Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror

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    Craig @craig

    Ah, Nikola Tesla… one of the greatest, most inventive and most crazy minds ever. Let’s hope they do him justice in this episode. My favourite piece about Tesla (and Edison) comes from The Oatmeal:

    This takes place in 1903 and something is wrong at Tesla’s generator plant on the edge of Niagara Falls. Who or what is sabotaging his work? Has he really received a message from Mars? And where does his great rival Thomas Edison fit into this? The Doctor and fam must join forces with Tesla to save both him and planet Earth.

    This guest stars Goran Visnjic, who you’ll know from “ER”, as Tesla, Robert Glenister from “Hustle” and “Spooks” as Edison, and Anjli Mohindra, who played Rani in “The Sarah Jane Adventures”.

    It is written by Nina Metivier, a BAFTA-winning writer, producer and script editor. She worked as script editor on last series’ opener “The Woman Who Fell To Earth” and “It Takes You Away”. She is also a co-creator and co-writer of “The A List” for BBC iPlayer/Netflix, and CCBC show “Dixi”, an online mystery drama.

    It is directed by Nida Manzoor, an award-winning genre/comedy writer and director. She also worked on several episodes of “Dixi” and has been recently commissioned by Channel 4 to turn her short film “Lady Parts”, about a Muslim female punk band, into a series.

    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    Completely off topic but nice to see Goran Visjic, always a pleasure.

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    Well, it seems the Chibnall era is going to be remembered best for its historical episodes.

    I enjoyed this one.

    The Scythra (Skithra?) Queen was a gorgeous scorpion-alien, with all those talons and teeth and head protuberances. A little similar to the Empress of Racnoss, perhaps.

    Tesla’s story had that nice sense of time-travel poignancy to it, as Team TARDIS knew he’d have a bitter end, and only be recognised after his death.

    In reality, I’m not sure Tesla would have taken so readily to the Doctor though. He was, unfortunately, not a fan of the “New Woman”.

    The “Fam” looked good in their period costumes.

    I’d have to say it didn’t match Rosa or The Demons of the Punjab, because I think what made those two episodes stand out was the level of emotional investment the companions felt in what was happening.

    I enjoyed the Doctor’s fan glee at meeting Tesla. It shone a light, again, on the Doc’s peculiar fondness for Earth, as all Tesla’s tech was beyond primitive for a Time Lord, but she loves human ingenuity.

    This Doctor would actually benefit from having a science-nerd companion on the TARDIS who could geek out with her, I think.

    A little nod to the Gallifrey-in-ruins arc near the end, when the Scythra Queen asks if the Doc has ever seen a totally destroyed planet.

    Some beautiful cinematography, like that night-train under the moon.

    The Chibnall era is still not gripping me with delight, but I’ll take it.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Okay. Interesting. Is it my imagination, or does everyone seem so much more comfortable doing the historicals?

    I’d rate this one as good, solid Who. Nice monster – and a possible series arc joke. We’ve been complaining about Chibbers seemingly stealing plots; now we have an alien race who have stolen all their stuff. Theft, taking stuff that doesn’t belong – and that ship had a certain hint about it of older TARDIS sets. Not to mention the aliens having more than a hint of Racnoss.

    The aliens who steal are mirrored in Thomas Edison, who Tesla thought stole his ideas without paying him properly. But are they also mirrored in the larger arc? What have the Time Lords stolen?

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    @bluesqueakpip Good thinking about a Scythra scavenger parallel to the Time Lords.

    If we put that together with the genetic mutation focus of the last two episodes, I think we might guess the answer is that the Time Lords scavenged genetics and then (dark, but great story) undertook genetic experiments on their kids, perhaps to make them “time sensitive”?

    BadWolfAlice @badwolfalice

    My thoughts on this are pretty much the same as @juniperfish‘s. So far the Chibnall era’s greatest accomplishment in my eyes is making me actively enjoy the historical episodes. I’ve never disliked them but in the past I’ve generally been fairly indifferent to them, as they often (in New Who at least) tended to focus more on the alien of the week than on the historical setting. Series 11’s historicals, particularly the first two, were standout moments of that series due to the way they fully made the most of the time period and the historical figures/characters, and while this episode wasn’t as strong as those, it was still very enjoyable.

    I also loved the period costumes that the companions wore. And I liked the way the scorpion monsters were animated running through the street, although I’m not sure why they were so clumsy?

    jomomentor @jomomentor

    I really liked it but I feel that I am slightly blinded by my love for the Tesla actor as he was in Timeless (one of my favourite shows). I really liked his portrayal though. Can anyone else explain though how Yaz thought tipping that one tiny shelf of bread over would stop four or five giant scorpions that can run on walls!!!???

    Doctor Who season 12 episode 4 discussion: Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    Yeah, I think one possibility is that we’ll look back on the Chibnall era as the new golden age for the historicals. Some of them really have been a masterclass in ‘how to do a Who historical’.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    I thought she reckoned they might eat the bread instead of them. Anything’s worth a go when you’re being chased by giant scorpions.

    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    @jomomentor to be fair, they were tumbling over each other and their own legs…

    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    @juniperfish yes- I think one thing we noticed last season was the Doctor as inventor – twelve was very much the professor. We saw thirteen at her beginning jerry rigging a transporter, making a sonic. The choices of Lovelace and Tesla make perfect sense with her.

    The show tends to focus on the positives of historical figures, unless they’re Hitler level. Churchill was all positive stuff and Nixon, other than a brief debate ‘hippy!’ between River and the Doctor.

    Mudlark @mudlark

    This was certainly an improvement on last week’s episode, and it is good to see Tesla take centre stage, with references to pretty much every visionary project on which  he worked  – and mostly failed to profit from or even be given the credit for until long after his death. In that context the Niagara generator might seem a bit of an irrelevance, since as far as I’m aware his involvement in that project was chiefly as a consultant and advisor on which AC system would most effectively transmit power from the generator once built*, but I suppose it made a suitably striking image with which to introduce the episode.

    When he was working on wireless transmission apparently he did think at one point that he had picked up extra-terrestrial signals, which could in fact have been Marconi’s early attempts at terrestrial transmission (were they even aware of one another’s work in this field at this time?). And in the end, of course, Marconi got all the credit and the benefit.

    The not-so-sub-textual parallel between the Skithra as plunderers and exploiters of other people’s technology and people such as Edison, who built his fortune chiefly by seizing on and developing the ideas and inventions of others was quite neatly done, and there are modern equivalents who come to mind 😈

    *Others here may know better than I on this point.



    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    @miapatrick Yes, I wish we’d spent more time with Lovelace. She deserved a whole episode of her own.

    And also, glaring incongruity – why did Lovelace have to get her memory wiped, but Tesla (who saw the inside of the TARDIS) didn’t?

    Just to re-ignite the ethics of the mind-wipe debate @jimthefish was having earlier!

    BTW, I don’t think the Scythra’s ship got blown up – they skedaddled in the nick of time. I was momentarily shocked when I thought the Doc had just blown it up.

    A scavenger race like the Scythra are a bit of a puzzle, because surely, they’re intelligent, so why not tinker about the high-tech stuff they filch and figure some of it out? The tech they had which could disguise them as re-eyed humans was particularly impressive.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    A huge improvement on last week and if I’m honest the episode from the Chibs period that I’ve most enjoyed so far. Certaintly, Nina Metivier has a stronger grasp of putting together a Who story than many of the writers of recent years and possibly even the showrunner himself.

    That said, it kind of flags in the middle and feels a bit SJA at points to me. Certainly, Queen Skithra (?) seems to be scoring pretty high on the Zaroff Scale of Who villain hokiness. The Skithra were rather sketchily drawn and I found their similarity to the Racnoss distracting.

    Goran Višnjić gave a great performance as Tesla and was a real highlight. Robert Glenister did good work as Edison too. But as with Noor in Spyfall, there seemed to be extreme selectivity at play in the presentation. That they wanted to gloss over Tesla’s support for eugenics and compulsory sterilisation of the criminal and insane is understandable in the context of the story they wanted to tell but does feel a little like the whole story is not being told. Personally part of me is kind of OK with the fact that he never became rich or powerful, considering the kind of abilities he had, coupled with the views he held. But this is mere cavilling and you’d have to level the same criticisms at the presentation of the likes of HG Wells and Churchill in the show too.

    Instead I’ll moan about the Silurians being described as ‘aliens’ more than once throughout the story. This seems to be something of a schoolboy production error to make, particularly as the showrunner wrote a two-part story all about why they weren’t aliens. Surely Chibs has read this script multiple times and surely he would have picked this up? On a related note, where the hell was the Silurian gun during the final stand-off? I would have thought it more useful than a non-functioning death ray prototype.

    And for that matter, was that the only ‘alien’ tech, the Scythra had? Because they didn’t seem to produce any more to use after that. The TARDIS forcefield extending like that also raises questions. I can think of several times when that would have made or broke an episode in the past.

    And finally, the mindwipe issue (sorry to bang on about this). Noor and Ada get mindwiped but Edison and Tesla don’t? The argument at the time was that leaving Ada with the knowledge was dangerous. But she’s a couple of hundred years out of time, surely it’s a much more significant threat with these two with their abilities, resources and at the start of the 20th C, especially as it’s made clear that Edison in particular could be a menace if he got hold of future tech. It just reinforces just how much of a can of worms Chibs opened with that (frankly unnecessary) action.

    All in all, a solid bit of Who, I’d say. For me, perhaps the best of the Chibs era so far but still nothing earth-shattering. Probably on a par with Shakespeare Code or Vampires in Venice. Entertaining but largely unremarkable.

    @bluesqueakpip and @juniperfish

    Good point about the scavenging motif. It’ll be very interesting if the dark secret of the Time Lords does tend in that direction. I’d be quite happy if it did.

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    @mudlark Yes – the origins of Elon Musk’s own Tesla company are more complex than the “genius inventor founder” mythology:

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    And also, glaring incongruity – why did Lovelace have to get her memory wiped, but Tesla (who saw the inside of the TARDIS) didn’t?

    I just answered that very question on T’Other Place. Ada Gordon and Noor Khan were both technically trained and had seen the future of their own planet. Tesla and Edison are both technically trained – but what they saw was the TARDIS and an alien spaceship from their own time – not the future of their own planet.

    So I’d guess that people seeing alien spacecraft might be technically inspired, but not in a way that’s going to disrupt anything. However, seeing their own future technology might result in them inventing that future technology before it’s supposed to be invented. A zig-zag style diagram, destabilising the time-stream.

    In the Van Gogh episode, I think the script had Van Gogh being pulled rapidly past the boombox and taken straight to the exhibition, so that he only really found out that he was going to be remembered as a great painter.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    Dr. Fish –

    they wanted to gloss over Tesla’s support for eugenics and compulsory sterilisation of the criminal and insane

    Ah Ha! I didn’t know that!

    Okay, so that’s now two stories (Skyfall and this one) where eugenics – not just the murder of the ‘unfit’, but the breeding of the ‘fit’ – is in the backstory. Skyfall with the Nazi’s and their breeding programme, and Tesla proposing the ‘deliberate guidance of the mating instinct’.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord


    Yeah, I’m not sure I buy that personally. Especially as Tesla’s own tech got given a Doctor boost in a potentially highly destructive way. But to me it highlights the fundamental issue at stake — the Doctor shouldn’t get to choose, particularly not on a set of murky and possibly shifting criteria of her own devising….

    (I’m starting to feel that this might be the hill I’ve chosen to die on….)

    Okay, so that’s now two stories (Skyfall and this one) where eugenics – not just the murder of the ‘unfit’, but the breeding of the ‘fit’ – is in the backstory. Skyfall with the Nazi’s and their breeding programme, and Tesla proposing the ‘deliberate guidance of the mating instinct’.

    Good point. I wonder if that also feeds into the dark secret of the TLs that you and @juniperfish are moving towards…..

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    Yeah, I’m not sure I buy that personally.

    In a moral sense, I don’t think I do. I seem to recall mentioning in the Skyfall episode discussion that Ada’s mindwipe was played in a distinctly disturbing way, very reminiscent of Donna’s. It’s just that I would argue there’s a possible distinction between the effect on the futures between the two episodes. Especially if you argue that Tesla always was kidnapped by aliens in the Whoniverse (the episode all happens in his ‘present’), but Noor and Ada weren’t supposed to be taken out of their time streams.

    the Doctor shouldn’t get to choose

    Agree. Was she being ‘The Doctor’ when she did that? Or a Time Lord?

    Mudlark @mudlark


    A scavenger race like the Scythra are a bit of a puzzle, because surely, they’re intelligent, so why not tinker about the high-tech stuff they filch and figure some of it out? The tech they had which could disguise them as re-eyed humans was particularly impressive.

    But who’s to say whether that technology was not also ‘borrowed’ ?

    The Doctor said that the Skithra were a hive species, therefore implying that they operated as if they were a single coordinated organism, in this case directed by a queen who is the only individual with full agency, so that killing the queen will leave the worker Skithra completely incapacitated*. Even if the queen herself were intelligent and fully sentient, that would surely be a major inhibiting factor in their ability as a species to innovate or to develop the inventions of others.

    *Just as a hive of bees becomes completely disorganised and dysfunctional if the queen bee is killed.

    Mudlark @mudlark


    Not to mention a pioneer PC operating system dubbed QDOS, bought for a song, which became the foundation of a multi-billion software empire 😉

    Miapatrick @miapatrick

    @bluesqueakpip, @jimthefish, the mind wipe thing is a can of worms – though as @bluesqueakpip says, there is reasoning behind why it might have seemed necessary for one pair and not the other. I think Ada and Noor actually did some coding work with the Doctor, explicitly learned the future development of their field, here the Doctor more or less just boosted what Tesla had already made. But even though that might be necessary for Ada (for the development of her work, and in terms of the program, to avoid her work turning into a bootstrap paradox) I’m not so sure it was as necessary for Noor. And as I’ve said of Ada, I think it would have been possible to talk to her, and explain how it was necessary for her to develop what she was going to develop without this knowledge. That would be quite a wrench, to chose to forget all that, but I think it’s a choice they could reasonably have her make.

    And if the point is that the Doctor doesn’t, that this mind wiping is going to turn out to be significant, then having her mind wipe two women in one episode and not mind wipe two men in another is uncomfortable, even if the circumstances are a little different and Tesla is supposed to evoke Van Gough.

    Unless it’s really important that she doesn’t mind wipe Tesla, his eugenics interest is going, in the end to be relevant, and the scavenging aliens is in fact some kind of hint/forshadowing/connection to the beginning of the Time Lords.

    RorySmith @rorysmith

    First episode this season watched on normal television. Normal means on BBC America with adverts. Lol

    I liked it and my Wife even enjoyed this one. Very rare. I liked how they danced around the delicate relationship between the two inventors but carefully left out the fact they both were left with memories of being in the TARDIS. I did not like the generic arachnid alien threat because it’s done over so many times in Who. Get on with it!


    MissRori @missrori

    This was definitely an improvement over “Orphan 55” and it was nice to finally have an episode this season not end on a bummer note even with the bittersweet aspects.  But I agree with @jimthefish that Thirteen’s characterization is getting increasingly muddled in what I’ve come to assume are attempts to present her as more than an eternal optimist.  I was really wondering how they’d wrap things up with Tesla and Edison’s memories after what happened in “Spyfall”, and it was odd that she just let ’em go.  And with only six episodes left, the fact that they’re not going anywhere with the Timeless Child arc as yet makes me worry about a rushed wrap-up to that arc and wherever it is they’re taking Thirteen and her fam’s dynamics this year.

    Whisht @whisht

    So, I enjoyed this one more than the previous episodes this series. Would have to watch again to see if its the writing, direction or casting/acting, but it was ok.

    I can’t really add anything that anyone else has already said eg discomfort at lack of mindwipes when they were used before (though like most I think they’re problematic at best); Doctor seemingly threatening to kill the Queen; monster as (too)obvious reflection of human drama.

    Maybe I just enjoyed (the actor playing) Tesla!

    So, I can see there are bonkers theories swirling… all good!
    I assume it won’t be that there’s a different ‘superior’ alien race that has created Time Lords and Daleks through genetic experimentation and gifted Time tech (and so Master can’t be a ‘master’).
    But, maybe there is a bonkers link I’ve spotted and yes….

    its musical!


    Basically, is Chibnall a Kraftwerk fan?

    Spyfall – Computer World
    (“Interpol and Deutsche Bank, FBI and Scotland Yard…
    Business, Numbers, Money, People…
    Computer World”)

    Orphan 55 – Radioactivity
    (“Chain reaction and mutation
    Contaminated population
    Stop radioactivity
    Is in the air for you and me”)

    Tesla – The Voice of Energy
    (“I am a giant electrical generator
    I supply you with light and power
    And I enable you to receive speech
    Music and image through the ether
    I am your servant and lord at the same time”)

    Just saying…

    [I may have to listen to a lot more Kraftwerk to see if I can come up with any ‘lie’ based theme.]

    Arbutus @arbutus

    Oh. My. God. So good. That was the best thing, I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s going to take me a while to come down off my high to think rationally about it. So good. I watched the whole thing with a big smile on my face and wept at the end. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

    Arbutus @arbutus

    Goran Visnjic’s performance was inspired. Of course, it’s impossible not to take the side of the brilliant underdog, when he’s presented with such warmth and energy, and easy to see Edison as a stereotypical capitalist villain. But there was a nice moment when Edison made the absolutely valid point that for every idea, there needs to be someone who can make that idea a reality. We need both the Teslas and the Edisons, really. I was very moved by the idea that Tesla might have understood that his lack of success in the present might have been superseded by his importance to the future.

    While it’s possible to come up with an explanation for the different approaches to the mind wipe, I think that it’s problematic in a lot of ways and it would definitely have been better to find a way to avoid using it in the earlier episode. I also agree with @jimthefish that the villain was distractingly similar to the Racnoss. Although I suppose, as there are so many humanoid type aliens in the universe, there’s no reason there shouldn’t be a lot of arachnid ones as well!

    Arbutus @arbutus

    I agree @missrori that the ending was lovely. It reminds me that even now, with all the challenges facing the world, there are forward-thinking, inspired people with ideas that might just take us into a better future!

    Oh, and nice research @whisht on the Kraftwerk connection!

    Mudlark @mudlark

    @jimthefish  @juniperfish  @bluesqueakpip

    Yes, mindwiping is a hugely problematic concept because it is an assault on the person at a very fundamental level, and the Doctor, as a moral being with high ideals, should be above that. But how many assaults on individuals or societies as a collective have been perpetrated ‘for your own good’ or ‘for the greater good’ by well intentioned people? And the Doctor, however intelligent, however ancient and experienced, and even with a vast store of knowledge of the universe and of multiple species and societies, is still fallible. That is the point; it has never been claimed that he/she is a super hero with an unerring sense of right and wrong. One has only to go back to the Doctor in 1963 to see that this has never been the case, and that insofar as he/she has grown in moral stature since then, it has been a gradual process. Furthermore, the role the Time Lords are supposed to have conceived for themselves was as monitors of time, intervening from on high to correct deviations; and although the Doctor is a maverick, he/she originally underwent that training and conditioning.

    If, on the other hand,  we overlook the ethical issues and consider mindwiping simply as a narrative device, and if it is assumed that time is a linear progression of cause and effect ad infinitum, it has an obvious function. Because if there are people racketing around across the whole of time and space you need to have a means of preventing the kind of paradoxes they may create simply by their encounters with people who will have a critical effect on the future of technology or society or the course of history as a whole. If, on the other hand, time is a ‘wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey’ affair in which alternative futures can be generated at every critical nexus, which is also very much a concept within the Doctor Who canon, then this is less of a concern and mindwiping is far more difficult to justify even ‘for the greater good’.

    One can attempt to rationalise the ways in which mindwiping has been used in various episodes, but in such a long-running show with so many writers, editors and show runners, it is hardly surprising if there is a lack of consistency. In the case of Donna it was a tragic necessity, because the alternative was for her mind to burn out, unable to sustain ‘Doctor-Donna’.  The twelfth Doctor intended to block Clara’s memories of him and their time together for her protection and for his own (and which was foremost in his subconscious intention?) . In other instances the reasoning is less clear cut, and I’m not sure that is a productive use of time to worry over the whys and why nots, although in considering this episode and Spyfall, I like @bluesqueakpip ‘s suggestion.



    Mudlark @mudlark

    It is entertaining to speculate about historical persons who might have been influenced by time travellers from their futures. I particularly like the idea that Francis Bacon – the 13th century Franciscan friar aka Doctor Mirabilis, not the 17th century essayist – might have had such an encounter, he seems so much ahead of his time in his thinking. The mundane fact is probably that he was simply very well read and made good use of the writings of ancient Greek philosophers and the writings of the Arab scholars who preserved and developed those writings.

    Nevertheless, think of the numbers of exceptional people whose visionary ideas were never realised simply because in their time the technology did not exist to bring those ideas to fruition. In a science fantasy world in which time travel is possible, maybe that is how the time paradox is resolved 🙂

    GalaxyMage @galaxymage

    I really enjoyed this one! I’ve know a lot about Tesla since 6th grade, where my science teacher was obsessed with him, and I’ve been to Wardenclyffe (they actually have a Tesla center there now). Every time a somewhat obscure fact about Tesla came up, me and my brother would just start smiling insanely. So, even if just because of Tesla, this episode was amazing.

    I also really felt like Jodie Whittaker was The Doctor in this episode — this is the same person who made a piece of advanced technology using tea leaves, spoons, and a few other random objects (I can’t find what it was anywhere). “I’m an inventor, me.” She’s really establishes herself as The Doctor in my mind.

    I feel like the companions actually had stuff to do this episode, although Ryan faded into the background again (I literally can’t remember him doing anything other than being on the train). I also liked the way they did Edison, making him into a bad person but not an evil one. They didn’t fall into the trap of making him into a caricature, like Doctor Who has done before. He was a real person there — he may have some very big faults, but at least he cared about the people’s families. He knew that they’d be suffering, and he was appalled that anyone could kill all those people. Not the usual business man that you see in a show that does social commentary. I liked it.

    Okay, so that’s now two stories (Skyfall and this one) where eugenics – not just the murder of the ‘unfit’, but the breeding of the ‘fit’ – is in the backstory. Skyfall with the Nazi’s and their breeding programme, and Tesla proposing the ‘deliberate guidance of the mating instinct’.

    I really think they are going somewhere with this — going back to Spyfall, the “built on a lie” is such a strange wording to use. “Our species was built on a lie” (or lies, don’t remember which) seems a really odd way of saying it — like they’re almost taking it for granted that their species was built. (I could have quoted incorrectly, but if I didn’t then I think there really is a pattern.)

    The Rani did genetic experiments, I think…

    Not that I actually think they’re bringing her back — apparently people always think The Rani is coming back and they’re always wrong. So that’s just a joke. But there definitely is a pattern with the genetics.

    One last thing…

    “The internal dimensions transcend the external.” Yes!!!

    syzygy @thane16


    I’ve managed to wrest the Forum from The Younger who’s in argument mode. Awesome, I second @arbutus, the  Kraftwerk connection is solid & you’ve sold me. Brilliant.

    I loved this episode too. It has a ….different focus than previous episodes. To me, at least.

    Also @arbutus thank you for the lovely Lau. It’s inspirational & the beginning is beautiful.

    A’right I need to ensure young Syzygy doesn’t get laptop. He’s far too busy learning to… (sounds of wacking the fence accompanying The Thin White Duke, though metaphorically, with The White Duke ‘n’ all. Nods to @peacefrog. Awesome choices! Might take a week to listen to all of them. You’ve all been adding terrific music. Even our young lad here).

    nerys @nerys

    I agree with all who say this episode is a vast improvement over the last. “Orphan 55” seemed to be a bit of a throwaway, by-the-numbers Doctor Who episode. With a bit of tweaking, it could’ve been good … but wasn’t. This episode had all the characters well drawn out and engaging, especially Tesla, of whom I knew almost nothing. Hubby’s immediate reaction was, “Hey, that really looks like him!” I didn’t have a clue.

    Not only were the characters appealing, but the story was fleshed out, without all the mind-numbing twists and turns of last week. I could follow it and ask questions, but not questions that took me out of the flow of the story. As others have noted, Chibnall’s strength seems to be in making the historical episodes engaging. And the thing the Doctor and Tesla have in common is a curious, creative mind that invents. It’s a natural connection that feels organic to the storyline. We need more of that!

    I’m reading the observations about eugenics, and how that might be tied to the lies the Doctor and Master were told about themselves, with great interest. It certainly would be a very different (and unsettling) idea than what we have been presented about the Time Lords.

    @jomomentor Hubby and I had the same reaction to Yaz tipping over the table of bread. However, the giant scorpions, scary as they were (and kudos to the CGI department for making them believably scary), seemed to be rather clumsy, so maybe Yaz thought loaves of bread would trip them up.

    @mudlark I also noticed the symmetry between the Skithra simply stealing from others, rather than creating their own original works, and Edison’s similarly theft-ridden behavior.

    @juniperfish Like you, I wondered why Ada Lovelace and Noor Inayat Khan merited a mindwipe, but neither Nikola Tesla nor Thomas Edison (or, come to think of it, Dorothy Skeritt) didn’t.

    @arbutus Your comments put a smile on my face. I can’t say I enjoyed this episode as much as you, but I’m thrilled you did. Any day a creative work does this much good for someone is a good day, in my book.

    @galaxymage It’s true that Ryan didn’t have much to do in this episode. However, he had a brief, but very important, conversation with Miss Skeritt about the emotional impact of first entering the Tardis, and trying to take all that in.

    And isn’t it fun to try to find a different way of wording “It’s bigger on the inside”? They managed it here with, “The internal dimensions transcend the external.” Bravo!

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Like everyone else, I enjoyed this episode. In a way, it reminded me of “Vincent and the Doctor” which, for me, is high praise indeed, as I felt that episode was, perhaps, the finest episode of AG Who. Of course, there were differences. Vincent was the genius in history’s eyes, but a failure in his own eyes, While, for Tesla in this episode, it was sort of reversed. But still.

    Yes, it was also an example of a good historical. But…really good historicals (and I am going back to the Verity Lambert years) did not clutter up the story with alien monsters (who we had seen versions of before!) . Really good historicals were (like “The Aztecs”) a way of illuminating and educating children (and adults). I am not sure this one will stay in anyone’s collective subconscious very long at all.

    And.. Silurians are not aliens!!

    Anyway, an enjoyable episode…compared to other Chibnall-era episodes.


    Arch @arch

    Yup loved it. An obvious improvement over last weeks Orphan.

    The only issue I have with using real life people is the fact that they are real, we know a lot about them and the writers obviously have an opinion on both Edison and Tesla, neither man was perfect and it complicates things.

    Concentrating on the virtues of Tesla and ignoring the less savoury parts of his character makes for a great underdog story but I feel a lot of this can be avoided if we just don’t use real historical figures.

    Regardless I’m certainly not defending Edison or trying to take away from Tesla I just don’t see the need to shoehorn real life people into a science fiction story.

    Theft seemed to be the major theme running through this episode as others have said. If the master did indeed destroy his own people it must be connected to this theme in some way. I’ve always assumed that the hero/villain relationship between the Dr and the master could easily be reversed. If we were to mirror the dr/master relationship to that of Tesla/Edison depending on how you perceive things, Edison could be seen as a hero as could the master. Tesla toils in obscurity and is one of earths great minds but ultimately dies with nothing but an enduring scientific legacy. Edison helped shape society by using his wealth and fame to promote and develop the ideas of others to societies benefit.

    Arbutus @arbutus

    @nerys   Yes, I forgot to mention that I also liked the connection Ryan made with Miss Skeritt, their mutual experience of how meeting someone extraordinary can change your outlook forever.

    I don’t disagree with most of the criticisms that people have made. But while I watched the episode, they were nowhere in my view. They didn’t take me out of the experience in the same way as last week. And I found the performances in this one very enjoyable.

    Capt Addams @captaddams

    Am I the only one whom saw this is a rewrite of “The Runaway Bride”?

    syzygy @thane16

    Ooh, I knew Dr Tesla was a Doctor in ER!

    Golly gosh!

    Great episode, beautifully filmed, an almost old nemesis. Visnjic plays Tesla beautifully. As does Mohindra as the Sithra (sic) queen.


    No, but you do.

    Syzygy the Old

    tardigrade @tardigrade

    Running behind and have only just caught up. For some reason, it seems the BBC didn’t personally notify me that there was a new season starting…

    I won’t go back to comment on the older episodes at the point, except to say that the hint of a story arc from the opening two-parter was very welcome. And like most it seems, I found Orphan 55 a weaker episode, although I’ll admit to choosing to ignore some of the weaknesses and just enjoying it for what it was.

    Another good “historical” episode, with an interesting setting. More than I’ve been aware of with prior Doctors, the fact that there is a team of writers is apparent from week to week, as the tone and character of the Doctor varies. As a result, the episodes don’t sit side by side as neatly as they might, and issues such as a fairly arbitrary and casual memory wipe from earlier in the season doesn’t sit that comfortably beside leaving Edison and Tesla untouched, as two of the most influential people you could image revealing future/alien tech to. And also I think it’s fair to say that some types of episodes seem to have worked better than others, with the historical episodes generally being strong ones.

    The creature design I thought was OK, even if the queen was a little too humanoid. I didn’t quite get why the scorpion creatures were played as being so clumsy in the chase- it really hurt their menace.

    In the end, I felt the character of Edison ended up getting painted with a little more nuance than that of Tesla. I got a feeling of Edison as relating to the historic figure, more so than Tesla, who was portrayed as a morally-centred genius. From what I’ve read, I get the impression that Tesla wasn’t an easy person to work with and that a personality clash with Edison was inevitable.

    The companions were left without a lot to do in this episode, which gets a bit more glaring when the Doctor is dragging three around. But actually, I don’t mind that the writers don’t feel forced for find something crucial for each of them in every episode, as long as they each get some opportunity to shine from time to time.

    While this episode didn’t really advance the season’s story arc, it did occur to me as some have already mentioned, that the theme of stolen technology could be relevant to the overall arc. If I might be permitted some wild speculation…might it be that time travel technology wasn’t invented by the Time Lords, as has always been implicit, but ultimately stolen from some other race? If we’re looking for something that could have unbalanced the Master, perhaps the discovery that the Time Lords originally stole time-travel tech could do that- the revelation that the Timeless Child was in reality a time-travelling dalek could certainly cause something of an identity crisis 🙂

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Just to add to what I said above, while it was a good historical, one of the reasons why I think “Rosa”, for example, will linger for longer as a memorable episode is that, instead of rather disposable alien monsters, in “Rosa” the monsters were us.

    @tardigrade raised the idea that perhaps “the lie” that seems to underpin the projected Gallifrey arc might involve the theft of time travel from another race. Let’s run with that for a moment. Here is an exploratory bonkers theory. What if the Time Lords stole the secret of time travel from humans, at a stage of development long preceding our understanding of Earth’s history? Perhaps somewhere deep inside the Doctor (and even the Master) their suppressed memory or knowledge of this helps explain why the Doctor is so preoccupied with the fate of Eath.



    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Damn. A bonkers theory spoilt by poor spelling.  I meant, of course, Earth.


    nerys @nerys

    Hmmm, some fascinating bonkers theories percolating here!

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    To add to my bonkers theory above, this also might make sense of our reservations over the mind wipe. If, as I am suggesting, time travel was stolen from humans by the Timelords, perhaps it also involved a collective, planet-wide mind wipe, so that humans were destined to have no memory of their earlier achievements. Essentially, the fate of Donna, but on a planetary scale. Under this bonkers theory, perhaps we are being fed “troubling” issues concerning the justification of wind wipes in these episodes precisely because it is leading to a much bigger revelation.

    Ollie14 @ollie14

    With @badwolfalice & @bluesqueakpip on this. Usually when historical episodes have popped up in the past in episode trailers, they’ve been greeted with an eye-roll.

    However, even though this episode was still a little underwhelming (like most in the Chibnall era), I really don’t mind the historical ones in the Chibnall era.

    Cinematography and costumes excellent. Like the bond between the characters. Unfortunately once again though, and I continue to say this most weeks, the episodes don’t grab or excite me.

    At the end of the episode I’m left feeling pretty much the same as I was at the start of the episode, if anything a little more frustrated. All elements are there but I’m just not feeling it atm (more so than Series 11 though that has to be said!).

    Ollie14 @ollie14

    Like the bonkers theory @blenkinsopthebrave!

    Ollie14 @ollie14

    Just watched the episode. Sorry to be pedantic but anyone know how the Doctor, Tesla and Skerritt got on the train? 😅

    Rob @rob

    Evening One and All

    (There may be exceptions, caveats and small print, please see below)

    Enjoyed this one more


    On the whole the Skithra were intriguing monsters, the only negative was the queen’s resemblance to the queen of the Racnos though to be fair this could be as both are arachnids

    Recycling weapons, upcycling technology or just plain theft who knows

    Theoretical inventions and application of these to real world

    As others have said the Timeless Child could be a Timelord theft of some sort or could be Jenny, Me and/or Clara



    Mudlark @mudlark


    What if the Time Lords stole the secret of time travel from humans, at a stage of development long preceding our understanding of Earth’s history?

    As a theory that is impressively bonkers and yet I could see it working in the Whoniverse. There is, however, a tiny problem from my professional point of view. History – i.e. the documented past – isn’t the only record, and that is where archaeology and related disciplines come in.  Sadly there is nothing in the archaeological, palaeontological or geological record to indicate that humans ever attained such a high degree of knowledge and civilisation.

    Alternatively,  it could have been the Silurians whose technology the Time Lords stole; but that would be difficult to prove given that they also managed somehow to erase their existence from the archaeological/palaeontological/geological record.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave


    A bonkers theory, of course, relies on its own internal logic, and remains disdainfully aloof from the inconvenient reality of the paleontological record.

    Otherwise, how could we come up with “theories more insane than what’s actually happening”?


    Mudlark @mudlark


    It has just occurred to me that there may be another problem with your theory. It rather depends on when, exactly, the Time Lords originated, and that seems to be difficult to pin down given their ability to manipulate time once they achieved or acquired the technology.  Modern humans date back only a few tens of thousands of years, while Silurians might have been around between 100 to 60 million years ago. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I seem to recall that there have been indications that the Time Lords were around well before that, or at least have been tinkering with events for far longer.

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