Doctor Who review: Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror balances character study with basic monsters

Offering an interesting look at not one but two influential figures from history, Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror was a rather enjoyable slice of Doctor Who.

Now that’s definitely an improvement. While Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror isn’t an instant classic, it’s definitely a huge step up from last week’s Doctor Who episode Orphan 55. It was basic Doctor Who, but it was basic Doctor Who done right.

One thing that stands out about the episode is the portrayal of Nikola Tesla himself. Writer Nina Metivier focused on him and his story as a struggling inventor, a man with vision but who lacked the funds and resources to do it. Tesla’s story is a fascinating one, and it’s great to see it explored in a Doctor Who episode.

It was also interesting to see Tesla’s relationship with Thomas Edison explored. What’s enjoyable about Edison’s portrayal is that while he’s presented as an opportunist and an exploiter overall, he’s not completely two-dimensional, either. His reaction over a man’s death and knowing he’ll have to tell his family was a small moment, but it helped to add a hint of depth to his portrayal.

Speaking of portrayals, both Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison were handled very well by Goran Višnjić and Robert Glenister, respectively. They both portray the men as inventors with strong convictions, but Višnjić also did a great job at portraying Tesla’s doubts and vulnerability, too.

Doctor Who

Robert Glenister also featured in this story as inventor and “businessman” Thomas Edison.
Photo Credit: Ben Blackall/BBC Studios/BBC America

Basic but effective monsters

The monsters of the episode were pretty basic – a race of scavengers wanting to take over the universe – but they were a monster, at least. After a series of either human villains or “monsters that weren’t really monsters”, Series 12’s heavier focus on evil aliens is a breath of fresh air.

The Skithra also complimented the story of Nikola Tesla nicely, without overdoing it. (Looking at you, Krasko.) The Skithra won’t be thought of as a particularly memorable Doctor Who monster, but they suited the story well, at least.

However, if there’s one key problem the story has (and this is a rather common problem), it was its use of the companions. This week, no companion had a real standout moment, and I don’t think that they were used well. What would’ve been nice if at least one of them knew something of Nikola Tesla. Not all of them, but one of them having an idea due to seeing something on tumblr or Facebook. With three companions, it’s a shame that hardly any of them felt important to the story.

Still, Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror was a rather enjoyable episode, overall. Not a classic, but an interesting look at the relationship between two inventors. A decent celebrity historical, and a huge improvement after last week’s episode.

Next: Review: The Diary of River Song: Series 7

What did you think of Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror? Did you enjoy the episode? Do you think it portrayed the inventor well? Were there any areas you’d like to have seen improved? Let us know in the comments below.

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