Doctor Who: The Problems With 'Spyfall part 2', And How They Could Be Fixed.
There's room for improvement.
Warning: SPOILERS for Doctor Who, 'Spyfall part 2.'
Series 12 of Doctor Who got off to an exciting start with 'Spyfall part 1', sending Thirteen and The Fam on an exciting spy-themed adventure, and bringing back The Doctor's best frenemy, The Master, in a twist ending. Unfortunately, the second part of the story dropped the ball a little.
There's still plenty to love in the episode. The chemistry between The Doctor and Sacha Dhawan's Master crackles whenever they are onscreen together, and the reveal that Gallifrey has once again been destroyed provides a nice set up for future episodes.
Here are the problems with 'Spyfall part 2', and how they could be fixed.
Too Many Ideas
What really made 'Spyfall part 1' work was that it took one concept, the spy adventure/parody, and did it well. That, and the brilliant Master reveal cliffhanger.
'Spyfall part 2' suffers because there is simply too much going on. The Doctor's temporary companions for the episode, Ada Lovelace and Noor Inayat Khan, were both brilliant women. Unfortunately, we don't really to get to understand why they are brilliant, because their just wasn't enough time in the episode to dive into them while tying up the dangling plot threads of part one.
There are a couple of ways this problem could have been resolved. While anything more than a two-part episode is relatively rare for NuWho, it is not entirely unheard of. Spyfall could quite easily have been a three-part story. Three episodes would have provided enough time to do justice to Ada and Noor, while also resolving the rest of the story. Alternatively, either Ada or Noor could have been saved for a later episode more fully devoted to their story.
For most of the episode, Yasmin, Ryan, and Graham -'The Fam' as The Doctor calls them- are left to their own devices, on the run from Barton's men as The Doctor tries desperately to get back to them from across time. This all sounds like the making of a great story, but.. many viewers weren't as emotionally moved by The Doctor's plight to return to her companions as they have on other occasions when a Doctor and their companion have been separated. Why? Well, even after a full series, it doesn't feel as though we really know the companions yet, and the bond between The Doctor and the companions isn't as strong as we'd usually expect it to be by this point.
A lot of this comes down to the fact that there isn't really enough time to give to all three companions. The writers are so busy making sure everyone has something to do, that they don't have time to develop the characters to their full potential. Having to divide The Doctor's attention between the three also means that forming connections with them takes longer. It's a shame, as there's a lot of potential here. Graham and Ryan are unique as companions go, and Mandip Gill has great chemistry with Jodie Whittaker when the two of them are on-screen together.
So, how does the show fix this problem? The obvious solution is to drop a companion, but that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. What really needs to happen, somehow, is for each member of The Fam a bit more one-on-one time with The Doctor. Put them in situations where they will talk to each other, get to know each other. Maybe the show could consider temporarily leaving one companion at home, even just for one episode, to give the other two a chance to shine.
Too Much Happened Off-Screen
Of course, as always, The Master's evil plot ultimately fails, but the reason why it fails is a little anti-climactic. The Master and the inter-dimensional Kasavin are banished back to the Kasavin's own dimension thanks to a virus The Doctor placed in The Master's Wire Lady device.
The problem? The Doctor's placing of the virus occurred off-screen. Things like this shouldn't happen off-screen. We need to see The Doctor's cleverness in action. Need to see her being the Hero, not just talking about it after the fact.
There's still plenty to look forward to in Series 12 of Doctor Who. The Master's destruction of Gallifrey is the most intriguing story we've had in a while. Let's just hope the writers make the adjustments needed to get the show back where it needs to be.