I love a good celebrity historical episode of Doctor Who. There’s just something that’s inherently fun about seeing the Doctor meet some famous person from history and have an adventure with them. Some of the best celebrity historicals are when Doctor Who answers some previously-unanswered question about that historical figure’s life – in The Unicorn and the Wasp, the show posits an answer to the question of why Agatha Christie went missing for a week, only to reappear with no memory of those days. So, when it was revealed that we’d be getting an episode about Nikola Tesla – who infamously claimed to have seen UFOs at one point in his life – it seemed like the show was setting us up for a really fun romp between the Doctor and Tesla that might answer the question of what, exactly, Tesla saw – which sounds really interesting. And with a title as bonkers as Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror, it seemed as though we’d be getting an episode every bit as fun as its premise would suggest. So, was the episode interesting and fun? Was it good? Answer: yes. It is an immensely fun episode. (This review contains spoilers for Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror.)
Season 12, Episode 4: Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror (written by Nina Metivier, directed by Nida Manzoor)
It is 1903 and on the edge of Niagara Falls, something is wrong at Nikola Tesla’s (Goran Višnjić) generator plant, where someone – or something – is sabotaging the maverick inventor’s work. Has Tesla really received a message from Mars? And where does his great rival Thomas Edison (Robert Glenister) fit into these events? The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) must join forces with one of history’s greatest minds to save both him and planet Earth.
Ed Hime’s previous Doctor Who episode, It Takes You Away, was one of my favorite episodes of the previous season. I thought it had a perfect balance of character stuff and plot stuff and it was just a whole lot of fun to watch – especially with that whole bonkers idea of a sentient universe presenting itself as a talking frog. With that episode being as good as it was, I was definitely looking forward to what Hime would do in his second episode. I mean, there’s no realistic way it was gonna be quite as weird as his first, but I hoped it would be pretty fun. And, to be fair, it was very fun. Orphan 55 has a great premise, some great characters, a poignant message, and some truly scary monsters. It’s an extremely entertaining episode that’s let down a little bit by a very on the nose ending. (Spoilers follow!)
Season 12, Episode 3: Orphan 55 (written by Ed Hime, directed by director Lee Haven Jones)
Having decided that everyone could do with a holiday, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) takes Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill), and Ryan (Tosin Cole) 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?
I love a good two-parter, I really do. But I’ll also admit that it’s extremely hard to stick the landing on one. The best two-parters have pretty explosive (sometimes literally) cliffhangers that have to be satisfactorily dealt with before the rest of the episode can focus on actually concluding the greater story being told. This was something previous eras of Doctor Who had struggled with a bit; RTD tended to write himself into corners that required a deus ex machina solution while Moffat’s two-parters often were more spiritually connected than narratively. Both of them frequently struggled with figuring out a way to properly conclude the stories they were telling. With Spyfall being the first two-parter from the new showrunner, Chris Chibnall, the hope would be that he’d find a good way to thread this needle. And, for the most part, he does a pretty good job, delivering an episode that’s most definitely a narrative continuation of the previous and providing some solid answers while setting up an intriguing throughline for the rest of the season. (This review will contain spoilers for Spyfall, Part 2. Proceed at your own risk.)
Season 12, Episode 2: Spyfall, Part 2 (written by Chris Chibnall, directed byLee Haven Jones)
In part two of this epic spy thriller, a terrifying plan to destroy humanity is about to reach fruition. Can the Doctor and her friends escape multiple traps and defeat a deadly alliance?
After a full year, Doctor Who has finally returned to our TV screens! While I may not have totally loved Chris Chibnall’s first season as showrunner, I did quite enjoy Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor. She brought a lot of energy and commitment to the role and it was hard to dislike her as the character, even if I wish the writing of her episodes was stronger. The same was true for her friends, Ryan (Tosin Cole), Yaz (Mandip Gill), and Graham (Bradley Walsh) – all of whom brought such energy to their characters, but many of whom felt underdeveloped. Luckily, all four of these actors have returned for this sophomore outing for the 13th Doctor, and if this first episode is anything to go by, it looks like they’re in for quite the adventure. It’s always hard to judge a two-part story when you’ve only seen its first part, and that remains true for this story. That being said, Spyfall (Part 1) is certainly an excellent first half of a story, ticking every box you’d want ticked and perfectly setting up a pretty exciting second half. (Major spoilers for Spyfall, Part 1 follow!)
Season 12, Episode 1: Spyfall, Part 1 (written by Chris Chibnall, directed by Jamie Magnus Stone)
Intelligence agents around the world are under attack from alien forces, so MI6 turn to the only people who can help: the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her friends, Ryan (Tosin Cole), Yaz (Mandip Gill), and Graham (Bradley Walsh). As they travel the globe looking for answers, attacks come from all sides. Earth’s security rests on the team’s shoulders, but where will this planet-threatening conspiracy lead them?
Well, that episode should’ve been the real series 11 finale of Doctor Who. Resolution is exactly the kind of exciting, explosive story that you’d want to end a series of Doctor Who with, so at least we got it a mere three weeks after the series technically ended. In possibly the worst kept secret of Chibnall’s era so far, Resolution featured the return of the Daleks (or, to be completely honest, a Dalek) and what a return it was! (This review will feature spoilers)
Episode 1111: Resolution (written by Chris Chibnall, directed by Wayne Yip)
As the new year begins, a terrifying evil from across the centuries of Earth’s history is stirring. As the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Ryan (Tosin Cole), Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) return home, will they be able to overcome the threat to planet Earth?
It feels like only yesterday that we were all waiting for Jodie Whittaker’s first series as the Doctor to air. Now, a week after the series ended, it’s time to take a look back at the ten episodes we just saw. What worked? What didn’t work? What needs improvement? Just how good was the series, now that all the hype has died down? Let’s take a look! (There will be full spoilers for the 10 episodes of Series 11 of Doctor Who!)
Meet the new Doctor. The universe just got more exciting. The dazzling Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker, Broadchurch, Wired) falls out of the sky just in time to thwart an alien huntsman who is stalking human prey. With little time to spare and the population of Sheffield (and Earth!) at risk, the Doctor recruits three new friends – gentle Ryan, no-nonsense Yasmin and Ryan’s step-grandfather, Graham – who soon feel more like family than companions. Join the foursome in ten fresh and enormously thrilling roller-coaster adventures across time and the universe.
It seems like only yesterday that series 11 of Doctor Who began, but here we are, ten weeks later, with the series finale! The finale is being written by Chibnall, who has delivered scripts of various quality throughout his run on Doctor Who, and especially this season. The only episode, solely written by him, that I’ve really loved this season was The Woman Who Fell to Earth. The rest of the episodes have had some fundamental problem that has impacted my enjoyment of them. Thankfully, The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos falls into the same category as The Woman Who Fell to Earth and is an excellent close to this series of Doctor Who. (SPOILERS AHEAD)
Episode 1110: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos (written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Jamie Childs) On the planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos lie the remains of a brutal battlefield. But as the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) answer nine separate distress calls, they discover the planet holds far more secrets.
Who is the mysterious commander with no memory? What lies beyond the mists? Who or what are the Ux? The answers will lead the Doctor and her friends towards a deadly reckoning.
Well, this episode is probably my favorite of the entire season so far. Penultimate episodes of seasons have a lot to try and set up: they’ve gotta lay the groundwork for the finale while also still providing the audience with an interesting and captivating story. This is exactly what It Takes You Away does; it pays off some of the character arcs that have been developed over the season while still giving us a really cracking story. It’s a perfect blend of creepy, weird, and genuinely emotional and I just adored every second of it. (Spoilers ahead!)
Episode 1109: It Takes You Away (written by Ed Hime and directed by Jamie Childs)
On the edge of a Norwegian fjord in the present day, the Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz discover a boarded-up cottage and a girl named Hanne in need of their help. What has happened here? What monster lurks in the woods around the cottage – and beyond?
Honestly, this episode should have been broadcast closer to Halloween because it would have been so perfect as a Halloween episode. Doctor Who has had an interesting relationship with witches and magic over the years. It tends to take the stance of magic being misunderstood science and any “witches” either being persecuted women or an actual alien threat. The Witchfinders, written by new-to-Who writer Joy Wilkinson, is no exception to this rule. Much of the episode is spent with King James I (Alan Cumming) and landowner Becka Savage (Siobhan Finneran) going around the village of Bilehurst Cragg accusing various people of being witches only for the episode to eventually reveal that an alien intelligence is responsible for things all along. That being said, the episode is still a whole lot of fun.
Episode 1108: The Witchfinders (written by Joy Wilkinson, directed by Sallie Aprahamian)
The Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz arrive in 17th century Lancashire and become embroiled in a witch trial, run by the local landowner. As fear stalks the land, the arrival of King James I only serves to intensify the witch hunt. But is there something even more dangerous at work? Can the Doctor and friends keep the people of Bilehurst Cragg safe from all the forces that are massing in the land?
Sometimes a simple, cool sci-fi idea is the best way to go for an episode of Doctor Who. After six episodes without a nice, solid sci-fi premise, Kerblam! finally gives us one with the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Yaz (Mandip Gill) investigating a futuristic Amazon-like company on a moon. It’s a pretty solid, enjoyable episode with a small cast of supporting characters who are all well developed and interesting and a resolution that actually sticks the landing. (This review will contain spoilers!)
Episode 1107 – Kerblam! (written by Pete McTighe and directed by Jennifer Perrott)
“‘Delivery for the Doctor!’ A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer: Kerblam!”