‘Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror’ (TV)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Nikola Tesla with the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz

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. It did occur to me that the Chris Chibnall/Jodie Whittaker era is good dabbling in history.

I get the impression that it’s often the case where episodes are well-written but poorly-directed at times like it was with ‘Orphan 55’, whereas other times they can be well-written and well-directed. 🙂

That was the feeling I got from watching ‘Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror‘. I hoped that would be the case for the rest of the season where the episodes were well-written and well-directed at the same time.

I know that’s not always often the case, but it’s the ideal situation I’d like to see in a ‘Doctor Who’ season. It depends on how the showrunner wishes to set the tone for the stories by various writers.

This episode is by Nina Metivier, who provides her first contribution to the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series. It’s also the first time I’ve come across Nina Metivier as a writer and she impressed me splendidly. 🙂

I enjoyed how this episode built upon itself layer by layer, providing a good balance of gripping alien invasion and educational drama. It’s that kind of ‘Doctor Who’ storytelling I do enjoy now and again.

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) “Sorry about that. I’ll stop there.” 😀

Actually, we begin the story somewhere at Niagara Falls. I used to learn about Niagara Falls in Geography at my secondary school. It’s there we meet the historical figure known as Nikola Tesla. 🙂

Goran Višnjić (who starred in the 2005 film ‘Elektra’) 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, which some of us have never heard of before. It raises our awareness levels about the world.

The Big Finish audios have done this aspect very well to a tee too. I can’t say the same thing about the previous TV era of ‘Doctor Who’ by Steven Moffat, but then that’s my perspective on the matter.

Anyway, Nikola Tesla struggles to convince his US audiences 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 he has about seeing aliens from Mars. I’m not sure how that came into the argument, but it was interesting to discover as I watched the episode. 😐

Later on at night, Nikola discovers a strange green-glowing sphere that floats about in the air. Not sure where that sphere came from. This is before a cloaked figure comes and attacks Nikola Tesla! 😮

This is still at Nikola’s place in Niagara by the way. Nikola runs away from the cloaked figure with his assistant Haley McGee as Dorothy Skerritt. She’s an intriguing character to watch during the episode.

I’m not sure if she has a romantic interest in his employer during the episode, but it’s open to interpretation. The two soon get rescued by the Doctor. Ah, I wondered when she would show up! 🙂

The Doctor manages to get Nikola and Dorothy out of the mess they’re in by boarding a train which is heading for New York – via TARDIS, I believe. Yeah, I re-checked the episode to be sure that’s right.

Whilst it’s not shown how she got them to escape, it’s the only way I can come up with on how they got away from the cloaked figure. Graham, Ryan and Yaz are on board the train as well. That’s good!

They’re not out of the woods yet however. They’re still being followed by the cloaked figures who turn out to be human beings with red eyes. Or…are they? It was surprise what they turned out to be.

The humans in cloaked figures actually turned out to be scorpion-like aliens who can project an image of a human being onto themselves. Holographic, I think. We’ll get back to these scorpions later on. 🙂

The Doctor and her friends get to meet Nikola Tesla and Dorothy. The Doctor’s quite enamoured to meet Nikola. But she also calls him…what was it? Oh yeah! A ‘big fat liar’! Not a very good start here.

Actually; the Doctor noticed that Nikola was hiding something in regard to the cloaked figures that chased them – the sphere! I’m amazed the Doctor was able to deduce that in meeting Nikola Tesla.

Eventually, the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz accompany 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.

There isn’t a Times Square either. But there is a Central Park. That’s lucky! 😀 I have seen what old New York looks like in the 1995 film adaptation of ‘A Little Princess’, so at least it isn’t too unfamiliar.

It’s amazing to see how the 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 bustling with activity all the time.

It’s almost similar to 19th century Britain in some measure. But as the Doctor stated, a brand-new age of technology will begin. This is certainly true especially with minds like Nikola Tesla at the time.

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. Their scenes together are really enjoyable.

Whilst Nikola doesn’t question Jodie’s Doctor being an inventor – since she’s a woman – he’s glad he can talk to someone who can see eye-to-eye with him, which probably didn’t happen a lot for him.

The scenes where they talk about being inventors were so mesmerising to watch. The performances of Jodie Whittaker and Goran Višnjić are top-notch when they’re playing their characters together. 🙂

There is one scene that stands out for me from this episode where Nikola is struggling to make a hard choice about self-sacrificing himself to the alien Skithra that want him. It’s a pretty good scene.

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 that he’ll do. It’s quite an inspiring moment indeed. 🙂

I greatly enjoyed how Jodie’s Doctor tackled the alien menace in the scorpion-like Skithra, especially when she confronted the Queen. There’s a moment where she manages to outwit Queen Skithra! 😀

This is when she teleports her back to her ship in order to defeat her, which was pretty inspirational. Jodie’s Doctor’s quite clever there. Not many people praise her in being able to outwit her enemies.

It is 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. It’s also really odd. 😐

Why couldn’t the Doctor have worn something appropriate to the time period? It would’ve been amazing to see her in 1990s attire! She always seems stuck in that iconic Doctor’s outfit she wears. 😐

Then again, Christopher Eccleston never got out of his leather jacket in ‘The Unquiet Dead’, so who am I to judge? 😀 I imagine the Thirteenth Doctor still hasn’t got used to being a woman at this point.

Just to say, Goran Višnjić is very good as Nikola Tesla in the episode. I greatly enjoyed his performance and it’s nice he had some lovely scenes with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor in the episode. 🙂

It has been pointed out to me that Goran Višnjić could be a future Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’, especially since he has the qualities that the Doctor has with being an inventor and perhaps being eccentric. 😀

I don’t dismiss the notion and it could be an interesting idea. They might go back to a male Doctor someday. Perhaps Goran Višnjić will be considered for casting as a future Doctor. I just don’t know.

Bradley Walsh as Graham was wonderful to see in this episode. I enjoyed his scenes where he was challenging Thomas Edison on his philosophy whilst he competed with Nikola Tesla in the episode. 🙂

Graham compares Thomas Edison to a supervisor he had when working at a bus depot many years ago. I also liked it when Graham stopped Edison from touching anything in the TARDIS console room.

Oh yeah, this is when mostly the Doctor, her friends and everyone else are in the TARDIS at one point. Graham as well as Ryan gets to join the Doctor when they meet Edison at his ‘inventors’ place.

Tosin Cole is equally good as Ryan in this episode. I liked it when Ryan made comparisons to Nikola’s new technology with what we currently have today like Wi-Fi. It does connect to the modern world.

I also liked Ryan’s interaction with Dorothy. The two compare notes with how Ryan first met the Doctor and how Dorothy first met Nikola. Both experiences seem similar and different to each other.

I don’t think Ryan has a particularly stand-out character journey throughout the episode though. I would’ve liked it if certain tales were dedicated to certain characters featured throughout Series 12.

You know, like during Season 19 when it was ‘Kinda’ for Tegan; ‘Black Orchid’ for Nyssa and ‘Earthshock’ for Adric. Maybe I should do a trilogy of Thirteenth Doctor stories based on that idea. 😀

Despite the issues I have with the companion characters being developed in the TV series, I have enjoyed Graham, Ryan and Yaz as characters so far. It helps that they happen to be really likeable. 🙂

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. I like it when she has scenes with him.

Both of them get captured by the scorpion-like Skithra in this. It’s amazing that Yaz doesn’t lose her cool or panic during moments when being captured. I suppose that’s the police training kicking in! 🙂

I like how Yaz and Nikola interact with each other. Yaz supports him when they’re in trouble and when they’re figuring a way out to oppose Skithra, using Nikola’s genius. It’s quite gripping to watch.

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 in order to escape. Yaz does have two good eyes for detail.

This story also has 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 though. 😐

This was intriguing to see when Thomas Edison was being depicted in the episode. Thankfully, Thomas Edison didn’t use any android duplicates to kill the Doctor. That would’ve pretty terrible to watch. 😀

In case you’re wondering what I meant by that, Robert Glenister played Salateen in ‘The Caves of Androzani’ with Peter Davison’s Doctor. He also did the BBC comedy series ‘Sink or Swim’ with Peter. 🙂

I saw him recently in the film ‘The Aeronauts’ which was shown at cinemas in November 2019. I enjoyed seeing him in this ‘Doctor Who’ story as he delivers a great performance as Thomas Edison.

It was interesting to see Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison confronting each other regarding their inventive minds in the episode. Nikola prefers to use his initiative and inspiration with his inventions.

Edison meanwhile prefers to use other people doing his inventions for him. It was intriguing to discover as I didn’t know much about them. Mind you, Edison is able to use his scientific mind when prompted.

This episode also has Anjli Mohindra as Queen Skithra. I remember Anjli for playing Rani Chandra in ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’. I was so looking forward to seeing her in this ‘Doctor Who’ TV episode.

I didn’t expect to see Anjli ending up with so much prosthetic make-up and playing a monster. I was so surprised! I wonder if kids realised the actress who played Rani in ‘SJA’ was behind that make-up.

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 here. Mind you, I’m grateful I recognised Anjli in all that make-up. 😀

Her scenes as Queen Skithra where the Doctor challenged her and she was pretty selfish were very enjoyable to see. It was very fascinating to learn about the Skithra as a species and their true nature.

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 in this.

I’m surprised the Skithra weren’t mentioned in being connected to the Racnoss. That would’ve been superb! They had Judoon featured in Series 12, why couldn’t the Racnoss be featured in this season?

Maybe someday we’ll get an answer to whether the Racnoss and the Skithra are connected to each other as an alien species in a future episode. It’s something worth exploring whether on TV or on audio.

I’d like to think the Vegron monsters I’ve created in my ‘Doctor Who’ stories are connected to the Terileptils. I certainly implied that in ‘The Railway of Time’. Maybe I should readdress that someday.

It was intriguing to find the Skithra stole things to suit their needs as they tried to capture Nikola as well as travel the universe. They had various items like a Silurian blaster and a Venusian spaceship. 😐

It’s also rather interesting that the Skithra wanted Nikola of all people to repair their spaceship and not Thomas Edison. Apparently, Nikola Tesla made a huge impact on the Skithra than Mr. Edison did.

The episode’s climax is action-packed, especially with groups of characters distracting the Skithra. Yaz and Edison are in New York whilst Ryan, Graham and Dorothy look through Telsa’s inventions. 😐

This is while the Doctor and Nikola are working on a contraption in the TARDIS. That scene where Yaz and Edison are being chased by scorpions was intense as there were a lot of scorpions chasing them.

I liked the twist in the tale where Queen Skithra came down from her spaceship to meet our heroes. It wasn’t part of their plan. The Doctor and friends hoped to sort her out whilst she was on her ship.

The Skithra seem to be part of a hive mind connected to the Queen, much like the Borg have a hive collective in ‘Star Trek’. At least our heroes have an obstacle to tackle to make the climax gripping. 🙂

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 drama and tension built up justifies the climax being so intense here.

This 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, but it was enjoyable! 🙂

I like how the episode ended with Nikola and Edison sort-of seeing past their differences for a bit. Ryan and Graham say farewell to Dorothy and the Doctor and gang soon say farewell to Nikola Tesla.

Thankfully the Doctor didn’t wipe Nikola’s mind like she did to Ada Lovelace and Noor Inayat Khan in ‘Spyfall’. How come he got lucky not being mind-wiped by the Doctor yet those two ladies didn’t? 😀

‘Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror’ was an enjoyable and satisfying ‘Doctor Who’ episode to watch. I enjoyed the historical educational drama aspects of the episode as well as the alien invasion aspects.

It was fascinating to see scorpion-like beings who wanted Nikola’s genius in the episode. The cast are pretty good in this. So is the episode’s writing by Nina Metivier and the direction by Nida Manzoor. 🙂

I found the story very satisfying with good historical educational drama and a hint of alien invasion in it. It’s one of the best episodes of the season so far for me. Could ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’ top that?!

The DVD/Blu-ray special features for this episode are as follows. On Disc 3 of ‘The Complete Series 12’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s a ‘Closer Look’ on ‘Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror’. There’s an audio commentary on ‘Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror’ with Mandip Gill, Anjli Mohindra and writer Nina Metivier.

‘Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror’ rating – 9/10

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