Doctor Who Review: “Spyfall, Part Two”

Darkness never sustains.
–The Doctor

Doctor Who continues with the conclusion to “Spyfall,” and the introduction to this season’s larger arc. Certain spoilers, avoided last week, will appear in this week’s review. You have been warned.

Title: “Spyfall – Part Two”

Directed by Lee Haven Jones
Written by Chris Chibnall

Cast
Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor
Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair
Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan
Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien
Sacha Dhawan as the Master
Lenny Henry as Daniel Barton
Sylvie Briggs as Ada Lovelace
Mark Dexter as Charles Babbage
Aurora Marion as Noor Inayat Khan / “Madelaine”
Blanche Williams as Barton’s Mother
Andrew Pipe as Inventor
Sundry others as thugs, Nazis, and extras.
Struan Rodger as Voice of the Kasaavin

Premise

The Doctor skips like a stone through history, tangling with the Master, while her companions try to evade capture and stop Daniel Barton.

High Points

This episodes continues the spy-thriller pacing, and features strong performances by its human and humanoid villains.

Low Points

I know they’re playing with tropes, but, really? Ryan, on the run, loudly announces his plan to the people who just tried to arrest them? And man, those agents give in very easily to one armed (footed?) man.

The Scores

Originality: 1/6 It’s Doctor Who Bingo time! Who has…. The Doctor skips through time and meets historical figures everywhere she lands? How about, aliens want to take over the earth? Some plot highlights some issue of current concern? The Master is unbridled, cackling evil? The Doctor saves the day through a clever plan? The season begins by dropping a hint regarding a larger story arc that strikes at the heart of all we think we know?

Bonus: who, when the Master gets thrown to the Nazis, recalled the Daleks turning on Davros?

Effects: 5/6 The effects remain low-key, but solid.

Story: 5/6 The story feels disjointed in places, but it holds together.

Acting: 5/6

Emotional Response: 5/6

Production: 5/6 The episode does a good job of moving between places and times on a budget. We don’t get anything like movie-quality recreations, but the settings work. The show simply lacks the budget of an American prestige series; it even, seemingly, lacks the budget Doctor Who has had in recent years. Of course, the quality remains light-years ahead of the original series.

Overall: 5/6

In total, “Spyfall- Part Two” receives 31/42

Lingering Questions

The Doctor bemoans her fate, marooned in nineteenth-century London without a Tardis. Seriously, how long would she have to wait before she could just hop a lift with one of her other incarnations?

I’m all for diverse casting, but it seems odd– and the script’s lampshade doesn’t help– that why do the Gestapo just accept the current incarnation of the Master as one of them? Historical note: the Nazi Party is noted for their wild-eyed racism.
See comment: apparently, I missed / misunderstood a line of dialogue.

Once again, the Doctor has (apparently) been made the Last of her Race (excluding the Master). Granted, we don’t know how long this situation will remain in continuity, and we don’t know where the Dark SecretTM of the Time Lords will lead this story. Is anyone else put off by the development, or is it just me? The Doctor has never required Last of the Race Syndrome to work. The Time Lords have always functioned fine as characters who can become involved in the story, or be ignored for years, as the writers desire.

6 replies on “Doctor Who Review: “Spyfall, Part Two””

  1. lost says:

    Why the Nazis accept the Master is explained with a single line of dialogue. That’s what the “aryan perception filter” business is. It makes the Nazis perceive him as the “correct” race even though he isn’t. (Presumably, it doesn’t change what he looks like, just makes people think they’re seeing the “correct” race.) That’s even a plot point when the Doctor shorts it out and the Nazis turn on him.

    Regarding the hitching a ride thing: there has always been a strong taboo about deliberately interacting with past selves. It hasn’t been consistently explained, of course, but it has always been indicated that Bad Things can happen for whatever reason. Also, had she been there long enough, it probably would have occurred to her to try anyway. She *was* distracted by the Master rather quickly, after all. And I can’t see that leading any incarnation of the Master to your previous selves would go well at all. Especially since he could track her general location. (That also made “going the long way” less viable.)

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      Somehow I missed that, hearing “filter” as a metaphor. I just assumed the Nazis turned because they were fed information that he was a spy.

      And leave us face it, the Doctor ignores the interaction taboo whenever it gets in the way. She has excellent reasons to ignore it in this story!

      • There’s also that poorly explained thing where the Time Lords don’t remember meeting their older selves, and only the eldest of a Multi-Doctor story gets to remember that the others showed up. That means that future Doctors could bit hitching rides all the time and then just fading from memory after they get out of the TARDIS.

        Maybe that’s why the quick return was added? I picture Tennant having a very sorrowful and emotional looking conversation with Rose, while Jodie slips into the TARDIS behind him and says “Don’t worry, I’ll send her right back!” The TARDIS dematerializes, we see Jodie hit a button on the console and run out the doors onto 2020 to have the TARDIS dematerialize and reappear where it started.

        (Speaking of 2020, the website’s footer needs to be updated again!)

  2. lost says:

    Regarding the whole Gallifrey thing: it’s actually the logical outcome of previously established history between the Master and the Time Lords. Eventually, he was going to take revenge. Whether it was as successful or thorough as has been shown so far is unclear, but they do seem to have been playing things like this straight recently. Though I do wonder if all the Time Lords were actually on Gallifrey. I mean, that seems stupid after the Time War. But, then, the TIme Lords were never known for being generally smart in the aggregate.

    There have long been questions about “ancient” Time Lord history, particularly surrounding Rassilon and various ancient artifacts. (As far back as Tom Baker’s time if not earlier.) That means there’s room for something like this. I’m actually interested to see where they’re going with this dark secret thing. Here’s hoping they don’t fumble the landing.

  3. crow says:

    What’s the big deal about the Doctor being “trapped” in the past? She can always just take the slow road home. Of course, stealing the Master’s TARDIS is a nice touch, which ensures that he’ll take the slow road.

    • It would make for an interesting episode, too. Some major story takes place, maybe with some Weeping Angels, The Doctor gets winked backwards 40 years and that’s your midseason finale, followed by a holiday special that takes place in the forty years she is sitting around and waiting, and then the next episode is her showing up, dressed differently, freshly showered, maybe a new haircut, and is lurking behind the action waiting for her moment to re-join the story.

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