Doctor Who: Spyfall - Season 12 has started with a bungled "James Bond homage"
2 out of 5
Jodie Whittaker is back as The Doctor and I fear she, like Peter Capaldi is doomed to be remembered as a weak incarnation of our favourite Gallifreyan because of terrible writing. Season 12 kicked off on New Year's Day (no Christmas Special - again!) with a story that was promoted as a James Bond-style spy-thriller. Instead we got more of the lasklustre Season 11. Yes, the characters, The Doctor and her companions, are all a little better bedded-in. They are all more comfortable in their roles, given the stilted performances of Season 11. I fear for the future of Doctor Who id these first two episodes are an indication of how the rest of the season will play out.
All great spy-thrillers need a good villain and the Spyfall villain was easy to spot and provided no twist when the reveal was finally made. Calling him "O" because that's what The Doctor would say when she found out who the character really was, was just bonkers. Sacha Dhawan is a good actor but his portrayal of The Master left me begging for the return of John Simm. How come The Master always recognises The Doctor but never vice versa? His continued use of his "tissue compression eliminator" is just plain daft. Dhawan has been involved in Who before. In 2013’s An Adventure in Space and Time he played the role of Waris Hussein, Doctor Who’s founding director.
I like Jodie Whittaker. She was marvelous in Broadchurch and so was Chris Chibnall's writing. I really had high hopes for them as an acting and writing duo to take Who into a new era after the woefully under-used Peter Capaldi. It didn't work in Season 11 and this new season starts off worse, in my opinion. Chibnall seems to struggle to write Doctor Who as a female role. We first see The Doctor in Spyfall with the TARDIS on a vehicle lift as she works on it, like a mechanic. Yes we know The Doctor can do these things but for God's sake write her as a female. I don't mean a stereotypical female but why write her doing stereotypical male stuff? Feminism means a lot more. If Chibnall is not careful, Whittaker will be the first and last incarnation of The Doctor as female.
Spyfall promised James Bond but clearly did not have the budget, which showed up in the locations (Cardiff as California, really?). The ridiculous motorcycle chase through Picard's vineyard was risible. It was clear that Whittaker was not riding a motorcycle. Stephen Fry was a clever posh face of MI6 but was dispatched much too quickly. Lenny Henry looked lost as the (fake) villain. I'll bet my house that the ghostly aliens turn out to be Cybermen.
I wanted more. I hoped for more. The cast give it their best shot but the writing, the ideas are not there. They are not fresh. They are regurgitating old ideas. Lots of series do this. My beloved Star Trek did it more times than I can count but they had larger palettes. The Whovian palette seems small and it need not be.