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Doctor Who: Series 12 (or 37 depending on how you count): Episode 4: Nikola Tesla’s Night Of Terror by Nina Metivier (TV review).

With a name like ‘Nikola Tesla’s Night Of Terror’, you know this has to be a historical setting and the feud between Tesla (actor Goran Visnjic) and Thomas Edison (actor Robert Glenister) is rampant. Please, not another alien menace. Science Fiction doesn’t depend on an alien menace, just the presence of time travellers is enough to twist reality and show the different viewpoints.

Darn! Tessla’s detected a signal from Mars and an apparent electrified corpse in his laboratory. Later, he encounters a spherical green globe which he pockets. Then again, why do people working in their buildings late at night decide to turn the main lighting off? Do they like walking around in the dark? Then they, add his assistant Dorothy Skerritt (actress Haley McGee), are attacked and rescued by the Doctor and on a train on to New York with her friends and the attacks still continue.

Why would the Doctor be amazed by Tesla’s laboratory? She’s a Time Lord from an advanced society. Tesla’s finally hands the globe over which the Doctor identifies as the Orb of Thassia.

Oh, the alien menace is after Tesla and grabs him and Yasmin. The Doctor rescues them from the scorpion people, the Skithra, who want him to repair their spaceship. The Doctor sees them for what they are alien thieves who live off things they steal. They also aren’t that bright, not recognising the Doctor as being more advanced than Tesla. Of course, it all means war, although no one explains why the queen scorpion (actress Anjli Mohindra) is in human form other than making it easier to talk. Anything beyond that and the TARDIS’ force field is a spoiler.

You’ll have to forgive any misspellings or lack of identification of actors. Info lacking so quick after an episode. I found some though.

The story moves along at quite a pace, but does fill in the Tesla/Edison feud enough to make it interesting for kids to look up. Yep! Tesla was that bright but a lousy businessman compared to Edison.

(C) BBC – Photographer: Ben Blackall

There are gaps, like where did the TARDIS come from for the Doctor to get to it. Then again, there is also a jump to how did the Doctor and Tesla get on the train where her friends were. They are dressed in time period but the Doctor doesn’t. Oh, the Doctor’s long sleeved tee-shirt is now magenta. All right, there has to be some skips to keep the story moving but it still leaves problems of how that could have been explained in the script.

Considering the attention last episode to wipe Lovelace and Madeleine’s memories at the end of ‘Spyfall’, you would have thought this would also have to be a priority with Tesla and Edison as well. Hopefully, this was done off-screen but it is a loose end. Oh, for those keeping up with Bradley Walsh’s interview, this is the story where he didn’t recognise an actress he knew in full make-up although puzzled how he missed her in the read-through.

The queen scorpion reminds me a bit of the giant spider alien from ‘The Runaway Bride’ but that’s the problem with arachnids, albeit shape-shifting ones.

The acting was certainly interesting and convincing. I recognised Goran Visnjic from the SF TV series ‘Timeless’, just in case you couldn’t fit the face but saw him last year. In many respects, the Doctor’s friends were more bystanders filling in detail than being crucial needs for the Doctor again. It’s all very well for her to say stay and protect but leaving them with nothing to do it leaves them at a big disadvantage.

Always bear in mind that I’m writing this less than an hour after viewing. It’s hitting on some usual ‘Doctor Who’ tropes again which means it’s playing fairly safe again. My comments from the opening paragraph still stands pretty much. We really do need more than yet another alien menace introduced into an historically located story to make us older fans stand up and rejoice.

At least it’s entertaining but could do more in retrospect.

GF Willmetts

19 January 2020


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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