Series 12 of Doctor Who kicked off in some style with Spyfall Part 1. Lots to like and lots to talk about. If this is the standard of the series, we’re in for a treat. Several treats. And a big twist I can’t avoid discussing so SPOILER ALERT!
I’ve broken my thoughts into a few areas:
- The broad story talks about the plot / characters (not the main ones)
- The Doctor – has Jodie Whittaker’s interpretation moved on since series 11
- Look and feel – the production
- The companions – have they evolved
- The Master – the big twist
- Not perfect – some of the problems with Spyfall Pt 1.
The broad story
The first half or so of the episode meandered a bit, didn’t achieve much just revelled in being a James Bond episode. In the end that was OK for me, though I do hope the whole spy-killing thing comes together. Yes I never believe the early kidnap and car chase would end with death but it’s no different from the start of most Bond movies.
I liked the new aliens (and not named, we’re not in the Moffat era now! I call them the Bright), though get very bored with saving the universe. In a place so large, why do they only seem to pick on the Doctor who has to save everything every few weeks?
It’s a two-parter, and lets remember back in the day the 4×25 minute episodes would take a lot of time getting to the nub of the story.
Is there a sense it feels a little bit like Pertwee era Who? If Capaldi was a new take on Hartnell, and Jodie’s first season a little Troughton, has the pattern moved forward? What does this even mean?
Jodie Whittaker seemed far more assured to me and the odd use of close-ups in the first few scenes added to that. A more relaxed and confident portrayal for me even if it still needs to reach some real highs.
Look and feel
Still aiming for the cinematic look, looks like money is being spent and finally a bit more look inside the TARDIS (though only a little). No more quarries and London suburbs in Cardiff!
The companions (I hate the ‘fam’ word)
Big win here was Yaz. The episode had a piece of back in normal life at the start but of those, I felt only Yaz had real tension between a career she clearly wants and opportunity to travel with the Doctor. She took a lead in the espionage then seemed genuinely upset by her encounter with the Bright. Some of Mandip’s best work so far I think.
Ryan had a bit less to do and I actually like that he was out of his depth when investigating the VOR corporation. He still had a go but is refreshingly normal.
Graham was most underused, maybe a balance to almost dominant presence in series 11. Nothing bad just seemed least relevant.
Of course we’ll remember this as the one with a new Master, Sacha Dahwan being rather good. Is his Master a bit too manic? What did he do while working for MI6 when the Simms Master and Missy were taking over the world? Is he post-Missy (I think so) or not? Does he obviate the whole Missy redemption arc?
I will say I hadn’t known he was in it, didn’t wonder who he was and thought the Master reveal worked really well. It made me think we’re in a Pertwee sort of era, and perhaps he’ll appear in a few more stories?
I am keen to understand what he means by everything you think you know is a lie.
Plenty of problems though, most of which I shrugged off (apart from saving the universe). On my list is:
- TARDIS maintenance from underneath
- Why shoot Stephen Fry when no other murders happened that way? (dramatic effect)
- Bikes outside the villa were obviously going to be ridden
- Even I could have hit a couple of people on bikes at close range
- Stephen Fry was one-dimensional and playing C, the same character he played years ago in a Fry & Laurie sketch (I got that from the Divergent Universe forum)
- The birthday party confrontation seemed odd but may tie to the real dynamic with the Master
- Why kill a few spies? I hope for an explanation.
Meanwhile UNIT and Torchwood are no more. Or aren’t they?
So, I liked it. It’s not drama in the vein of Dark Materials or even one of my Christmas favourites Christmas Carol but it was pretty enjoyable and has whet my appetite for more.
It’s also the first seasonal special with no mention of the day itself!