Wednesday, 1 January 2020
Doctor Who - Spyfall
Doctor Who - Spyfall
Airdate: 1st January 2020
Warning: Spoilers in this one... you have been warned.
Right then. Here we are for Series 38 of Doctor Who and they’ve managed to slash budgets even more than the last series, it looks like, by not only cheating us out of a Christmas special once again but, also, making the so-called ‘New Years Day special’ part one of a two part story in what is a series consisting of only ten episodes. Good grief, what a comedown. Back in the day you’d get a minimum of six multi-part stories per season with the smallest story usually being no less than four 25 minute episodes. So we’re definitely short an hour or two here at the very least.
Never mind... as it happens, Spyfall wasn’t a bad episode. Well, I liked it anyway... everybody else in the house hated it and I might have trouble getting the television for the next episode but I’ll do my best.
So, we have an espionage themed story and, true to some things I’d read lately, the episode was a little darker in tone and felt a little more dangerous. Also, it was going for a James Bond-esque tone which, at times it did very well. Early on in, I think it was in the third section of the pre-credits sequence, there was some scoring which was definitely trying to sound like John Barry and, later in the episode, there were some definite nods to the David Arnold style Bond scores as well, I think.
The appropriate scoring plus the great chemistry between the usual team of Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor and Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole all lent a certain credibility to the sense of pastiche and assured the whole thing was carried off to a high standard. Stephen Fry as the head of MI5 and Lenny Henry as this story’s villain also did a good job, Henry playing against type pretty well and getting away with it superbly. Not a ‘de condensed milk’ sandwich in sight.
And then there was the surprise villain. Since we already saw The Master kill his future self, Missy, dead 'for good' with the inability to further regenerate, I’m going to assume that the new incarnation of The Master, played by Sacha Dhawan, is an earlier incarnation that we... and somehow, The Doctor... haven’t seen before. I hope so because, frankly, it’s sloppy writing to just having no excuse for bringing The Doctor’s long running arch enemy (first introduced in the Pertwee era) back from the dead again and again. So... yeah, lets leave that on a back burner for now. I wasn’t as impressed with his performance as I was with the others but it’s early days for this version of the character and so I’m hoping some of his more irritating mannerisms will be dropped before long.
And... there’s actually not too much more to say about this one, I think.
There was a little more action than some of the latest stories but the script isn’t too bad and, unlike many in Whittaker’s first season, it doesn’t waste the actors on a terrible story. Well, part one doesn’t at least. I’m not a hundred percent convinced that the alien beings are enemies we haven’t seen before either... if they turn out to actually be there at all. There is a large element of smoke and mirrors in this one and it wouldn’t surprise me if, by the end of either the second part or the entire series, things are revealed to be an illusion of some sort. Certainly the forest of what looks like a hanging nervous system implies that there could be a whole lot less to things than we might expect. And the reason the sonic screwdriver is being no help is because there’s nothing to register? Just a guess mind you... I’m sure all will be revealed soon.
Now, one of the complaints from the people I watched it with was that the series had lost its sense of fun. Well... I think Id disagree with that one too and I kinda like a darker version of the show, it puts me in mind of some of Tom Baker’s more sinister stories and the old complaints of ‘scaring the kids’ that has never really left the show since it first started in the 1960s. Frankly, if it’s giving the young ‘uns watching this nightmares then its doing it’s job as a good TV programme, arming blossoming viewers with the coping skills they’ll need in later life.
Anyway... Spyfall is a good opener and I’m kind of hoping against hope... although really not expecting... that the rest of this short series continues in this manner. Keeping my fingers crossed for this one.