Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror
Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole, Haley McGee, Robert Glenister, Anjli Mohindra, and Goran Visnijic
Writer: Nina Metivier
Producers: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens, Alex Mercer, Radford Neville, and Nikki Wilson
Composer: Segun Akinola
Director: Nida Manzoor
Doctor Who was created by Sydney Newman, and follows the adventures of the time-traveling alien known as the Doctor, along with their companions, as they explore and help the universe.
In early 20th century New York, inventor Nikola Tesla is having a hard time making friends, and an even harder time finding investors who believe in his inventions. However, when he comes in contact with a mysterious object, he and his assistant, Dorothy, find themselves in a whirlwind of trouble, with their only help coming in the form of the Doctor and her friends. As they navigate through the time period and try to find out who is after Tesla, a web of corruption, theft, and lies entangles the gang, leading to and from Thomas Edison, and it’s not gonna be so easy to get out of it. Who, or what, is after Nikola Tesla? And more importantly, what do they want with him?
While last week’s episode, Orphan 55, wasn’t bad by any means, it did leave the taste of disappointment in my mouth, and I wasn’t much excited for this week’s outing, either. Not that it looked bad, far from it, it just seemed like another skedaddle through time with a historical figure or two tagging along, nothing very special about it. While I did love ones from last series such as Rosa and The Witchfinders, they revolved more around the societal differences of today and yesterday, and how we have to be better than we were back then. Since this one didn’t seem to have any heavy themes such as that, I didn’t think it would be anything to write home about. Boy, oh boy, was I pleasantly proven wrong, as this episode proved to be such a heartfelt story, one that might prove to be one of my favorites of the Whittaker/Chibnall era of Who.
I feel like I can never say it enough, but Jodie Whittaker continues to amaze me week after week. Every time I feel as if I’ve seen the extent of how far her character goes as the Doctor, she one-ups herself in ways I didn’t think I’d see, and according to the short trailer after the episode, this is only the beginning. It’s clear that one of the goals of Series 12 was to broaden her range as an actress, as well as the Doctor’s range of morality, and it’s very clear in this episode that her anger is continuing to grow, as it was hinted at last week. I don’t care what anyone says, that is absolutely brilliant character work, and I can only imagine what it’s gonna be like when she starts to reach her breaking point. Whatever it is, I doubt that anything’s gonna come out unscathed by the end of this series.
Not only does the Doctor have fantastic character work this episode, but the companions do, as well. I don’t say it enough that I think Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole are all brilliant actors, who play their respective roles with absolute commitment, charm, and likability. And this episode, all three of them get to show off their chops, as they get juxtaposed with the side characters in this story. Each of them gets enough time to breathe, shine, and further explore their characters, and I have got to attribute that to the writing of Nina Metivier. While she edited the scripts for The Woman Who Fell to Earth and It Takes You Away last year, this is her first go at a story all to herself within the Whoniverse, and she does far more than a marvelous job at it. If there’s one thing I can say for certain about the future of this show, it’s that she should absolutely be a part of it, no questions asked.
The side characters are also fantastic, as well, within the episode. Thomas Edison and Dorothy Skerrit are both played beautifully by Robert Glenister and Haley McGee, respectfully, but the star of the show is without a doubt Goran Visnijic as Tesla himself. He plays this historical icon with so much empathy and humanity, along with a child-like wonder that makes him so relatable to audiences, that it makes you genuinely want to meet the real Nikola Tesla. The story told with him is one that brings about similar feelings to that of Vincent and the Doctor, and while it doesn’t go extremely emotional, it shows how those who are visionary, yet humble, will always be remembered. Not only is it a great lesson about history, but a fantastic one about how we ourselves want to be remembered in the future. If an episode of this show can make you want to be a better person, then it’s done its job right.
Overall, this episode was an enormous surprise for me, as I didn’t think a whole lot of it when it was advertised. The characters, story, and writing were all so strong this week, with Akinola’s score picking back up, and Manzoor’s directing being absolutely stunning. I can definitely guarantee that this is going to be a new classic for the show in decades to come, with the cool history teachers out there using it to teach their kids about Tesla, Edison, and the Gilded Age of America. This episode has nearly everything I could love about this show, and I can only hope that this new spike in momentum carries on for the rest of the series.