Nikola Tesla runs afoul of some aliens and only the Doctor can save him by joining forces with Tesla’s biggest archrival, Thomas Edison. While one might expect an episode like this to devolve into silly comedy, “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror” actually evolves into a morality tale of the importance of independent thought and invention.
I can already hear you squelching and, no, the lesson is not delivered with the same clumsy idiocy of the ecological lesson of last week. It’s actually multilayered and feels essential to the story which is nice and not at all tacked on and unessesary.
Here, we have a race of aliens who have essentially given up on the ideas of independent thought and invention, going from world to world stealing ideas, equipment, and – in some cases – engineers and scientists to do the work for them. Coupled with the inclusion of Edison, a man who was famous for slapping his name on the work done by others, you have an interesting parallel at work.
Edison, on the other hand, while being an opportunist, is not portrayed as a monster as a more lazy script would have painted him as. Here, while insufferable at times, he is a humanized businessman who may not have the greatest humility in the world, but is far from a mustache-twirling thief.
Goran Višnjić was absolutely superb in his rendition of Tesla, nowhere near as bombastic or heavy as I thought he would be portrayed, but fairly humanized and charismatic, a dreamer if I’ve ever seen one. Even the overcrowded Tardis fam were given their individual moments to shine. Strangely enough, even increasing the size of the Fam from three to six didn’t really diminish the character moments, though I honestly never understood the point of Tesla’s assistant as she was fairly useless on every single level that is conceivable by the human mind. Heck, Jodie Whitaker even managed to have a grand speech and, while not as big and grand as I’ve been rooting for, it was a pretty good one and full of interplanetary burns leveled at the aliens of the week.
The aliens? They looked good and scary which is nice even though the the Queen seemed directly lifted from the “The Christmas Invasion” during the Tennant era, makeup, acting, and all. Was that the same actress as well? I’d look it up, but I’ve got too much weird stuff in my search history already.
As for the episode itself, it was a bit of a mixed bag. Nothing I would call terrible, but the pacing was off leaving quite a few dead moments where nothing seemed to happen. The good news is, when things did start happening, they were all good and relatively exciting. A lot of action, a lot of personality from the Doctor, and an ending that almost capped everything perfectly.
I don’t know… I’m not one for repeating the beats of earlier episodes, but part of me really wanted the Doc to show Tesla that his vision of the future was right all along. Not really in a way that ripped off “Vincent and the Doctor,” but just something that restored his faith in himself and his work. As it is, the ending felt nice, if a little hollow.
Not a terrible episode, but not a great one either which is a shame because the episode felt like a 6 carrying all the ingredients to bake a 9.