Another fun story from Series 12, this time not ruined by a heavy-handed delivery of an otherwise fine message. Another pseudo-historical for the Thirteenth Doctor, and once again it was great, informative for the younger, and just a fun episode for the older. Basically… let’s take a closer look!
New York City, the turn of the 20th century. For Nikola Tesla, his grand ideas for revolutionising electricity and communication are proving to be a hard sell to the public. His business rival, Thomas Edison, may not want him to succeed, but surely even he cannot be behind the sudden appearance of hostile alien scavengers? The Doctor and her friends are about to find out.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The Doctor, Graham, Ryan and new companion Ronnie Ladderbucket.
For a story based around the idea of The Doctor and co. being caught between Tesla and Edison to work you need great actors in the roles of the two inventors, and thankfully they did just that. Goran Visnjic is absolutely perfect as the kind and eccentric Tesla, a foreign man trying to invent and create but coming up against walls of doubt and money (or no money, I guess). He really makes the man come alive, or at least how I’ve always imagined him. Robert Glinister as Edison is great as well, money-obsessed and strict, but somewhere underneath it all he’s a kind person… ish. I have no idea if these are good representations of the two historically, but it made for good TV because they were both great in the roles.
Jodie Whittaker is on fire now as The Doctor, she struggling with the new truth about her home and what’s to come, but as each new adventure comes along you see her throw herself into them with new energy, almost as if relieved to have an excuse not to think about it. She also threatens our alien foes with a bloody death, which is … odd for any incarnation. Good stuff though, actually adding layers onto her incarnation rather than the plain and hollow version we got in Series 11.
The story of an alien race trying to kidnap Nikola Tesla because at the time period their ship is stuck in he’s Earth’s greatest engineer is a good one, and the final showdown using Tesla’s giant Tesla Coil while his lab was under attack was a fun finale. Oh and Haley McGee as Tesla’s secretary Dorothy Skerrit was good too. I mean, the role didn’t call for much, but she was entertaining nonetheless.
All things being said (underneath this sentence…) it’s a really good use of practical effects!
The main enemy of the story, the Skithra, were pretty boring, plus they looked and acted far too much like the over-the-top Racnoss from the 10th Doctor story “The Runaway Bride”. They were scorpion-based rather than spider-based, but I’d like to assume there is some sort of connection between the two races, otherwise it’s just lazy.
Also, Graham, Yas and Ryan were fine and all, but I found it hard to believe that none of the three had heard of Nikola Tesla, or at the very least knew what he was known for… I mean, at least Graham, surely?!
“Extra! Extra! Edison smells! … Damn it, Tesla, you’ve done it again!” *Shakes fist*
Weirdly enough, this is the first time The Doctor has met either Nikola Tesla or Thomas Edison, which given we’re over 55 years now of created content is quite surprising!
So beyond the similarities between the Skithra and the Racnoss from “The Runaway Bride” (as well as the Fifth Doctor audio “Empire of the Racnoss”!) there isn’t much to say about the story in this section. It would take a while to list every time The Doctor has visited New York, so I won’t do that!
Tesla watches his rival read the newspaper aloud in anticipation.
Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror is a fun story, with some great performances from the two inventors and some fun set pieces. The main villains weren’t up to much, but it didn’t damage the pseudo-historical that much in the long run.