The new season is in full swing and here seems to be a lot more energy happening this year. The pacing is different, and the stories seem tighter in execution. Overall, Spyfall was epic in scope in all of the Steven Moffat ways, but it was much more developed and executed. Clearly, Chibnall has a (ahem) masterplan going on here, and he’s taking care not to make the same mistakes his predecessors made in rushing the pacing and not better developing storylines. He also is planting possible plot threads everywhere in lots of interesting ways.
I also loved how they used both Stephan Fry and Lenny Henry. Henry, in particular, was ice cold and nuanced perfectly as a baddie.
Another great thing about the series opener was that it had a nice mix of comedy and dramatic flourishes. Another great thing was the way it used all of the companions in ways where they weren’t really lost of forgotten in the plot. It is pretty obvious that this is a tightly knit ensemble who really feed off of each other onscreen.
Jodie Whittaker seems more self-assured this year. It is interesting that unlike Tennant, Smith or Capaldi, she has stated that she did not really watch any one particular actor in the role and honed in on certain attributes of that particular Doctor. This has allowed her to be more sublime in her portrayal while also doing something new with the part. Her Doctor is more commanding and in charge this year. The mystery is back as well, which is also terrific. With this season the Doctor appears to be more of the focus of the program than last year which, at times, felt like a show about the companions more than the Doctor.
The new TARDIS set is an improvement but not much of one. Just like last season, it looks great, and the incidental music has again been spot on. I also really like how they have taken steps to use crisper edits.
I enjoyed both parts and was pleased that the second half was just as compelling as the first. One of my issues with previous two-parters is that they often suffered a let down in the second act that was hastily concluded. This time though, the plot builds and develops in a sensible way.
There some great moments as well. The telepathic scene with the Doctor and Master was a nice nod to the classic series and the use of the telegraph to mimic the sound of drums inside the Saxon Master’s head was a nice touch. It was also great to see Ryan and Yaz get more screen time together,
The Master reveal was a genuine surprise, and I am glad it got pulled off without any leaks. Sacha Dawan’s Master was perfectly diabolical and a real joy to watch. His scenes with Whittaker resonated with viewers and really amplified the Master/Doctor dynamic, giving it a nice new coat of paint.
One large concern I have with Spyfall is that the seventy-seven years that the Master spent on Earth would seem to place him there during a large part of the Delgado Master’s timeline. With that in mind, would he not want to change that part of his own history?
Another concern I do have it that the writing is still not terribly great at times. I appreciate the fact that there are new voices writing for Doctor Who. However, I think that there are times when the dialogue is clunky and uneven. Of course, the joy of seeing this TARDIS work together overshadows much of this.
Spyfall served as the perfect launching pad for the new season that didn’t waver in entertaining audience. Additionally, it also tugged on all the right sleeves with regard to incorporating twinges from the classic series into the new era. The entire endeavor was a thrilling romp in time and space.
The third episode of the season goes back to a classic Doctor Who riff whereby holiday plans go awry for the TARDIS crew. The episode, written by Ed Hime and directed by Lee Haven Jones featuresThe Inbetweeners’ James Buckley guest-starring with Col Farrell and Julia Elizabeth Fogle.
Orphan 55 retains the momentum laid down by the opening two-parter while also giving viewers another dose of intensity. There’s a scary new alien at large in this episode.
Having decided that everyone could do with a holiday, the Doctor takes Graham, Yasmin, Ryan to a luxury resort for a spot of rest and relaxation. However, they discover the place where they are having a break is hiding a number of deadly secrets. What are the ferocious monsters that are attacking Tranquillity Spa?
Here are trailers for the episode.
SEASON 12 UPDATE
Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror
Set in 1903, Episode Four was penned by newcomer Nina Metivier and directed by another newcomer, Nida Manzoor. It features the Doctor encountering battling inventors Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.
Goran Višnjić is Tesla and Robert Glenister guests as Edison. Glenister previously appeared in 1984’s classic series episode, The Caves of Androzani.
The time: the earliest years of the 20th Century. The place: New York City. Inventor Nikola Tesla is at war with his rival Thomas Edison. However, there’s an even greater threat in their midst…
It is good to see a proper historical story so early in the season. Tesla’s run-in with the Doctor has been a long time coming.
The return of the Judoon has been teased for a while now, and this episode sees them return in a story written by Vinay Patel and again directed by Nida Manzoor. Episode five features guest stars Jo Martin and Neil Stuke.
Stomping their way into present-day Gloucester, the Judoon are on the hunt for someone on the run. Who is this fugitive? And why are these alien mercenaries after them?
I am curious to see what Pete McTighe does next. His previous story, Kerblam! was really inventive and he seems to have an understanding on how to develop characters. Jamie Magnus Stone returns to direct. Matthew McNully (The Terror) guest stars. Joana Borja (Traces) also appears. It will be good to see the Doctor/companion dynamic changed up a bit. It was filmed in South Africa so audiences can expect to see more terrific visual locales.
The Doctor and her friends split up to investigate multiple mysteries across planet Earth. What will they find will threaten all of humanity…
JODIE WHITTAKER ON THE TONIGHT SHOW
Jodie Whitaker spent some time in New York this week promoting the show in America. During her visit, she appeared with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.
THE MASTER RETURNS: SACHA DHAWAN INTERVIEWED
Although he first came to the attention of Whovians with his turn as Warris Hussein in An Adventure In Space and Time, Sacha Dhawan has cut his teeth as a seriously good actor.
Having starred inThe History Boys and on several tv series, including Outsourced and Iron Fist, Sacha Dhawan has proven himself as an actor with great range and an ability to completely inhabit a role. This depth, along with his intensity, charm and humor, makes him an intriguing choice to play the Doctor’s archenemy, The Master.
Once rumored as a possible successor to Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, the latest incarnation of the Master talked to The Radio Times last week.
He also spoke to Metro about developing his version of the character.
Despite the fact that no official word has been given about his possible return, it is highly likely he turns up later on in the season.
THE OTHER MASTER RETURNS
John Simm is coming to Big Finish in 2021 for Masterful, an epic adventure celebrating the 50th anniversary of the debut of the Doctor’s best enemy.
Running approximately three hours, Masterful was written by James Goss and features Michelle Gomez, Mark Gatiss, Eric Roberts, Geoffrey Beevers, Sir Derek Jacobi, Alex MacQueen and Milo Parker joining Simm for his Big Finish debut.
The eight CD set features Masterful as well a disc featuring behind the scenes details, a new, narrated audiobook featuring the Third Doctor, the Master and UNIT and two previously unavailable stories in the Short Trips line, I Am The Master and Short Trips: The Switching.
Details and ordering info here.
FURY FROM THE DEEP ON DVD
BBC Worldwide has announced that an animated version of the lost Second Doctor story, Fury From The Deep is coming to DVD later this year. The sixth story of season five it was written by
Victor Pemberton and broadcast in March and April of 1968.
No specific information about special features has been given, but the six-parter will most likely include both a color and black and white version as well as an audio commentary with Frazer Hines.
A coming soon trailer has been released.
Although no episodes of the story exist in the BBC archives, there is a complete audio recording which makes an animated reconstruction possible.
In addition to seeing the debut of the sonic screwdriver, Fury From the Deep is also noteworthy because it saw the departure of Victoria Waterfield as a companion.
SEASON 14 ON BLU RAY
Season 14 of the classic series is coming to Blu Ray in the UK in March of this year, Spanning the years 1976-1977, the set features some of the Fourth Doctor’s best stories and features Sarah Jane Smith and Leela as his companions. It features the following stories, The Masque of the Mandragora, The Hand of Fear, The Deadly Assassin, The Face of Evil, The Robots of Death and, The Talons of Weng-Chiang.
The set will include DVD extras from previous releases along with new featurettes and commentaries. No release date for North America has been announced.
DAVID TENNANT NEWS
David Tennant’s new drama series, Deadwater Fell has premiered on Channel 4. Tennant plays a GP named Tom Kendrick who may or may not have murdered his own family and then attempted to cover up the crime.
The series is a crime thriller, much like Broadchurch. However, Tennant ‘s character is darker, more intense and much more sketchy. Deadwater Fell is written by Grantchester scribe Daisy Coulam.
PETER DAVISON NEWS
Peter Davison is appearing in the BBC series The Trial of Christine Keeler as criminal law barrister James Burge. Davison appears in two episodes, airing in late January.
Davison is also a featured guest at next month’s Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles.
Next time….More on Season 12, the 7th Doctor on Blu Ray, a Big Finish update and more!