Title: Nikola Tesla’s Night Of Terror
Release Date: 19th January 2020
Network: BBC One
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama
Nikola Tesla’s Night Of Terror
My first impressions from the teaser to Nikola Tesla’s Night Of Terror had me hopeful for an episode to remember. There are power fluctuations, a dead body, and signals from Mars. Within the opening minutes, it’s all looking good.
The story wastes no time jumping into action. No more than fifteen minutes in, and the hopes for a memorable episode are beginning to pay off. Storylines are taking shape.
Tesla discovers the floating Orb of Thassor, a repurposed device sent by our episode’s antagonists, the Skithra, to scan the Earth for him. This leads to Bill Tallow, (our dead body from the beginning of the episode), coming back to life, giving chase to the Doctor’s group, Tesla and Skerrit on a train, shooting at them with a Silurian weapon, (or as Graham calls it, “Slymurian”).
It’s a touching moment between the Doctor and Tesla as they find commonalities in their lives and talk about feeling out of place. It’s a wonderfully written scene. The introduction of Harold Green, working under Thomas Edison, keeps the plot moving.
It adds new angles of intrigue to an already strong and engaging plot. At Thomas Edison’s lab, Bill Tallow, our man with the red eyes, resurfaces. He electrocutes Edison’s entire lab in a burst of red electricity.
Meanwhile, Yaz and Tesla realize the Thassor Orb can emit vast amounts of energy, as the inventor sets to work. It may seem like a dream come true for Tesla’s suffering Wardenclyffe project, but everything tells me none of this can be good. It never is…
The Skithra Want Tesla
It all begins to pick up pace rather fast. Bill Tallow and a scientist from Edison’s lab ambush Tesla and Yaz. Other than a distorted voice and a shadow on a wall, little else is known about the creatures at this point.
So, who are they? Well, they are the Skithra. In a somewhat predictable turn of events, these bad guys intend to force Tesla into working on their Throne Ship. Perhaps my highlight of the episode has to be the Queen of the Skithra. She’s a throwback to the Empress of the Racnoss from 2006’s The Runaway Bride, and Sharaz Jek from the acclaimed The Caves of Androzani.
So the long and short of it is that the Skithra require Nikola Tesla to fix their ship. They’ve been stealing parts from the Niagra Generator, as well as cherry-picking parts from other ships around the galaxy.
It’s a pretty standard, by the book plot seen several times before (2008’s The Next Doctor), and despite feeling slightly formulaic, never tires and always entertains.
The Doctor and Tesla’s interactions remain memorable and funny as they bring together a plan to take on the Skithra. Jodie Whittaker’s attempt at a high five with a confused Tesla was particularly amusing.
In-between it all come short, sweet moments of comedy between Ryan and Graham, in what could almost be a double act.
The Doctor and Tesla Fight Back
The group makes a swift escape from the Throne Ship using a Braxium Bouncer Mark III from the Doctor.
It’s all beginning to come together. The Doctor and Tesla engineer the Wardenclyffe tower to direct a bolt of lightning at the Skithra ship. Edison and Yaz clear the streets, subsequently becoming chased by a handful of the awfully nightmarish Skithra scorpions. The plan is working, or so it seems until we reach the final confrontation between the Doctor and the Skithra queen, who has left her ship.
However, for one moment, things take a sinister turn. The Skithra Queen asks the Doctor if she’s ever seen a dead planet. It’s a sudden reminder for the Doctor about her home planet, following the dramatic revelation of its destruction at the end of Spyfall.
A light, ethereal underscore from composer Segun Akinola swells, as the Doctor responds that she’s seen more than the Queen could ever imagine.
It’s highly unlikely that the Gallifrey story is over yet, and this small snippet of dialogue reminds us that it’s never really that far away, ready to make its return. The Doctor tricks the Skithra into snatching away the Braxium Bouncer, under the illusion it’s a part of a bigger plan. It isn’t. The device sends the Queen back to the ship before Tesla releases the bolt of lightning.
The Skithra scorpions feel familiar to the spiders from last year’s Arachnids in the UK, (not a great title). Without a doubt, the Skithra and their Queen will go down as some of my favorite monsters from this twelfth series. I’ve loved them.
There were solid, engaging performances all round. From Anjli Mohindra (Rani Chandra from Doctor Who’s former spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures), as the fantastically menacing Skithra Queen, to Goran Višnjić’s electric portrayal of Nikola Tesla and Robert Glenister in the role of the stubbornly arrogant Thomas Edison.
Verdict: A powerful, well-written Doctor Who episode that makes up for last week’s disappointing third entry. Fast-paced in plot and storytelling, with a couple of unique one-liners and iconic character interactions, Nikola Tesla’s Night Of Terror is everything I hope the remainder of Series 12 can live up to.
Not sure there’s anything negative I can say about this, really.
Jodie Whittaker’s performance, more and more, as I watch, makes me think of David Tennant’s portrayal of the character. She demonstrates the perfect blend of goofy charm and level-headed seriousness.
Onto next week, and with the Judoon back…, it could just get even better…
In the meanwhile, check out what else The Nerd Stash offers from Doctor Who here.
- Solid performances from Anjili Mohindra, Robert Glenister and Goran Višnjić
- Well written plot, strong pacing
- The Skithra