There are so many hints about the way Spyfall was going that it was only upon rewatch that I noticed them all: Graham’s doctor who looks like John Simm; the fact that the sonic screwdriver can’t get a read on anything; the kindness and innocence of O; the inevitable return to Gallifrey. It’s both a wonderful flip of what we know and perfect throwback.
However before we get into that we have to check out what’s up with our ‘Fam’. It seems in the year since last season that everyone’s sort of gotten back into the swing of things: Ryan’s slowly but surely getting over his agoraphobia; Yaz is back at work, rising the ranks of the police force; Graham’s getting out and about beginning the recovery from the loss of Grace and The Doctor is actually taking the time to do some self-care, for her and the Tardis.
All of this goes to hell in a handbasket when MI6 shows up demanding Team Tardis’ help in saving spies worldwide from unseen and unknown attackers. It’s a good old fashioned whodunnit that ends in a pyrrhic victory for all involved: yes, Earth’s spies are saved and humanity is kept from being rebooted into something else (for now) but every single being involved in the plot escapes, Gallifrey is in ruins, Yaz is traumatized beyond the telling of it and has caught The Master’s attention and The Doctor is beginning to realize that her entire worldview may be based on a lie. The Timeless Child is still out there and who knows what revelations its existence will bring.
Spyfall does more than just set up the overall arcs of this season, though it does that extremely well, it also gives us some interesting insight into the dynamics of Team Tardis now that they’ve truly gelled as a family. These people trust each other with their lives and love each other beyond all reason. As Graham says in Part 2: There’s no one else he’d rather be on the run with. Which is why it’s the perfect time to drop the actual time bomb that is The Master back into the mix. The Master has always been the other half of The Doctor’s story: the only person, other than Romana, who is not just another Time Lord, but someone who’s been apart of The Doctor’s life almost from infancy. There’s an intimacy between the two that no other characters in the history of the show share which is what makes The Master so dangerous: they love and hate The Doctor in equal measure and will do whatever it takes to keep The Doctor’s focus on them. Sacha Dhawan’s debut as the character was amazing, as we and Team Tardis, were already half in love with him as O from jump: the adorable nerdiness, brilliant mind and, let’s be honest, super hot package had all of us wanting O to be the newest member of the team which is why the flip, the utterly terrifying moment when the mask drops and O reveals himself as The Master is just horrifying. Jodie Whittaker’s reaction is priceless as The Doctor realizes the immense danger that she and everyone she cares about are in and every scene the two of them share from that point on is crackling with tension, of every kind.
We got not one, but two, real life heroes in these episodes with the inclusion of Ada Lovelace and Princess Noor Inayat Khan. If you don’t know who they are you really should look them up. We literally wouldn’t have computers or basic freedoms without them.
I find it interesting in episodes where men are constantly underestimating (or not even noticing) the women around them it’s the ladies who get things done.
Not to say Ryan and Graham weren’t doing the most: Graham is hilariously grounding when everyone refuses to use common sense and Ryan is still one of the most intuitive companions The Doctor has ever had. I’m still holding on to my theory that something is up with him in the larger sense of the show. Perhaps The Timeless Child has been with us the whole time?
With The Master in play, The Doctor questioning everything and Team Tardis realizing that they actually don’t know the person they’ve spent the last year bonding with, this season is shaping up to be a game changer.
4.5 Floorboards out of 5