Thursday, January 9, 2020

Doctor Who 12x02 Recap: “Spyfall Part Two” (Who Run the World? Girls!) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]

“Spyfall Part Two”
Original Airdate: January 5, 2020

Here’s a quick refresher of where we’re at: The Master has returned, blown up the cockpit of a plane that the Doctor’s companions are on, and they’re hurtling towards death. The Doctor is trapped in another dimension by unknown aliens in league with the Master.


While clinging on for dear life, Ryan finds a series of instructions on how to land the plane. He plugs his phone into controls on the floor and a video recording of the Doctor appears to tell them what to do and gently chastises Graham for, rightfully, panicking. An app on Ryan’s phone allows him to level the plane. “I can fly a plane,” he says. “Can’t ride a bike, but I can fly a plane.”

The Doctor’s situation is trickier. She encounters a 19th century woman named Ada who has visited this dimension often, though she thinks it’s just her mind. One of the creatures appears at her side and the Doctor guesses that going through the creature is like going through a portal. With some reluctance, she takes Ada’s hand and they wake up in 1834 at an invention fair. Without the TARDIS, the Doctor is marooned there.

The Master is flying his Aussie house, which is a TARDIS in disguise, and is giddy that his plan is working. However, his good mood darkens when he learns the Doctor has escaped. He wastes little time in crashing the fair and shrinking people left and right. To stop him from killing more people, he forces the Doctor to kneel and loudly repeat his name. It’s a very uncomfortable image: a female Doctor kneeling in front of a sadistic villain and calling him "master."

But the moment causes the Doctor to come to an important realization: the Master isn’t controlling the aliens, whom he’s identified as the Kasaavins. That gives her some renewed hope. Ada, less helpless than we originally thought, uses a massive steam-powered gun to shoot the Master, allowing the Doctor to escape.


Ada is the future Ada Lovelace, a famous mathematician, and her friend has a strange machine called the Silver Lady that the Doctor immediately knows came from the Master. It sometimes casts the same image as the Kasaavins and so now the Doctor knows they are alien spies throughout time too. Using the sonic on the Silver Lady, she summons the Kasaavins and jumps in to hopefully return to the 21st Century, but at the last second, Ada grabs her hand and disappears too. And so they land in 1943 Paris instead. Thankfully, they meet Noor Inayat Khan, a WWII wireless operator/spy for the British. Noor hides them in her apartment when the Master, disguised as a Nazi officer, comes looking.

It’s time for a new plan. “The Master tracked me down and wants me dead,” the Doctor says, “whereas I am a big fan of being alive.” To level the playing field, she sends out a code to him. It’s the four-beat drumming that John Simm’s Master heard, which made him insane. But it also sounds like the Doctor Who theme song and Thirteen describes it as the sound of two hearts beating, which is a fascinating idea and one I’d never thought about.

The code works. The Master and the Doctor make psychic contact and agree to meet alone in the Eiffel Tower. There, he admits to shooting C, hacking the car GPS, and convincing the Kasaavins to work with him. But they’re simply the ground crew doing his dirty work of wiping out humanity. When it’s over, the Master gleefully assumes Barton and the Kasaavins will also die. All part of his plan. His mood drops again though when he talks about Gallifrey. On a recent trip home, he found it desolate and destroyed. The Doctor doesn’t believe him, though his track record suggests a 50/50 chance he’s telling the truth.

Any further discussion of home is put on hold when German soldiers rush up the stairs. See, the Doctor sent a coded message saying the Master was a double agent for the British so now the Germans are mad. On her way out, she destroys the perception filter the Master had been using so now the Nazis will see him as his true self. They surround him. The Doctor meets Ada and Noor at the Master’s TARDIS, which he’s arrogantly left unconcealed.


The fam are doing kind of so-so. Because technology is ultimately tracking everything we do, Barton easily finds them. Ryan smashes their phones and they run to a construction site to hide. With no Doctor to instruct them, they decide to keep trying to stop Barton. Luckily, they still have some spy gadgets on them, which they desperately need when the Kasaavins show up. Graham “fights” them off with his laser shoes. Then the trio lays a trap for Barton’s people by having Yaz call home, knowing the call will be traced. When agents arrive, Graham “intimidates” them with the laser shoe, allowing the trio to take all of the guns, phones, and the car.

Sadly, it’s all for nothing. Barton happily lets the Kasaavins attack his mother, whom he has zip-tied to a chair. Ryan, Yaz, and Graham later find her there, dead. Meanwhile, Barton gives a creepy keynote speech about the unsettling reach of technology, then demonstrates this by texting every phone on the planet saying, “Humanity is over!” Humans and their DNA are now just hard drives to be used by the Kasaavins.

The Silver Lady in front of the fam lights up, delivering Kasaavins all around the world through people’s phones to start repurposing the humans. The trio can’t destroy the machine, especially when the Master, who has just had to live chronologically through the 20th and 21st Century, arrives. But his triumph is short-lived; the Doctor is there to save the day. Or rather, she already did. Using the Master’s TARDIS, she went back to last year and implanted a failsafe into Barton’s Silver Lady. As soon as it detected the Kasaavin army, it shut down. She’s also rigged it to send the Kasaavins back to their dimension permanently and for the kicker, she plays them the recording of the Master confessing he planned to betray them. They scoop him up and deposit him in their barren realm.


The Doctor has no time for reunions with her friends because she has to go make the instructions and video that allowed them to safely land the plane. Then she reclaims her own TARDIS and drops Noor and Ada off in their correct times, wiping their memories of this adventure for good measure.

But another memory is nagging at the Doctor. She flies to Gallifrey and sees the Master was right. It looks bombed and ruined. A hologram activates in the TARDIS. A recording of the Master says he’s the one who destroyed Gallifrey in order to get back at the Founding Fathers for lying to them about the “timeless child” myth, something that has informed their entire identity. “I’d tell you more but why would I make it easy for you?” he says. “It wasn’t for me.”

Devastated and angry, the Doctor buries everything deep so she can fly off with Graham, Ryan, and Yaz again. Frustrated that they still know so little about her, they ask who she is and she tells them. She’s a Time Lord from Gallifrey who can regenerate her whole body. She stole a TARDIS to travel time and space. The Master is an old friend who became an enemy. Yaz wants to visit Gallifrey but the Doctor quietly brushes her off. “Another time.”

Final Thoughts:

  • I loved the attention to the Master and the Doctor’s relationship and moral tension but it meant the companions really had nothing to do this episode. Yes, they landed a plane but they ultimately had no effect on saving the day at all. That’s an issue I often had last season and I hope to see it much less moving forward.
  • Another pitfall from last season that has come back: the villain faces no consequences. The Master may be trapped in another realm but Barton ran off scot-free. 
  • What did the Doctor do with the Master’s TARDIS? And where did he get it?
  • There are a lot of parallels in this two-parter to past Doctor/Master storylines including "The Sound of Drums," "The Last of the Time Lords," "Dark Water," and "Death in Heaven." But all of those episodes were season finales, not openers. I’m curious to see how something as major as the Master’s return and the destruction of Gallifrey inform a season moving forward, rather than explaining a season at the end.
  • As far as we know from the show, the last time the Doctor was on Gallifrey he exiled the President and became the President himself, shot the General, broke all the laws of time and space, and risked the future of the universe all to save Clara Oswald.
  • I absolutely loved this exchange: Graham, shouting at the Doctor’s video recording: “Where are you?! We’re going to die!” The Doctor: “First of all, you’re not gonna die. Second of all, don’t talk back to the screen ‘cause obviously, I’m a recording and I can’t hear you. Third, don’t panic, especially you, Graham.” Graham: “I’m not panicking!” The Doctor: “Yes, you are. And I did just say don’t talk back to the screens.” 


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