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Doctor Who: Spyfall

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#1 Virgil Vox

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Posted 02 January 2020 - 01:05 AM

The first part of the two part season premiere aired today, exactly one year since we last had new Who. I have to say it was a fantastic episode and should please fans of Jodie's first season and fans who disliked her first season.

Oh, there will be major spoilers if you haven't seen the episode yet.

I loved seeing the fam back together again. While last season had its ups and downs the character work was great. I truly came to love Graham, Yaz, and Ryan.

We see them here at the start catching up on their regular lives. Ryan has apparently told his mates that he has had a series of terrible medical conditions. Yaz has been getting letters (presumably created by the Doctor) that shows her being seconded to a secret police group to get her out of her actual job, though that seems like an excuse that will wear out soon. Graham just goes in for a check-up.

Their respite is interrupted by men in black, and then we are off to the races as the Doctor and her fam are thrust into a spy thriller. It seems aliens have been attacking spies around the world, and re-writing their DNA. The head of MI6, C, has no clue as to why. With UNIT and Torchwood gone, the the UK doesn't have any organizations devoted to tracking alien threats and don't know how to deal with this one.

There is a lot to love here. Fans who complained about a lack of monster action and menacing villains will be happy to see that this episode gives us some new aliens who even the Doctor doesn't recognize and a new Master.

That's right. The Master is back. In a casting decision sure to piss off fans who weren't happy with a female Doctor, the new Master is played by Sacha Dhawan. I have to say, it was a shocking twist because I didn't think we'd be seeing the Master again so soon. Plus I know Sacha Dhawan mainly from the short-lived but great sitcom Outsourced so I didn't see him in a villainous role.

We only get a few minutes of him in his Master role but he comes across as unhinged and completely evil again. This isn't Missy who was in love with the Doctor and decided to fight on his side. This is a Master who wants to hurt the Doctor.

The new aliens are vague but cool. They seem to be pure energy, can invade the TARDIS quite easily, are all over the planet similar to the Silence, and apparently have plans for the entire universe. They aren't the scariest monsters DW has ever done but they have their moments. Their attack on O's Australian hideout was suspenseful.

The spy theme is tackled quite well. It is more loving homage than outright spoof and it doesn't overshadow the episode itself. There is C, the head of MI6, the briefcase full of gadgets, a party at a casino, fake identities, a car chase, etc.

I wonder if DW is going to take parallel realities again since the code the Doctor unlocked showed multiple Earths and not just one. I think the last time the series even mentioned a parellel Earth was in the season 4 finale.

I really like Jodie Whittaker's Doctor and she seems to be much more comfortable in the role. She has some great lines and moments here.

It is both funny and ironic that the Doctor tells her fam to stay incognito and not let Barton know what they are up to and then seconds later she is confronting the man himself and basically saying she knows exactly what he is doing.

The episode clearly comes down against giant tech companies that have more power than most national countries.

It seems that Yaz's sister is into Ryan. I can't remember if that was mentioned last season or not. Either way I loved how Ryan said he would be the best brother in-law.

The TARDIS interior has been slightly redesigned. I like it.

Okay, I really hope we get an episode where we truly delve into the TARDIS (and not like the bad Matt Smith episode where all we saw were basically endless corridors) because they keep teasing us with the awesome things contained within, like a jungle.

All in all, this was a great episode to kick off the new season. I am more than excited to see how they resolve that cliff hanger and what the Master meant when he said that everything the Doctor thought she knew was a lie.
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#2 Christopher

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Posted 02 January 2020 - 12:37 PM

I was afraid I wouldn’t get to see this one since I don’t have cable anymore, but fortunately I found it streaming for free on the BBC America website this morning. Unfortunately, it’s a crummy video player that fumbled the transitions between the show and the commercials, which was annoying. Plus it’s the first time in a while I’ve encountered streaming video that wouldn’t play in Firefox so that I had to use Chrome instead.

Anyway, nice to see the Doctor and the “fam” again, but I didn’t love the story, since I’m not a fan of James Bond. I mean, really, why were they so impressed by those suitcases full of spy gadgets when their best mate has a sonic screwdriver that does all that and more? And what’s the deal with MI-6 officially denying the existence of aliens even while acknowledging that UNIT and Torchwood have been dealing with them for decades? I don’t understand this franchise’s insistence on constantly resetting humanity’s knowledge of aliens to zero despite regularly doing stories about alien invasions on Earth. (And whatever happened to the peace treaty with the Zygons living among us?)

The threat is also too unfocused. Are the enemy attacking through technology or rewriting spies’ DNA or coming directly through the walls or what? Pick a tactic and stick with it.

And why did Graham act surprised when “O” said the Doctor had been a man when he’d just been mistaken for the Doctor by “C,” who explicitly said all previous records said the Doctor was a man?

I’m a bit underwhelmed by the return of the Master, since it hasn’t been that long since the last one, and it’d be nice to see some other Time Lords return now that Gallifrey is back in play. Still, Sacha Dhawan is an interesting choice — though a bit of an ironic one, since he played Doctor Who‘s pilot director Waris Hussein in the docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time.

With the hints about alternate universes, I wonder if the Barton that Yaz and Ryan saw talking to the aliens is a doppelganger and the one that the Doctor spoke to was the real one who knew nothing of the plot. And maybe Barton was “never there” in the cockpit because the Barton we saw flying the plane was a parallel one, or something. (He did seem to react to the cargo door being open, but that could be a red herring, like that annoying trope where we cut between scenes of a villain or captive inside a room and scenes of the cops about to storm into the room to arrest or rescue them, and then they storm in and it’s empty because it’s actually two completely different rooms.)
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#3 RJDiogenes

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Posted 02 January 2020 - 07:58 PM

My On Demand was glitchy this morning, so I only got to see the first ten minutes so far.

View PostVirgil Vox, on 02 January 2020 - 01:05 AM, said:

With UNIT and Torchwood gone  
Is this new information, or did I miss or forget something?

Quote

Okay, I really hope we get an episode where we truly delve into the TARDIS (and not like the bad Matt Smith episode where all we saw were basically endless corridors) because they keep teasing us with the awesome things contained within, like a jungle.  
That's always something I wanted to see, too.  I always figured there could be whole civilizations in there somewhere.
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#4 G-man

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Posted 03 January 2020 - 09:20 AM

It was mentioned in the previous New Year's special that due to austerity (read:  budget cuts), and the whole Brexit thing, UNIT had been disbanded.

Within this episode, UNIT's disbanding was justified by the overlapping jurisdictions with other security agencies, suggesting that UNIT fell afoul of interdepartmental jealousies and politicking.

And as with any decommissioning/reoganization critical information, and experience, gets lost as the new bosses takeover and refuse to believe such incredible tales that they previously had no knowledge of, and can scarcely lend credence to.

/s/

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Edited by G-man, 03 January 2020 - 06:44 PM.

Let me strive every moment of my life to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, so that all may profit by it.
Let me think of the right and lend my assistance to all who may need it, with no regard for anything but justice.
Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage.
Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens, and my associates in everything I say and do.
Let me do right to all, and wrong no man.
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#5 G-man

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Posted 03 January 2020 - 06:40 PM

I confess some confusion when watching the events unfold, but I figured that in true horror fashion, we were being presented with the symptoms, leaving the malady fairly undiagnosed until the Master's/O's reveal.

Even then, while we know whose behind it, trying to figure out his machinations and just what all is involved remains a challenge.  This is part and parcel to having a story be a two-parter.  But, as has been noted, it does seem to involve parallel dimensions.

It was nice to see that "the fam" is missed by friends, relations, and co-workers whenever they jaunt off somewhere with the Doctor.  As well as Yaz's sister taking a fancy to Ryan (and Ryan having no objections), but for Yaz's discomfort at the thought of her best mate, and her sister snogging.  Admittedly, while I felt it kind of selfish of Yaz to keep them apart, upon reflection I could see how it would be a bad idea.  If things don't work out between them, Yaz is stuck between them.  Then also, what if sis decides to tag along when they're going to face trouble?  It is a complication, especially if Yaz is going to be called to task for introducing her sister to danger.  Anyhow, it was nice to see the larger world the fam lives in when they aren't gallivanting with the Doctor.

Looking forward to Part 2.

/s/

Gloriosus
the G-man Himself
Let me strive every moment of my life to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, so that all may profit by it.
Let me think of the right and lend my assistance to all who may need it, with no regard for anything but justice.
Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage.
Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens, and my associates in everything I say and do.
Let me do right to all, and wrong no man.
-- Doc Savage

Few people want to be moderated, most people see the need for everyone else to be moderated. -- Orpheus

#6 RJDiogenes

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Posted 05 January 2020 - 05:19 PM

Yup, that was definitely an homage to Bond, which was fun. I loved seeing Stephen Fry as M-- I mean, C-- and it's a shame he won't be back.  The gadgets were fun, as was the gang looking groovy in their tuxes at Casino Royale-- I mean, birthday party.  The car chase and gunplay, as well as the hopping on the jet planet, were a nice change of pace for Doctor Who. And that was one heck of a cliffhanger, although it probably should have ended before The Doctor appeared in the Tallskinnytreeverse.

Aaand The Master is back.  I'm not sure if he's regenerated again, or just disguised, but his personality has changed yet again and back to the bugnuts end of the spectrum.  This is the version of The Master that I don't really like.  I guess the John Simm regeneration was a popular one, but I didn't really like that storyline-- the character himself was okay, but not as a version of The Master.  I prefer the rational, calculating interpretations like devilish guy from the original series or Missy. But we'll see how this works out.

View PostG-man, on 03 January 2020 - 09:20 AM, said:

It was mentioned in the previous New Year's special that due to austerity (read:  budget cuts), and the whole Brexit thing, UNIT had been disbanded.  
Wow, poor UNIT was disbanded off camera after being such a big part of the Whoniverse for so many years?  They really should deal with that directly.
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#7 FarscapeOne

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Posted 05 January 2020 - 10:19 PM

I have a theory that the off camera disbandmemt of UNIT is a nod to the budget cuts DOCTOR WHO has been getting over the last few years.

Edited by FarscapeOne, 05 January 2020 - 10:20 PM.


#8 Christopher

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Posted 06 January 2020 - 06:46 PM

View PostRJDiogenes, on 05 January 2020 - 05:19 PM, said:

Aaand The Master is back.  I'm not sure if he's regenerated again, or just disguised...

The latest incarnation we know of is Missy, and she died the last time we saw her. So this has got to be a different incarnation. Some are wondering if it could be an earlier, pre-Simm (and thus pre-Jacobi) incarnation, but that seems unlikely; traditionally, Time Lords always encounter each other in chronological order no matter how much they bounce around the timeline, with the only exceptions, usually, being crossovers between different incarnations of the same Time Lord. And of course coming back from apparent inescapable death is the Master's trademark.

Certainly the Master is a, err, master of disguise, but he/she never misses a chance to unmask and gloat to the Doctor. The fact that he didn't remove his (ahem) "O" face shows that this is his permanent appearance in this incarnation.
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#9 G-man

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Posted 07 January 2020 - 09:54 AM

So … I finished watching Part 2 of Spyfall and was left feeling disappointed.

When did the Master start going in for genocide?  Is that a recent thing, or has that always been the case, and I simply didn’t notice?  For someone who goes by the name Master, I would have thought domination would have been his goal, and not annihilation.

I did like the Doctor saving our gang remotely, and the montage of just how she managed that.

I also liked that the Master was coopting the other antagonists plans, rather than manipulating innocents into working his will.

But it seemed like a lot of exposition, with most everyone else going along for the ride, while the Doctor and the Master are playing “aren’t I the clever one.”  End result, because of time travel – and depriving the other of their TARDIS, one was able to outmaneuver the other.  There was relatively little agency on the part of the other characters that would affect the plot.

Finally, I’m not exactly thrilled about the reset of Gallifrey’s fate, even if it does set up what appears to be the season’s arc viz the Timeless Child.

/s/

Gloriosus
the G-man Himself
Let me strive every moment of my life to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, so that all may profit by it.
Let me think of the right and lend my assistance to all who may need it, with no regard for anything but justice.
Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage.
Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens, and my associates in everything I say and do.
Let me do right to all, and wrong no man.
-- Doc Savage

Few people want to be moderated, most people see the need for everyone else to be moderated. -- Orpheus

#10 Christopher

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Posted 07 January 2020 - 10:37 AM

Well, apparently BBC America only made Part 1 available online for free. I'd have to "sign in with my cable provider" to watch Part 2, and if I had a cable provider anymore, I wouldn't need to watch online. Still, I decided to spoil myself on the plot and read a couple of reviews, just to stay in the loop.


View PostG-man, on 07 January 2020 - 09:54 AM, said:

When did the Master start going in for genocide?  Is that a recent thing, or has that always been the case, and I simply didn’t notice?  For someone who goes by the name Master, I would have thought domination would have been his goal, and not annihilation.

As a rule, yes, he wants to conquer and control -- though in "Logopolis" he was willing to threaten the destruction of the entire universe if it didn't bow to him. But in this case, from what I've read about the plot, he was motivated by outrage at the truth the Time Lords had hidden, rather than his usual motive of conquest. This was not business as usual, this was an extreme of vengeful madness he was driven to by the shocking truth he learned.



Quote

I did like the Doctor saving our gang remotely, and the montage of just how she managed that.

Sounds very Bill and Ted.
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#11 G-man

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 11:18 AM

Oh, yeah, while I appreciated the educational tidbits of Babbage, Ada Lovelace, and Noor (the last two I was completely unaware of), I am less than thrilled with the Doctor’s touch of selective memory loss.  Especially in light of the Doctor’s firsthand experience of what that is like, and then it required a particular doohickey to work.

It just seems to me there was too much hand-waving on the part of the writer to redress any problems that he himself had introduced.

/s/

Gloriosus
the G-man Himself
Let me strive every moment of my life to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, so that all may profit by it.
Let me think of the right and lend my assistance to all who may need it, with no regard for anything but justice.
Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage.
Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens, and my associates in everything I say and do.
Let me do right to all, and wrong no man.
-- Doc Savage

Few people want to be moderated, most people see the need for everyone else to be moderated. -- Orpheus

#12 Christopher

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 11:46 AM

It's weird how concerned Chibnall's Doctor is with not changing the timeline. Past Doctors just muddled about openly in history without worrying about who found out about them. It was generally assumed that whatever interactions the Doctor had with historical figures and events was just part of how they'd always played out, like when it turned out the events of "The Visitation" triggered the Great Fire of London, or that H.G. Wells got his inspiration for The Time Machine by getting dragged along on the Doctor's adventures in "Timelash." This sudden preoccupation with tiptoeing gently through history so as not to alter it feels like a concept from other sci-fi such as Star Trek getting awkwardly grafted onto Doctor Who.
"You don't use science to show that you're right, you use science to become right." -- xkcd

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#13 FarscapeOne

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 12:03 PM

I've wondered about that, too.  Perhaps that's the defining trait of this Doctor, since all of them have something that really differentiates them from other incarnations.

Though it is not unheard of, though... there have been a few times where The Doctor tries specifically to not alter things, like fixed points in time.

Edited by FarscapeOne, 08 January 2020 - 12:05 PM.


#14 FarscapeOne

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 12:06 PM

View PostG-man, on 08 January 2020 - 11:18 AM, said:

Oh, yeah, while I appreciated the educational tidbits of Babbage, Ada Lovelace, and Noor (the last two I was completely unaware of), I am less than thrilled with the Doctor’s touch of selective memory loss.  Especially in light of the Doctor’s firsthand experience of what that is like, and then it required a particular doohickey to work.

It just seems to me there was too much hand-waving on the part of the writer to redress any problems that he himself had introduced.

/s/

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I knew about Babbage and Lovelace, but I never heard of Noor, a.k.a. Madeline.

Edited by FarscapeOne, 08 January 2020 - 12:07 PM.


#15 Christopher

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 01:51 PM

View PostFarscapeOne, on 08 January 2020 - 12:03 PM, said:

Though it is not unheard of, though... there have been a few times where The Doctor tries specifically to not alter things, like fixed points in time.

Fixed points in time are the ones that can't be altered no matter what. That was a modern-series retcon to handwave why the Doctor was able to intervene freely in present-day, future, or alien events, but was generally able to trample about Earth history without disrupting any known events except on a small, personal scale. Or to explain inconsistencies like why in "The Aztecs," the Doctor insisted that it was impossible to change history, "not one line," no matter how hard you tried, but then a season later he was trying to stop "The Time Meddler" from changing the outcome of the Battle of Hastings. (Although maybe the difference was that the Meddling Monk was a Time Lord. The Davies era implied that the Time Lords had been the ones keeping the timeline consistent, and that after their apparent destruction in the Time War, history had become far more mutable. So it follows, perhaps, that a rogue Time Lord might've had the power to change events even if a normal human couldn't.)

If anything, the assumption in the Davies and Moffat eras was that the Doctor changed history all the time, but the linchpin events remained fixed no matter how much things shifted around them, so it was okay. So Thirteen's fear of making even slight changes to recorded history is inconsistent.

More importantly, though, it makes it feel like a different show. It makes it less uniquely Doctor Who and more like 90% of the other SFTV shows that have engaged with time travel. It's a cliche that this franchise used to be largely unfettered by.

Edited by Christopher, 08 January 2020 - 01:53 PM.

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#16 RJDiogenes

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 08:13 PM

Well, okay, it was mostly a fun episode.  The Companions had a few cool things to do and got to show their mettle-- and Graham and his tap-dancing laser shoes cracked me up.  But I got some issues.

The Gallifrey thing really got me down.  I always disliked that the destruction of Gallifrey was part of the background of the revival and I was very happy when the beloved Curator revealed that it still existed.  Now they've literally destroyed the place and shown us the corpse.  I'm really not happy about that.  And I have a feeling that I'm not going to like this big, game-changing, everything-you-always-thought-you-knew-is-wrong (yawn) revelation either.

And it was great to see Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, but they didn't really contribute much to the story besides window dressing.  Two of the greatest real-life Cyberpunks in history deserve better than that.

Also, I got a kick out of the Master taking the long way around to get back to the present-- but it kind of raises the question of why he didn't pull any dastardly Master crap all those years.  And what did the Doctor do with his TARDIS?

All in all, fun to watch but not to think about.  I hope this doesn't bode ill for the season.
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#17 Christopher

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 08:56 PM

View PostRJDiogenes, on 10 January 2020 - 08:13 PM, said:

And it was great to see Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, but they didn't really contribute much to the story besides window dressing.  Two of the greatest real-life Cyberpunks in history deserve better than that.

Here ya go:

http://2dgoggles.com/
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