Monday, 20 January 2020

Doctor Who - Nikola Tesla's Night Of Terror

Tesla Recoil

Doctor Who -
Nikola Tesla's Night Of Terror

UK BBC1 Airdate: 19th January 2020

Okay... so Nikola Tesla's Night Of Terror wasn’t the best episode of Doctor Who we’ve had this series but it was better than the last two episodes so I’m going to cling to that straw and use it as an excuse to keep up hope for the rest of the series.

As usual, Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole and the incomparable Bradley Walsh were all as watchable as ever. They were also joined by Haley McGee as Dorothy Skerritt, Robert Glenister as Thomas Edison and Goran Višnjić, who did a really outstanding job as Nikola Tesla. Yeah, they were all good and the scripting had its moments too. The episode started off fairly fast paced and, although there seemed to be a few jumps in logic (how the heck did The Doctor suddenly have her TARDIS to jump into at one point?) the script managed to run through its own wet paint quickly so they didn’t really ruin the  story that much.

There were a few bad things mixed in with the good though.

It wasn’t exactly an original story. Okay so they set it in the past and used Tesla and Edison as plot devices but the story was really a reworking of that old Star Trek - The Next Generation episode, where you have the scavenger race asking for everyone’s help to fix the ‘acquired’ equipment in their spaceship. However, whereas in the Star Trek episode the alien race were cleverly and consistently passive in their approach... this lot was a race of giant scorpion people who had tonnes of stolen tech in their ship and who were basically just saying... ‘Tesla comes with us and fixes our stuff or we destroy the planet’.

The biggest problems were not so much with the script this time though... more in the execution.

For instance, a fair few times The Doctor and her companions are being chased by electric death dealing simulacrums and it’s like, if one of those bad guys even slips, it seems The Doctor has time to give a lecture, run a few errands and set a trap before the bad guys catch up with them again. Might as well make a cup of tea and put your feet up on the sofa while you’re at it (incidentally, Star Trek - The Next Generation suffered from exactly the same lack of awareness of time critical danger in many episodes as that displayed here).

Also, you had a nice looking, if annoyingly slow or clumsy (so they wouldn’t ever catch up with the good guys and gals) set of computer generated giant, alien scorpions but then, when the Scorpion Queen was revealed, you had an ex-Sarah Jane Adventures actress in a terrible looking suit trying to look vaguely dangerous. It just really didn’t work here and didn’t impress me in terms of a decent example of villainy incarnate.

However, there was some nice, vivid colour gel lighting throughout the sequences on board the alien ship and the chemistry between the leads and this weeks co-stars was pretty good so I’m reticent to say too much negative stuff here. I’m just glad the episode was halfway decent. And the musical score on this one was quite good too (although I hope they consider releasing Murray Gold’s last Doctor Who series score on CD before wading in on this one).

Oh, by the way BBC people... don’t tell us a ray gun is Silurian in origin and then refer to it as alien technology. Anybody who has watched their fair share of Doctor Who over the years knows that the Silurians aren’t alien... they were here on the planet long before humans arrived, remember? Clumsy scripting there... who does the error checking?

Anyhow, that’s me done with Nikola Tesla’s Night Of Terror and, as I said before, I’m just glad it wasn’t too terrible. Next week we have the return of the Judoon so we’ll see what that one brings. Short review I know but, well, that’s the way it goes for the ‘current’ Doctor Who these days. Nothing terribly exciting to report.

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