Doctor Who Series 12, Episode 1
“Spyfall, Part One”
Posted by Kim
Fam, I have a confession to make.
After a series that left me with a lot of lukewarm feelings about the direction of my beloved show (emphatically NONE of them having to do with Jodie Whittaker or Team TARDIS, all of whom I adore and who did their fucking best despite often being hamstrung by clumsy writing IMO) and a year-long hiatus plagued by rumors of unrest in Cardiff, I was worried that I was on my way out when it came to Doctor Who.
In the absence of any sort of official news from Chris Chibnall, other than a production still of Jodie having a staring match with a Judoon, it felt like the fandom was starting to cannibalize itself. It felt like every other day there were shady anons saying that Chibbers had been fired, that Jodie had walked off set in solidarity, and that the BBC was interfering and fast-tracking a new regeneration pronto, prompting THAT subset of fans (you know the ones I speak of) to proclaim victory over the whole female Doctor experiment. Whenever we DID get some marketing or promotion, it felt a little sloppy and amateur, with the whole “Watch this Space” debacle to tease the trailer being especially maddening. Whovian Twitter was a cesspool of ugliness, from past writers revealing their transphobia to the cyberbullying of people of color calling out Doctor Who‘s diversity practices.
In short, the fandom wasn’t fun anymore. While the week-long marathon of the new series (save for the ENTIRETY of Series 8, and half of Series 9, how dare you leave out WHOUFFALDI) served as a reminder of why I loved Doctor Who so much, I was still questioning if I wanted to invest anymore in this fandom. Even on premiere day, when we were getting our show back after a YEAR, my friends and I were more excited about our tradition of going to the new Star Wars movie in IMAX than the episode, down to still squeeing over Adam Driver as the episode started.
And then something happened.
HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS IT’S THE MASTER. CHIBNALL PULLED A FAST ONE ON US AND SAID YOU WANT OLD SCHOOL DOCTOR WHO SHIT? FINE. I’LL GIVE YOU GUYS THE MOTHER FUCKING MASTER. AND GUESS WHAT? HOLLLLLLYYYYYYYY SHIT, THE MASTER IS THE HOT GUY WE HAD BEEN DROOLING OVER THE ENTIRE EPISODE WE GET TO KEEP HIM HOLY SHIT.
That’s it. That’s the recap. Bye.
I kid, I kid. Well, sort of.
Other things did happen in “Spyfall” and even before the big reveal, I was having the most fun I’ve had watching Doctor Who since Series Nine. A friend wisely pointed out that nothing from this episode indicated any sort of strife on set or any kind of uncertainty. In fact, it was the very opposite. Unlike so much of Series Eleven (for me), everything about “Spyfall” radiated confidence, from the performances to the writing to the scoring. To quote Stefon, this episode had everything. The cold open was a great homage to the spy genre. The monsters were genuinely terrifying, from the way they almost busted through the TARDIS to the siege at O’s compound in the Australian desert to whatever the FUCK happened to Yaz. (Because something most definitely happened to her, right?) We’ve got a potentially massive crisis (kisses!) affecting the global intelligence community. We got Stephen Fry dropping in as the Head of MI-6, gifting us with his signature dry wit and then promptly getting assassinated and getting his paycheck for one day of work.
We got Graham and Ryan bickering over spy gadgets. We got Broadchurch alum Lenny Henry (or, as I liked to call him, Idris Elba-lite) as Daniel Barton, who is either a Big Bad or the ultimate fall guy for an even bigger bad. (The latter, it’s the latter.) We got Team TARDIS looking fine as HELL in their black-tie finest as they crashed Barton’s birthday party.
But really, this episode is all about Sacha Dhawan.
I was enjoying the hell out of Sacha’s performance even before the Master reveal. His O is a bit nebbish, but wickedly smart; he’s an obvious scholar and fanboy of the Doctor, treating her with respect and awe. He’s the perfect kind of wannabe companion (like Sally Sparrow or Craig Owens) that you WANT to stick around, the kind that you are delighted when the Doctor actually invites them along. Our little watching party was so happy when O joined the team on their mission to Barton’s birthday, and not just because we got to keep the hot guy a little bit longer. (Okay, it was a lot that.) Sacha fits in seamlessly with the team, from the obvious sparks with Yaz, to the exasperation with Graham, to the chemistry with the Doctor.
And then O fucked up, claiming that he was always last in sprinting in school when he was actually top of his class according to his files and EVERYTHING about Sacha’s performance was turned on its head. And reader, I can only compare it to the season one finale of The Good Place
This, my friends, is how you do a Master reveal. Though apparently there had been rumors that this was happening, I hadn’t heard any of them. My entire viewing group was blindsided, all of us leaping to our feet and SHOUTING. Though I don’t necessarily agree with Chris Chibnall’s cone of silence surrounding Doctor Who, in this moment, I understood it, because the reveal was so fucking satisfying.
It almost made me forgive the BBC for leaking John Simm’s return in Series Ten.
If you haven’t done so already, I urge you to watch “Spyfall” again knowing the entire time that O is the Master. The scene with Graham, where O offered his entire shelf of research about the Doctor? On first viewing, it’s just like a geek-out scene. But knowing it’s the Master? It becomes sinister. He’s intending to make Graham question the Doctor and not trust her. The whole TARDIS reveal? He’s mocking her with that “ridiculous” comment. He may as well have said that’s she’s redecorated and he doesn’t like it. The chemistry with Yaz goes to a completely different level because honestly, the Master actually seducing one of the Doctor’s companions would be the ultimate fuck you jealous ex move that fan fiction writers DREAM about. And all the blatant adoration of the Doctor? Well, that’s just another chapter in the greatest love story across all of time and space. (Alexa, play Battlescars.)
And somehow, through some sort of bad boy witchcraft, Sacha becomes even hotter when he becomes the Master. He’s just so deranged and it’s all just so very, very, very good.
And let’s not ignore how brilliant Jodie Whittaker is in this scene. Thirteen goes completely still and SILENT which is so disconcerting considering how kinetic and talkative she is. Panic and shock is written all over her face and I’m just desperate to know exactly what is going through that beautiful brain because you know the Doctor is thinking SO many things in that moment. Is she thinking of Missy and mourning the way she seemed to be turning towards the light, without hope, without witness, and without reward? Is she berating herself for missing all the obvious signs that O was not what he seemed? Is she just thinking “I’ve fucked up” over and over and over again? (After all, she DID break the ONE rule of being a spy by trusting someone.) Is she running a mental checklist of all her sins that will come to light, of everything she’s going to have to tell her chosen family, at the risk of potentially losing them? I’d wager it’s a combination of all of them. It’s such a masterful and subtle job by Jodie because so much of this scene is both actively listening and also fighting to keep emotions in check, because the moment she loses control, she’s lost.
And the horrible thing is that she may have lost anyway. Like previous regenerations, this Master has a penchant for taking down planes. He’s planted a bomb in the cockpit and made sure there are no parachutes. He summons the monsters to zap the Doctor away to whatever purgatory Yaz was sent to leaving the companions in mortal peril. Boom. To be continued.
I’ve never been so glad to only have four days between episodes.
- What exactly ARE those monsters? Their shadows SOMETIMES look like (and I have to say this!) Cybermen. But SURELY we wouldn’t be dipping into the Master x Cybermen well for the third time since Missy’s introduction in Series Eight…right?
- Protect Ryan Sinclair at all costs.
- “Worst. Uber. Ever.”
- Ryan teasing Yaz about not giving her sister his phone number is a lot. (“I would be a great brother-in-law!”) You dolt. Could it be possible that she’s not handing over the phone number because SHE LIKES YOU?
- Speaking of that, let Yaz get laid 2K20. Between Ryan, the Master, and the Doctor, girlfriend has tons of options.
- Everyone was SO CUTE while they were gambling.
- As an X-Files fan, I couldn’t help but be transported back to the cornfield chase scene from Fight the Future when the motorcycles took to the Vineyard. SCULLLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAYYYYYY!
- You know what else gets worse when you know that O is the Master? The fact that not only does the Doctor have a whatsapp chat with him, she signs off a message with “Kisses!”
- I didn’t mention how terrifying that car chase scene was when the AI turned on them, saying “DIE! DIE! DIE” Is that going to come back as being tied to the monsters or will that just be another infamous Doctor Who dangling plot thread?
- Seriously, they are all so hot:
- Apparently Sacha got the call about Doctor Who when he was rehearsing a play with none other than Peter Capaldi and COULDN’T TELL HIM but he thought Peter somehow knew. (While you’re at it, follow him on insta, he’s a cupcake and POSTING FAN ART.)
- I mean, I know it’s the first week of January, but methinks we have our first nominee for Most Handsome Young Man 2020.
What were your thoughts on “Spyfall, Part One”? Let us know in the comments.