Halfway through Series 12: Doctor Who Review

Jodie Whittaker is back for her second series as the thirteenth incarnation of the Doctor, alongside companions Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole as Graham, Yaz and Ryan.

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole.

As of this evening, we have witnessed five episodes of Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall’s sophomore series on the beloved BBC programme. Personally, I think it might be one of the strongest collection of episodes yet, so let’s break down what has happened so far. Obviously, spoilers to follow.

Episode 1: Spyfall (Part 1)

Aired Wednesday 1st January 2020

A little bit of a silly season opener, at times this episode feels a little childish. The conception of the spy agency MI6, with its bumbling head of operations, and the multiple gadgets that are thrown away feel more childish than they do genuine. It stopped the episode from feeling as if it took place in the real world, personally. The concept was also slightly lacking, but ultimately the episode was worth it for the final reveal, as the Doctor’s ally O (Sacha Dhawan) is revealed to be none other than the Master, regenerated once again. The barely contained hysteria, glee and malice all bundled into one makes this iteration the most electric and dangerous that we have seen in a long time. The abandoning of the TARDIS crew, sans Doctor, on a crashing aeroplane was a nice closer. In fact, it might have worked even better without the shot of the Doctor trapped wherever she had been portaled to, as the most present and obvious danger lies with her companions. Despite my several problems, the series has never looked better than it has here. The scenery and the sets are flawless and a far cry from the wobbly walls that used to pervade the series, or endless nondescript corridors. The cliffhanger was majorly effective, though I can’t help but feel that if O had been a character that the audience had met and interacted with before and had a vested interest in then turned out to be the Master that would have had more of an effect.

Episode 2: Spyfall (Part 2)

Aired Sunday 5th January 2020

In part two, we see some real action as the TARDIS team are stuck on earth, trying to work against Daniel Barton without the Doctor by their side, really sees them take their own as companions, in a series that has left them with little opportunity to act with agency thus far. To see that, even when stripped of the Doctor, they act in the name of good demonstrates how well they are suited to their lives on the TARDIS with the Doctor. Meanwhile, the Doctor ends up in the past, and continues to time hop in order to catch up with her friends and stop Daniel Barton’s malevolent plan to destroy the human race from coming to fruition. We get a wonderful interaction between her and the Master, as they address their shared history, before the Doctor makes off with her foes’ TARDIS and heads back to the present day. A rather convenient off-screen piece of trickery by the Doctor foils Barton’s plan, and the day is saved, with the Master disappearing again. A thoroughly enjoyable episode, with consistently good performances all round. Having said that, short of the revelation of O at the end of the previous episode, there is very little that justifies this being a two-part episode. The Doctor’s storyline is clearly padding for time – as diverting as it is – and at its core, the plot of this episode is ludicrously simple despite the increased runtime. It also features the show-changing revelation that Gallifrey – despite being brought back into existence in The Day of the Doctor and discovered in Hell Bent (and has largely otherwise been ignored) – has once again been destroyed. This time, instead of through the Daleks, it has been destroyed by the Master, who did so upon unearthing a secret about the Time Lords that alters everything that the Doctor knows about her own existence. It’s nice to see Gallifrey becoming important, as well as seeing the Doctor in the centre of her own show. A welcome return for both high-stakes drama, as well as the promise a new story arc for the Doctor.

Episode 3: Orphan 55

Aired Sunday 12th January 2020

After their Earthbound first adventure, the TARDIS head off on a holiday. Separated from the TARDIS, you immediately know that something terrible is going to happen that would definitely benefit from the TARDIS being around. Sure enough, it appears that the natives of the planet upon which Tranquility Spa has been built on, known as Dregs, beseige the spa, leaving the Doctor and her companions fighting for their – and other innocents’ – lives. A late twist reveals that the desolate, orphan planet is, in fact, Earth, completely ravaged after years of climate change and war. In a very apt and timely speech – especially considering the ongoing situation in Australia – the Doctor highlights the need for change and how the future is still changeable despite the dire situation we find ourselves in. In my view, a highly responsible message to send.

Episode 4: Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror

Aired Sunday 19th January 2020

We are back into the past and, once again, on Earth. I feel like we’re spending an awful lot of time in Earth this series. Anyhow, we are in the past, and Nikola Tesla becomes the target of an alien race known as the Skithra so that he can fix their ship. When they are refused, they instead threaten to destroy the Earth, necessitating the destruction of the Skithra instead. The Doctor succeeds, and off they go. Done. Surprisingly simple really, but thoroughly diverting.

Episode 5: Fugitive of the Judoon

Aired Sunday 26th January 2020

Okay so I am writing this immediately after having seen the episode. Expecting what I believed was a standalone episode, my brain has been thoroughly blown. Firstly, Captain Jack Harkness arriving back in the programme after last being seen in Series 4 of Torchwood, to issue a dire warning to the Doctor about a lone Cyberman. Then, the eponymous Fugitive of the Judoon turning out to be nobody but the Doctor herself, in a form that we have not seen before, who even has her own TARDIS. Both the Judoon and the Doctor’s own sonic screwdriver confirm that they are indeed the same person – as do the credits that roll at the end of the episode. Considering the previous promises about the Timeless Child and something that changes everything the Doctor knows, this seems to tie into that idea in a very promising way, as this incarnation of the Doctor appears to be from our Doctor’s past, yet for some reason, Whittaker Doctor cannot recall ever being her. It’s an intriguing concept, and my brain is genuinely boggling with all of the possibilities that it brings up. Perhaps it’s entirely for the sake of it, but this kind of dramatic plot twist was beautifully crafted. I suspected from when Ruby and the Doctor turned up at the lighthouse and I saw the glass that there would be a Chameleon Arch-type situation going on; I expected that the Time Lord in question would either be the Master or the Rani (because those are always the predictions), but her being the Doctor – and actually turning out to be the Doctor – is a brilliant plot twist. Hopefully we explore this heretofore unknown incarnation in future episodes, as the mystery of Gallifrey further unravels. And if we don’t find out a significant amount of information on this front before the end of the season I will be incredibly annoyed.

So there we have it. Five episodes in and the thirteenth doctor is certainly bedded in. Is that a sexist term? God I hope not. The more I think about that phrase the more uncomfortable I become. I think I’ll erase that one from my daily vocabulary. Anyhow, I’m greatly enjoying seeing the Doctor facing larger threats than we saw her face in Series 11, in which I cannot remember a credible or dark threat existing. Since Resolution, however, it has brilliant to see Jodie fill the big “dramatic I’m the Doctor monologue” moment as she vows to protect the Earth. Additionally, we have started to receive some actual investment within the companions and how the Doctor has affected their lives and their ongoing relationship with her. Long may it continue. Furthermore, according to a second-half-of-the-season trailer, it seems like things are only going to get more dramatic, as we are once again reminded of the Master’s words regarding the Timeless Child, as well as seeing hints of the return of the Cybermen.

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