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Doctor Who review: Nikola Tesla's Night Of Terror - Another educational and bright episode

by Dana Andersen. Published Mon 20 Jan 2020 20:32

Travelling to meet famous faces of the past often leads to exciting, educational episodes of Doctor Who.

Charles Dickens, and Queen Victoria have both come across past Doctors. More recently Rosa Parks, and now Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison join Team TARDIS.

Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror opens with Tesla, and his assistant, Dorothy, first having to deal with people believing his inventions are dangerous. Being chased by an assassin with a Silurian laser gun only seems to be a slightly worse situation for them.

The Doctors arrival to once again save the day, leads us into an info dump of Tesla fun facts. Edison’s inclusion is less exciting, everyone knows he invented the lightbulb!

As the episode continues we meet our main threat, the Skithra, a scavenger race. They’re after Tesla because he found their signal, and answered it, so they believe him to be capable of fixing their cobbled together ship.

Upon seeing the season 12 trailer, many fans assumed the Skithra queen to be a return of the Racnoss. The prosthetic, and make up design, is not only uncannily similar, but the close shots of head tilts, shouting, and snarling were also things most fans found annoying, and over the top, with the Racnoss too.

Only the Skithra queen looks like this though, the rest of this alien race are low quality, CGI Scorpions. Not the best monster we’ve seen in Doctor Who, but for a show that has had Christmas trees and wheelie bins as enemies, its not the worst.

Somehow the Skithra desperately need Tesla to fix their ship, yet they’re able to offer the ultimatum of The Doctor handing over Tesla, or they’ll destroy the planet.

Getting to see The Doctor fangirl over Tesla was fantastic. She’s always the smartest person in the room, she knows, and has seen more than any human ever could, and she’s still totally amazed by how clever, and forward thinking Tesla is.

Though we see no proof of it, and the Queen of the Skithra even killed one of her henchmen for butting in, they are apparently a hive race. For the last half of the episode, all they need to do is kill the queen to solve this week's dilemma.

Extending the TARDIS’s defence shields is a brilliant utilisation of the TARDIS, protecting The Doctor and Tesla as they fix his ‘world wireless system’ aka Wifi. Their intention is that it’ll strike the ship, kill the queen, and everything will be sorted!

Of course Doctor Who is never that easy though! Having the companions split up offers a chance for each of them to play an active role in the battle.

As Tesla, and The Doctor fix the tower and get it ready, Dorothy, Graham, and Ryan try to barricade the lab, and Yaz, and Edison head into the city to send people to safety.

Yaz and Edison herding people inside gives some softness, and humanity to Edison, while showing that Yaz’s police skills aren’t always able to cross the time barrier. Hopefully this is a learning experience for Yaz, and we’ll see her take charge better in similar situations in the future, rather than this being a throwaway scene.

It seems everything is set up, and ready, by the time Yaz and Edison return to the lab. Everything is ready to be resolved, with almost ten minutes left of the episode, only for the Queen to leave the ship, arriving at the lab for another conversation with The Doctor.

The Doctor's obvious glances over to the teleportation device, used earlier in the episode, seem silly, but work out when the Queen notices, has her goons grab it for her, and is promptly sent back to her ship.

These long conversations are often where Whittaker’s emotion as The Doctor is able to shine through best. Upon being asked if she’s ever seen a dead planet, we see the same look of sadness mixed with despair on her face, as when she saw the ruins of Gallifrey.

Just like that, the Skithra ship is zapped, and everything is resolved. The gang saying goodbye to Tesla, and Dorothy, is the content, and hopeful ending we’ve become used to for this Whittaker/Chibnall era of Doctor Who.

Though the alien threat, design of them, and conclusion all feel a little rushed, and done before, the human element of this episode is beautiful. Adding this educational spin back to Doctor Who is a great shout for the BBC, and makes for ever more interesting episodes.

Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror is the episode most lacking so far this season, but its not a bad episode. The Skithra could have done with better design, the hive mind idea wasn’t present for the majority of the episode, and just zapping the ship didn’t seem like the kind of move The Doctor would usually make.

But its a fun episode! We get to see the gang utilise the TARDIS wardrobe, to dress appropriately for the era, Tesla wows Ryan with how ahead his ideas are and Graham's dislike of Edison adds some much needed humour.

The companions and The Doctor are really what make this an okay episode of Doctor Who, rather than a poor one.



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