Major twist in new Dr Who series
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
After more than a year off, Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor is back. The explosions are bigger, the stakes are higher and the very creepy monsters are going to have you hiding behind the sofa.
The legendary British sci-fi drama returned this New Year with Spyfall: Part 1 - a Doctor Who meets James Bond thriller which saw the TARDIS travel the world to help save the human race's top secret agents from an alien conspiracy.
Whittaker has already proved a female Time Lord can be a big hit - her first series in 2018 saw the show's biggest ratings since the David Tennant years - but there was a lot of fan criticism of her earlier outings and this Series 12 premiere had a lot to prove. While fans loved Whittaker's take on the Doctor - there were a lot who believed Series 11 was too slow, too woke, and too distant from the show's past.
Doctor Who's show-runner Chris Chibnall has luckily ticked every box with this thrilling series opener. It is noisy, it is fast-paced, it is scary and the big twist at the end means the Time Lady is finally embracing her past.
The Doctor and her mates (Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole) are all picked up by sneaky men in black and brought to the London headquarters of secret service MI6. There, the M-like spy boss (played brilliantly by UK national treasure Stephen Fry) begs their help to solve the mystery of top agents killed by mysterious aliens made of pure light.
And there starts an adventure which sees high-speed motorbike chase through a Californian vineyard, a hi-tech break-in to a Google-esque tech giant's HQ and even a trip to the Australian outback. Feel pity for the poor Aussie police officers quickly eaten by the monsters.
If some felt Dr Who's last outing was too slow and plodding at times, they will love Spyfall. The entire episode is beautifully shot by director Jamie Stone - especially the Outback scenes (though it's really South Africa). A minute doesn't go past without shots fired and something going boom.
The monsters - unnamed in part one of this two-part story - are proper scary. Unlike the rather naff monsters of series 11, these bright light creatures are ruthless and willing to kill without a second's thought.
But the scariest monster of all is clearly the excellent Sacha Dhawan as The Master. Yes, Doctor Who's old arch-enemy is back and the young Dhawan seems more than a match for Whittaker. He's in disguise most of the time, but the twist at the end is shocking and Dhawan hits every beat an evil Time Lord should - cold and calculating one second, maniacal and childish the next.
How is Whittaker's Doctor though? With a year to gestate, the Broadchurch star is clearly revelling in her status as the first female Time Lord. She is hilarious (spoiler: Time Lords are not great at gambling in fancy casinos), heartbreaking and there are hints that she's going to get a lot darker.
Her assistants Walsh, Cole and Gill also have settled nicely into their roles - providing plenty of human heart to this time travel sci-fi caper. Add in Fry, Dhawan and guest star Sir Lenny Henry and you have the perfect festive time TV escape.
Fans and casual watchers will have a great time delving into this popcorn, bubblegum sci-fi adventure on a small screen. It's just what Doctor Who ought to be.