Each week the Blogtor Who team give their first thoughts on the latest episode of Doctor Who. Here’s what we thought of the NIkola Telsa’s Night of Terror.

So we don’t shock you with spoilers we’ve added a picture to protect those who need to see the episode first. 

Doctor Who S12E04 - Nikola Telsa's Night of Terror - Thomas Edison (ROBERT GLENISTER) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ben Blackall
Doctor Who S12E04 – Nikola Telsa’s Night of Terror – Thomas Edison (ROBERT GLENISTER) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Ben Blackall

Susan Hewitt

Susan Hewitt
Susan Hewitt

This week’s episode focuses on Nikola Tesla – a genius inventor and developer of AC current, power generators and much more.  His story has faded into history to most outside the scientific & engineering communities but Doctor Who has brought back his story for a new generation.

This year the casting team have definitely excelled on the selection of guest stars as both Goran Višnjić and Robert Glenister were perfectly cast as Nikola Teslas and his former boss and mentor Thomas Edison. The two actors together with Whittaker provided the best scenes of the episode. The Doctor’s fangirl adoration of one of history’s greatest engineers hit just the right pitch as she and Tesla worked to defeat the alien attack.  Definitely, shades of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors in Whittaker’s performance.

Due to large cast, the fam once again too a backseat. Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) provide a bit comic relief while Yaz was left as a spare part. Pun intended.  And Anjli Mohindra (Sarah-Jane Adventures) seemed to delight in her role as the scorpion-like Queen of the Skithra.

While not a standout episode, it was a solid story for mid-season.

Doctor Who S12E04 - Nikola Telsa's Night of Terror - Yaz (MANDIP GILL), Nikola Tesla (GORAN VISNJIC), Graham (BRADLEY WALSH), Dorothy Skerrit (HALEY McGEE), The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER), Ryan (TOSIN COLE) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ben Blackall
Doctor Who S12E04 – Nikola Telsa’s Night of Terror – Yaz (MANDIP GILL), Nikola Tesla (GORAN VISNJIC), Graham (BRADLEY WALSH), Dorothy Skerrit (HALEY McGEE), The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER), Ryan (TOSIN COLE) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Ben Blackall

Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan, Blogtor Who Contributing Writer
Peter Nolan, Blogtor Who Contributing Writer

Almost all of the pieces are present in the magnificently titled Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror to be a true great. The notion of an alien race of magpies – building their reign of terror on technology stolen and scavenged from more advanced species – is overdue in Doctor Who. And it’s also a smartly framed parallel with the conflict between Tesla and Edison. The giant scorpion Skirath are an ambition monster well executed, and Anjli Mohindra’s sneering, self-satisfied queen is great fun. She’s matched by Goran Višnjić’s offbeat and sympathetic Tesla, and Robert Glenister’s pugnacious Edison (whom Metivier’s script smartly avoids making a total monster).

But after a few great weeks, Segun Akinola’s music seems quite sparse and empty. Combined with the sun drenched colour palette it saps the energy from scenes that should be tense and scary don’t quite get there.

The result is a solid episode that frustrates slightly with just how good it almost was.

Doctor Who S12E04 - Nikola Telsa's Night of Terror (C) BBC - Photographer: Ben Blackall
Doctor Who S12E04 – Nikola Telsa’s Night of Terror (C) BBC – Photographer: Ben Blackall
Lianne Potts
We’re back this week with a significantly stronger episode than last week’s! Although I did enjoy ‘Orphan 55’, I’ve always been a particular fan of Doctor Who’s historical episodes, so I was far more intrigued to learn more about Nikola Tesla (and Thomas Edison) going into this episode. Speaking of whom, Goran Višnjić was the shining star of this episode, giving a fantastic performance as Tesla which I’m sure fans won’t forget in a hurry.
It was wonderful to watch him work alongside the Doctor as they bonded over their shared passion for inventing and making new discoveries. Whilst part of me is still a little sad she wasn’t returning to the Doctor Who universe as Rani Chandra, Anjli Mohindra was nevertheless fantastically maniacal as the Queen of the Skithra, accompanied by a chilling musical motif courtesy of Segun Akinola.
The only downside to these stellar performances was that the companions faded into the background somewhat, with the Doctor stepping in to sort things out before they had their chance to shine. Nevertheless, this was a brilliant historical with just the right balance of factual storytelling and compelling alien threat which kept me on the edge of my seat right until the end!
Doctor Who - S12E04 - Nikola Telsa's Night of Terror - Ryan (TOSIN COLE) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ben Blackall
Doctor Who – S12E04 – Nikola Telsa’s Night of Terror – Ryan (TOSIN COLE) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Ben Blackall
Andrea McQuire

“The internal dimensions transcends the external.”

If you didn’t love Goran Višnjić’s Nikola Tesla before he entered the TARDIS, his sublime version of “It’s bigger on the inside” would surely tip you over.  
The Chibnall era of Doctor Who excels in capturing the stories of real people from Earth’s past.  While Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror is no match for Rosa or even Demons of the Punjab – the storytelling is a bit too messy for that – it is still a decent episode. Višnjić brings real heart to his portrayal of the man who gave the world alternative current (AC) electricity.
Again this week, I feel there are an awful lot of characters in the story. Graham, Ryan and Yaz all have small, but beautifully formed moments here, but alas, they didn’t feel enough. Nor did we get enough of Robert Glenister’s Thomas Edison or Tesla’s assistant, Miss Skerritt.
Also short on time, but big on impact was Anjili Mohindra’s (Rani from The Sarah Jane Adventures) gleeful, screen-munching turn as the Queen of the Skithra (possibly from the scorpion side if the Racnoss?). So, messy storytelling, but characters that left me wanting more than we got. And the twist that Tesla’s Night of Terror was actually Edison’s scaremongering making headlines. All in all, a pretty decent episode.
Doctor Who - S12E04 - Nikola Telsa's Night of Terror - Ryan (TOSIN COLE) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ben Blackall
Doctor Who – S12E04 – Nikola Telsa’s Night of Terror – Ryan (TOSIN COLE) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Ben Blackall
Philip Hawkins

I do keep wishing the production team would have the guts to do a pure historical without an alien menace. Having said that that this probably wouldn’t have been the episode to do that with. After all Nikola Tesla’s electrical experiments lend themselves so well to a sci-fi story, not to mention his belief that he he had received signals from Mars.

Goran Visnjic does an amazing job portraying Tesla, his nuanced performance is the highlight of this episode. The moment he wonders what every one is doing going into the Tardis is hilariously understated and works perfectly. Like all good historical episodes I came away knowing more about the subject matter than I went in with. Tesla himself and his rivalry with Edison (Robert Glenister giving another good performance).

For most of the episode, the TARDIS team were in the background. Yaz got a bit of stuff to do with Tesla but beyond that I felt that the whole team, including the Doctor were very underused. The Doctor even felt out for the character in her confrontation with the alien queen.  She handled the confrontation in a cruel manner and taunted the queen about her impending death. The Doctor kills ….. but should never be cruel about it. Overall the guest stars very well and it was an exciting episode.

Bedwyr Gullidge
Bedwyr
TThis week’s Doctor Who saw the TARDIS travel back in time so we can, yet again, meet some notable names from Earth’s past. On this occasion we encounter Tesla and Edison, individuals who advanced technology and scientific understanding.
Firstly, the positives. These episodes continue to look brilliant, capturing the location and era superbly. The two guest actors Goran Višnjić and Robert Glenister, as Tesla and Edison respectively, are strong performers who bring their legends to screen well.
However Nina Metivier, former script editor now tasked with writing an episode of Doctor Who, delivered an average episode, hitting all the notes that one might describe of a generic instalment of this sci-fi show. Earth’s past. Famous person from history. Weird alien with an actor in heavy prosthetic or CGI creation, or in this case both. Whilst there is nothing wrong with functional and moderately entertaining, this particular episode lacked, ironically, a spark or some electricity. After a quick start there were long periods where I was not engaged and when the villain was revealed I felt Anjli Mohindra deserved far better.
There seemed to be little logic as to why the Queen was humanoid but her subjects were more scorpion like other than the obvious fact that CGI alien scorpions can’t really deliver dialogue effectively. A similarity with the Racnoss makes comparisons inevitable. The difference was that the Empress of the Racnoss in ‘The Runaway Bride’ was afforded a proper giant spider look. Something similar was not afforded for the Queen of the Skithra, which made it far less convincing or noteworthy.
The conclusion, seeing the Doctor, Tesla et al. zap the alien ship, was not particularly inspired, further cementing my opinion that this was not an especially momentous episode. Functional, average but unremarkable.
Better than the last week’s Orphan 55 though!
Doctor Who S12E04 - Nikola Telsa's Night of Terror - The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER), Dorothy Skerrit (HALEY McGEE) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ben Blackall
Doctor Who S12E04 – Nikola Telsa’s Night of Terror – The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER), Dorothy Skerrit (HALEY McGEE) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Ben Blackall
Doctor Who continues next Sunday 26th January with ‘Fugitive of the Judoon!’ on BBC One and BBC America.
Trigger-happy space police the Judoon are targeting 21st-century Gloucester, so the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham race back to Earth in order to prevent them doing too much damage to the cathedral city. But who are the Judoon looking for and what did they do to incur their wrath? Guest starring Neil Stuke (Lee Clayton), Jo Martin (Ruth Clayton)  and Ritu Arya (Gat).  Co-written by Vinay Patel and Chibnall.  Directed by Nida Nanzoor.

1 COMMENT

  1. have a different take and I’m sure I’ll get assailed for it.

    I came to the US in 1988 At age 18 as a foreign exchange student and ended up in redder than red Louisville Kentucky.

    I left a childhood in the UK during which I was bullied mercilessly because of my half-Indian heritage. Mostly, I was called a P-word.

    I used to watch these horrifically racist mainstream shows like ITV’s “Mind your Language” just savaging my father’s ethnicity and I felt sick about it. Most nights I’d cry myself to sleep with self-loathing.

    So, I ran.

    When I arrived in the US, there were no “We don’t take kahndly to no foreigners in these parts” stereotypical raging mobs that South Park routinely
    satirizes and Chibnall tried to dramatize with Tesla.

    Actually most people would tell me that they liked my accent. To a person, even the rich ones, they were kind.

    What I saw on Doctor Who, now as an American citizen, took me right back to England. In this broad stroke world, the message is:

    Immigrant inventor Tesla = good, sweet natured, self-sacrificing idealist.

    US-born inventor Edison = all round jerk.

    To those who are going to jump to Chibnall’s defense with “that’s how they were in real life!” please read the studies on both men from Rutgers, Cal Tech etc. Chibnall may see history in Black or white. But the reality is akin to real life. It’s complex, layered and unexpected.

    I get that Chibnall as show runner has a mad-as-hell progressive platform and his writers are there to deliver that.

    As a member of the LGBT community, I don’t get all worked up about woke TV. I adore The Handmaid’s Tale, for example, mainly because I care about the characters.

    Chibnall and his stable never give me a chance.

    The other defense is he’s dumbing it down for kids. Yeah, OK. But does that mean he has to insult an entire continent in order to do so?

    I watched this portrayal of the two men and I thought of my host family in ‘88. Don (Passed on now) was a middle class business man who opened his home to me and he didn’t make any judgements on my race.

    I think Chibnall just sees Americans as just an extension of Trump. It was no more true at the turn of the 20th century than it was in in the ‘80s or than it is now.

    I was in Grant Park when Obama was elected. No, Chibnall, every American is not Trump.

    Like I said, I get that he wants to extol the virtues of diversity. I simply do not understand why he has to be such so sanctimonious about it.

    And before I get tarred and feathered with “Hater!” I wanted Jodie to succeed from as far back as ‘17. I wanted the show to succeed, if nothing else to stick it to all the pointy headed cretins on Twitter stating that a woman as the Doctor was a recipe for failure.

    But we are now 14 episodes in and, as the author noted, all we are still getting is mediocre at best. The Independent, while always a supporter of Chibnall’s work, stated that this episode was unlikely to turn the dropping ratings around.

    It didn’t have to be that way.

    It’s not about “Go Woke Go Broke.” It is about Chibnall and his stable’s lack of a fundamental grasp of story telling and character building.

    I’ll watch a black lesbian in a red robe fleeing monsters in a brutal misogynistic theocracy and I’ll hold my breath until she gets across the Canadian border. Not because she’s a black lesbian but because there is a lovingly detailed back story and a script which allows the showing of a fully rounded character. Therefore, I care about Moira and what happens to her.

    I watch a couple of actors of color who function simply to flee the not-so-antagonistic CGI mischief maker of the week and I’m not invested in them. They are just there.

    The opening of this episode actually had me feeling sorry for the actors not the characters, all three of whom were deliberately dumbed down so we could get a Tesla information dump from Whittaker.

    Ryan looked even dopier and more half-hearted than usual if that’s possible. Is someone force feeding the poor lad Melatonin before the cameras roll? I swear Graham ups the affable cockney trope by weekly degrees and Yaz, as always, is lucky she isn’t simply credited as a featured extra.

    I guess you don’t read the original script when you’re endorsing your paycheck but they are each being done a huge disservice.

    What is this need of Chibnall’s to tell rather than show? I didn’t need Whittaker to explain that the train coupling was rusty, it was fairly obvious in the shot.

    Chibnall has had a year, he’s been given creative freedom, the script writers of his choice and the resources of a flag ship show and this one-note, paint-by-numbers drivel is the best he can do? With all due respect to Nina, he’s show runner and quality control is part of his job.

    Speaking of one-note, what was the hissing like a demented puff adder, eye rolling, Racnoss lampoon in aid of? William Shatner couldn’t chew through as much scenery in 5,000 minutes never mind 50.

    I guess the only good point is that Whittaker seems to be finding her footing. But, then, whatever measured moments she delivers keep getting interrupted by scenes like Edison Trump telling Graham that Brits don’t know a thing about business. Yes. Because, you know, he speaks for all loud mouth Americans who think British people are quaint. If that was supposed to be a self-effacing joke, it wasn’t so much funny as awkward. That seems to be as far as comedy-writing can go in the Chibnall era.

    I am quickly coming to the conclusion that Chibnall isn’t just a woefully bad writer and appalling dramatist, but also a self-righteous bully not so far removed from the kids who went after me in the playground.

    They didn’t see a fellow human being then. They saw the stereotype that Chibnall now sees in reverse.

    So in my childhood, the half Indian side of me was an easy target for my class mates. As an adult, the half white side of me is an easy target for Chibnall.

    Maybe his apologists can justify that.

    I think back to how I got started in America and the genuinely good people who helped me “never give up” and I just can’t.

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