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‘Doctor Who’ recap: 12×04 “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror”

Doctor Who recap: Season 12, Episode 04, “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror,” Aired Jan. 19, 2020

After a brilliant two-part opener and a less-than-thrilling episode 3, I was super anxious to see how Doctor Who 12×04 would stack up. The verdict: Certainly a better episode than last week.

In Doctor Who 12×04, the Doctor follows an abnormal energy reading and runs into Nikola Tesla, and then promptly fangirls over him. Naturally, Edison makes an appearance, and in light of his rival, Team TARDIS can’t quite get through the episode without telling Tesla how much he’s impacted the world in the future. 

Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror

Someone – or something – is messing with Nikola Tesla. The unveiling of his Niagara generator is interrupted by one of his generators malfunctioning and killing a man. Tesla figures out someone has stolen parts from the malfunctioning machine. Of course the problem wasn’t in the engineering. Psh.

An obvious suspect would be Tesla’s biggest competition, Thomas Edison, but there’s something very alien about the choice of weapons, starting with an alien orb and Silurian blaster. 

Skithra

We don’t get the reveal of the villain’s true form until halfway through the episode. Apparently, the bad guys can take the form of anyone, concealing their true and kind of terrifying selves.

The Skithra – think of giant red and black scorpions with glowing red eyes. Totally gross, looks like a relative of the Racnoss. I would not want to see these guys running around Earth.

P.S. – Any Sarah Jane Adventures fans catch Anjli Mohindra, aka Rani, under all that makeup as the Skithra queen?

“Kill the stowaway”

The Skithra take Tesla (and Yaz) so he can work on their ship, equipment, etc. Humans may have missed out on Tesla’s genius, but this alien race certainly wasn’t going to. 

Tesla refuses to help the Skithra, and the queen orders her army of scorpion monsters to kill Yaz. The Doctor beams herself onto the ship with perfect timing, of course. The Skithra queen tries to kill the Doctor, too, but nothing a quick escape can’t solve.

However, it’s not over yet. The queen gives the Doctor an ultimatum: Hand over Tesla or Earth will burn. Rather than let Tesla sacrifice himself, the Doctor comes up with a plan to use one of his inventions -Wardenclyffe Tower – to strike the ship with a lightning bolt. 

“This was not the plan”

Unfortunately, the Skithra queen abandoned ship, rendering the Doctor’s plan useless. Luckily, the Doctor is clever and was able to trick the queen into taking an instrument the Doctor could use to send her back to the ship, where Tesla then administered the electric shock. All the scorpion creatures were sent back with their queen.

The ending reminded me a bit of the Van Gogh episode. Amy thought history would change since she and the Doctor showed Van Gogh how his work was appreciated in the future; Yaz thought history would change after Tesla saved the world. Nothing changed in either case. Neither man was appreciated or successful in their times.

 

Doctor Who 12×04 was a solid historical episode celebrating an underrated figure. Still, I think it lacked the impact “Rosa” or “Vincent and the Doctor” had. Overall, I did enjoy the episode, and I hope the show continues to get better.

Next week, it looks like we’re finally getting glimpses of the bigger plot for the season. In the trailer alone, we had echoes of the Master’s words, the Doctor seemingly afraid and aware of time swirling around her, and some familiar faces – Judoon! I wonder if we’ll get some clarity – any clarity at all – on the Timeless Child. Regardless, I’ll be back here next week for more Doctor Who!

Next week:

What did you think of “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror”? Let us know at @PureFandom on Twitter!

Doctor Who airs Sundays on BBC America at 8/7c.

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Jordan Alperstein

Jordy has a degree in English literature and communication studies. When she isn't attending concerts, she's watching way too much TV for her own good and fangirling over Captain Swan. Jordy is a self-proclaimed optimist and bookworm, and she's a sucker for fantasy, superheroes, and good old-fashioned villains.

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