Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror, as well as being an amazing title, is also a great episode of Doctor Who. It's fun and atmospheric and manages its larger cast well, giving subtle character moments at the right times without bogging the whole thing down. The monsters are unexpectedly incredible and I'm very pleased their ship escaped at the end, opening the door for the Skithra to return. Anjli Mohindra as the Skithra Queen though elevates what could've been a random Threat of the Week background villain to something truly memorable. The performance is deliciously over the top and her outfit and prosthetics give her the most incredible silhouette and presence when she enters a scene. The Skithra are fully backed up by a Segun Akinola theme that sounds like nothing he's done for the show before; really eerie and unsettling. Yeah, this whole thing is just terrific.
It all looks stunning too. Director Nida Manzoor and director of photography Sam Heasman shot the shit out of and lit the shit out of this episode respectively. The historical locations are completely immersive - there's not a single moment where the camera seems restricted. The illusion never breaks or feels like an illusion. As with all of Whittaker's historicals so far, it's a beautifully recreated corner of the past. Oh, and speaking of the production design, I'm so glad the Silurian blaster from the promo images actually turned out to be a Silurian blaster, not just a reused prop. I wouldn't have minded if it was a reused prop considering the realities of TV production but I absolutely ADORE that it wasn't. What a cool connection. And yeah, the Doctor did refer to Silurian stuff as 'alien', but we know from Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (by Chris Chibnall) that they do have their own planet, Siluria, so there. I can overlook it, like so many continuity blips in Doctor Who.
The Whittaker TARDIS set has never looked better, what with all the changes in colour and lighting. It reminds me of how expressive the Capaldi TARDIS could be. The small changes and additions to the new set this series really improve it, especially the staircase which is proving to be a great place for quiet conversations away from the main console. In other Whittaker era staple news, her costume continues to be amazing. I think the pink t-shirt is my favourite variation, especially with how rarely it's used. I'm glad the costume hasn't changed since Series 11 - it's just gained new variations like jumpers in place of t-shirts, all of which keep the rainbow design consistent.
But never mind what she's wearing, let's talk about the Doctor herself. This might be Whittaker's strongest performance yet. She hasn't stopped being a symbol of hope and optimism, but she's gained the depth and darkness that accompanied her previous incarnations. "When you die, there'll be nothing left behind. Just a trail of blood and other people's brilliance. No one will even know you existed." Nina Metivier gives the Thirteenth Doctor some of her best stuff here and Jodie Whittaker does it justice. It's like every individual element from Series 11 is better in Series 12.
Bradley Walsh continues to be the MVP of the companions, improving every episode with his presence, but Ryan and Yaz also have nice bits here and there. The discussion with Ryan about how hard it'd be to go back to an ordinary life is the first time since Arachnids in the UK that this idea of the companions being changed by their travels has been brought up. I hope this is used to build an arc for these three across the rest of the series. Outside of the main cast, Goran Višnjić is utterly delightful as Nikola Tesla. The long Doctor-less opening (which would've been a pre-title sequence once upon a time) really pulled me in, mainly because Višnjić is a reassuring screen presence who could believably be the lead of his own Tesla show had Dr Who not burst through the door and stolen the pilot from him.
This is kinda the best version of 'celebrity historical with Tesla and Edison' that I could've hoped for. It's fun, it's energetic, and it has one of the Chibnall era's best original monsters (seriously, bring back the Skithra). Next week's episode, Fugitive of the Judoon, should be amazing too. Firstly, I love that the Judoon have earned an 'of the Judoon' story in the main televised show. I've been saying for ages they should expand the roster of big recurring villains. Episodes where monsters return after being away for a while are always exciting so they could make more episodes exciting by cycling out more old monsters. Secondly, it's written by Vinay Patel, the writer of one of my favourite Series 11 episodes. Chris Chibnall also has a writing credit, so it might even tie into some big arc stuff with the Timeless Child. Either way, if Series 12 can just stick to this standard for the remaining six episodes with no major disasters, we should be okay.