Doctor Who – New Year Special 2020: “Spyfall (Part 1)”

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The last time we had a Doctor Who ‘Special’ on TV was new year’s day last year. Entitled ‘Resolution’, I gave it four-stars (which, given my general disappointment with JW’s incarnation of the Doctor, and the over-simplified plots, was probably quite generous!). Those that know me, know that so far, I’ve not been a great fan of the ‘direction of travel’ with Chris Chibnall’s writing of Who — too many companions and all a bit soap-opera-like. I wonder how this episode will turn out? Fingers crossed 🙏

Well, on the positive side, it’s got some big names starring in this one: Lenny Henry and Stephen Fry — and the press previews have been very positive! 👍

The first thing to clarify is that this isn’t a one-off ‘Special’. I only realised this as I read the previews. I learned it was a multi-part episode (Part 2 is NEXT Sunday) and this is actually episode 1 of series/season 12 (or 38 for ‘alternative completists’!).

A new TARDIS interior?

With the maths out of the way, back to the story! My experience of these ‘Who Multi-Parters’ is that they’re always better for the increase in length (albeit at the expense of a bit of pace) — so that’s a good start. Five minutes into tonight’s and it certainly did feel different where it featured some very high production values (no doubt helped by an increase in the episode budget!). Gone are the days of a quirky little British Saturday tea-time serial, this had a real global feel about it. If I had one criticism, it just didn’t feel very Doctor Who for the first 10 minutes — just another spy yarn! ☹

So as not to spoil it for those that haven’t seen it yet, I won’t reveal any details here, but it was a very watchable episode (with no need to hide behind the sofa!). And what happens in the final act, made it feel VERY Doctor Who. Best of all, it all ends with a really good cliffhanger! 😍

Oh, and a final factoid, I think I spotted a variation in the opening theme-tune (although I might be wrong, and I’m going to listen to it again).

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

All-in-all then, a great start to series/season 12, with the benefit that you don’t have to have any knowledge of Who to make sense of it all. If the remaining episodes are as good as this one, this series/season might just renew my faith in where Who is going… 🤔

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