The Last Of The Time Lords?
Tripwire’s contributing writer Robert Cave, our man in Los Angeles, takes a look at the second episode of the new run of Doctor Who, which was broadcast on Sunday…
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director: Lee Haven Jones
Well, that was chock full of surprises, wasn’t it? A second half that equalled the first in scope and scale and gave us something akin to a feature-length movie. Indeed, this two-part Time Lord extravaganza was actually screened in cinemas across the US ahead of the broadcast of part 2 on BBC America.
But while this episode is presumably intended to offer some sense of narrative conclusion, it also felt like something akin to a narrative dandelion, prettily casting its clutch of plot seeds up into the air to eventually settle down who knows where? Yes, we found out what the DNA rewriting was all about: turning humans into bio-hard drives, and the name of the aliens (the Kasaavins) who are instrumental in carrying out the plan, but these revelations were somewhat overshadowed by the news about the Doctor’s home planet.
Gallifrey has been devastated (again!) and the Time Lord Capitol lies in ruins. This time, it is the Master (Sacha Dhawan) who is apparently responsible, although he, like an abusive boyfriend, is keen to pass the blame for his actions back onto the Time Lords themselves. It seems that everything we have been told about Time Lord society is a lie, and apparently has more to do with the Timeless Child that was briefly mentioned in the series 11 episode, Ghost Monument.
But before we get too bogged down in rampant speculation on what is to come, we should probably talk a little more about what happened to the TARDIS crew, currently also known as “the fam.” Part 1 left them on a crashing plane while the Doctor was transported to the alien dimension of the Kasaavins, and that is very much the predicament they proceed to extract themselves from, albeit with the aid of clues left for them by the Doctor. It’s great to see Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yas (Mandip Gill) seizing narrative agency and actively attempting to tackle villain Daniel Barton (Lenny Henry) on their own.
Meanwhile, the Doctor has met up with Ada Lovelace (Sylvia Briggs) in the alien dimension, and through her manages to get to a steampunk pre-Victorian London where a criminally underused Charles Babbage (Mark Dexter) has seemingly completed his difference engine. Before the show can actually give us a small-screen version of Sidney Padua’s brilliant book The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, the Master interrupts. Hijinks ensue and the Doctor and Ada are whisked away to a suspiciously battle-scarred Paris in 1943. Here the pair soon meet British wartime spy Noor Inayat Khan (Aurora Marion) to form an impromptu, and entirely temporary, TARDIS team who will, thanks to their theft of the Master’s own time vehicle and the justified clamour of fandom, likely end up starring in their own range of Big Finish audio adventures before too long.
Stealing the Master’s TARDIS also turns out to be the key to wrapping up the main plot, with the Doctor using it to give “the fam” several helping hands to neatly upsetting Barton’s alien-assisted tech schemes. Just as with the Tzim-Sha, the villain in the series 11 opener, I suspect we have not yet seen the last of Barton or the Kasaavins yet, but their threat has been abated at least for a few weeks.
Nor, I am certain, have we seen the last of the Master, who remains a delicious presence throughout the episode. Dhawan perfectly captures the rogue Time Lord’s playful malevolence, and his banter with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is right up there with that of David Tennant/John Simm. I might quibble over them mentioning Jodrell Bank rather than the Pharos Project, (https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2020-01-05/doctor-who-spyfall-jodrell-bank/) presumably a reference to Tom Baker’s 1981 swansong episode Logopolis, but that is the kind of continuity gap that whole rafts of ancillary media have been built to fill.
One mystery such books (comic strips, novelty socks etc.) likely won’t have to solve is that of the Timeless Child. Is it somehow linked to the Nightmare Child, mentioned as being involved in the Last Great Time War that previously brought Gallifrey to its knees? Are the other Time Lords now dead or are they simply scattered? We shall surely find out before this series end, but that doesn’t stop me wanting to find out right now…