Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

It’s another Verity! three-hander, but we soldier on to dig into this “meaty” episode. Join Deb, Erika, and Tansy as we talk about consent–as it relates to our feelings about the word as well as world politics. We speculate about a possible impending reset button (or not?). And there’s an awful lot of squee. Not all of it is related to the episode itself. Spreadsheets, man. Spreadsheets.

Did you enjoy this episode? Did you also feel our discomfort at the use of “consent”? Do you think there’s a reset in our future? Let us know in the comments!


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Download or listen now (runtime 1:16:45) 

Comments on: "Episode 139 – Exploring the Pyramid at the End of the World" (16)

  1. Reblogged this on Confessions of a Curator, Editor, Geek and commented:

    New Verity!

  2. Thanks for another lovely podcast! I’m glad you all seem to have enjoyed Pyramid at the End of the World as much as I did. 🙂

    Personally, I don’t mind that you have to give us a ‘hot take’ on the new episodes. It makes a nice contrast with episodes of the classic programme that some of you will have had decades to chew over! And you do a very good job of analysing the episodes after a single viewing, so I wouldn’t worry about it. We can wait for your series 10 overview to get your thoughts on the over-arching themes and the place of individual episodes in the series as a whole, etc.

    I’m glad that Erika was pleased about having a namesake in the episode because when I heard the name, my first thought was that a certain Verity would be very tickled! 😀

  3. Thanks for a very considered and thoughtful review of this episode. It’s really helped me too appreciate it better because on first viewing I haaated this. Which almost never happens.

    There were many things which were excellent: the setup of the problem of the pyramid, the dynamic of the leaders of the of the three armies coming together, the idea that small mistakes could lead to large catastrophe. But the whole thing was undone by two things. First was the stupidity of scientists. The science itself was fine, but but the contrived failure and absurd design of all the safety systems in what was portrayed as a real life (ie not fantastical) environment pulled us right out of the story. I don’t mind weird science at all, Kill the Moon for example was fine. But these guys have been whacked with the stupid stick so hard that there was no coming back.

    The second problem was consent. It came across as a half baked and inconsistently applied idea. It was probably made worse because we was so annoyed by the science so were less forgiving.

    When I watched it a second time I enjoyed it much more, and your rich discussion has improved it still further. So I hope that next time I see it I’ll be able to look past these problems. It’s such a shame that such a layered story should have such a jarring problem at its core.

  4. The more I think about it, the issue of consent and whether it was used “correctly” in the episode doesn’t matter because it seems to come down to driving Bill specifically to be so desperate about the Doctor that she would sacrifice the entire earth to save him. Possibly that’s what the monks wanted the whole time. I’d even go so far as to say they were aware of who the Doctor was the entire time and an important part of their plan was getting him out of the way so they could isolate Bill. So I’m glad your discussion of the episode on that helped me think through all this.

    Secondly, though, and not so happily, I was… underwhelmed with overall reception of how they resolved the Doctor’s blindness–and this wasn’t just a Verity thing, every podcast I’ve listened to on it seems really tickled with the blindness arc–but I suppose watching Doctor Who with my husband, who is legally blind, tends to affect how I view this kind of representation.

    We were both really disappointed with the way they resolved it, particularly that he was not only defeated by a tumbler lock combination but also that the best thing they could come up with for assistive tech was green squares on a black background–a little Apple 2E, if you ask me. I don’t normally do this because it stretches a bit to far in the realm of spam, but I’d like to link to my blog post where my husband and I talk about his impressions of the blind arc, from Oxygen through Pyramid. I think it reveals a lot of the blind spots sighted people can have when dealing with this kind of plot device, particularly being ok with the Doctor being portrayed as arrogant in thinking he can just swan through life and solve problems all while being blind and not having to explain it to the whole world. I’d like to think my husband isn’t arrogant to think he can have a normal life and a good job, just because he can’t play baseball or drive a car. Anyway, the link is :

    • Thanks for sharing the link–and your thoughts! I haven’t had time to go digging yet, but I’ve really been interested to hear what people who have first-hand knowledge of blindness have thought and felt about this whole arc. I know there are plenty of things I’ll miss whenever they go in a direction that I’m less familiar with. I appreciate the perspective!

      I don’t think I reiterated it in this ep, but as soon as they made the Doctor blind in the first place, I think I expressed extreme nervousness about the whole thing, and I hoped they consulted with someone who is blind before completing the scripts. (I have no idea if they did.) I remember comparing it to “Before the Flood”/”Under the Lake”, where they had a deaf actor. Probably makes it much easier to avoid pitfalls when you have someone right there who can point out your mistakes.

  5. Squibby said:

    I liked how Erica and her lab assistant echoed the interaction of the Doctor and Bill. Both Erica and the Doctor having sight issues leading to problems

    I’m so expecting to hear that Ms Ensign has That Erica the wonderful assistsnt quote as her new ringtone. =)

  6. Hey this doesn’t have a checklist but for some extra Classic continuity I use this so I can read the books and listen to the audios in the right context. It’s super helpful for 8:) Here is MY doctor, Peter. Also I don’t comment much But your podcast never fails to make my day.

  7. Lots of good thoughts…I’m still in that ‘can’t have an opinion until we’ve seen this whole story, because Moffat’ space, because we definitely had fears of ‘doing Martha’s farewell again’ after this week’s ‘next time’ but it could easily all be turned on its head.

    Also, wanted to plug the most recent season of Call the Midwife, in which Rachel Denning, who played Erica, guested – she had a nice storyline, well worth checking it out if you haven’t seen it yet. We also had the ‘ooh, she’d be a great companion’ thoughts!

  8. Andrew said:

    Ooh! Tansy’s speculation about the new Doctor’s actor having already appeared in this season made me wonder… what if it were Bill’s prospective girlfriend Penny? Not only would we have a black female Doctor, but imagine Bill’s reaction…

  9. I also really liked how the “previously on Doctor Who” intercut between new footage and relevant clips from last week’s episode.
    The closest I’ve seen to another show doing this was in the later seasons of Farscape. In a few episodes, they incorporated deleted scenes and alternate takes into the “previously on Farscape” segments, which changed it up and surprised viewers at the time.

  10. @Tansy:
    There is another way they could bring us a surprise regeneration. I've been thinking this since we were teased that Capaldi might be regenerating this series instead of at Christmas, and this was actually what I thought you were going to say.

    What if Capaldi regenerates at the end of series 10, then his replacement regenerates in the Christmas special? Nobody would be expecting a new Doctor casting at that point, so probably wouldn't be looking for it in the set photographs. And you can't tell me Moffat wouldn't be salivating at the thought of a one-episode Doctor. If he hasn't at least thought of this then he's missing a trick.

    (Mind you, I was saying back in 2013 that they should have had David Bradley as the first Doctor in the anniversary special, since they could totally have kept it a secret by filming his scenes at the same time as Adventure in Space and Time, and Moffat didn't seem to think of that.)

    • Hmm. I’m not keen on the idea of another one-episode Doctor. It worked with John Hurt, but that was the 50th anniversary special so I think they could get away with it there. Casting someone who’s right for the part but only for one episode seems a bit of a waste! Also, if regenerations start coming thick and fast it’ll kind of dilute the impact, and wouldn’t really be fair to whoever is taking over the part afterwards (the ‘proper’ regeneration). Not to mention the impracticality of keeping such casting shenanigans under wraps from the press…

  11. Regarding the episode, you may be interested in listening to the most recent episode of the Eruditorum Presscast (, on which writer Peter Harness guested. Among a lot of interesting discussion of his Doctor Who work, he talks about his intentions regarding the Monks in a way that made me feel more comfortable about both the language around consent and Bill's intentions in giving it. He expicitly likens their plan to a protection racket, and supports the idea that they weren't likely to go quietly just because the Doctor averted the lab catastrophe. Worth a listen.

  12. Josiah said:

    Reset button? I don’t think it’s necessary to have one since this story takes place in 2017 and 2018 is when ‘The Enemy of the World’ takes place and I can definitely see the after effects of the next episode leading to the state of the world in ‘The Enemy of the World’.

  13. Tedford Juachon said:

    Just a quick note: I was pleased to see Erica (actress Rachel Denning) in the lab as I had just enjoyed seeing her in a recent episode of “Call the Midwife”.

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