Doctor Who: The Doctor learns a deadly truth in ‘Extremis’ (recap)

An ancient text that compels its reader to commit suicide is at the center of “Extremis.” But will the Doctor dare to read it?

“Extremis” opens with the Doctor investigating execution methods. He’s tracked down an alien race that developed Time Lord-killing technology. A long, long time ago in this flashback, we watch him condemn Missy to death.

In the present day, the Doctor is still blind, but his sonic sunglasses can do everything from receiving email to identifying lifeforms. In this case, the Pope himself is standing in front of the Doctor, asking for help. You see, the Veritas has leaked.

So what is the Veritas? It’s an ancient, and I mean really ancient, text. It’s been translated, but no one at the Vatican knows what it says, because it contains a deadly secret. Everyone who reads the Veritas commits suicide. And now the Pope is asking the Doctor to translate.

Meanwhile, Bill has brought home a new love interest. She and Penny have just sat down at Bill’s kitchen table when the unmistakable noise of the TARDIS chimes in. And then the Pope walks out of Bill’s bedroom. Penny flees in understandable confusion and Bill stalks into give the Doctor a piece of her mind.

But the Doctor is too busy reminiscing about Missy’s execution. We learn that Nardole followed the Doctor to the spot of the execution to invite him to reconsider. In the present, he implores his friend to tell Bill about his vision, or lack thereof. But the Doctor refuses, and he and Bill make their way into the Vatican’s secret library.

As they make their way through the forbidden chambers, a wormhole appears and a unidentifiable figure stares menacingly before promptly disappearing. As a priest examines the wall, a scaly hand reaches through. But the Doctor doesn’t notice, since another priest is currently confessing that he sent the Veritas over email. Now it’s online.

As the Doctor prepares to read the Veritas, Bill and Nardole find another portal. In his impaired state, the Doctor plans to either temporarily fix his eyesight with the power of the Veritas or, eloquently put, blow out his brain. As he passes unconscious, a gnarled creature approaches. In the Missy flashback, the Doctor promises to guard her for a thousand years.

The portal Bill and Nardole pass through takes them into a room of, well, more portals. One of them goes straight through to the Pentagon. While the two kind of, sort of, know what they’re doing, the Doctor can now kind of, sort of, see. But everything is blurry, and he doesn’t realize that the figure in front of him is not Nardole, but an animated corpse.

Speaking of Nardole, he and Bill have seemingly entered a room of people preparing a group suicide by dynamite. The clock is ticking for them and the Doctor, who is cornered by the reanimated. The world Bill and Nardole have entered is one where its inhabitants have read the Veritas and have gained unearthly knowledge. The two run back into the central portal room just as the bomb detonates.

Nardole realizes that all the portals lead to simulations. That includes the Vatican, where the Doctor is trapped. And Nardole himself is computer programmed. He inserts his hand into the center of the room and watches as it turn to digital shards. Within seconds, Bill is alone. She enters a simulated White House, where the Doctor is sitting in the Oval Office. The President has committed suicide after reading the Veritas.

The Doctor says he too, read the Veritas. Or at least, he listened to it. The Doctor tells Bill that aliens, in an attempt to take over the planet (typical!) entered the human race into the simulation they’re currently in. As Bill realizes that she, too, is simulated, a corpse appears and shatters her into pixels.

Fortunately, this is the Doctor we’re talking about. He calls Bill from the past and convinces her to invite Penny over. Then he visits his vault, which we now know contains Missy. But we don’t know how the Doctor is going to save Bill — that, we’ll have to find out next time.

What did you think of “Extremis?” And what are your predictions for next week’s episode, “The Pyramid at the End of the World?” Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Doctor Who returns next Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.