Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Doctor Who review, ‘Spyfall – Part Two’: The brash, bonkers and unstinting ride we all need in January

Jodie Whittaker gives a wonderfully eccentric performance as the Doctor in an episode that serves as a showcase for Chris Chibnall’s firm grasp of the character

Ed Power
Sunday 05 January 2020 14:13 GMT
Doctor Who: Series 12 Trailer

Doctor Who at its best is a blend of belts and braces sci-fi and Horrible Histories strapped to a jet pack. Chris Chibnall gets the mix just right as he continues with his second series as showrunner by bringing New Year’s two-parter Spyfall to a winningly crunchy conclusion. It is brash, bonkers and unstinting – everything you want from Doctor Who, especially in the glum days of early January.

Spyfall part one had its moments and featured impressive scenery-eating by Lenny Henry as a dotcom megalomaniac. Conspicuously lacking, though, was the pan-galactic romping that all Whovians yearn for.

That omission is set right with a magician’s flourish in part two, as the story wends its way to a spectacular climax. We hopscotch from early Victorian London to Nazi-dominated Europe (your classic time travel bucket list). And then there is a pivot back to the present day for a showdown with the rejuvenated Master (Sacha Dhawan) and tech evangelist co-conspirator Daniel Barton (Henry, still having the best time).

But both are eclipsed by a wonderfully eccentric turn from Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor. This episode is a showcase for Chibnall’s firm grasp of the character. Yet it also serves as a reminder of just how singular Whittaker can be as a Time Lord for whom the biggest mystery is the inner workings of her own heart.

The degree to which the Doctor remains closed off from her deepest feelings is laid bare in the devastating twist. The Doctor pops back to her home planet of Gallifrey only to discover it has been Galli-fried. The culprit is obviously the Master. However, as he explains via a triggered hologram, he has his reasons for destroying an entire world. Everything he and the Doctor had been told about their background and their purpose is an interstellar fib – one built “on the lie of the timeless child”.

Timeless what? The Doctor is stumped and, never one to show her emotions, keeps her trauma secret from the rest of the team. More will presumably be revealed thorough the course of the current series. Until then Who fans will take comfort knowing Whittaker’s Doctor has now conclusively found her groove.

She begins the second part of Spyfall exiled in the alternate dimension inhabited by the light-based aliens with whom the Master has struck an alliance. There, she has a chance encounter with Ada Lovelace, the 19th-century computing pioneer (the aliens having identified Lovelace as a person of interest). Historical figures are always a delight in Doctor Who, particularly if you don’t know very much about them so that the inevitable inaccuracies fail to wedge in your gullet.

Bonding over their shared passion for arcane technology, the duo are soon zipping across the aeons. Their journey takes in Lovelace’s own London of the 1830s. Next comes occupied Paris of the 1940s, where the Master is posing as a Nazi (his disguise assisted by a “perception filter”).

Excitement is also to be found back in the present where temporal jiggery pokery by the Doctor allows Ryan land Barton’s sabotaged jet. The aircraft touches down in Essex, leaving the Doctor’s regular companions (Graham and Yaz were along too) just enough time to reach Barton. He is about to trigger his nefarious scheme to wipe the minds of the entire population of earth and turn us all into glorified hard drives (my phone is forever telling me it’s running out of memory so I appreciate his frustration).

All seems lost until the Doctor, Lovelace and Allied wartime spy Noor Inayat Khan (whom they recruited in Paris) ride in using the Master’s version of the Tardis. Barton’s plan is stopped and the Master turned on by his alien chums (the Doctor having recorded him declaring his intention to betray them). Breathless, a bit silly and featuring both Nazis and 19th-century amateur inventors, this is Doctor Who blazing on all cylinders. If the rest of the series is nearly as good, we’re in for a time-warping treat.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in