As we wait in hot anticipation for the concluding episode of Series 12’s two-part opener tonight, a couple of our team reminisce and share their thoughts on the first part of Spyfall.
Warning: this post contains spoilers for Spyfall (Part 1).
Spyfall (Part 1) exists as a unique moment in Doctor Who’s long running history. For the first time in my own experience as a fan, an episode carries so much more than anticipation and excitement. Series 11, particularly as Chris Chibnall’s first series as showrunner, failed to stick the landing on so many levels that my own personal excitement for Series 12 was at anew low. Now of course I remained optimistic and entered Spyfall (Part 1) with an open mind, hoping for that strong narrative that evaded Series 11 throughout its entire duration.
I am happy to say that Spyfall (Part 1) serves as an enticing premiere to Series 12 and crucially most of all, seems to be setting up a narrative trail that weeks to come. What is most striking about Spyfall is a very delicate balance between pastiche and originality. Chibnall wears the James Bond inspiration on his sleeve throughout the episode and, via snappy pacing and excellent costume design, manages to ensure that the line to carbon copy is never crossed. This is crucial to the enduring success of Spyfall because the spy thematics form the episode’s identity from start to finish; overstep the cliches and you are left with Doctor Who-James Bond fan fiction.
Thankfully, this equilibrium is maintained and results in a fun thriller to begin Series 12. And that reveal… well, despite feeling sudden, if Part 2 can ensure the threat is not a one hit wonder, we may have a true narrative villain to follow through Series 12.
I’ll be honest, I was quite disappointed with Series 11, so I spent the year-long wait for Series 12 drifting away from the series, but ever the optimist (the hoper of far-flung hopes, etc.) I decided to go into Series 12 with an open mind, hopeful that it would improve. And I’m glad I did.
Spyfall (Part 1) was a strong opener for the new series, with lots of action, mystery and superb casting decisions to keep the viewer entertained. The story was intriguing, with plenty of twists and shocks.
The James Bond theme of the episode was pretty well executed. We’ve had stories with obvious influences before, and these have mainly been Christmas specials, so it’s quite nice that the tradition has somewhat continued with a new twist. At times it did border on being too obvious, especially with Segun Akinola’s music, but if you just accept that it’s a James Bond spoof to begin with, then it’s not too bad.
As a big fan of Stephen Fry, I was chuffed to see him in my favourite TV show, cast perfectly as C. What a shame it was then, that he was killed off after only 15 minutes. I’m really hoping that it’s a trick and he returns in Part 2, otherwise it seems a waste of a great casting. Similarly, Lenny Henry put in a great performance as Daniel Barton, with quite a dark edge to the character that I hadn’t expected.
One character I still couldn’t get behind was Ryan. As with Series 11, his character’s main purpose is exposition, pointing out the obvious to make sure the viewer is up to date. Whereas Moffat would trust that the viewer was intelligent enough to follow the story and understand things, Chibnall seems to want to dumb everything down, with the condition also spreading to Graham “It’s laughing at you Doc” O’Brien. Also, Ryan’s sudden awkwardness and stupidity at loudly talking about being a spy seems quite inconsistent with the character. Meanwhile, it was nice to see Yaz finally getting to do some police-related work, and her scenes around her apparent death were a great showcase of Mandip Gill’s acting.
As someone who was disappointed by the announcement of a female Doctor, I’ve warmed to Thirteen and I’m enjoying Jodie Whittaker’s take on the Time Lord. Sadly the writing is still letting her down at times, with moments like the Barton interrogation having nowhere near the gravitas that previous Doctors would’ve had. I did laugh out loud at the ‘snap’ card game joke though.
I will give Chibnall one thing though, he knows how to do a surprise. And boy, was the reveal of Sascha Dharwan being the Master a surprise! Nowdays there are very few things kept secret thanks to the internet and social media, so to get a reveal that made me shout “No way!” at the television was a joy. It does seem a little soon to bring the character back after Missy and Simm’s Master just over a series ago, but I’m glad that classic villains are being brought back. The casting seems like a good choice, as Dharwan is a great actor, but I’m unsure about his take on the Master from the glimpse we saw. After a few ‘mad’ Masters, I’m hoping we get to see a return to a more sinister and evil Master.
So all in all, I’m pretty excited to watch Part 2 tonight and I’m hopeful for Series 12.