Doctor Who Recap: Virtue, Belief, And Patience In Extremis

Patience. For Missy it’s a potential virtue. For alien invaders hoping to wipe out Earth’s population, it’s a strategy. For Vatican translators of an ancient religious text called The Veritas, it’s death. Patience is a theme running through this week’s episode of Doctor Who, the beginning of a multipart story that begins in Rome and ends in a simulated world where self-awareness is deadly—though it’s not immediately clear when we jumped from one to the other (but that’s just part of the fun).

The Veritas, locked in the heart of the Haereticum (the Vatican’s version of an X-rated book shop), is a newly translated heretical text from centuries ago. Whoever reads it almost immediately kills themselves—so the fact that a copy has been uploaded to the internet by one of the translators is… not good. That copy, however, ends up coming in handy for the Doctor when a horde of rot-faced aliens snatch the real thing out from under him (the Doctor didn’t even see it coming, because: still secretly blind).

The alien takeover storyline is intercut with flashbacks that finally answer the season’s big question: who’s in the vault? As you might have guessed, especially if you’d read that Michelle Gomez would be returning, it’s the Doctor’s best frenemy, Missy (Likes: Mexican takeout and classical piano. Dislikes: dying). After consulting River Song’s diary for advice, the Doctor decides to help Missy avoid execution. Because virtue is only virtue in extremis—the Doctor’s virtue is his capacity for mercy, while Missy’s (as previously mentioned) will be patience. Maybe. The catch to getting to live? Being forced to do it in a quantum fold chamber (yep, that vault thing the Doctor’s been guarding) for one thousand years.

But back to The Veritas. Veritas means ‘truth’ but truth, as the current US President has attempted to demonstrate, can be subjective. A simulated world is only as real as its inhabitants believe it to be—and belief, says the Doctor (and the Vatican for that matter), is a powerful thing. It’s belief that makes it possible for the computer game version of the Doctor, built by the aliens so that the can practice decimating Earth, to Sonic Ray-Ban email the real Doctor and alert him to the danger. Now all that’s left to do is rally Bill, Nardole, and (dramatic sigh) Missy in an effort to do battle with these monsters when they finally launch their attack in the real world. But that’s not until next week.

5 Questions About This Week’s Episode

1. The aliens who are about to descend on our planet have the stated goal of wiping out every living thing on its surface. Man, what is their problem?

2. Also, what’s the story on them? Where did they come from and why are they so bent on destruction? The episode didn’t give us any background. Is there a link between them and the alien race who wanted to execute Missy?

3. Speaking of, is it a bad idea to trust Missy or a really bad idea to trust Missy?

4. The Doctor’s oath states that he must guard the vault—and Missy in it—for 1,000 years. So what’s the punishment for failing to do so?

5. How long after watching this episode before you tried that Test of Shadows number trick on a friend? Are you a simulation? Wait, no. Don’t tell us.