A Long Time Ago...
Three men row the Doctor down a river to a castle where Time Lords are waiting. The executioner in charge, Rafando, explains that their devices are carefully calibrated to stop both of a Time Lord's hearts and prevent regeneration. Once the subject is dead, they will be placed in a chamber for a thousand years and monitored for... relapses. It is stipulated that the sentence must be carried out by another Time Lord, and they chose the Doctor because there were no other Time Lords to choose from.
Missy comes out of the nearby castle and claims that she didn't expect the Doctor because she thought that he had retired. She realizes that River died, and motions to him to get on with it. The guards bring Missy forward and she kneels.
The Doctor leans against the vault door and says that the memories are so much worse in the dark.
The quantum-fold chamber emerges from the nearby river, and Rafando tells the Doctor to carry out. As he reaches for the liver, MIssy says that she'll do anything if he lets her live.
The Doctor receives an email from Extremis. Later, he goes to the empty lecture and stands in the dark. Several men come in and say that they came there directly from the Vatican. Nardole is with them and tells the Doctor to listen to them. The head priest Angelo says that the Doctor's services and wisdom are recommended at the highest level. He hands a personal recommendation from Pope Benedict the Ninth from 1045 to Nardole. The Pope steps forward and the Doctor is surprised that he came there in person. The Pope says one word: Extremis.
The Doctor and Nardole take the Pope and Angelo to the Doctor's office, and Angelo explains that there is an ancient text older than the Church itself, in the Vatican library. The language is lost to them, but the title--Veritas--has survived. He pushes forward the page, and Nardole reads it for the Doctor's benefit. The High Priest explains that any knowledge of the language died with the sect, when they committed mass suicide. The title was finally translated after centuries of effort, and everyone who has read it or worked on the translation is now dead by their own hands. All bodies but one were recovered, and Angelo insists that the translators were devout men and chose Hell. The Pope asks if the Doctor will read Veritas.
Bill returns home with a girl, Penny, who goes to the bathroom to freshen up. Moira hears them and comes in, and reminds Bill that she has very strict rules about men. Penny comes out and Moira quickly excuses herself and goes to the pub. As the two women have tea, the TARDIS materializes in Bill's bedroom. Bill claims that it's pipes and goes to yell at them. Penny admits that she's not used to what's happening again, and Bill assures her that nothing has happened yet.
The Pope comes out of Bill's bedroom and starts complaining in Italy. He goes back in, and Penny points out that it was the Pope. Bill goes in and finds four priests in her bedroom. Penny follows her, sees the priests, and hastily leaves. Bill goes into the TARDIS, and the Doctor has Nardole tell her what's going on. The Doctor takes out a "reading aid," and Angelo points out that Pope Benedict offered the Doctor confession, and assures the Doctor that the offer still stands.
A robed figure steps forward and gestures the Doctor over. None of them know who it is, and Rafando confirms that there divine intervention is permitted for five minutes. The Doctor goes over and the figure talks about virtue is only virtue in Extremis, and that is why she loves him. He's reading from River's journal, and the Doctor realizes that it's Nardole. Nardole explains that he followed the Doctor from Durillium on River's orders, and he has full permission to kick the Doctor's ass.
The TARDIS arrives at the Vatican and everyone but the Doctor and Nardole go out. Nardole asks why the Doctor is keeping his blindness a secret from Bill. The Doctor tells him that he doesn't want people to worry about him, but Nardole figures that it will become real when the Doctor tells her about his condition. The Doctor ignores him and goes out, and the Pope tells the Doctor that he'll have to go on without hm. Angelo will conduct him to the library. Angelo takes the Doctor, Nardole, and Bill to a painting and opens a secret passage, revealing the Haereticum: the Library of Blasphemy. He tells them to stay close to him, and Bill asks if the Doctor is comfortable in h is sunglasses.
Rafando tells the Doctor that his five minutes are up, and the Doctor goes over and Missy continues her begging. She asks him to teach her how to be good, and the Doctor echoes River's words about being good in Extremis.
As they reach the center of the Library, a blue light shines around the corner. Nardole "casually" describes it for the Doctor's benefit, and Angelo steps into the light to confront the intruder. A figure is standing a lighted portal, and the Doctor is unable to identify it through the sensors on his shades. Only he can see the portal, and it disappears. Angelo tells them to weight while he checks for a breach in the wall, and the others go to the cage holding the Veritas. There's a priest , Piero, inside. He apologizes and says that he sent "it." He runs out of the cage and down the hallway, and the Doctor calls to Angelo, saying that they have an intruder. A hand emerges from a glowing portal in the wall and reaches for Angelo.
Nardole sees bullet holes on the cage lock, and figures that Piero shot it out. Inside the cage, Bill finds a laptop. Nardole sees a reading chair with a seat belt. The laptop's browser shows that four hours ago, Piero mailed a copy of the Veritas to the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. They reply by email, saying "Hooray," and the Doctor wonders what could scare particle physicists and priests alike. The Doctor figures that Piero was the Veritas translator, and they hear a gunshot in the distance. As the Doctor scans Veritas, he tells them that Piero is 50 feet ahead. He doesn't mention that Piero's life signs have terminated. They realize that the Doctor is trying to get rid of them, and says that he won't read it without them. As Bill and Nardole go, the Doctor hooks up his reading aid to Veritas and plugs it into his shades.
Bill and Nardole explore and Nardole tells her to stay behind him. When she refuses, Nardole tells her that he is the only person officially designated to kick the Doctor's ass, and will do the same to her. They find Piero's body, a gun in its hand. The portal opens nearby, and they step forward to look.
Once the Doctor has read Veritas, he hears someone coming. Assuming that it's Angelo, the Doctor says that Veritas will either fix his blindness or burn out his brain. The electrodes on his temple from the reading aid flare, and the Doctor moans in pain.
Missy tells the Doctor that she's his friend, and she wants to tell him with no chance of a reward. The Doctor throws the lever, executing Missy. He then gives his oath that he will guard the body for a thousand years.
Bill and Nardole find themselves in the Pentagon in Washington DC. An analyst sees them and asks if they have clearance for the Pentagon, and they quickly step back through the door to the portal room. It's filled with portals, one leading to the Pentagon and another to the Vatican. Nardole goes through another portal and they find a hallway in Cern and a scientist drinking a bottle of wine. He says that they'll go together when they go, laughs, and leads them to the cafeteria.
The Doctor wakes up and realizes that he can see., albeit blurrily. A figure in a cardinal's robes approaches him, and he assumes that it's Angelo. The Doctor explains that he recovered his eyesight but may have taken it from his future regenerations or may not regenerate. However, he can read Veritas, and straps himself into the chair. The figure straps him in, and the Doctor's vision finally clears enough that he realizes that the figure in cardinal robes is a desiccated monk. Another monk walks up to the cage as the first one takes Veritas. The Doctor wonders why it let him read the book when it could have stopped him at any time, and uses his sonic to douse the lights. When the lights come up, the monk realizes that the Doctor has escaped with the laptop.
The scientist, Nicolas, takes Bill and Nardole to the cafeteria a chamber where the other scientists have gathered. As Nardole realizes that it's Cern where Piero sent the copy of Veritas, There are times showing five minutes left, and Nicolas announces that it's all ready to go in five minutes. Some scientists get drinks, some scientists cry. Nardole tells Bill to look under the tires, and she discovers that the place is rigged with explosives.
The Doctor opens the laptop and checks the email with the Veritas attachment. It refers to it as "A Test of Shadows." When the Doctor reads the rest of it, he slaps his head in frustration. He sees the monk advancing on him and tries to run, but they surround him. The Doctor shoves past them and trips, and sees a portal down the hallway.
Nicolas tells Bill and Nardole that they're saving the world. Bill demands an explanation, and Nicolas says that it isn't the world. He realizes that they haven't read Veritas. As Nardole gets Bill to the portal, Nicolas tells them to choose a number when he touches the table. He does so and Bill and Nardole recite the same number. Nicolas does it again and again, and each time they think of the same number. First the scientist joins in, and Nicolas says that it's the Test of Shadows. He tells them that he's sorry and everyone raises their glasses and counts down the remaining few seconds, while Bill and Nardole run for the portal.
Back in the portal room, Nardole panics. They see a trail of blood on the floor, and Nardole points out that obelisks in the center of the room--one per portal--look like projectors. Bill figures that they're projecting the portals, but Nardole figures that the places and the people in them are holographic projections. Bill wonders when they ended up there, and Nardole suggests that it was when they arrived at the Vatican. However, he programmed the coordinates himself and is sure that they went there. Nardole then wonders what happens if they move outside the projector lights. He reaches his hand forward out of the light and it starts to derezz, and Nardole realizes that he's part of the simulation. His body completely derezzes and he vanishes. Bill sees the blood trail leading to one of the portals and goes through it, calling to the Doctor.
Bill finds herself in the Oval Office. There's a newscast about a total news blackout at the White House., and the President is sitting in a chair, dead of a self-inflicted overdose of sleeping pills. The Doctor is sitting in the darkness, and he says that the President read Veritas and the Doctor listened to it via his reading aid. He asks where Nardole is, and Bill asks what is real and what isn't. She demands an explanation, and the Doctor explains that Veritas tells of an evil demon that wants to conquer the world. To do it, he needs to learn about it first so he creates a shadow world first to practice conquering, full of shadow people who think that they're real. Veritas invites anyone who isn't sure if they're real to write the numbers they think of down and turn the page to see the book has already predicted them. The Doctor says that the demon is running a simulation of Earth's history and every person ever on it, to assess the resident population and those smart enough to determine if the simulants inside of a computer game.
Bill insists that it's all real, and the Doctor explains that computers aren't good with random numbers. All of the simulated people will generate the same string of "random" numbers, and the Doctor tells Bill that he also recited the same numbers as well. When simulants realize that they are simulants, they might rebel and the "suicides" were simulated people escaping. Bill says that she feels real, and the Doctor tells her that the people in video games think that they're real, too. Bill derezzes, and the monk says that she and the Doctor aren't real. The Doctor tells it to kill him, but the monk tells him that pain is information and information will be gathered. Remembering what Missy said about there being no hope without reward, and tells his attacker to turn him off because he has no hope. He takes out River's journal and says that he doesn't believe much--maybe not anything--but belief is all that he is.
The monk says that the simulations have been run and Earth will be theirs. The Doctor tells it that he is the Doctor, and he is what stands between the two sides. When the monk says that the Doctor real, the Doctor says that it doesn't matter as long as they never give up. He tells the monk that its simulation is too good, picks up his shades, and explains that they're set to record. His memory print will be recorded on them, puts them on, and emails the print to the Doctor.
The recording ends and the real Doctor takes off his glades. Another email comes in from the simulation, asking him to save them. The Doctor calls Bill and confirms that she's not on a date. Bill tells him that he knows a girl named Penny, and she's out of her league. The Doctor tells Bill that Penny isn't, and says that something very big--and possibly very dangerous--is coming and they're going to be very busy. He advises Bill to call Penny and hangs up.
The Doctor goes to the vault door and tells the occupant that he needs her help. He reminds her that she said she was his friend.
Missy sits up, and Rafando is surprised that she's still alive. The Doctor admits that he fiddled with the wiring, and he never said that he'd look after her dead. Rafando tells him that he won't leave the planet alive, and the Doctor tells him to look him up under "cause of death." The record recites all of the deaths that the Doctor has caused... and continues, and continues. The guards panic and run, and Rafando says that the Doctor is the one who should be afraid. The Doctor tells him that he never is, and Rafando runs as well. Once they're alone, the Doctor tells Nardole to help him move Missy to the vault.
Written by Gadfly on May 21, 2017