The thirteenth Doctor has returned, with a James Bond twist on that most typical of Tardis Tales, the alien invasion of earth.
Title: “Spyfall – Part One”
Directed by Jamie Magnus Stone
Written by Chris Chibnall
Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor
Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair
Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan
Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien
Sacha Dhawan as O
Lenny Henry as Daniel Barton
Stephen Fry as C
Asif Khan as Sgt Ramesh Sunder
Darron Meyer as Seesay
Dominique Maher as Browning
Andrew Bone as Mr Collins
Shobna Gulati as Najia Khan
Ravin J. Ganatra as Hakim Khan
Bhavnisha Parmar as Sonya Khan
Melissa De Vries as Sniper
Brian Law as US Operative
Buom Tihngang as Tibo
Ronan Summers as Rendition Man
Christopher Mc Arthur as Ethan
Struan Rodger as Voice of the Kasaavin
When someone starts killing spies from all nations using alien tech, M16 turns to the Doctor and her companions. The mystery involves her with the head of Google-like corporation, an old associate, and an even older enemy.
This episode features strong pacing. Time moves rapidly once the show establishes its plot.
I realize we may have explanations for plot flaws, since we’re considering the first part of a two-parter. However, the Doctor’s companions (supporting tech notwithstanding) get rather far without being detected, despite being in the office of a man obsessed with security/surveillance and access to significantly advanced alien tech. Hiding behind a couch should be out of the question. It’s either really silly, or part of the larger plot the heroes should identify as suspicious.
Originality: 2/6 This isn’t the first time the Doctor has behaved like Bond– Jon Pertwee’s Doctor showed clear influences of the Swinging Sixties spy genre– but this episode gives us a pretty blatant tribute. However, we’re still watching the Doctor and her companions face off against an alien invasion, with the often-used twist of the return of an old enemy.
Effects: 5/6 The episode features serviceable effects, but nothing we wouldn’t have seen on TV a couple of decades ago.
Story: 4/6 I rather enjoyed this story. I won’t worry excessively about the gang jumping into the open bay of a plane as it taxis—that appears to have been a part of the plan, and it’s the sort of thing Bond would pull off. However, in light of what has transpired (including assassinations, attempted assassinations, and the near-breach of the Tardis), the Doctor behaves in an overly trusting manner, especially with the lives of her friends.
We’re told at the cliffhanger that nothing is as the Doctor believes. Does anyone foresee the Matrix playing a role? I don’t think that would work, particularly, but it’s at least possible. For those unfamiliar with Who history, Doctor Who did episodes involving a VR world called “the Matrix” years before cyberpunk and decades before the Wachowskis.
Acting: 5/6 The supporting cast give solid performances– more than a few BBC heavy-hitters guest-star. Is it me, or do we see signs of improved dialogue, which always helps a performance remain credible?
Emotional Response: 5/6 I rather enjoyed the Bond touches, from the spy thriller music and the Doctor’s tuxedo to the merging of Bondesque with Whovian tropes.
Production: 5/6 The production includes some impressive, movie-like location shots—but the trip to Barton Mansion feels rather low-rent, in the expected BBC manner.
Overall: 5/6 I’m awarding the episode a bonus point because it holds out the promise that this season will be superior to the previous, wildly uneven one.
In total, “Spyfall- Part One” receives 31/42