Hello everyone! 🙂
Welcome to ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog and I’m Tim Bradley!
Okay, so whilst I found ‘Orphan 55’ a mess of an episode, it was still a pretty enjoyable mess. Would things get better by the time I watched the next episode. Well, I’m happy to say…yes! Yes they did! I greatly enjoyed ‘Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror’ since it was really gripping pseudo-historical adventure.
The episode is by Nina Metivier, who provides her first contribution to the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series. I enjoyed how the episode built upon itself layer by layer, providing a good balance of gripping alien invasion and educational drama. ‘Doctor Who’ seems to be getting good at that in the Chibnall era. 🙂
In this episode, the story takes place in New York City, at around the turn of the 20th century! (sings) “New York, New York, what a wonderful town…” (snaps out of it) Okay, I’ll stop there. Actually, we begin the story somewhere at Niagara Falls where we meet the historical figure known as Nikola Tesla.
Goran Višnjić guest stars as Nikola Tesla, who happens to be an inspired inventor. I knew nothing about Nikola Tesla before this episode. Now I know who he is! I like it when ‘Doctor Who’ does good historical educational drama by introducing really significant people some of us never heard of before.
The Big Finish audios do this very well too. I can’t say the same thing about the previous era of ‘Doctor Who’ on TV. Anyway, Nikola Tesla struggles to convince his audience that his new inventions will work. It doesn’t help when he competes with another historical inventor named Thomas Edison in New York.
A lot of people mock Nikola Tesla with certain claims about him seeing aliens from Mars. I’m not sure how that came into the argument, but it was interesting to hear. Anyway, later on at night, Nikola discovers this strange green-glowing sphere that floats about in the air before a cloaked figure attacks!
This is still at Nikola’s place in Niagara. Nikola runs away from the cloaked figure with his assistant Haley McGee as Dorothy Skerritt, who may have a romantic interest in his employer during the episode. The two are soon rescued by the Doctor. Yeah, I bet you wondered where she’d show up! 😀
The Doctor manages to get Nikola and Dorothy to escape by boarding a train heading for New York – via TARDIS, I believe. Yeah, I re-checked the episode and whilst it’s not shown, that’s the only way I can come up with on how they escaped the cloaked figure. Graham, Ryan and Yaz are on that train as well.
They’re not out of the woods yet as they’re still being followed by cloaked figures who turn out to be human beings with red eyes. Or…are they? They actually turn out to be scorpion aliens who can project an image of a human being onto themselves. Holographic, I think. We’ll return to them later on.
Anyway, the Doctor and her friends get to meet Nikola Tesla. The Doctor’s quite enamoured to meet Nikola. But she also calls him…what was it? Oh yeah! A ‘big fat liar’! Not a good start. 😀 Actually; the Doctor noticed Nikola’s hiding something regarding the cloaked figures that chased them – the sphere!
Eventually, the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz join Nikola and Dorothy to New York. This is a very different New York compared to the one we know nowadays. There’s no Empire State Building; no Times Square; but there is a Central Park. I have seen what old New York looks like in ‘A Little Princess’.
It’s amazing to see how late 19th century/early 20th century New York gets depicted compared to the one we know today. New York back then doesn’t seem to be so bustling with activity and is almost similar to 19th century Britain. But as the Doctor had stated, a brand-new age of technology will begin.
I enjoyed Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor in this adventure and how she interacted with Nikola Tesla. Jodie’s Doctor has a huge respect for Nikola and his work. Whilst Nikola doesn’t question Jodie’s Doctor being an inventor – since she’s a woman – he’s very glad he can talk to someone seeing eye-to-eye with him.
There’s one scene that stands out for me where Nikola is struggling to make a hard choice about self-sacrificing himself to the alien Skithra that want him. The Doctor comes out of her TARDIS to join him and she persuades him not to give himself up, expressing her admiration for him in the works he’ll do.
I greatly enjoyed how Jodie’s Doctor tackles the alien menace in the scorpion-like Skithra, especially when she confronts the Queen. That moment where she manages to outwit the Queen Skithra to teleport her back to her ship in order to defeat her was inspirational. Jodie’s Doctor’s quite clever in that.
It was amusing though that Jodie’s Doctor happens to be the only one out of place in 1900s New York whilst her three companions Graham, Ryan and Yaz are in proper period attire. Why couldn’t the Doctor have worn something appropriate to that period? It would’ve been amazing to see her in that!
Then again, Christopher Eccleston never got out of his leather jacket in ‘The Unquiet Dead’, so who am I to judge? 😀 Bradley Walsh as Graham was wonderful to see in this episode. I enjoyed his scenes where he challenged Thomas Edison on his philosophy whilst competing with Nikola Tesla in the tale.
Graham compares Thomas Edison to how his work-life at a bus depot was years ago. I also liked it when Graham stopped Edison from touching anything in the TARDIS console room when they’re all in it. Graham as well as Ryan also gets to join the Doctor when seeing with Edison at his ‘inventors’ place.
Tosin Cole is equally good as Ryan in this episode. I did like it when Ryan made comparisons to Nikola’s new technology with what we currently have today such as Wi-Fi. I liked Ryan’s interactions with Dorothy. The two compare on how first meeting the Doctor and meeting Nikola were similar and different.
I don’t think Ryan has a particularly stand-out character journey throughout the episode. I would like it if certain episodes were dedicated to certain characters like during Season 19 with ‘Kinda’ for Tegan; ‘Black Orchid’ for Nyssa and ‘Earthshock’ for Adric. I doubt we’ll get that in Series 12 but I could be wrong.
Despite that, I’ve enjoyed Graham, Ryan and Yaz as companions in the series so far. Mandip Gill as Yaz, whilst not exactly having standout moments either as a character, does get to have some attention when she spends time with Nikola Tesla. Both of them get captured by the scorpion-like Skithra in this.
I like how Yaz and Nikola interact with each other, with Yaz supporting him when they’re in trouble and when figuring a way out to oppose Skithra, using Nikola’s genius. It was tense when Yaz was about to be killed by the Skithra but I liked it when Yaz worked out the Doctor was using a camera against them.
The episode also features Robert Glenister as Thomas Edison. He’s another inventor like Nikola Tesla who I’ve vaguely heard about. He doesn’t use the same inspired genius as his competitor does when depicted in the episode. Thankfully, Thomas Edison didn’t use any android duplicates to kill the Doctor.
Yes, that’s Robert Glenister who played Salateen in ‘The Caves of Androzani’ with Peter Davison’s Doctor. He was also in the BBC comedy series ‘Sink or Swim’ with Peter Davison. I saw him recently in the film ‘The Aeronauts’ shown at cinemas in 2019. I enjoyed seeing him in this ‘Doctor Who’ episode.
It was interesting to see Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison confronting each other regarding their inventive minds in the episode. Nikola prefers using his own initiative and inspiration whilst Edison prefers using other people doing inventions for him. Intriguing since I did not know much about them.
The episode also features Anjli Mohindra as Queen Skithra. I remember Anjli for playing Rani Chandra in ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’. I was looking forward to seeing her in this ‘Doctor Who’ episode. I didn’t expect her to end up with so much prosthetic make-up and play a monster. I was very surprised!
It was quite disconcerting to see close-ups of Anjli as Queen Skithra during the episode as she could be quite intimidating to look at. Mind you, I’m grateful I recognised Anjli in all that make-up. 😀 Her scenes where the Doctor challenged her and the Queen was pretty selfish were very enjoyable to see.
Actually, as I was watching the episode, I was hoping Anjli’s character would turn out to be another Empress of the Racnoss. She did look like the Empress, despite the Skithra being scorpion-like. I’m surprised the Skithra weren’t mentioned being connected to the Racnoss. That would’ve been superb!
Mind you, it was interesting the Skithra stole things to suit their needs when trying to capture Nikola as well as travel the universe. This included things like a Silurian blaster and having a Venusian spaceship. Also rather interesting that the Skithra wanted Nikola of all people to repair their spaceship.
The episode’s climax was pretty action-packed, especially with groups of characters distracting the Skithra including Yaz and Edison as well as Ryan, Graham and Dorothy whilst the Doctor and Nikola worked on a contraption in the TARDIS. That scene where Yaz and Edison got chased by scorpions was intense.
I liked the twist in the story where Queen Skithra came down from her spaceship to meet our heroes which wasn’t part of the plan as the Doctor and friends hoped to sort her out whilst she was aboard her ship. The Skithra are part of a hive mind connected to the Queen, much like the Borg in ‘Star Trek’.
Thankfully, like I said, the Doctor manages to outwit the Skithra and they’re sent off back into space out of Earth’s atmosphere. The episode also features Nikola’s Wardenclyffe Tower which uses electric bolts powered by energy from the TARDIS to force the Skithra ship to leave. It did seem quite complex! 😀
I like how the episode ended with Nikola and Edison sort-of seeing past their differences for a bit; Ryan and Graham saying farewell to Dorothy and the Doctor and gang eventually saying goodbye to Nikola. Thankfully, the Doctor didn’t wipe Nikola’s mind like she did to two other ladies in ‘Part Two’ of ‘Spyfall’.
‘Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror’ was an enjoyable satisfying ‘Doctor Who’ episode to watch. I enjoyed the historical educational drama aspects of the episode as well as the alien invasion aspects with scorpion-like beings wanting Nikola’s genius. The cast were very good as well as the episode’s writing and direction.
Next week’s episode is called ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’ by Vinay Patel and Chris Chibnall.
Thanks for reading!
Bye for now!