Doctor Who: Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror
January 19, 2020 6:57 PM - Season 12, Episode 4 - Subscribe

The Doctor and her companions land in 1903, and must find out who's sabotaging Nikola Tesla's generator plant at Niagara Falls.
posted by oh yeah! (33 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I... Liked this? Mostly straightforward, Goran Visnjic did a stand up job as Tesla, a little bit of history for the kids, badda boom, badda bing.

Monsters felt reused, but I couldn't put my finger on where, exactly.
posted by Kyol at 8:31 PM on January 19 [3 favorites]


I'm not a fan of this style of historical episode, but it's part of Doctor Who and this episode did a decent job at what it was trying to do. My only real complaint is that it makes the mind wiping two weeks ago seem even more pointless and cruel.
posted by Gary at 11:12 PM on January 19 [3 favorites]


I don't know, I might just not have been in the right mood but I just lost interest halfway through and fast-forwarded through the rest of the story. This season is really not doing it for me.
posted by KTamas at 2:22 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not enjoying this season overall. I really loved the "pure" historicals from last season - and this felt like it wanted to be that, but with some aliens forced in. This season feels like some kind of correction to last season, which was criticised for being slow or less action-packed - and now it feels too action packed and lacking in character. I still love The Doctor, but these stories just aren't doing it for me. Still, this was an improvement over last week's episode.
posted by crossoverman at 2:27 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Yes, I noticed how Ada Lovelace and Noor Khan get their memories wiped but Tesla and Edison don't. I suppose you could rationalise this as Lovelace getting specific knowledge of the future that has to be erased (but Khan doesn't, beyond the Doctor's indication that the Nazis don't win) but it still smacks of sexism.

I know at least one long-standing Who fan who is still angry years on about how Donna was treated; she takes the view that the character we'd come to see as an empowered woman who was a match temperamentally for the Doctor was in effect killed off. Limited memory wiping isn't quite as extreme but still carries the same unfortunate implications, particularly if it seems to only be done to female characters.
posted by Major Clanger at 3:24 AM on January 20 [7 favorites]


I liked this better than last weeks episode, but god, Jodie deserves MUCH better writing.
posted by Pendragon at 3:37 AM on January 20 [5 favorites]


The aliens seemed like the poor cousins of the Racnoss, which is who I thought they were going to be from the trailer. I agree that the scales have shifted on the character:action ratio and I preferred last season but so many folks lost their crap about slower episodes and the lack of returning classic foes that I think the BBC may have sent down a suggestion or two. I recognize that a good balance is hard, esp. with a global audience to appeal to but this has always been part of the Wholler coaster.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 3:40 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


I was slightly annoyed that the writers couldn't be bothered to concoct any reason for the Dr being unable to use the Tardis to transport her to the alien ship. The only answer seemed to be "because we need that hand-held little transporter thing to make the plot work".
posted by Paul Slade at 4:57 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


I had given up on this one about 10 minutes in. Then I went back to it today and that first shot on the alien's ship and they jump to a close up of the alien queen's face and I'm like oh please. No. And then they keep cutting back to it. And now I'm like are those fangs on her forehead?
posted by Catblack at 7:24 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


That’s a long secret tunnel between lower Manhattan and Wardenclyffe, which is about 70 miles east of the city on Long Island.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:15 AM on January 20 [6 favorites]


I really wanted to like this one, but it was so boring. SO boring. And I kept getting distracted by the alien queen -- was she supposed to be almost a copy of the Empress of the Racnoss from 2006's Runaway Bride episode? Because the look felt similar to me, and her mannerisms and way of speaking were almost identical. It was distracting as hell, and made the character not even a little bit menacing.

I'm baffled by this, really -- I loved last season! And I really enjoyed the first two episodes of this season! But last week's was so bad, and this week's was so dull...
posted by sarcasticah at 9:27 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


It was a bit distracting that Edison was played by Robert Glenister (Ash Morgan from Hustle), his American accent was bad.
The episode wasn't awful, but I've come to expect more quality in writing from all the good tv lately, and Doctor Who stands out as not having improved since the revival started in 2005.
posted by Marticus at 1:41 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


I was mildly distracted that the train couplers weren't Janney-style, and I started to wonder when that would've been legitimately a real expectation for random rolling stock, but I'm not enough of a trainwatcher to tell. I mean sure, Janney-style couplings were patented in 1873, episode in ... mmm 1901-ish? Roughly? Wardenclyffe was built, anyway. No later than 1917.

Still, wouldn't have been what looked for all the world like buffer and chain. Link and pin or GTFO.
posted by Kyol at 2:31 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


The guy playing Tesla looked so much like Fish Called Wanda era Kevin Klein that I was totally distracted by that the entire episode.
posted by Catblack at 2:37 PM on January 20 [10 favorites]


This was fun! I liked it.

She was a bit judgemental about stealing technology considering she stole that TARDIS in the first place! The alien queen was very, very bad. Apparently Wardenclyffe is in Central Park in that timeline, I guess?
posted by BungaDunga at 2:38 PM on January 20


This was definitely a decent episode. The repurposed floaty orb and its CGI were a bit rubbish, plus there wasn't quite enough for everyone to do, but it all worked for me. The anticipatory "I bet she doesn't mean the TARDIS!" gag about the Doctor having a faster method of travel made me laugh. Tesla and Edison were both very good. Tesla's version of "bigger on the inside" was fun too.

I'm not a fan of Chibnall, but I still kinda like his instincts on bringing back historicals and leaning a bit more factual-if-infodumpy stuff over Power Of Love Stroke Comedy, which tbh I also enjoyed. If anything my broad crit of this current series is that, for whatever reason, there's a definite whiff of trying to artificially reproduce the RTD/Tennant-era about it, as opposed doing to its own thing. Let's see how it goes.

Also, letting your writers write is a good approach, but that presumably-unintended sexism arising from the mindwipings in one episode but not this, plus the simple detail of Silurians not being aliens definitely seem like stuff which should be picked up/corrected by the showrunner though or else what are they for?
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 3:08 PM on January 20 [2 favorites]


The Skithra Queen was played by Anjli Mohindra (Rani from Sarah-Jane Adventures). (Radio Times article)
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:43 PM on January 20 [2 favorites]


It was better than last weeks episode, warmed over Racnoss and all.

Also seems like a bad idea to talk about the guest character's ultimate fate in front of them, especially if it's not totally brilliant.
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:48 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Haha, true!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 4:11 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Man, you folks are expecting wayyyyyy too much out of a Dr.Who episode. This was a fun little romp. I enjoyed it, especially the depiction of Edison as a class-A dick.

The only issue I might have is I wish they’d ditch this group of companions. They’re pretty useless, really. And, I think having so many of them kind of forces the writers to draft these sprawling, busy pieces, instead of more focused stories. One or none.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:24 PM on January 20 [7 favorites]


Didn't enjoy this one, and am finding the season in general pretty rough.

Could we maybe.. leave earth for a while?

Agree there are too many companions. And I could've sworn Ryan mentioned last episode that he met the Doctor eight years ago which.. rly?
posted by coriolisdave at 7:17 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed this a lot more than last weeks effort. A few lapses of logic but a solid adventure story. Plus it actually looked like a big budget production rather than a cheap fan-film like Orphan55.

Two things really bugged me in the first few minutes. The sonic screw driver shouldn’t have worked on the train’s wooden door. And describing the Silurian blaster as alien technology is not really correct as the Silurians are not strictly speaking aliens. I hope someone got fired for these blunders.
posted by AndrewStephens at 7:21 PM on January 20 [2 favorites]


The only issue I might have is I wish they’d ditch this group of companions. They’re pretty useless, really. And, I think having so many of them kind of forces the writers to draft these sprawling, busy pieces, instead of more focused stories.

Well to me this is part of the change of pace thing folks are talking about; last season when there was less running around and yelling there was time to develop all three companions as characters and give them their own story arcs and development. This season there's so much action and plot that there just isn't time (or writing ability) to cover 4 major characters, so 3 companions are starting to seem like 2 too many because they don't really do much besides run around for not much purpose.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:10 PM on January 20


Well... it made more sense than last week. Last week was maybe a little more entertaining, but it was a freaking mess. This was a lot less messy, but there were a lot of times when it felt like the Doctor could have easily fixed things but instead there was lots of running around because they had an hour to fill.

I know some people had issues with the Doctor's arrogant hyper-competence in previous incarnations, but now that that competence has been established it feels weird to see this incarnation of the Doctor struggle with stuff that should really be no big deal for her. The example I always think of is the Rosa Parks episode, where the Doctor spent a looooong time dealing with this baddie who was basically just one rando racist without a crazy super-weapon or anything. In this episode the space scorpions were real D-list baddies, creatures so technologically unsophisticated that they were counting on a scientist from the early 20th Century to fix their ship for them. They were basically Pakleds with stingers. David Tennant's Doctor (for example) would have dispatched them in a teaser before the real episode started, and it's weird and annoying to see Whittaker's Doctor spend a whole episode puzzling over how to deal with them. It goes back to my thing about how the show feels like it's meant specifically for kids now, in a way it didn't before.

This is the second week in a row where the makeup was just awful. Admittedly the scorpion queen was a lot better than the dog lady in the last one, but I thought the dog lady was (no joke) worse than a lot of stuff from the Hartnell era. The makeup has been so bad lately it feels like it's got to be a choice, like they think it's fun and campy to have these aliens that look like something from a school play. I got a nerdy chuckle out of my girlfriend by observing that the scorpion queen looked like a makeup from Face Off, and not one of the winners. Everything about her was like a one-day challenge gone wrong. I could just hear Glenn facepalming over how they put freaking fangs on her forehead. Please pack up your kit...

The scorpion lady actress was super over the top, more goofy than scary, but otherwise I thought the casting was quite good. The writing wasn't completely terrible, I liked the characters (even Edison had some depth to him) and overall it was... fine. I'm still rooting for the show, but I sure hope this cast gets some scripts that are worthy of them soon.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:11 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


When Yaz and Edison were giving the task of getting everyone inside, I was hoping that Yaz's police training would come into play. She should have strolled into the middle of the street and started commanding groups inside instead of gently suggesting to individuals that they should move.

It was the set up for an amusing character moment for Edison but is another example of the companions just kind of being there instead of part of the plot.
posted by AndrewStephens at 7:56 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]


Ursula Hitler: I know some people had issues with the Doctor's arrogant hyper-competence in previous incarnations, but now that that competence has been established it feels weird to see this incarnation of the Doctor struggle with stuff that should really be no big deal for her. The example I always think of is the Rosa Parks episode, where the Doctor spent a looooong time dealing with this baddie who was basically just one rando racist without a crazy super-weapon or anything.

I haven't been consistently watching Who, so maybe this already known or sorted, and I might be forgetting key details of that particular episode, but does this Doctor's focus on problem-solving without (lasting) damage or (serious/lethal) violence push her to find other, more circuitous solutions?

Ursula Hitler: The scorpion lady actress was super over the top, more goofy than scary

Perhaps another instance of Doctor Who Being For The Kids?


I'm always feeling, Blue: Also, letting your writers write is a good approach, but that presumably-unintended sexism arising from the mindwipings in one episode but not this

That also miffed me, but my only thought is that because this was a mass experience of major events (some people clearly saw the giant extraterrestrial scorpions), it'd be harder to wipe out all their memories (and maybe those visions wouldn't really change history?), versus a few temporary companions of influence who now knew too much and could otherwise change the flow of time. Tesla didn't get new information, just ideas of what was possible (some of what he had already considered, like radar). Maybe? Yeah, I'm grasping at straws.

Still, seems like really sloppy writing all-around.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:12 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Man, you folks are expecting wayyyyyy too much out of a Dr.Who episode.

Some people were hoping to enjoy it and didn't, how is that wayyyyy to much to expect?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:56 PM on January 21 [4 favorites]


This bored the shit out of my entire family.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:29 PM on January 21 [4 favorites]


Well, that wasn't spectacular, but it was a definite improvement. Not to keep getting up on this soapbox (I totally will, though), but the main thing that elevated it above the first three of this season for me is that it didn't have thirty-seven different undeveloped plot points all going at once. It was a relatively simple story, more or less competently told. More of that, please.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:58 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]


I think of the Tesla/Edison thing hadn't been so oft trod the last fifteen years-ish, this might have felt a little fresher. But even then, the ep was saddled with villains DOT Jr. dubbed "Discount Sith Lord" and "Recycled Racnoss."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:34 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


This season is leaving me very cold. The scorpion queen kept trying to raise the dramatic stakes, and all I could think about were the Lizardmen from Flash Gordon.
posted by mumkin at 6:40 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Tesla, as presented in this Oatmeal comic, has always struck me as a man out of time - as in, a man from the 23rd century or thereabouts, who, having found himself trapped in the 19th century after an unfortunate time travel incident, spent his life pulling out all the stops to try to get back to his technological comfort zone. So I was pleased to see him turn up in a time travel context, but that wasn't the story I was hoping for.

Oh well.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:29 AM on January 23


I fear that the failures of Chris Chibnall, showrunner, will be misattributed to Jodie Whittaker, actress, and thus all future regenerations will be straight, white men.
posted by Ruki at 2:00 PM on January 25 [7 favorites]


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