The Pyramid at the End of the World

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The Pyramid at the End of the World

271 "The Pyramid at the End of the World"
Doctor Who episode

Promotional image for the episode
  • Togo Igawa – Secretary-General
  • Nigel Hastings – The Commander
  • Eben Young – Col Don Brabbit
  • Rachel Denning – Erica
  • Tony Gardner – Douglas
  • Andrew Bryon – Ilya
  • Daphne Cheung – Xiaolian
  • Jamie Hill – Monks
  • Tim Bentinck – Voice of the Monks
  • Ronke Adekoluejo – Penny (uncredited)
Directed by Daniel Nettheim
Written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat
Produced by Peter Bennett
Executive producer(s) Steven Moffat
Brian Minchin
Incidental music composer Murray Gold
Series Series 10
Length 46 minutes
Originally broadcast 27 May 2017
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Extremis" "The Lie of the Land"

"The Pyramid at the End of the World" is the seventh episode of the tenth series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It is written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat and was broadcast on 27 May 2017 on BBC One. "The Pyramid at the End of the World" received generally positive reviews from television critics.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) investigates how a pyramid appeared in Turmezistan overnight and confronts an ancient enemy ready to destroy humanity. It is the second of three loosely connected episodes called "The Monks Trilogy".


A five-thousand year old pyramid appears overnight in a disputed area of Turmezistan between American, Russian, and Chinese forces. The Secretary-General of the United Nations recruits the Doctor, as President of Earth, to help. The Doctor is still blind ("Oxygen"), a secret he is keeping from Bill.

The Monks who occupy the pyramid cause every clock in the world to display a time counting down to midnight in the manner of the Doomsday Clock. The Doctor has the military leaders use coordinated attacks on the Monks, as a show of strength, but the Monks easily deflect them. The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole soon join the leaders as they negotiate with the Monks. Using the computer running their simulations ("Extremis"), the Monks show that the Earth will become lifeless within a year. They offer humanity their help to stop a pending cataclysmic disaster, but only if they "consent". The Doctor warns that this consent would have unknown but everlasting consequences. The Secretary-General offers his consent, but the Monks disintegrate him, saying he gave it out of fear, not "love".

The Doctor realises the Monks are misdirecting them to believe a military disaster is imminent, and instead suspects the threat is biological. He and Nardole find several laboratories performing bacterial work and briefly override their internal camera systems to determine which one the Monks are watching. Bill stays behind as the Doctor and Nardole travel in the TARDIS to the lab.

Through a series of inconsequential events, two scientists have accidentally created a super-bacterium capable of breaking down all living organisms, and it is about to be vented into the atmosphere. The TARDIS arrives, but the Doctor sends Nardole back for his safety, unaware that he has been contaminated. Inside the TARDIS, Nardole collapses unconscious. Meanwhile, Bill, in communication with the Doctor, joins the military leaders as they offer to surrender. The Monks still disintegrate them, considering it a strategic move. The Doctor, with the help of Erica, one of the scientists, crafts a makeshift bomb to sterilise the bacteria and destroy the lab. However, he becomes trapped inside, unable to see a combination lock to free himself or use his sonic screwdriver on it, and he cannot get Nardole's assistance. He is forced to admit to Bill he is blind.

Bill, representing the Doctor's authority, offers her consent to the Monks, insisting they restore the Doctor's sight. The Monks accept, as this consent came from her love for the Doctor. The Doctor regains his vision and escapes the lab, while the Monks assert their control of Earth.


The Doctor resumes the title of "President of the World", given to him in the episode "Death in Heaven", to be called upon in times of worldwide crisis. The fictional country of Turmezistan was previously introduced in "The Zygon Invasion".

Outside references

The Doctor compares the Monks' countdown to the real Doomsday Clock and includes a bit of the history behind its rationale. The three military commanders all agree to set aside hostilities and "give peace a chance", a reference to the Plastic Ono Band song. The Doctor, in congratulating Erica, calls out "By George, she’s got it!", a line from the musical My Fair Lady.


Filming for "The Pyramid at the End of the World", as well as the previous episode "Extremis", took place from 23 November 2016 to 17 January 2017.

Broadcast and reception

The episode was watched by 4.01 million overnight. The episode received 5.79 million views overall, and it received an Appreciation Index of 82.

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Rotten Tomatoes (Tomatometer)85%
Rotten Tomatoes (Average Score)7.75
The A.V. ClubB
Entertainment WeeklyB+
SFX Magazine
TV Fanatic
New York Magazine
Radio Times
Daily Mirror

"The Pyramid at the End of the World" received generally positive reviews from television critics. "The Pyramid at the End of the World" currently holds a score of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Alasdair Wilkins of The A.V. Club gave the episode a B rating, feeling that the events of the episode itself were medicore, describing it as "mostly just unobjectionably decent", and how many of the characters in the episode had been memorable or as compelling as the other one-off characters that had featured in the series. However, he went on to praise the ending of the episode and how it saved the episode itself, finding the similarities with the second part of the Tenth Doctor serial The End of Time and how the Doctor managed to save the world, but at a cost. Wilkins commenting on the unexpected ending, stating that it is "probably what I'm going to remember from "The Pyramid At The End Of The World," especially when thinking of it as the middle entry between the brilliant "Extremis" and the seriously intriguing-looking "The Lie Of The Land.""

Kathleen Wiedel of TV Fanatic gave the episode a 3.5 out of 5 star rating, noting the ambiguous nature of some parts of the episode, and the issues concerning certain elements, such as the promotion of the Doctor to "President of Earth" and how this was mostly ignored, and how the necessity for "consent" from the Monks was not explained. She went on to praise the number of continuity references in the episode, and Rachel Denning's role as the scientist Erica.

Ross Ruediger of the New York Magazine gave the episode a perfect score of 5 out of 5 stars, complimenting the work and scripts of Peter Harness yet again and his repeated themes of "monumental life and death decisions for humankind", and also director the Daniel Nettheim and how he "took two great scripts and made utterly compelling yet very different end products out of each". Ruediger also commented on how "politically charged" the episode was. He also commented on his reservations about how the initial references to terrorism had been removed from the episode due to the Manchester bombing, and while it was "understandable", he stated how the sequence posed questions that were relevant to the story.

Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times gave the episode a rating of 4 out of 5 stars, describing it as "a peculiar blend of the deadly serious and hilariously hokum". He stated that the best part of the episode was the story line of the two researchers and the slow reveal towards deadly disease as the climax of the episode, and how it was reminiscent of Terry Nation's 1970s serial Survivors.

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