will cheer at the audacity of actually killing the Doctor; others will produce a Series 6 box set and cough gently. This is not one for the ‘generally good’ or ‘generally bad’ pile: it will tread the uneasy tightrope between the two, with fans and critics either side, anxious to give it a push one way or the other. In the grand scheme of things, it’s Marmite. But that’s OK. I happen to like Marmite.

Philip Bates

I always hate it when people say, “it thinks it’s cleverer than it actually is”, but in the case of Extremis, it’s probably true. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love a good twisting Moffat Mystery™, but this wasn’t that twisting. In fact, “The Truth” was rather obvious – though I feared they’d do something mental like in Death in Heaven which would cause bile to well up in the collected fandom. Something like, intimate that we’re all a simulation too. That would’ve been ghastly.

But when it comes down to it, what could the Veritas hold that would make the masses commit suicide? That nothing is real. That’s the only thing that makes sense.

The Doctor’s blindness hasn’t lived up to its potential either, sadly. The Doctor is asked to read a book that makes everyone who’s read it kill themselves. Surely the thrust of the story should be that he still can’t read it, so has to choose whether to ask Bill or Nardole to? Ah well. Missed opportunities.

Elsewhere, I found there were a lot of problems with Extremis: lots of plot failings, a plodding narrative, unnecessary swearing (minor, I admit, but pointless. Literally to seem “with it”), and the sections with Missy in, just to bump up the duration and act as something vaguely exciting. Still, I like the look of the Monks, the gag about feeling guilty (enter: the Pope) was glorious, and I personally like to think the Veritas was the simulation’s instruction booklet and one of the Monks accidentally left it in the Vatican… “Where is it anyway, Nige?” “Ah. Oh bugger.”

Katie Gribble

I went into Extremis not knowing a single thing about it. In some ways, I wish that I had known something. The Doctor’s blindness and his temporary sight borrowed from his future seems promising as a future plot point and I can only hope that it comes to fruition somehow, but I fear it may just have been filling time. The episode was alright but not up to the standard of the last few. I think if I’d known it were going to be more than a one-part story, I would have enjoyed it more. I kept waiting for a resolution to come but in the end it was another classic Moffat filler episode, leaving a lot of unanswered questions which has, in my opinion, been a hit and miss tactic for Moffat in recent years.

The inclusion of the Pope and the Vatican setting was underused and it just felt like it could have been easily replaced by another major recognisable international monument. It felt like I was being offered an interactive Assassin’s Creed type adventure  and ended up with the mobile version of the game.

Not a bad episode. I’m just hoping it doesn’t become a non-event like previous Moffat storylines.

Matt Badham

If the first five episodes of this season have been perfect pop songs, then Extremis was definitely prog rock! Prog with a capital P, turned to eleven or even twelve, or perhaps even infinity! Extremis is the sort of Epic (again with a capital E) that I suspect Steven Moffat loves writing. There’s a book that kills people when they read it! Here comes the Pope! They’re all in Bill’s bedroom and we’re suddenly in a farce! Mass suicides! CERN! Missy! A planet of executioners! A machine designed to kill Time Lords! An answer to the question: What’s. In. The. Vault!?! Missy again! Alien monks!

It was big! It was bold! It flew by! It didn’t always make sense!

And once I accepted that last fact…

Well, I rather liked it. Matt Lucas doing some Doctoring. Mackie on great form, as ever. Capaldi and Gomez acting their socks off at each other. I liked those things in particular a lot.

So, yeah, another success as far as I’m concerned. Not an unqualified success, but a success nonetheless.

That’s six out of six I’ve enjoyed so far this season.

Colour this Doctor Who fan happy.

Very happy indeed.

Peter Shaw

Truth is I haven’t really been watching Dr What for a few weeks (planning to binge on iPlayer later) and Take Me Out was on the other side, so… But I got a strange email from dr12ish@shadowearth.con urging me to tune in. It’s gone a bit weird, eh? I mean you’d have to be a reasonably intelligent eight-year-old to work out what’s going on now. The Doctor’s ex, the Pope, turns up and he pretends to be blind or something. And his little gang end up in a 4D cinema where they’ve all memorised a series of numbers? I’m sure it will win a BAFRA and everyone at ComicCongo will dress up as Pentagon Woman or whatevs. But for moany simpletons like me it was like, ‘gah?’. Maybe I should read the email attachment ‘veritas.pdf’. Or just catch up on Take Me Out on ITV Hub.

For probably the first time in Series 10, an episode that divided opinion quite substantially! But what did you think, dear reader…?