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Doctor Who Spyfall Part 1

Review by Paul Bowler

Jodie Whittaker’s second year of adventures as the 13th Doctor begins as Doctor Who series 12 gets under way with Spyfall, the first episode of a blockbusting action packed two-part story written by show runner Chris Chibnall and Directed by Jamie Magnus Stoneas.

Spyfall kicks off this new season of adventures with a bang! Secret intelligence agents from all around the world have come under attack by mysterious alien forces. The victims have been left in a coma and their DNA corrupted. MI6 seek help from the Doctor and her companions Ryan (Tosin Coyle), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) as the crisis spreads. The Time Lord and her friends scour the globe for answers as threats strike from all sides, Earth’s security now rests on the TARDIS team’s shoulders, but where will this world-endangering conspiracy finally lead them?

In true series premier fashion, Spyfall hit’s the ground running, and the pace hardly falters for a moment. The opening attacks, especially on the aeroplane cleverly introduces a nameless menace of deadly shimmering beings that can phase through matter. With the alien threat quickly established, the Doctor, Ryan, Yaz and Graham are soon thrown right into the heart of the action. As the name suggests, Chibnall’s script for Spyfall is a wry spin on James Bond. The Doctor even swaps her usual trademark rainbow t-shirt for a tuxedo and a darker version of her flowing coat as the Time Lord becomes embroiled in this sci-fi spy-caper. Indeed, the whole gangs attire gets a spy themed makeover. Spyfall also features some impressive guest stars, with Stephen Fry as suave spy boss C, and Lenny Henry as the shady technology company CEO Daniel Barton.

The security of this entire planet is at stake. Can we rely upon you?

The action in this hour-long opening episode is spread across several countries and locations; there are lots of big Bond style action-set pieces to enjoy, including a thrilling chase with the Doctor riding a motorbike, and hints of underlying themes to come as the high stakes builds towards a rather momentous cliffhanger. To fully achieve the globe trotting scale of this story filming for the first part of Spyfall took place in South Africa, the stylish direction by Jamie Magnus Stoneas takes full advantage of this, and the result ensures Spyfall boasts a slick blend of frenetic action with stunning panoramic visuals to launch the new season in fine style.

Jodie Whittaker continues to refine her performance as the 13th Doctor, infusing a genuine sense of fun and warmth to her role as the adventure unfolds. Series regulars Tosin Coyle, Mandip Gill and Bradley Walsh are also on fine form as the Doctor’s companions, and collectively the TARDIS team get some great moments to shine in Spyfall. The episode shows the Doctor’s companions catching up with their lives in Sheffield as the everyday reality of their adventures begin to hit home, Yaz is getting into trouble with her superiors because of her frequent secondments, Ryan’s friends are feeling neglected, and Graham also finds time to fit in his latest medical check-up. Perhaps most intriguingly Spyfall also reveals how the Doctor hasn’t been quite as forthright about her Time Lord past and former incarnations with her friends as we thought; potentially sowing a hint of conflict as the series progresses.

The new crystalline TARDIS interior has also been tweaked slightly for the new series. Most notably the roof has been raised slightly, giving a greater sense of scale to the set. Then we have the addition of hexagon style steps leading up to another level, and the screens now utilise an ethereally holographic means to convey information.

Decked out by C with a complement of nifty Bond style gadgets, the Doctor and her companions split up into two teams to carry out their mission. Ryan and Yaz investigate the ruthless tech CEO Barton while the Doctor and Graham try to uncover the truth about the aliens with help from the Doctor’s old friend O (Sacha Dhawan) from MI6. It is interesting to see a simple plot device like this being used to capitalise on using the four person cast to the full to tell a much bigger story than if it were just the Doctor and one companion, and it shows just how good the new TARDIS team can be when its done so well like this.

The name’s Doctor, the Doctor!

The aliens prove to be a palpable threat, one seemingly capable of even getting into the TARDIS, and to make things worse for the Doctor they don’t even give a reading on the sonic screwdriver! Her conversation with one of the beings mind-way through the episode is equally chilling. Lenny Henry’s character, Daniel Barton, also has a secret, namely that he’s only 93% human! As for that extraordinary cliffhanger that we’ve all been teased about so much, well it certainly blindsides you. It also works on several levels, the end result is dramatic, potentially game changing, and ‘masterfully’ executed! Yes the Doctor’s greatest foe, The Master, brilliantly played by Sacha Dhawan, is back with a vengeance! It was a great surprise, and nice to enjoy the start of a two-part story with a proper cliffhanger again too, as this was something that Series 11 sadly lacked.

Overall then part one of Spyfall gets this new series of Doctor Who off to a relatively strong and confident start. Although the blend of familiar Doctor Who and Bond tropes does make the episode feel a little uneven in places, they even squeezed in a nod to the X-Files infamous catchphrase, there’s still a fairly good balance between the action and humour. Characterisation is also strong, and the epic cliffhanger sets up some exciting prospects for the second half of the story. It was lovely to see the dedication to the late Terrance Dicks at the end of the credits as well, especially as the former script editor, author and writing legend who died last autumn co-created and named the Master back in the 1970’s. Much like the 13th Doctor’s debut season, Series 12 begins promisingly enough with Spyfall. Let’s just hope that this early momentum can be built on in Spyfall Part 2 and sustained as the series progresses.

Images Belong BBC

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About The Author

Hi, I’m Paul Bowler, blogger and reviewer of films, TV shows, and comic books. I’m a Sci-Fi geek, a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, movies, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comic Books, and all things PS4.You can follow me on Twitter @paul_bowler,or at my website, Sci-Fi Jubilee, and on YouTube and Facebook