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‘Doctor Who’ starts the season off with a lighthearted espionage adventure. (Photo provided via @bbcdoctorwho on Twitter)

TV Review: ‘Doctor Who’ returns with a cheesy but exciting espionage adventure

After exactly a year, Doctor Who is finally back for another season, ringing in the new year with a James Bond-esque espionage adventure that brings the series back in style.

Set in present-day U.K., the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and friends are called in by the Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as MI6, to stop an alien threat that’s targeting its spies. Companions Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) and Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) split up to investigate their only lead, Daniel Barton (Lenny Henry), the CEO of VOR, a fictional search engine media company. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh) meet up with Agent O (Sacha Dhawan) in Australia, who investigates extraterrestrial life.

Along the way, they encounter a new species of aliens, taking a humanoid outline but presenting as a blindingly bright mass of light. Even for Doctor Who standards, this new menace is impressively alien, and leaves plenty of questions to hopefully be answered in the second part.

Lead writer Chris Chibnall is intentionally unsubtle in connecting “Spyfall” to James Bond, with some cheesy but fun references along with plenty of spy gear. Sadly, most of this gear never gets to be used, with Yaz and Ryan only using some of the less exciting gear to steal information from VOR and the Doctor using her usual sonic screwdriver to solve most problems.

With each part of “Spyfall” lasting an hour, the story will be nearly the length of a feature film, and some scenes feel like they’re padding for time to fill that first hour. Even when the plot takes a pause, they still manage to have fun, with the Doctor being overenthusiastic at gambling despite not knowing the rules being a highlight.

Even if many of the premiere’s scenes seem surface-deep, the episode is nonetheless a fun return to Doctor Who, with motorcycle chases, a charismatic cast and one of Doctor Who’s most exciting twists in recent history—although it does raise some questions. It’s now up to the second part to stick the landing.

Doctor Who airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on BBC America.


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