Sonic Feedback: Here’s What You Thought of The Lie of the Land

This week, on the DWC, we’ve been looking back at Doctor Who Series 10, and it’s been an interesting process. The season was received very warmly upon transmission, with Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts and Matt Lucas as Nardole giving the show a fresher feel again.

But a journey isn’t complete until you know its end, and now we know how Series 10 concluded. It’s always the right time to revisit the Good Old Days, whether they be 1963, 2005, or this very year because our perspectives change. Case in point: The Lie of the Land, which I enjoyed when it aired and which I still feel is a good episode but doesn’t quite achieve any heights of greatness. But we’ll come back to my feelings on the story. Let’s see what you thought instead.

As is customary, we ran a poll after the story’s BBC transmission, and now we have the results.

As with The Pyramid at the End of the World, we didn’t get a huge number of voters, but after a mid-series slump, we were slowly gathering traction again. And the DWC audience was fairly split. Just two more people gave it either a 4/5 or 5/5 than those who gave it either a 3, 2, or 1/5. Still, the averages do seem to be weighted down somewhat, even if a good 34.85% gave it a 4/5.

Your comments reflected this too. Peter Rabytt was quite optimistic:

“I enjoyed it. Pacing was odd, felt like some bits were slow while other bits rushed? Liked the idea, though it could have been better done. In that sense it was quintessential Who! But as I didn’t enjoy the clock ticking waiting of last week, it was good to have a story that wasn’t against the clock. I loved the mis-representation of history by power theme, topically bringing in fake news. The monks seem to give up very easily after painstakingly simulating the entire history of the earth for a fail proof plan! They sure must be obsessive compulsives regarding detail but don’t give two seconds thought about basic strategies to protect their schemes! Overall, far from perfect, silly, but enjoyed it.”

Geoff, meanwhile, had a very good point, saying, “One obvious plot-hole rather spoiled it for me – why not just whisk Bill off-planet for a few years? In Tardis-land that would take about five minutes and presumably would break the Monks’ signal.” Rabytt suggested that the Monks had made the TARDIS inaccessible, and my suggestion is that it was in the Doctor’s room at the university, which was heavily guarded by the aliens. But really, who knows?!

The Lazy Womble had mixed feelings as well: “I loved the beginning. The depiction of life under a totalitarian regime was spot on. But it dragged so much. The ending was somewhat unsatisfying. A good episode rather than a knockout one.” Colebox had an interesting suggestion: “Just to throw my two-pennith in, but Lie of the Land is probably why a lot of younger viewers appear to be bailing-out of the series; that was a very static episode; very chatty and, for the younger viewers, I imagine a bit boring. However, for me the last couple of episodes have been a bit of an improvement from the earlier episodes.” And Daft sums up:

“As someone who would have loved Toby Whithouse to be the new showrunner, this episode fails in just about every capacity. It was probably about time for another ‘companion struggles valiantly alone’ epic like the Last Of The Timelords et al, but there’s no real character progression, exploration of the themes hinted at in the dialogue or anything approaching a proper resolution to a reasonable three-parter. Even the emotional intelligence that usually elevates Whithouse above his geeky contemporaries is largely absent here, crucially, the finale relies upon the viewers connection to an absent mother and another ‘mind battle’, both things an experienced genre writer like Whithouse should know are difficult to pull off convincingly, if at all. It even confuses the whole ‘Doctor (Missy/Master) as renegade’ theme developing over the course of the S10, so the Doctor now needs to troll (test) his companions before he believes their sincerity?”

The DWC’s Mez Burdett wasn’t satisfied either: “Whilst The Lie of the Land started off with great promise and more than one or two nods to Last of the Time Lords, it ultimately became a predictable plod from the moment the Doctor ‘snapped out’ of his faked regeneration”; James McLean agreed: “A rather confusing end to a rather confusing trilogy. Perhaps the outcome of trying to balance out three writers in one arc, but regardless of the reason, this episode fails to deliver a satisfying resolution – or even a satisfying beginning to the Truth Monks. I felt no closer to understanding the “rules” to this antagonist which seemed to shift per story”; as did Jonathan Appleton: “A shame, as the premise of the episode was an intriguing one and Toby Whithouse always brings engaging ideas to the show, but I can’t help feeling relieved that this rather stodgy three-parter is over as we head into the final stretch of Series 10.”

Joe Siegler noted:

“I didn’t hate the episode as such, but it felt wildly unfulfilling. My wife and I both loved the bit about Bill and her mum. As my wife just lost her father about two years ago, the aspect of still talking to her mom hit home to my wife. I also loved the comedy in the “Fake Regeneration” scene. That vetting of Bill really reminded me of the vetting that Roj Blake did of bounty hunters in the final episode of Blake’s 7.”

In my review, I concluded:

“The Lie of the Land tells us there’s a power in fiction. You can find your own truth in lies. And while this certainly wasn’t the best fiction created by Whithouse, it has enough great ideas, fantastic acting, and lasting optimism to leave a positive impression. And that’s no lie.”

I largely stand by that, but The Lie of the Land is probably Whithouse’s weakest entry since School Reunion – and I say this as a fan of that 2006 episode and of Toby.

The Lie of the Land should’ve been a two-parter, essentially. The serial was let down by the fact it had to finish the storyline started in Extremis; on its own, it would’ve been more successful. Ah well. You can’t win them all. Nonetheless, if this is a trough for Series 10 so far, the season can be seen as pretty darn great, don you think…?