“My work is not a fairytale.” Nikola Tesla
Niagara Falls, 1903, Nikola Tesla (Goran Visnjic) is speaking to a group of potential investors in front of his Niagara Generator. He takes them inside his lab and shows an exciting display of what he is working on. Tesla mentions the Wardenclyffe Tower and it transmitting power around the world using a World Wireless System. He is only asking for a ‘mere’ $50,000 investment from each of them. They gasp, and Mr. Brady (Russell Bentley) calls his ideas fairy tales like his receiving messages from Mars. Tesla: “My work is not a fairytale.” His assistant Miss Dorothy Skeritt (Haley McGee) tells them not to believe what the Times reports, but to her annoyance, Tesla admits it. He tells them he will prove Wardenclyffe Tower is as sound as his Niagara Generator. A man rushes in and tells Tesla there is an emergency. Tesla and Skeritt find a body on the floor. The man who came to get them thinks he was electrocuted by one of Tesla’s machines. Tesla doubts it, Miss Skeritt tells the man that Tesla will look into it. Tesla discovers that someone has stolen parts from his machines. He hears noises. A green ball of energy floats before him. Miss Skeritt joins him and they still hear some noises. The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) appears asking, “Oh hi! I don’t suppose you’ve seen anything weird around here?” Mr. Brady starts shooting at them, but then someone in a hood shoots Brady with a Silurian blaster. Tesla: “Who are you?” Doctor: “Someone with a fast way out of here!” They run and catch a train. On the train in early 20th century clothing are Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh), Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), and Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole). They ask if she’s found the source of the energy readings. She asks Skeritt and Tesla to introduce themselves and if they know why they are being shot at. They introduce themselves and Tesla says he doesn’t know. The Doctor is excited to meet Tesla but calls him a big fat liar. The hooded man appears on the train and starts shooting at them. The companions and Miss Skeritt jump into another train car. The Doctor uses her sonic to loosen a beam to knock the hooded man down. The Doctor takes his blaster, she and Tesla jump onto the other car and the Doctor separates the train cars, leaving the hooded man behind. His eyes glow red. The Doctor knows Tesla is hiding a secret. He admits he has the energy ball and plans to study it, but he won’t hand it over to the Doctor. The Doctor warns him she won’t let him get out of her sight until this is over.
They arrive in New York City; the Doctor explains the Gilded Age to her companions, calling it the beginning of the modern age. A hostile crowd is protesting Tesla, chanting, “No to the Death Current! No AC! No to the Death Current! No AC!” The Doctor is excited to see his NYC lab but is disappointed that it is nearly empty. The companions don’t know anything about Tesla accept that a car is named after him. Graham tries to pretend he knows more about Tesla than Ryan and Yaz, but it’s clear he doesn’t. Tesla shows the Doctor the green orb, the Doctor recognizes it as the Orb of Thassor. The Doctor uses her sonic and says it has been repurposed to scan and search for something. Tesla notices the sonic and proclaims, “You’re an inventor!” Doctor: “I have my moments.” They talk about the thrill of inventing. He isn’t shocked that the orb is alien, it’s not a foreign concept to him. People think he is mad; the Doctor advises him to have patient and prove people wrong. Tesla receives a letter from Mr. Morgan, his primary investor in his generator, Morgan is pulling his funding. They find one of Edison’s men spying on them. The Doctor orders Yaz, Tesla, and Skeritt to guard the orb while she, Graham, and Ryan will go and talk to Thomas Edison (Robert Glenister). Edison is talking to the same crowd telling them how dangerous Tesla’s inventions are. The Doctor tells him he’d like to replace Tesla generator with an Edison generator. He agrees. She wants to talk to him in private, he tells her to get an appointment with his secretary. She asks him about alien weapons, he tells her she should be talking to Tesla, he’s the one who talks to Mars. Under his coat Ryan shows Edison the Silurian blaster, he invites them in.
“Man just didn’t understand the American sense of humor.” Thomas Edison
In Edison’s office the Doctor confronts him about spying on Tesla and stealing from him. Edison admits to the spying but firmly states he doesn’t have to steal from him. He had hundreds of patents in his name. Edison tells them that Tesla used to work for him, he worked on the factory floor. Edison told his employees that the person who fixed one of his machines, he’d pay the man $50,000. Tesla worked for over a year, night and day until he fixed the machine. Graham asks Edison did he pay Tesla. Edison: “I offered him a 10-buck raise. He quit and chose to dig [ditches]. Man just didn’t understand the American sense of humor.” Back at Tesla’s lab, Yaz asks Tesla about Wardenclyffe Tower and it being wireless. He explains how it works. The hooded man is on Edison’s workshop floor and kills all of the workers. He takes the identity of one of the workers, Harold Green (Paul Kasey) and enters Edison’s office. He tries to kill them. They run out into the workshop floor and see all the dead workers, including the real Harold Green. The Doctor quickly uses some of the chemicals in Edison’s lab and draws a circle around the faux Harold Green. When she lights the circle, the alien’s real form appears, it is scorpion shaped. It teleports out. Tesla is in his lab dreaming about using the orb to power Wardenclyffe Tower. The orb starts scanning Yaz, she wonders what it is looking for. The Doctor calls Yaz to tell her the aliens can take the form of anyone and to be careful. She is too late; two men walk in with Miss Skeritt. They offer the orb for Miss Skeritt but the aliens tell Yaz and Tesla, they want him instead. They teleport out of the lab with Tesla, before they can teleport out, Yaz gets in the stream and teleports with them. Yaz and Tesla find themselves on a spaceship surrounded by scorpion looking creatures. Their Queen (Anjli Mohindra) welcomes Tesla aboard.
The TARDIS appears before Miss Skeritt. Ryan and Skeritt sit and talk. Ryan: “First time here can be a lot.” Skeritt: “Its certainty is a lot. But you take it in your stride. Where do you even come from?” Ryan: “Yorkshire, England. I was at home. You know, normal life. Work. Then, boom – – the Doctor! Changed me whole life.” Skeritt: “I was the same before I met Mr. Tesla. I wanted my own career, something steady. Then he showed me all these discoveries that could be made. What had seemed like impossible things; and now something normal steady…” Ryan: “Doesn’t seem so important. We’ll get him back. She’s good at impossible too.” Edison checks out the TARDIS, Graham tells him to get the dollar signs out of his eyes. Ryan observes that if they are looking for a trail to follow, what if Tesla found it. Skeritt tells them about the message from Mars Tesla intercepted, it could have come from these aliens. The Doctor uses the orb to locate Tesla and Yaz. The orb has been repurposed to scan Earth until it found what it was looking for, Tesla. The scorpion aliens called the Skithra were the ones stealing Tesla’s machinery parts. The Queen tells him she wants him to work on their ship and create weapons. Tesla looks at the equipment in front of him, he doesn’t see what he could use for him and Yaz to escape. He apologizes for getting her into this. The Skithra Queen tells Tesla he is not appreciated on Earth, he could help them blaze a path of conquest across the galaxy. Tesla tells her he won’t help them. She orders the stowaway [Yaz] killed.
“All this killing and looting. Did it never occur to you to try thinking of building something instead?” The Doctor
The Doctor finds a device to help her teleport onto the Skithra ship. The Skithra Queen threatens not to only kill Yaz but the people in New York City too. The Doctor introduces herself. She looks around the ship at all the assorted alien tech and asks, “Is there a single thing on this ship that you’ve built yourself?” It appears that everything and the ship itself was stolen. Doctor: “Stolen tech, stolen faces. And now all your stolen gear is breaking down. And what do you do. Steal someone else to fix it. All this killing and looting. Did it never occur to you to try thinking of building something instead?” She asked why they picked Tesla. The Queen explains that he discovered their signal and contacted them back. The Doctor and Yaz give him an exasperated look. The Doctor is finally able to teleport herself, Yaz, and Tesla back on the TARDIS. Tesla is amazed by the TARDIS but quickly understands why it’s larger inside. The Skithra Queen demands that they send Tesla back to them. If they don’t, they’ll kill everyone on Earth. She sends some of her scorpions down to Earth to find him.
The Doctor and Tesla talk. He always wondered what it was like out there. He didn’t think the Skithra would destroy the world for him. The Doctor jokes he’s finally getting the recognition he wanted. He smiles. She tells him that Edison is jealous that they want Tesla instead of him. Tesla is ready to turn himself in. She firmly says no. The Doctor: “Nikola Tesla, you’re going to change the world. But first, you’re going to save it.” They discuss how they can use Wardenclyffe Tower against the Skithra. He shows her how they can produce enough electricity and use the tower to blow up the Skithra ship. The Doctor formulates a plan, she and Tesla with convert the tower into a weapon. Yaz and Edison will get the people off the street. Ryan, Graham, and Skeritt will barricade his lab. To get the people off the streets, Edison tells them that Tesla is about to do another dangerous experiment. The scorpions the Queen sent down chase Edison and Yaz, they escape and make it back to the lab. The Doctor extends the TARDIS shield to protect the lab. The extended shield keeps a Skithra army from getting inside. The Doctor warns them there is a problem, once she and Tesla turn on the tower, the shield will drop for 30 seconds, and they will be defenseless.
“Well, let them talk. The present is theirs. I work for the future. And the future is mine.” Nikola Tesla
Tesla and the Doctor turn on the tower. The shield drops and the Skithra knock down the door, but they don’t attack. The Queen is with them. The Doctor needs her on the ship, they can take out the rest of the Skithra if they get her since the Skithra share a hive mind. The Doctor leaves the TARDIS to greet her. Doctor: “If I’d known we were gonna get a royal visit I’d have put the kettle on.” The Queen demands the Doctor hand Tesla over or she’d kill everyone. Doctor: “I gave you your chance.” Queen: “A chance to be like you.” Doctor: “A chance to evolve. But you were too stupid to take it. When you die, there’ll be nothing left behind. Just a trail of blood and other people’s brilliance. No one will even know you existed.” As a threat the Queen asks, “Have you ever seen a dead plane?” Doctor: “I’ve seen more than you can possibly imagine.” [The Doctor is thinking of Gallifrey.] The Doctor fools the Queen into taking a teleporter and sends her back to her ship. She gives Tesla the signal to turn the tower on. The other Skithra teleport back on the ship when the electricity from the tower hits the ship. [I’m not sure if they actually destroyed the ship.] The Skithra are gone. Edison asks Tesla to work for him again. Tesla refuses. Edison points out that losing his funding means he’ll be broke within a year. Skeritt asks if this is their usual day, Ryan says it’s about normal. Yaz thinks that because Tesla’s tower saved the world, he’ll become rich and famous. The Doctor breaks it to her that he won’t get credit and he’ll go broke. She assures her his work will continue. The two women offer Tesla encouragement. Doctor: “Don’t give up.” Yaz: “Whatever anyone says.” Tesla: “Well, let them talk. The present is theirs. I work for the future. And the future is mine.”
The Doctor meets Nikola Tesla at the dawn of the 20th century. He is trying to get funding for his Wardenclyffe Tower project. It will transmit power through the ether sphere without wires. The investors think his idea is a fairytale, especially since he’s admitted he’s has received messages from Mars. It’s not helping that his rival, Thomas Edison is telling people that his experiments are dangerous. It turns out he has been receiving messages from space, but it’s not from Mars. Instead he intercepted a message from a scorpion like race called the Skithra. Once they knew he was intelligent enough to intercept their message they sent an orb to find and scan him. The Skithra are a scavenger race who steal other species technology. They need someone to fix their stolen tech, and they determine that Tesla is smart enough to do it. The Doctor won’t allow the Skithra to take him and she devises a way to use the Wardenclyffe Tower to defeat the Skithra.
This is another episode in Doctor Who where the Doctor and her companions go back into the past to meet a famous person. Last season it was Rosa Parks. This episode reminded me of the Vincent van Gogh episode during the 11th Doctor’s era. Both he and Tesla are geniuses who are under appreciated and mocked during their times. The Doctor can’t change their sad endings, but the Doctor can give them recognition and encouragement while they are alive. Tesla is a brilliant inventor, but a poor businessman, and having Thomas Edison as your chief rival doesn’t help. Edison is jealous of Tesla’s genius, but he has a major advantage over Tesla, he is a brilliant businessman who is able to use other people’s talents to enrich himself. Most people know who Edison is, while at most, they have a passing knowledge on whom Tesla is. I have to admit I’m in that majority. The episode makes me want to know more about Tesla, so mission accomplished Doctor Who.
Goran Visnjic gives a great sympathetic performance as Nikola Tesla. You could clearly see why the Doctor liked him so much. Haley McGee is also great as his assistant Dorothy Skeritt. The two worked well together. The show suggested that they liked each other beyond boss and employee. Robert Glenister is excellent as Thomas Edison, Tesla’s main foil. He brought humor to the character. Anjli Mohindra as the Skithra Queen was basically doing an imitation of the Racnoss Empress. I thought the Racnoss had come back as the villains. This season they are fleshing out the Doctor’s personality and that benefits the show and Jodie Whittaker. They are letting her bring back some depth to the Doctor. On the surface she still appears happy go lucky, but Jodie is showing us the cracks beneath her shiny armor. Another excellent episode this season.