Monday, 6 January 2020

Doctor Who - Spyfall Part 2


Doctor Who - Spyfall Part 2
Airdate: 5th January 2020

Warning: Slight spoilers regarding the future of The Doctor’s origins.

Well, that one was certainly... something. I’m not sure what but it was certainly... an episode of the new series of Doctor Who.

Nah... I’d like to just leave it there but I can’t.

There’s something which has kinda been happening a lot recently with the show... ever since Russell T. Davies left and Moffat jumped on board and then, carrying through to the present. And it’s the phenomenon of starting off either stories or, more often than not, arcs with a bang and then not following through on them with anything like a satisfying conclusion. And that seems to be what happened here.

Last episode (reviewed here) we started with a mad rush of humour and spy spoof and I was thoroughly caught up in it. This week... well it’s not completely terrible but it did seem to kind of fizzle out a bit and, while I admire the chaos and friction of jumping through different time periods and picking up strays... such as Ada Lovelace lobbing miniature hand grenades... as The Doctor goes on her merry adventures, well.... I dunno, it just felt a bit dull to me this week.

The cast, as usual, were all excellent. I really like Jodie and her friends as The Doctor and her companions but, honestly, I think the scripts are a bit hit and miss and that’s especially infuriating when you’re halfway through a story and it kinda loses impetus.

Sacha Dhawan was okay as the new version of The Master... although I’m the only one who seems to like him in the house. His performance was a lot less histrionic than last week and I think he’ll hopefully improve as the series progresses... and due to the nature of the underlying story arc I’m sure we’ll be seeing him reprising that role before the series is finished. Having said that, I’ve still no idea how the heck The Master survived after his/her final death in the Peter Capaldi stories so... I hope they don’t just leave that one with a big question mark over it.

There were some nice things with Bradley Walsh hogging a lot of the best lines. I loved his little tap dancing laser shoes and the way he used them. That brought some much needed humour to a mostly dark episode... when you start using Nazi imagery and seasoning it with some heavily noirish atmosphere then, unlike some of the other Doctor Who shows that have used that period, you’re not necessarily going to invoke a miasma of fun. Of course, the argument is that you shouldn’t anyway but it depends on the message you’re pushing and I somehow didn’t think the gravitas of this period really matched what was going on in the rest of the episode so well.

My real big worry is how the show will progress now. As each new show runner has come along, they’ve usually tried to either change or add to the underlying mythos of Doctor Who a bit. Davies did it, Moffat did it and now it looks like Chibnall is also trying to do it. as well. This might mean he’s already on his way out and, if he goes towards the end of the season, he may well take some of the cast with him, is my guess. Is a regeneration on the cards anytime soon? If it comes to it, I’d rather that than a cancellation of the show outright but we shall see.

So, yeah, we have some serious implications here, via a recorded message from The Master, that there is something amiss with the origins of the Timelords on The Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey. So much so that The Master burned the planet to the ground as a result of hearing what that ‘betrayal’ was. Maybe it's a Rassilon or Omega thing... who knows? Of course, this could all blow over but I suspect the show runner wants to put his stamp on the history of the character before his tenure is done and so I suspect this will possibly be leading to a kind of soft reboot of The Doctor in some way, to a lesser extent. For all I know The Master and The Doctor are aspects of the same person but... we shall see.

That being said, it could all just be something which we’ll look back on and point accusatory fingers at the BBC for in the future... after all, is anyone asking about The Valeyard lately? I think there’s definitely some underlying tinkering going on here and while I loved what Davies did with the history of the show... which was kind of retracted in the Moffat era when Gallifrey was alive and well but then hidden away to materialise at a later date... I don’t think all this unnecessary tinkering with the basic plot mechanics is particularly good for the people who have grown up with the show from various decades.

So, yeah, big tonal change on this one. Lots of drama and gravitas but a deadly serious, dark edge which, while not completely unwelcome, doesn’t really sit as well alongside the set up episode, I think. There was a distinct shift in tone which, frankly, could have worked well and been a genius touch but... I don’t think it was here. At least, it didn’t quite do it for me.

Oh well, the next episode looks much less interesting so, with my expectations set relatively low again, I can only hope it will get better again soon. Luckily, there’s a doctor in the house.

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