Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

It’s another celebrity historical! Join Deb, Tansy, and special guest Annette as they talk about this electric historical rivalry. From great guest performances to less-than-great episode comparisons, there’s a lot of ground to cover.

But perhaps the most important ground is the it-starts-here push to get Tansy a novelization gig! #TargetForTansy

What did you think of “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror”? Drop us a tweet or let us know in the comments!


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Comments on: "Episode 215 – Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terrordrome" (10)

  1. Enjoyed the discussion as always . However, I think it’s a little unfair to claim inconsistency in the continuity and writing re: the memory wipe thing. Spyfall makes very explicit in the dialogue what the exact reason for the deletions is – the occurrence of something relatively rare in Who, namely historical characters having their free will ‘switched off’ due to hearing (and witnessing the results of) their own *personal* futures. The Doctor herself is partly to blame, prescribing (courtesy of the rules laid out in The Angels Take Manhattan) an inescapable fate for Ada and Noor where they have no agency, just a set future from now to the grave. She condemns Ada to a marriage she doesn’t (anymore) choose, who that must be to, the fact that she ‘must’ marry at all, and what her contribution to future progress ‘must’ be. The memory wipe is regrettable but the Doctor knows it’s the only way to make those future events the result of free will, rather than something crystallised into inescapable prophecy courtesy of a reverse-engineered future record spoken aloud in the past directly to the person concerned.

    By contrast, Tesla and Edison are not told directly of any specific thing that they will/must do. Even the Doctor’s ‘you’re going to change the world’ is too broad a statement to fall outside the realm of a supportive statement that any contemporary person could have given him in that moment. Similarly, Yas’s talk of radar is something that Tesla recognises as an existing concept he’s already working on. And Ryan’s WiFi observation is a quiet aside to Yas, indicating that Tesla does not hear it (the critical factor in determining whether the future gets locked in or agency is retained). Likewise the Doctor’s final statement about what will happen in Tesla’s future is not said to him, just to Yas. In terms of what he’s seen (alien tech way too advanced for him to even begin to emulate) it’s the usual sort of celebrity historical set-up. He can’t use the knowledge in any practical way and won’t be taken seriously if he talks about it. So it’s back to picking up the threads of what he was already working on (his free will intact – no memory wipe required) in the standard Who details for such scenarios.
    So Spyfall really was an outlier (there was a genuine need for the mindwipe where normally there wouldn’t be) and is a very rare exception to a standard apparent rule – that only oblique referencing of a persons future must be made when encountering them in the past if they are to remain a person and not just a crystallised space-time event, a fly in amber. The Doctor knows she’s crossed the line with Ada and possibly Noor (condemning her to no free will whatsoever as her way to the death camps approaches is not something the Doctor would want to live with).

    I’m glad you remembered to reference Ms Skerritt in reference to the mind wipe context too, but then you seemed to forget and say it was ‘just the dudes’ which isn’t true. So what are we being told by the absence of a memory wipe? That the Spyfall context really was something quite exceptional, and now we’re back to the other 99% of celebrity historicals – the ones where nobody gets robbed of their ultimate agency since they are only helped in the moment, not told exactly what they will do in years to come and when/with whom to do it.

    Chibnall and Metivuer take a show-dont-tell approach to illustrating the difference (which I like) …. but then why wouldn’t they, when it’s Spyfall that must explain, in-story, *its* difference rather than the responsibility of (nearly) all other historicals having to point out their own default settings so to speak.

    • Squibby said:

      It could also be argued that the Doctor mind wiped Ada and Noor in part to remove the damage from the Master’s actions

  2. One further thought on the memory-wipe stuff: a bit of a tangent perhaps but I wonder what’s the closest the Doctor’s come towards unfairly putting someone’s future on rails *without* actually crossing the line (Ada style) and stealing their future agency? The random one that just popped into my mind for some reason (maybe because of what’s in the news at the moment with the impeachment stuff) is saying to Nixon ‘Give my regards to David Frost’. It’s quite a specific detail, but sufficiently cryptic that it’s probably just the right side of the line so that it’s not condemning Nixon to Watergate minus his free will.
    But that example shows how the Doctor normally knows how to be playful but responsible. She really drops a clanger with the Lovelace thing, probably crossing the line with that alone or at least it’s right on the line morally speaking. Then things tip over into a critical mass with the rest of the story’s events that she couldn’t control, and for which Ada in particular must take *some* personal responsibility for letting things get that bad on the seeing-her-future front.

  3. Chuck C said:

    The small irony about this is that the batteries which power the Tesla automobiles are, of course, DC.

  4. I just wanted to say, regarding Edison, PLEASE don’t compare him to that guy currently in the White House. Not only did he actually invent some of the things he’s given credit for, he did hire a black engineer to his lab (Lewis Latimer) who improved on the design of the light bulb, making it inexpensive and longer lasting. I would say Edison didn’t see in black vs. white, but in GREEN $$$. There was another rival of Edison who was also a black inventor, Granville T. Woods, who had 60 patents and whose inventions made trolleys electrically powered.

    I hope you all replay this discussion sometime after you see the Judoon story!! WOW!!

  5. I concur with the general delight with this episode, and wanted to contribute one more small observation: HATS! Not only were the Fam in period dress, they got the toppers to match! Historical tv sometimes shies away from hats, so I was inordinately pleased by their presence here.

  6. intheinterim said:

    #TansyOnTarget! 🎯 (Haven’t checked Twitter yet so I don’t know what we’ve collectively decided the hashtag is going to be…)

  7. Re #TansyOnTarget : In 1978(?) I received a very polite rejection of my offer to novelise “The Ribos Operation”, telling me “we only engage authors who have already worked on the programme” and that Ian Marter had alreay got that particular gig. Of course, that *could* just have been a way to gently let down a clearly eager 13-year-old… But I checked, snd they stayed with that policy to the end.

    No reason the revived Target line has to be bound by that policy, of course…. =:o} Though the tradition of “offer it to whoever wrote the TV script first” seems to be being (sensibly) maintained.

    (My “solution” to this obstacle was to start pitching story ideas to the show’s script editor, thus collecting further rejection letters from Douglas Adams, Tony Root, Chris Bidmead, and – after a long fallow period – whoever was minding the office and responding to mail a few months after “Survival” aired.)

  8. I loved how crazy klutzy the scorpions were down on earth. Skidding around corners, running into each other -like a bunch of puppies. A lovely bit of silliness.

  9. Kirsten said:

    I’m finally watching series 12 and am listening to this episode now. When discussing Australia in DW I’m surprised Enemy of the World wasn’t mentioned!

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