Can’t help but like this story. Mercifully, there are very, very few characters this time, so Nikola Tesla, his assistant Dorothy Skerritt, and his rival Thomas Edison feel like real people in a way that Who‘s writers and directors had been fumbling to deliver for the previous three episodes. I think this one gets overlooked because it’s right next to a massive gamechanger of a story, but I think it’s precisely what the breakneck speed series needed badly.
You could argue that it’s a bit Who by the numbers – an alien is menacing a historical celebrity, that’s nothing new – but every so often I think that Doctor Who needs to do what it does best. I like how Tesla is so naïve that not only can he not understand why his investors keep abandoning him, he can’t understand alien menaces. “With your level of technology, you must understand that there is no need for violence,” he says, and your heart breaks just a little. Brilliant men probably don’t have time to read silly things like Verne or Wells.
Our son really enjoyed the bits you’d predict he’d enjoy, like the giant scorpions crashing around the small Long Island town where Tesla has built his Wardenclyffe factory and tower, and the umpteenth “bigger on the inside” bit, which never gets old for him. The alien menace is played by Anjli Mohindra; twelve years previously, Bradley Walsh had been the guest in a Sarah Jane Adventure, where she had been one of the regulars, “The Day of the Clown”. Queen Skithra looks just a little like the Empress of the Racnoss from “The Runaway Bride”. Spiders, scorpions, one creepy-crawlie is as bad as the next, I say.