Who, Doctor Who
Doctor Who was the first show I did episodic recaps on for this site. It’s the first show I decided to start writing about every week and it’s befitting that Doctor Who also happens to be one of my favourite shows of all time. I grew up watching the Classic Who, with Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker as my personal favourites, before falling in love with Russel T. Davies’ slightly campy but relevant reboot when it dropped back in 2005. Since then I’ve religiously watched every episode of Who but found last year as the first since the days of Colin Baker that I really haven’t been enthused for a new season to drop. So alas, here we are. A new decade, a new year, and a new season of Doctor Who to digest. Whisper it, but Doctor Who looks like it’s set for a pretty good season to follow.
A frenetic opening sees us skip around the continents as various different spies are ambushed by strange, spectral beings that appear out the walls and push their way into our dimension. We then cut to Ryan, Yasmin and Graham who all prepare to leave with the Doctor after getting a snippet of their lives. All three of our companions find themselves stopped by a separate pair of men in black suits preparing to take them away.
These three cars converge with the Doctor who’s approached by one of the men who requests her assistance. En-route though, the sat-nav glitches out before a strange plasma ray destroys the driver and suddenly stops short, uttering the word “die” repeatedly and then reversing back up the road. Thankfully, the Doctor stops them at the last second and prevents the car from careering over the edge.
We then cut to London, where they arrive with MI6 and their leader, C, comes forward and mentions the doctor’s gender. “You’re a female?”, “Yes, it’s an upgrade!” It turns out something is amiss and the entire security of the planet is at stake. The aliens are attacking spies and rewriting their DNA. With spy weapons and plenty of gadgets at their disposal, Ryan and Graham share some good banter while Yasmin reads out the file and discusses an agent that may hold some answers. Unfortunately, before they can continue bullets rain down around the room as strange creatures materialize out from the walls and kill C.
With two suitcases, the Doctor almost lets in one of the alien beings to the TARDIS until they manage to fly away. The group splits, with Ryan and Yas heading off to do undercover work in San Francisco. There, they run into Daniel Barton who runs the mysterious company VOS and allows them to interview him, gaining valuable information while a feisty Yasmin presses him for more info. However, he rushes out but in doing so they find out he’s only 93% human. What’s the other 7%?
As day turns to night, Yas and Ryan sneak into VOS and find numerous cameras in his room, monitoring every area of the building. Daniel arrives inside and summons the strange spectral beings and after talking, Yas and Ryan find themselves cornered by the creatures who teleport Yas inside a strange alien world.
Graham and the Doctor fly over to Australia in a bid for more answers to the fish image she received. They speak to O, the aforementioned agent, and inside he talks to them more about the alien disappearances…until they actually show up outside and kill the two secret service agents protecting the house. The Doctor decides to retreat though, locking them in but despite some neat tricks, can’t quite prevent one of them coming through. Eventually they trap it inside an electrified cage, where the Doctor approaches and asks just what it is and what they want. It eventually answers and tells her they’re from far beyond and the time is nearly ready.
Yas, as it turns out, is teleported across to Australia and seemingly Ryan is transported there too. As Yas cries, he promises never to leave her. Is there a romance blossoming here perhaps? Before we can probe this any further, the Doctor deciphers a language to which the Tardis can’t translate; co-ordinates to every location on Earth. It turns out they’re alien spies and dressing the part, the Doctor and the others don suave suits and head up to Vallis Estate. The group get into the swing of things while the Doctor herself confronts Daniel and questions him over what’s going on, promising to stop him.
From here a chase ensues, leading to Daniel managing to evade their motorcycle chase and heading up to the airport, where the Doctor and the others scramble aboard his plane just before it takes off. Only, as it happens O isn’t actually who he says he is and as he encourages them to look outside, we learn his true identity is actually the Master. Barton, as it turns out, is not flying the plane but in his stead, a bomb that’s due to detonate in less than a minute. As the plane spins out the sky, the Master and the spectral beings take the Doctor away, transporting her to the same strange alien world Yas found herself in where we leave things on a cliffhanger.
After last year’s season, a lot has been said of Chibnall’s writing. I have to admit, I went in pretty hard myself and some of the episodes last year failed to really grasp that Doctor Who magic, succumbing to dreary and mundane episodes that felt more politically charged and agenda driven than genuine slices of sci-fi. I’m so happy that the team have come together to produce something that feels distinctly Doctor Who and although it’s still early days, already the quality feels like a big step up.
The spy setting is fun, there’s a lot more banter between the companions and the alien threat genuinely feels menacing, ending with a good reveal of the Master at the end and some great acting from Jodie Whittaker too. It feels good to be excited for Doctor Who again and I can’t wait for Sunday’s episode to see how this one is resolved. Whisper it, but Doctor Who may just be fighting through this decade to get back to where it should be. It’s not perfect, especially with some of the subtle gender digs here, but it’s a huge step-up from last year.
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