The best of British genre fare collided New Year’s Day as the new season of Doctor Who got underway. Merging a classic type Doctor Who adventure with James Bond tropes made for what might be the best episode of Doctor Who since Matt Smith handed over his sonic screwdriver. But that’s only the beginning, as the two-part opener continues tonight on BBC America in the States and much earlier in the UK on BBC One. U.S. viewers have one chance to beat the social media spoilers: Fathom Events is hosting a unique Doctor Who event nationwide today at 1 p.m. local time, a theater broadcast of Spyfall–the New Year’s Day episode and the worldwide premiere of part two–complete with a live Q&A with the cast. Check out the Fathom Events website here for details.
Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall had a full season to iron out the transition to a new Doctor, and if you didn’t watch the entire first season now is a good time to jump back in, because this adventure starts strong with high stakes, a new alien threat, non-stop action, and an echo from Doctor Who of the past. It all plays out like an episode written by either Russell T. Davies or Stephen Moffat, but it’s Chibnall who wrote this story. A new favorite scene can be found in the New Year’s Day Spyfall episode: It’s hard to imagine any prior Doctor could have nailed the scene where the Doctor takes on a 007-inspired role, and plays a high roller hand at cards trying to be as cool as Bond–but not quite getting there. Jodie Whittaker has the enthusiasm of David Tennant, the innocence of Matt Smith, and the daftness of Peter Capaldi, all rolled up into one. And she’s brilliant in this first episode, even better than last year.
This Doctor doesn’t need a companion any different from the twelve Doctors that preceded her, yet this new triumvirate companion works–it’s a family, or “fam” as she calls them and a mechanism to allow a distribution of the action. Yasmin (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), Graham (Bradley Walsh) join the Doctor on her latest travels at the request of MI 6, and a guest appearance by Stephen Fry as C (think M in the Bond stories) and Sacha Dhawan as O (another 00 agent). It’s hard to believe it’s actually been a year since we last saw them all together in the Season 11 finale.
The most interesting bit about Sacha Dhawan (Sherlock, Mr. Selfridge)–playing an agent in Australia* the Doctor knows from the past (or she met him only once and he seemed like a good chap) who she seeks for help when a fellow named Daniel Barton (Lenny Henry) turns the world upside down–is his complete glee at performing his role. Even more so than the rest of the lead cast, he looks like he’s about to burst with joy. Who wouldn’t want to have a role on the series? The other challenge is deciphering which real-life billionaire Barton is standing in for.
If you missed the first part of Spyfall, get ready for some good surprises, click here to watch part one online at BBC America, and set your VCR so you don’t miss out tonight.
PS. Speaking of Australia, please donate to the wildlife rescue in Australia resulting from the catastrophic fires. See this website for more information.