Published: Wednesday, 01 January 2020 22:05 | Written by SciFi Vision
**Following the review is a detailed recap of the episode. Note that there are many spoilers for episode 12.01 in both the review and the recap, so please don’t read any further until you’ve watched it. You can also check out my spoiler-free review from earlier today if you prefer**
Quite a lot happened in tonight’s season premiere, and I absolutely loved it. The overall spy theme was quite fun, giving it a unique flair without being silly, and it just seemed very grand, from the locations to all the action sequences like the out of control killer car, the motorcycle chase, and jumping onto a moving plane. There was even a bomb. It was definitely fit for a premiere.
As always, the cast was superb. I appreciated how they first showed the companions and how they have been absent from their family and friends due to their travels with the Doctor. It’s also nice to get a bit of their lives away from her.
There was some great dialog between Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole), and I really enjoyed them going undercover as journalist and photographer with their spy gadgets. Ryan was cute being nervous, and Yaz really took the reins, getting done what they had to do.
Graham (Bradley Walsh) didn’t have quite as important as a part in the episode, at least not apart from the Doctor, but he had some of the best lines of the night. I especially got a kick out of him getting excited over the spy gear.
Jodie Whittaker was brilliant, as expected, definitely raising her performance from last season. She really feels at home as the Doctor now, without question.
The guest stars were also fantastic. Stephen Fry made a terrific C; I just wish he had lasted longer. It would have been fun to see him come back, especially now that U.N.I.T. is apparently disbanded for the time being (which I’m also glad they took a moment to remind the viewers). His talents were definitely underutilized.
Sir Lenny Henry also played an interesting character, who I assume we will learn more about in the next episode. We never did find out what 7% of him is made up of.
The standout, however, was Sacha Dhawan as O/The Master. His character was likable (if a bit odd) in the beginning, and he did an excellent job switching into the craziness that is The Master. I definitely felt him channeling John Simm.
I liked the new alien race and the idea that they were scary because they were unknown to the Doctor, but also because they were ambiguous. I liked their unique design as well, especially when they came through and blended with their surroundings. The effect of the alien coming through the painting was especially cool. I’m not sure about the idea though that in taking on the image of humans they apparently think all humans wear hats. Perhaps it was just to make them seem less humanoid looking; I’m not sure.
The Master coming back was a massive moment and definitely not one I saw coming. I especially appreciated that the network did not spoil it with press releases or trailers like they have in the past (i.e. especially the return of the Daleks in the previous holiday special and how they’ve already spoiled other big character returns in this season’s trailers). It made it that much more of a shock. It was completely unexpected and left me with tons of questions. As long as there are explanations for The Master’s return, I’m all for it.
I’m so excited to see where the show goes next. It’s always exciting and so well written. The best part is that this time, fans don’t have to wait a full week.
The series returns for the conclusion to “Spyfall” on Sunday both on the networks as well as in theaters worldwide.
Ivory Coast, West Africa A sniper is tracking a truck, but before she can shoot, something comes out of the rock behind her and attacks her.
Pacific Ocean Onboard a flight to Tokyo, they are getting close to landing. An older man asks a woman if the wash bag that he found in the aisle is hers. She says it is and goes into the bathroom.
In the bathroom, she takes a tube of toothpaste out of the bag and pulls off the cap, unrolling a message. She takes some photos of it with her glasses and then proceeds to eat it.
The lights flicker and something comes out of the wall and attacks her.
Moscow, Russia A man arrives at a safe house. Calling someone on the phone; he says he’s waiting for the extraction team, and to make it fast.
A figure pushes its way through the ceiling and leaps at him, attacking.
Sheffield, Yorkshire Ryan is playing basketball with some friends and misses the shot. His one friend mentions his “bad luck,” that’s kept him away. They don’t see him and now he’s off to travel. He says they miss him.
Suddenly a black car with men dressed in black are arrive.
Yaz is with her family, packing, her sister asking her to give her Ryan’s number. She refuses. Her mother comments that it’s the third secondment she’s been selected for. She questions that Yaz's boss is okay with her being away.
The scene switches to her boss. He isn’t okay with it. He says it’s her fourth secondment. He keeps getting secret paperwork. He asks her if it’s for undercover, but she just responds, “sort of.” He tells her she can do it one last time. She has to be there to finish her probation as an officer. She promises she’s coming back.
Her boss says that he presumes the men are with her, gesturing to the men in black standing nearby.
Graham is at the doctor’s office. The doctor says that it’s been four years since his procedure. The doctor asks him if he’s working, and he responds that he’s been traveling.
Graham leaves the building and outside runs into men in black suits waiting for him as with the others.
The Doctor is fixing something on her TARDIS, leaving a voice message for her team, telling them that they are late, all of them.
Suddenly the men in black show up, tell her that she needs to come with them. She wants to finish up and also wait for her mates, but he tells her that they are in the car, and it’s in her best interest to come with them.
In the car, the Doctor asks them if they are all okay, apart from being kidnapped. Yaz asks what her plan is, and she says she plans to let the driver take them where he wants to in order to find out who wants them. He’s obviously taking them under someone’s orders.
The navigation system goes on the fritz and suddenly shoots the driver with a laser, disintegrating him. The car starts driving fast and crazy and says on the screen “die” multiple times.
The Doctor tries to get control of the car. She jumps into the driver’s seat, but nothing, not even her sonic, works. The nav system shoots another laser at the driver’s seat and she moves out of the way.
The Doctor takes the rear-view mirror down and uses it to reflect the next laser, breaking the system. She hits the breaks before they go over the bridge.
A male voice comes through the radio asking what they have done with his car. The Doctor says that it assassinated his driver and tried to kill them. He says that that is impossible. He introduces himself as C. He was having them brought to London to MI6. The Doctor says they want answers, and that they’ll be in.
London, MI6 Someone brings in the TARDIS while they go to meet with C. He starts talking to Graham and seems surprised he actually does exist. Another man whispers something in his ear, and C shakes it off, saying that he’s read the files: the Doctor is a man.
The Doctor tells him she’s had an upgrade.
C says they were only trying to bring them there, not kill them. The systems were hacked. He’s been authorized to speak on behalf of every security agency across the globe. They need her help; there’s been attacks on intelligence agencies around the world. He tells her that none of the attacks have been ordered by any of the agencies. No agency has the technology required to carry out the attacks. They don’t understand how it was done, or what has been done, but every agent ended up the same.
He brings them into a room to show them the woman from the plane. She appears to be in a coma, but she’s not. Her DNA has been rewritten. She’s no longer even human. There’s nothing left to be alive, because she’s nothing but a shell, like she’s been erased. It’s beyond human technology.
C tells her that the security of the planet is at stake and asks if they can rely on her.
C brings them a suitcase of tech with such things as anesthetic darts and a laser shoe gun. Ryan and Graham are excited, but he tells them they are not toys.
All of the assassinated agents were investigating leads related to Daniel Barton, the founder of Vor, the search engine. Right now, the company is more powerful than most nations, and he built it.
The Doctor tells him that he needs to call his best man for the job, his “horizon watcher,” O, but unfortunately, he fired him.
The Doctor comments that he was the only one with an open mind about everything. C says that the country has other organizations to deal with alien threats, like U.N.I.T. and Torchwood.
The Doctor tells him that they are gone, but not to worry; she’ll call O.
The Doctor tells O that there is a serious crisis and that C is sorry for being an idiot. He yells to her cell phone that he didn’t say that.
C also tells them that Barton was originally an agent that went to work in US but he withdrew his cooperation. It’s possible he became a double or even triple agent.
Before he can tell them who for, a shot comes through the window, killing him.
Humanoid figures start to come through the walls. They take on the texture of the walls, paintings, etc. until they seem to be made of light.
The team gets into the TARDIS in time to get away. Graham says that they’ve been in the wrong place twice now; they must be targets.
The Doctor is going to take them to find Agent O. He texted her a photo of fish. The photo uses steganography; it has more information hidden within the image.
Suddenly one of the creatures start to come through the TARDIS, but it takes off, leaving it behind. The Doctor is surprised it could get through. She also theorizes that it’s the same thing that attacked the spies.
The Doctor decides they need to split up. She and Graham will go to Australia to meet with O, and Yaz and Ryan will go undercover to talk to Barton and look around. She gives them a bio scanner disguised as a digital recorder. She tells them to remember that rule number one is to trust no one.
San Francisco, USA Undercover, Yaz pretends to be a journalist, Ryan her photographer. Ryan, who’s given himself the name Logan Jackson for X-Men’s and Hugh Jackman’s Logan, is worried they won’t be able to pull it off as they’ve had no training. Yaz tries to calm him down.
When they meet with Barton, Ryan is really nervous, so Yaz plays it off as him being a fan.
Great Victoria Desert, Australia The Doctor and Graham arrive to meet O. There are two Australian secret service members there to protect the three of them.
Inside O’s place are MI6 records of the unexplained as compiled by him: disappearances, UFO sightings - all the evidence he’s gathered. He tells them that they mocked him, but the Doctor says that no one is mocking him now.
O asks if C being shot connects to the attacks on the spies around the world. He asks how they know they haven’t become targets and been followed there.
Back in San Francisco, before the interview, Barton checks their identities, but it seems that the Doctor apparently has done her due diligence with creating fake identities, because they check out.
Ryan pretends to take photos while he’s actually scanning, duplicating, and printing Barton’s badge, while Yaz interviews him, simultaneously scanning his DNA with the audio recorder.
Barton gets a phone call and has to cut the interview short, but he tells them that they can see his house and meet the people that know him, as he’s having a birthday party the next day.
After he leaves, Yaz reads the finished scan: Barton is only 93% human.
Back in Australia the secret service agents patrol.
O looks at his computer when sensors are tripped outside. Graham objects, but they go outside to check it out.
The Doctor scans with her sonic but can’t find any readings. She says the aliens tripped the sensors letting them know they are there, like they’re watching them.
They go back inside while the agents look around. One and then more figures of light show up and then attack the agents, killing them. The Doctor runs outside, but it’s too late. O says they can’t fight them outside, and they need a “strategic retreat.” They go back into his house.
When the aliens get within the perimeter, O uses his computer to put up some kind of electrified fence. Surprisingly, all disappear but one. They think maybe they retreated.
The single alien, who has made its way through the barrier, comes through the wall.
O sets up plan B. When in position, they drop a cage on the alien that’s electrically powered and seems to contain it.
The Doctor tries to talk to the alien, but it doesn't respond. It eventually answers her in C’s (?) voice when she asks where they come from. It says they are from far beyond her understanding and laughs at her. When she asks if it is in its true form, the alien says it’s taken on a humanoid form to mock them. Their shape amuses them. They are stable now; they are ready - to take the universe.
Meanwhile Yaz and Ryan snoop around at Vor. The security system is recording them. They use Barton’s badge to move around.
Yaz copies data from Barton’s computer while she tells Ryan about her sister wanting his number. He says to give it to her, but she says that he’s her mate; she doesn’t want him snogging her sister. He jokingly tells her he’d be a good brother-in-law.
Ryan sees that Barton has returned and is making his way to the office. They hide.
Barton walks in and says that they can come out; he knows they are there. Yaz and Ryan look at each other, but it turns out he is talking to the aliens who come through the walls. They tell him that there were obstacles. Barton tells them that they were supposed to be discreet. They say that the project must continue as planned. They must defend. They disappear.
Barton touches something on his computer, picks up his bag, and leaves.
Yaz wants to snoop around a bit more, but Ryan wants to leave. One of the aliens comes back, calling Yaz an obstacle. It attacks her and she disappears. Ryan yells, asking where she is, but all the alien says is “she is gone.”
Yaz reappears in some alien place, surrounded by tentacle type things, not knowing where she is, only that she is alone.
Back in Australia, the glowing light from the alien is increasing.
At Vor, Ryan runs outside in panic, seeing marks on the building glow. Meanwhile, the tentacle like things around Yaz start to glow like they are charged.
In Australia, the alien continues to glow, and they think it’s trying to overload the system. O says it’s like it’s taking a suicide pill.
Suddenly the light around Yaz glow even brighter and she disappears again.
Yaz suddenly appears in the cage in front of the Doctor and O where the alien was previously.
The Doctor gets a frantic call from Ryan, and she tells him that Yaz is there, and they are coming for him.
Yaz is sitting on the porch when Ryan goes to talk to her. She tells him that it was like nothingness; she was nowhere. She was so scared and thought she was dead. He tells her that he’s never going to let that happen.
Meanwhile, Graham talks to O. They discuss the Doctor. O says that their paths crossed briefly when she was a man. Graham is surprised, admitting that he thought the Doctor was joking when she said she used to be a man.
He tells Graham that he has a shelf with all the information he could gather on the Doctor. He’s about to let him look when she comes in from the TARIDS with iced tea that she’s made.
The group, now all out on the porch, talk about Barton and what they've learned. O says he doesn’t think he could be inhuman, because he’s been through his records and has seen photos of him at all ages. Yaz says that it isn’t, however, impossible.
Graham says that C told them Barton’s company is more powerful than most countries; that can’t be true. O explains that the governments are full of people who don’t understand technology, so they outsource it to private companies that transcend national boundaries like Barton’s.
They talk a bit about what Barton said to the aliens at Vor. Yaz and Ryan couldn’t tell who was in control of whom.
The laptop the Doctor is on has found some alien code in a tiny part of Barton’s company. She doesn’t recognize any of it, and it can’t be translated into any known language. She does say, however, that she leaves the TARDIS systems open for unknown languages even on the fringes of the universe, so she syncs it to the TARDIS database.
It works. An image pops up that Yaz suggests uses steganography. Eventually the Doctor decodes it into a map of the globe that shows where the aliens are located. There are hundreds, way too many to deal with.
The Doctor realizes something and says that it’s all in the patterns with the encrypted code and attacks on intelligence agencies. It’s spycraft; they’re alien spies embedded on the planet.
The image suddenly shows multiple Earths. She doesn’t understand what it means.
O tells her that if they are spies, they need to be focusing on who the spymaster is, who is running them, because they would be the one who holds all the answers. They think it could be Barton, but they still don’t know enough.
Ryan mentions the invites to the party, and the Doctor says she will hack the guest list for O and herself.
They exit the TARDIS dressed formally in black. Spy music plays.
The Doctor comes up to the door and says that her name is “Doctor. The Doctor,” in a nod to Bond films.
Inside, the party has a casino theme. The Doctor tells them to blend in and keep a lookout for Barton.
Meanwhile, Barton looks down from a balcony above as he watches video surveillance of Yaz and Ryan breaking into his office.
Graham and Ryan are playing Roulette, while the Doctor attempts to play cards, playing the wrong game. Yaz and O play Craps.
Barton walks past Yaz. The Doctor comes up to her and O and says it’s time for her to have a chat with him.
Outside, the Doctor introduces herself to Barton and asks if he assassinated the head of MI6 himself or ordered someone to do it. She continues to ask accusatory questions, but he just brushes them off and acts like she is crazy. He tells her he’s going to walk away, and she will stay away from him voluntarily or because his security team will make her. She tells him that she’s very hard to get rid of.
The Doctor tells them over their spy comms not to let him out of their sights.
Before they can stop him, they watch Barton get in a car and drive away.
Spotting motorcycles, the Doctor and her friends give chase: the Doctor on one, with Yaz and O on the second, and Graham and Ryan on the other. Barton shoots at them from the car but misses.
O: Is this what it’s like being with the Doctor? YAZ: A bit. This is one of the quiet days.
Barton’s car pulls into a hangar at the airport.
The Doctor uses her sonic to get them in. They hide behind a plane and eventually follow Barton into another plane that he is piloting, through the cargo hold, barely making it after it starts to take off.
O is last in. He tells them that he was never good at sprinting. The Doctor seems surprised by this.
They enter the main cabin. The Doctor says they will wait and see where Barton goes.
The Doctor questions O that he was never good at sprinting. He says that he was the last one in every race at school. She says that she read his file: he’s a champion sprinter.
O gives a smirk and says that she “got him.” He says they better take a look out the window. His home is flying through the air.
He tells the Doctor to catch up; she can do it.
THE DOCTOR (gasping): Oh! O: That’s my name, and that’s why I chose it. So satisfying. Doctor, I did say look for the spymaster - or should I say, “spy Master?”
The Doctor says that it can’t be, but he says that it very much is. The others are confused. He tells them that he’s her very best enemy and to call him “Master.” They go way back.
The Doctor says that she met O years ago. He knows. He says that O is very close to his heart, in his pocket, actually.
O/the Master pulls out a matchbox. He says it’s always good to keep a backup of one’s work. Tissue compression is always a classic.
He opens the matchbox, and inside is a tiny man in a suit. He says he ambushed him on the way to his first day of work, shrunk him, and took his identity and set himself up in MI6.
He says he has had a lot of fun and then claps maniacally.
The Doctor goes to warn Barton, but he’s gone. The cockpit is empty. Graham asks who’s flying the plane. The Master tells him that that is the wrong question and to check the seat: there’s a bomb, and it’s counting down.
THE MASTER: Short fuse. I can relate to that. [laughs]
The Doctor sonics it, but he’s made it sonic proof. It’s deadlock-sealed and he made sure there were no parachutes onboard.
Yaz asks what he did with Barton, and he says that he called him away before takeoff. He tells her to stick with him, because he controls everything - even the aliens, who are suddenly onboard as well.
The Doctor can’t diffuse the bomb and yells at them to get away. They head for the back of the plane, but the bomb goes off, ripping the plane apart.
The Master tells the Doctor that there is one last thing she should know right before she dies: everything that she thinks she knows is a lie. He adds that he “got” her finally. He then teleports out.
They scream as the plane falls.
Suddenly the Doctor wakes up in the same alien place that Yaz was previously.