After last episode’s shocking cliffhanger, Doctor Who Series 12 resumes with Spyfall: Part Two. Part One of this story was quite honestly some of the best Doctor Who we’ve had in years, so I was incredibly excited to get into part two. Read on to see my thoughts.
If you haven’t yet read our review of Spyfall: Part One, click here
The Doctor and the Fam
For the bulk of this episode, the Doctor and her friends are split up, which I think is one of this story’s main strengths. We get to see Graham, Ryan and Yaz being resourceful without the Doctor: going on the run, battling the Kasaavin and Daniel Barton and, best of all, landing a plane without a cockpit! It’s great to see them acting more independently, after them spending the last season basically just following the Doctor around, asking questions.
The scene with them sitting in the empty house, discussing how little they know about the Doctor was very well-done, picking up from last episode’s scene where Graham remarked to O how little he knows about the Doctor. All of this culminates in the final scene, where the gang confront the Doctor about her past… and she tells them everything. Finally there’s a bit more conflict within the TARDIS team, and I hope that continues in the episodes to come.
This is also a great episode for the Thirteenth Doctor. From her confrontation with the Master to her emotional return to Gallifrey, this is quite possible Jodie Whittaker‘s finest performance in the role. The character finally has some depth, hiding things from her companions, wiping Ada and Noor’s memories and, shockingly, leaving the Master to be captured by Nazis.
I’m saying it. I think Sacha Dhawan is my favourite Master. He’s only been in two episodes so far, but ever since he revealed himself back on that airplane, I’ve just been blown away by his performance. Veering from suave and composed to maniacal and psychotic, Dhawan’s incarnation of the Master has it all.
His scenes with the Doctor on the Eiffel Tower and in the TARDIS were both highlights of the episode; Dhawan and Whittaker have incredible chemistry that I really cannot wait to see more of. I also loved his massacre at the invention fair; the return of the Tissue Compression Eliminator has been long overdue, and the sadistic way he describes the “buzz” he gets from killing people is just perfect.
Kudos to Chibnall for creating such an instantly iconic incarnation of this classic character, and to Dhawan for a constantly incredible performance!
Set throughout history, Spyfall: Part Two sees the Doctor encounter some major historical figures. First, she meets Ada Lovelace (Sylvie Briggs), computer pioneer and daughter of Lord Byron. Resourceful and intelligent, Lovelace is a perfect companion to the Doctor, and the scene where she takes on the Master at the invention fair (blasting him with a machine gun and then lobbing a grenade at him!) was just brilliant. Briggs is also great in the scene where Ada looks out across wartorn Paris and laments such a dark future.
If you want more adventures with Ada, you should definitely check out Big Finish‘s The Enchantress of Numbers, a Fourth Doctor audio story featuring the character (played by Finty Williams).
Later, when we travel to Paris, we encounter Noor Inayat Khan (Aurora Marion), Britain’s first female wireless operator sent into enemy territory, and first Muslim war heroine. She’s really well-performed, and is another perfect character for the Doctor to meet.
It’s so great that Chibnall is giving the spotlight to these lesser-known historical figures: showing off their skills and talents like he does in this episode. It really hearkens back to Doctor Who‘s educational roots, and I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who will have heard of Ada and Noor for the first time in Spyfall and will go out to learn more about them as a result.
Barton and the Kasaavin
Unfortunately, with the change of focus to the Master, Noor and Ada, the plot involving Daniel Barton (Lenny Henry) and the Kasaavin falls by the wayside somewhat. What’s there is great- the scenes at the start in the Kasaavin world are marvellously tense, and Barton’s encounter with his mother is pleasingly dark, cementing his role as a villain- but it’s evident that Chibnall really just wants to focus on the Doctor and the Master here, especially given that Barton quite literally disappears from the plot about 10 minutes from the end.
I also thought his motivations were a little unclear. He wants to use the Kasaavin to turn everyone on Earth into a hard drive? I’ve watched the episode twice now and I still don’t quite get what Barton’s plan was. This isn’t really enough to derail my enjoyment of the episode, but it’s still a little annoying, particularly after all the mystery and set-up in part one.
Music and Direction
This is another really strong episode for music, with Segun Akinola pulling out all the stops. A highlight for me was the scene with the Doctor and the Master communicating via morse code. The drumbeats that Akinola lays over the scene really ramp up the tension, aided by Whittaker and Dhawan’s fantastic performances. I also loved the softer piano version of Thirteen’s theme that played when she, Ada and Noor enter the airplane hangar to stop the Master at the end.
Lee Haven Jones‘s direction is also on point. He gives each of the different settings we visit throughout the episode such a different look and feel and some of his shots (like when Ada looks out of the window and the burning city outside is reflected in the glass) are just sublime. He does a fantastic job, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work in next week’s episode: Orphan 55.
While the main bulk of this episode is fantastic, it’s the last ten-or-so minutes that I think really elevate it. Gallifrey! The Timeless Child! A story arc! It’s a complete reversal from last season’s anti-continuity fest, and I absolutely love it.
Spyfall: Part 2 is another fantastic episode of Doctor Who, perfectly wrapping up the first part while proposing some new mysteries that’ll carry on throughout the episodes to come. Whittaker and Dhawan sizzle as the Doctor and the Master, the companions get a lot to do and there are plenty of twists and turns, especially regarding the mysterious Timeless Child. What a brilliant premiere for Series 12!
Doctor Who: Series 12 continues next Sunday on BBC One with Orphan 55, written by Ed Hime and directed by Lee Haven Jones.
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