Spyfall Part Two

Posted in Episode by - January 06, 2020
Spyfall Part Two

Aired 05 January 2020


‘Spyfall Part One’ confidently and ambitiously commenced Doctor Who’s twelfth season, delivering a well-paced homage to spy stories that brought forth plenty of enticing questions while likewise introducing Sacha Dhawan’s incarnation of the Master. With the world facing a threat even the Doctor doesn’t yet comprehend as she finds herself trapped in an alien locale while her friends face certain death aboard a crashing plane, Chris Chibnall begins to lay out the deeper threads of this season while highlighting the versatility that this franchise and its lead character allow in ‘Spyfall Part Two.’

Understandably, the bulk of this episode is centred upon the Master, and Dhawan quickly showcases just how dangerous this version of the Master is. Hardly able to contain his fury when his well-laid plans go awry and the Doctor inexplicably winds up alive in the past rather than dead as intended, he is likewise almost elated at the very thought of the destruction he can wreak, and the physicality he pairs with his devastative shrewdness is an unsettling and less-explored angle of the character that is sure to cause further unique problems for the Doctor in the future. Even within the confines of this one episode, though, the progression of this Master is impressive as he embarks upon a century-spanning pursuit of the Doctor, at first brashly sauntering in with tissue compression eliminator firing before the will-be Ada Lovelace frustrates his scheme but then later during World War II carefully infiltrating Nazi ranks with a perception filter to establish himself as a more calculating force for confrontation. However, it’s when he tells the Doctor that he has razed Gallifrey itself because of secrets he discovered that belie the very foundations of Time Lord history and society that the true scope of his menace is realized, and Dhawan perfectly plays each of these very distinct aspects to perfection to breathe vivid life into this layered megalomaniac as a much greater mystery is introduced.

However, putting such profound focus on the exploits of the Master as he eventually takes the long way back to the present (begging the question of how he resisted meeting up with his former selves during their own exploits) does come at the expense of further development of the interdimensional Kasavin threat fronted by Lenny Henry’s Barton. Apparently, these sleeper agents in place throughout history watching those involved with the progression of the computer are looking to wipe the DNA of the human race in order to utilize it as some sort of data storage for their own race. There’s a potentially interesting storytelling avenue about the dangers of modern technology and its auspices of data protection that is hinted at, but the threat to humanity is instead put into motion with a simple flick of a switch due to the sheer proliferation of technology throughout society. Sadly, Barton is all too sidelined throughout these proceedings, and his killing of his mother seems included simply to serve as a reminder of what role he is supposed to serve. Many shortcomings can be made up for by a strong resolution, however, but ‘Spyfall Part Two’ similarly falls flat in concluding this aspect of the story since the Doctor casually solves it offscreen by traveling to the past and uploading a virus to the system to ensure it never works. One of the many joys Doctor Who offers is its ability to play with time, but using time travel to cheat death so nonchalantly- doing the same to ensure Ryan finds necessary instructions to help land a crashing plane in what plays out as a fitting homage to ‘Blink’ with its pre-recorded segments- robs the narrative of much of its dramatic potential.

Still, amidst the ambitious time-hopping, the characterisation of the leads is wonderful and continues to exemplify how strong this particular team is both together and apart. Jodie Whittaker excels once more while dynamically playing her enthusiastically improvisational Doctor, but a genuine strength of the episode is Whittaker’s ability to bring forth a much more reflective and contemplative performance when the fate of Gallifrey and the mystery of the Timeless Child present themselves. Likewise, the darker path her character seems poised to go down as she mercilessly leaves the Master to his fate with the Nazis, tells half-truths to her companions, and wipes her historial companions’ memories and the hope those memories could inspire is a fascinating avenue to explore going foward. Naturally, however, the Doctor’s positive influence is never far from her companions’ thoughts even as they quite happily put their spy gear to use with mixed results to avoid Barton’s all-seeing pursuit, and their willingness to discuss how the Doctor would act in such a situation highlights just how much their time on the TARDIS has changed them for the better. Indeed, with the afore-mentioned Ada as well as Noor Inayat Khan making superb de facto companions as the Doctor tries to make her way back to her friends, ‘Spyfall Part Two’ is brimming with vivid characters that together help to alleviate some of the shortcomings stemming directly from the Kasavin as written, helping to further elevate a story that succeeds on every front except- strangely- with the very threat that ‘Spyfall Part One’ took so much time introducing.

  • Release Date: 1/2020
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