NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Doctor Who” are present in this review
After a fantastic setup to the two-part storyline that’s kicking off Doctor Who’s Series Twelve in the previous episode, the show struggled to keep up the same degree of incredible momentum during the subsequent conclusion to the season premiere plotline. “Spyfall, Part 2” certainly isn’t a bad episode, presenting another solid dose of twists and turns, one that sees the Doctor’s companions having to survive without her during the big conspiracy threatening Earth, though the writing did get noticeably less clever here. That’s disappointing, especially considering that this episode ends with an exciting new dimension being added to the longtime animosity between the Doctor and the Master, one that also presents a compelling mystery for later in the season.
So, as it turns out, only the Doctor ended up being sent to the alternate dimension of the mysterious energy beings during the conclusion of the previous episode. Apparently, these beings are called the Kasaavin, and they’re not even from our universe, instead being interdimensional spies that are looking to gather information on Earth to some unknown end. Doctor Who initially seemed hesitant when it came to creating threats based in parallel dimensions, even in the modern era, but it seems like the show is entertaining that notion for a change, helping to explain why the Doctor didn’t get any readings or data on the Kasaavin during the previous season premiere episode. Sure, it’s a little convenient from a narrative standpoint, but it’s fair enough to keep the plot going.
As much as the companions are especially vulnerable during this episode to boot, even the Doctor sees herself at a significant disadvantage here, when she’s forced to try and reunite with her allies, without having access to her TARDIS. This involves the Doctor initially being dumped into 1834, alongside a mysterious woman who also wanders the dimension of the Kasaavin, later revealed to be tech pioneer, Ada Lovelace. The idea of the Doctor having to make use of the Kasaavin’s random and unstable phasing in and out of history is an interesting idea, especially when it means that she can’t just immediately jump back into the 21st Century. Instead, after Ada forcibly grabs hold of the Doctor, the two end up deposited in France of 1943, once again narrowly dodging the Master, who previously attacks the tech fair that the Doctor and Ada initially fell into from the Kasaavin dimension.
I love this idea of the Doctor being without a TARDIS, while having to make temporary use of makeshift companions, as the Master chases her throughout history. It’s executed to fairly good effect here too, with the Doctor and Ada eventually finding another female historical figure, Noor Inayat Khan, the first female radio operator dropped behind enemy lines in France, in 1943. Some longtime Doctor Who fans may roll their eyes at the fact that only female tech pioneers seem to be encountering the Doctor during her trip through history, which seems pretty damn unlikely, but the resulting confrontation between the Doctor and the Master atop a Nazi-occupied Eiffel Tower is nonetheless pretty rewarding. The Doctor utilizes her temporary companions to get the Master arrested by the Nazi’s as a double agent shortly after this, though not before the Master reveals to the Doctor that he’s targeting humanity after someone destroyed Gallifrey, and the Doctor should see the ruins for herself.
Meanwhile, the companions have to try and dodge the prying eyes of Vor and Daniel Barton, staying off the grid, and having to struggle with the idea that the Doctor may not be coming back. The companion trio pondering what the Doctor hasn’t told them about her origins makes for decent material, though disappointingly, the rest of this storyline is pretty contrived and tedious. The companions unrealistically survive, despite all of Britain seemingly targeting them, and the way that they eventually overpower Barton’s goons is laughable, with Graham doing a quick jig with his laser shoes, which somehow convinces multiple armed gunmen to surrender. This is definitely a moment where the silliness stretches to breaking point. That said, Barton taking the opportunity to make his disapproving mother the first civilian victim of the Kasaavin is a little more amusing in execution.
But what is all of this about in the end? The Kasaavin slowly invading Earth by gathering data throughout history, and eventually re-purposing humans as hard drives for their knowledge. Okay, this is admittedly a little creative, even if the whole ‘slow invasion’ hook nonetheless amounts to a story twist that Doctor Who has already done, with episodes like, “The Power of Three”, for example. The Doctor’s retroactive solutions to stopping the Kasaavin also feel a little too convenient (especially when she somehow fundamentally changes Barton’s private jet to have huge companion-directing signs, and be flyable with an app. Huh?!), which may be intentional to an extent, since there’s a joke made wherein the Doctor almost forgets to implement her contingency plans, but it doesn’t change the fact that the payoff to the Kasaavin threat is not nearly as good as its setup in the previous episode. Still, the Kasaavin are ultimately repelled from Earth in the end, with the Master being imprisoned in their dimension as well, even though Barton appears to get away, for now.
The Doctor finally telling her companions the quick truth about her Time Lord heritage, shortly after confirming that the Master was telling the truth about Gallifrey’s destruction, also makes for a solid way to end this episode, and set the stage for more self-contained Doctor Who adventures over the next several weeks. “Spyfall, Part 2” didn’t quite manage to stick the landing after such a strong start to the season, but this episode still managed to be plenty entertaining, if also considerably less clever in its execution. As much as the show is hastily retconning the fate of Gallifrey yet again as well, returning its status to being destroyed, a la Classic Who, the mysteries behind what the Master learned, and how it relates to the myth of the, “Timeless Child” that was first hinted at last season during, “The Ghost Monument”, should present more exciting twists to look forward to when Series Twelve eventually moves toward its climax. I imagine that the Master will inevitably escape the Kasaavin dimension at some point as well, but now that this ambitious season premiere storyline has concluded, I’m also looking forward to the opportunity to enjoy some more good old Doctor Who jaunts throughout time and space for a little while.
- The Doctor having to return to her companions without a TARDIS
- Exciting, history-spanning duels between the Doctor and the Master
- Promising new mystery teased with the Time Lords and Gallifrey
- The final agenda of the Kasaavin isn't that interesting
- Too many contrivances with the companions