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Doctor Who - Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror & Fugitive of the Judoon - Review

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Episode: "Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror"
Directed by: Nida Manzoor
Written by: Nina Metivier
Air date: 19 January 2020

I really enjoyed this one. Meeting historical figures works really well on the show. Most of these episodes end up being truly memorable to me. This one is no exception. Nikola Tesla is such an interesting character and even more exceptional person from our history. I've seen many portrayals of Tesla in a number of movies and the one thing that always remains the same is the sad realization that he's a man living outside of his time. He dreams of inventions decades before they ever happen. He believed in the impossible and moved bravely towards the future. Edison, on the other hand, is always introduced as the more grounded of the inventors. His ideas served the needs of "today" while Tesla's were the dream of a distant tomorrow. "The present is theirs. I work for the future. And the future is mine." It's easy to sympathize with Nikola throughout the episode. I'm also happy to see Goran Višnjić back on my screen, it's been a while. Tesla's a genius and a good man and both the Doctor and Yaz notice it quickly. Yaz's question at the end, about his fate and the possibility of a better version of his story, makes me think of one of my old favorites from Doctor Who - "Vincent and the Doctor". Still the best and the kindest of gifts from the Doctor. Now, a short note about Edison. He's not exactly a villain but also not someone the viewers are meant to root for. His conflict with Tesla doesn't show him in a good light. It's quite interesting how different portrayals of the same person I've seen in the last year or so. This one is much darker, selfish, but sadly very likely a more accurate memory of the man.

The Skithra were quite a dangerous enemy. The concept behind them worked well for the story - with their ship being a collection of stolen parts from various other species. When it comes to their design, it's certainly an impressive one but there's absolutely an uncanny resemblance between the Empress of Racnoss (back from "The Runaway Bride") and the Queen of the Skithra. That's one old but a welcome reference. Also, watching this episode made me realize how much time we've been spending on Earth lately. Both past and future stories from this season seem to be focused on Earth only. I've been enjoying the series so far, but I also think I might be missing an adventure in deep space. Hopefully it's coming soon. Another observation made during this hour - with three companions around it feels like it's easier for the Doctor to hide things from them. I can definitely see some of the previous companions confronting the Doctor about her behavior and all the secrets. It's been one and a half season already with the current group and I honestly still don't see too deep of a connection between the Doctor and each of the other characters individually. Of course they care about each other, but there's still so many things that the Doctor's new fam simply doesn't know.

Speaking of the main cast, I recently rewatched the first episode of series 11 and found myself surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Thirteenth Doctor is definitely growing on me. I still love Graham's character the most out of the companions, although it's a shame he's so often delegated to the comedic relief role. It's the heartfelt moments that are the most memorable to me in the end. Graham and Ryan are generally a fun duo to follow. Ryan and Yaz though are usually the ones who end up finding a connection with the guest characters, like Ryan with Dorothy and Yaz with Nikola here. However what I enjoyed the most about this hour were the interactions between the Doctor and Nikola Tesla. The way they bonded over their shared passions and clever minds. His sheer excitement when he recognizes the Doctor as a follow inventor and the fact that he shares with her his true feelings about being "out of place", his doubts, even hopelessness. Finally, Tesla's reaction to the TARDIS was a brief but a lovely moment. Him being able to figure out the general concept behind the ship right then, on the spot, was pretty much perfect. "By far the most magnificent invention I've ever seen in my life." We end the episode on a moment that feels both sad and hopeful at the same time. Overall, the story in this hour is good but it's the main star of the episode that is truly magnificent.

Episode: "Fugitive of the Judoon"
Directed by: Nida Manzoor
Written by: Vinay Patel and Chris Chibnall
Air date: 26 January 2020

I can't possibly start the review of the episode with anything other than: welcome back Captain Jack Harkness! I've missed you so much. I honestly don't think I've realized just how much until finally seeing Jack return to Doctor Who. It's been such a long time. There's a lot of complicated feelings I have when it comes to this episode but this part is an absolute joy and quite possibly the single best decision made by the creative team in the last couple of seasons so far. John Barrowman has such a powerful presence every time he's on the screen but no matter how many wonderful characters I see him portray, this one will always have a special place in my heart. Such a shame that we had to wait this long for Jack's reappearance. I would have loved to see him interact with Eleven, Twelve and their companions. In fact, I would also love to see him interact with the current Doctor. Sadly that did not happen. Not yet anyway. His short introduction to Graham, Yaz and Ryan was wonderful but I'm far more excited to see his reunion with the Doctor. Now I finally feel that it's actually possible, which hasn't been a case in years. I'm very interested what would be so important for Jack to show up and try to warn his old friend. He's been through so much so it must be quite a threat for him to reach out to the Doctor like that. And of course there's Cybermen involved. That's one story I'm very much looking forward to seeing. Sounds like a hell of a finale already.

In any other episode I would expect Captain Jack's return to be the biggest event of the hour. However that's not actually the case here. Yes, that's without a doubt my favorite part of it, but there's still so much left to cover. As it turns out the "Fugitive of the Judoon" from the title is none other than the Doctor herself. Or at least a version of her. This is where things get complicated. At the beginning of the episode we're introduced to a character named Ruth Clayton. A wonderful performance by the talented Jo Martin. To everyone's surprise, right in the middle of the story she's revealed to be a Time Lady who used the chameleon arch to hide her true identity and live quietly on Earth with her companion and husband Lee. That alone would be quite a revelation but she's not just any Time Lady, she appears to be previously unseen incarnation of the Doctor. Our Doctor on the TARDIS. Familiar yet different. She's certainly a force to be reckoned with, that's clear from her confrontation with (yet another unexpected Time Lord/Lady) Gat and the Judoon. Unlike some of the previous interactions we've seen between different incarnations of the Doctor this one doesn't exactly leave them on friendly terms. There's shock, confusion, denial.

Both the Doctor and the viewers are left with a peculiar question. Where exactly is this other Doctor coming from? Or perhaps when? Is she a future incarnation, a former one? Maybe she's the Doctor from a different timeline, another dimension? Especially considering the introduction to another dimension we've seen back in the season premiere. I feel like there's a lot of potential in this story. I choose to give it a chance to be explored before I reach any final conclusion. Right now, there's a lot of possibilities that I would be happy with. Ruth being the Doctor before William Hartnell's First Doctor is currently on that list. I'm sure there's a way this could be done right but for now I would need to be convinced if this is the option the writers choose to go with. Certainly a much harder task after "An Adventure in Space and Time" and "Twice Upon A Time". I do kind of love the idea of exploring other realities and dimensions on Doctor Who. That's something that I don't think we've dealt with too much and there's definitely a story waiting to happen there. As for now, I think this has to be one of my favorite performances of Jodie Whittaker on the show so far. As the Doctor is facing more and more challenges in front of her, the actress who portrays her is finally getting her chance to shine. I'm very glad to see it and I'm excited to see what's next for Thirteenth Doctor and her friends. Speaking of them, I'm glad they're starting to ask more and more questions, finally trying to learn more about the Doctor and her past. With her strange behavior, the Master's attack, Jack's return and this other Doctor it's about time the group truly comes together. Graham, Ryan and Yaz showing their support for the Doctor at the end meant the world to her, but I think it would mean even more once this family knows the Doctor's story.

Whovian notes and questions:
1. What did you think of these portrayals of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison? Are you familiar with the historical facts behind this story? Have you seen any other (and very different) versions of these men recently on TV or in a movie?
2. Who else from our history would like to see as a guest character on Doctor Who?
3. What are your thoughts on Captain Jack Harkness's return? Were you aware of it prior to the episode? If not, how surprised were you to see him? When do you think we could see him next?
4. What's your theory about Ruth/The Doctor? Do you think she's a former incarnation of our Doctor? A future one? Or maybe from different timeline/dimension? How do you feel about this reveal?

1. Tesla: "The present is theirs. I work for the future. And the future is mine."

2. The Doctor: "They're preparing to beam down there. A platoon of Judoon. Near the moon. They can't do that."

3. Ruth Clayton: "Is there even a word for how dumb you are?"
The Doctor: "Doctor"?

What did you think about "Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror" & "Fugitive of the Judoon"? Any favorite scenes, quotes or theories? Feel free to let us know in the comments. As always, thanks for reading!

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