A strong conclusion that leaves The Doctor shaken and begins a new mystery.
Last week’s Doctor Who episode gave us a stunning cliffhanger with The Doctor’s nemesis, The Master, back as the mind behind the creatures of light. After revealing himself to The Doctor, and having the creatures teleport her away, he left her companions on a crashing plane with a blown-out cockpit. That’s how you kick off a season!
Of course, our heroes find their way out of their respective traps. Ryan finds a video implanted by The Doctor with a way to safely land the plane using Ryan’s phone. Time-travel shenanigans – always a good time! Meanwhile, The Doctor gets a bit luckier as she runs into another woman who has interacted with the creatures – none other than Ada Lovelace, a 19th century mathematician who is one of the founders of modern computing. Ada reveals the creatures are known as the Kasaavin. While Lovelace sees them as her guardians, they are actually spies moving through time, looking to find a way into our dimension.
Speaking of traveling through time, The Doctor takes Ada’s hand and ends up following her to 1834, stuck without her TARDIS. The Master isn’t far behind though. Furious at The Doctor’s escape, he starts killing anyone who moves, only to be stymied by Ada’s quick thinking with some early-era grenades. The Doctor realizes that while The Master is in league with the Kasaavin, he doesn’t control them. So, using a figurine device she recognizes from Barton’s office decades later, The Doctor summons Kasaavin to send her through time again. Ada grabs The Doctor’s hand though at the moment of transportation, throwing them off-course to Paris in 1943.
Hunted by the pursuing Master, posing as a Nazi officer via perception filter, The Doctor and Ada are rescued by another historic figure: British spy extraordinaire Noor Inayat Khan. Tired of running, The Doctor arranges a meeting with The Master at the top of the Eiffel Tower. In a scene brimming with tension and the weight of history, the two Time Lords confront each other. The Doctor learns that The Master plans to have Barton and the Kasaavin turn the human race into hard drives for the latter, destroying humanity in the process. But The Doctor learns a far more terrible truth as well: The Master claims that Gallifrey has been destroyed. With this knowledge, The Doctor destroys The Master’s perception filter, turning the Nazis against him, and meets up with Ada and Noor at his own TARDIS, stealing it to return to the present.
Meanwhile, Ryan, Yaz and Graham manage to land their damaged plane and escape, Barton uses his full media and tech conglomerate to paint the three has dangerous, wanted suspects. They are forced to go off-grid to survive. In a great scene, the three companions talk about their predicament and how little they actually know about The Doctor. While they don’t question her morals, everything else feels dangerously up-in-the-air. But the three also show how much they’ve learned in their short time with The Doctor, fighting off the Kasaavin with some spy gadgets and setting a trap for Barton’s men.
Just as Barton initiates the Kasaavin plan and The Master, having had to live through the 20th century, arrives to see the figure activate, The Doctor returns. Having seen the figurine through time and learning it was the trigger in the Kasaavin takeover, she planted a virus causing it to overload. The Kasaavin are forced back out of humanity and banished back to their dimension. Before they go though, The Doctor reveals The Master’s scheme to destroy the Kasaavin once they outlived their usefulness to him. They turn on him and trap him in the same dimension The Doctor was stuck in.
With the Kasaavin threat removed, The Doctor returns Ada and Noor to their times and heads to Gallifrey, only to find it in ruins. After all she’s done to save the Time Lords from the Time War, her home has been obliterated once again. A video recording from The Master activates, revealing that he was the one who laid waste to their home planet, after learning a terrible secret about Time Lord history, involving the Timeless Child.
The devastation wrought to Gallifrey and the knowledge that something is very wrong about her origins shakes The Doctor to a level we have yet to see with this incarnation. Her usually-talkative, upbeat persona fades enough that her companions know something is up. Jodie Whittaker does an excellent job of balancing her despair with her desire for secrecy from Ryan, Yaz and Graham. She tells them a bit about her past, but there’s much more she leaves unexplained. There’s a weight on her shoulders and a huge arc looming for The Doctor this season. After this premiere’s fantastic surprises, I can’t wait to see what other secrets are uncovered.
- The Morse Code that The Doctor uses to get The Master’s attention? Four taps. Both the heartbeat of a Time Lord and the sound of drums in The Master’s head from his face-off with the Tenth Doctor.
- As The Master’s plan fails, Barton also manages to escape. I doubt we’ve seen the last of him.
- Love the sequence where The Doctor realizes that she forgot to put her rescue plan into action for the crashing plane, so we see a quick montage of her doing so. Time travel!
- After her experience with The Master, The Doctor’s more cautious and a bit less whimsical on mucking about with time – wiping both Noor’s and Ada’s memories of their adventure with her.
- Since The Master relived through time on Earth from World War II to today, he must’ve been running around at the same time as all his past selves. Hell, I think there were four versions of The Master on Earth when he was Prime Minister.