When Chris Chibnall took over Doctor Who, he opted not to rely on classic villains for his first season. The first episode of his second season as showrunner, which he also wrote, “Spyfall – Part One,” brings back a big one… with a bang.
The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her fam; Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yas (Mandip Gill); are chilling in Sheffield when they’re semi-kidnapped by MI6. All of the governments of the world have authorized the agency’s head, C (Stephen Fry), to ask The Doctor for help in the face of a series of unexplained attacks on their intelligence agents.
The agents are being attacked by light beings that can move through solid matter. The creatures attack through paintings, ceilings and mid-air airplane bathroom walls. Once they’ve finished, their victims are left comatose with completely rewritten DNA.
As The Doctor and fam are en route to MI6, the car in which they are riding is hacked. Someone takes control of its nav system, using it to assassinate the driver with a ray blast. The car speeds its remaining inhabitants towards likely doom, telling them to die while blasting away from the nav screen. The technology is impervious to The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, so she has to get clever to foil it. She rips down the vehicle’s rear-view mirror and deflects a ray blast back at its source. The car stops, and she is able to drive it to MI6 headquarters to get answers.
In his private office, C loops them in on what he knows, which isn’t a lot. They key thing is that all of the attacked agents were looking into aspects of tech mogul Daniel Barton (Lenny Henry). C asks The Doctor for help, then is promptly shot through the head by an unseen outside assailant. Ray blasts like the one from the car come flying through the window, and then a troupe of light beings walk through the walls, threatening our heroes.
The Doctor and fam retreat to the TARDIS, seeing one light being almost penetrate the ship’s defenses before they fly away.
Before he’s killed, C reveals that he sacked the only man on staff responsible for monitoring the unexplained, and that now they don’t know where he is. Since UNIT and Torchwood are also both gone, this means nobody has been “watching the horizon.”
The Doctor texts the missing spy, O (Sacha Dawan), and he responds with a message using steganography, hiding his location in the remote Australian Outback in a picture of a fish. She and Graham head off to see him, and she sends Ryan and Yaz to go undercover (aided by loads of spy gadgets they procured from C before he died) at Daniel Barton’s company HQ in San Francisco.
Both teams encounter the light beings.
In the Outback, two Australian agents who have been placed to protect The Doctor and O, Seesay (Darron Meyer) and Browning (Dominique Maher), are attacked and obliterated by the creatures. A swarm of the things moves towards O’s cabin, and he uses an invisible electric fence to force a retreat. Only one being gets past the fence, and when it makes it into the cabin, The Doctor traps it in a containment box and O zaps it into relative submission.
This creature tells them that they are from beyond and that they’re planning to take over the universe.
In San Francisco, Yaz and Ryan gain access to Barton’s office by posing as a reporter/photographer duo from the UK paper Barton’s mother reads. He invites them to attend his birthday party the following day when he has to cut the interview short, and when he leaves they use their spy gadgets to copy all the data from his computer for The Doctor.
Barton surprises them by returning, and while they hide behind the sofa in his office, he calls light beings to him where he chastises them for being indiscreet. He leaves, and before Yaz and Ryan can escape in his wake, Yaz is attacked by a lingering creature and disappears.
Ryan makes it out of the building, but Yaz finds herself in a nowhere place that looks like the close-up of a scalp in a dandruff commercial or of an animal’s fur in a flea medication commercial.
Simultaneously in all locations, something starts to happen. Ryan, gasping for breath outside Barton’s office building, sees glowing beings manifesting at the windows of a number of offices on various floors. The creature in containment in the Outback starts glowing and draining energy from O’s system. And Yaz sees energy shooting through the giant hair follicle things around her and through the surface on which she stands. Somehow, Yaz travels through the energy flare and takes the contained creature in the Outback’s place.
The Doctor fetches Ryan to them, and the fam is reunited in The Outback. Yaz and Ryan reveal what they heard Barton saying to the creatures in his office, but they can’t tell who was in charge of whom. When they share that they’ve been invited to Barton’s party, The Doctor decides all of them should go together.
At the casino-themed party, which is supposed to be at an estate in the CA wine country but is very much in Europe, The Doctor confronts Barton and demands answers. (Who are the creatures? Where are they from? How long have they been on Earth? Who’s in charge of whom? Why is his DNA 7% non-human?) He accuses her of being crackers and escapes the party in a chauffeured car.
In Bondian style, the fam steal three of Barton’s motorcycles from his driveway and give chase. He shoots ineffectively at them from his moving car, and they catch up to him at his private airport. He gets into his private passenger jet alone and initiates takeoff, and The Doctor uses her sonic to open its tail door so they can all jump aboard.
They barely make it, and when they’re in the main cabin, O makes a comment about being a poor sprinter. This strikes The Doctor as odd, since she’s familiar with O’s file and knows him to have been a champion sprinter at school. When she calls him on the discrepancy, he laughingly admits to not really being O– he is THE MASTER!
The Master has manipulated the entire situation in his new form, including getting Barton off the plane while they were boarding. Instead of a pilot, there is now a sonic-proof bomb sitting in the cockpit. The Master kind of introduces himself to the new Companions and cryptically tells The Doctor that everything she thinks she knows is false, then disappears with a group of light beings as the bomb goes off and the plane starts going down.
The Doctor frantically tries to figure out how to save her friends, but before the plane crashes she blinks into the nowhere / lice shampoo commercial place, terrifyingly alone and unsure of where her friends are.
TO BE CONTINUED (SUNDAY)…
Note: The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver gets no readings on the creatures at all, and when they analyze the data Ryan retrieves from Barton’s office, it hints at a multiverse. Are these aliens, or inter-dimensional travelers?