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9 burning questions we have after Doctor Who: Spyfall - Part One

What are the aliens planning? Why was that house flying? And where has the Doctor been sent? Contains spoilers

Published: Wednesday, 1st January 2020 at 7:57 pm

Doctor Who series 12’s first episode ends with one hell of a cliffhanger, as the Doctor is teleported away to a strange new place and her team are left stranded in a crashing plane.


Meanwhile, Sacha Dhawan’s newly-revealed Master is in the wind with his new alien pals and there seems to be no way to stop him – but what does he have planned anyway? How did he return? And what can we expect from Spyfall part two when it airs on Sunday 5th January?

We try our best to answer your most burning questions below. Starting with…

Who or what are the aliens?

A new monster in Doctor Who series 12 (BBC)
A new monster in Doctor Who series 12 (BBC)

It seems odd that after an hour of fast-paced Doctor Who adventure we still have no idea who or what the alien menaces are, but in a way it makes it all the more exciting.

Currently unnamed (unless we missed something in the credits), the aliens seem to be made of some sort of semi-solid energy that shines like a bright light, possess the ability to push themselves (or phase) through solid objects (albeit taking on the visual properties of those objects) and teleport around the world.

They can also somehow change the DNA of a human to something else entirely, to what end is still completely unclear – though when talking to Daniel Barton (Lenny Henry) it’s noted that their stated goal is to “defend” while the Doctor notes that they’re exhibiting stereotypical spy behaviour by eliminating other agents and communicating in code.

All we really know about these aliens outside of the episode is that they don’t always look like that (they took the form to mock humanity, in some way) and that they seem to have some access to a strange pocket dimension or other location full of “trees” that they conduct themselves through and where they imprison first Yaz, then the Doctor (of which, more later).

So yes, there’s still a lot to find out in the next episode. And given the surprise reveal that these aliens were working with the Master the whole time, there’s an added question as to how much of what we’ve seen so far has been a lie or misdirect, and whether these “aliens” are what we understand them to be at all... Huw Fullerton

Why is Daniel Barton only 93% human?

Lenny Henry as Daniel Barton in Doctor Who (BBC)
Lenny Henry as Daniel Barton in Doctor Who (BBC)

When Yaz and Ryan (Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole) scan Lenny Henry’s mysterious villain for clues, it’s revealed that Barton is only 93% human – but what on Earth does that mean? Has Barton been transformed somehow by the aliens he’s in league with? Is he part-machine somewhere? And if either of those are true, why are the non-human parts only 7% of his make-up?

Is it possible that Barton instead has some alien in his family tree – a distant ancestor from another world – explaining his genetic makeup? Or did he just get a brief taste of what the aliens were doing to other secret agents, rewriting their DNA into something else entirely? He was formerly an MI6 agent himself, after all – was he an early target that somehow got them to stop? It’s all very confusing… HF

How did the Master return after the death of Missy?

Michelle Gomez in Doctor Who (BBC, TL) BBC Pictures

The return of the Master (Sacha Dhawan) poses two rather large questions related to the last time we saw the character in the form of Michelle Gomez’s Missy…

Firstly, how is the Master still alive? (We’re presuming this isn’t a pre-Missy version, since that also mean Dhawan’s Master comes before John Simm’s, and so also before Derek Jacobi’s, which is all a bit too complicated.)

The last time we saw Missy, she’d been shot down by Simm’s Master using his laser screwdriver and left for dead. She’d previously turned on her devious former incarnation, literally stabbing him in the back after deciding to side with former foe the Doctor.

“Don't bother trying to regenerate – you got the full blast,” Simm’s Master said after shooting her in response, with Missy apparently dying shortly afterwards.

How did she survive? We may never know. The Master has a history of avoiding apparent certain death with little-to-no explanation, so it’s possible that there’ll be no explanation provided – though it’s interesting that Dhawan’s new version seems to hint that he ‘stole’ O’s form, rather than undergoing a traditional regeneration (more on that below).

The bigger question, really, and one we hope does get answered, is why the Master has returned to his old villainous ways after Missy apparently found redemption. Could it somehow be related to his insistence that “everything [the Doctor] think[s] [she] know[s] is a lie”?

If Missy/the Master had survived long enough to discover some great secret that up-ended everything they thought they knew about the Doctor, it might be enough to destroy the fragile trust built up between the two. It’s a theory at any rate... Morgan Jeffery

Who is playing the Master?

Sacha Dhawan (Getty)
Sacha Dhawan (Getty)

If you’re wondering where you’ve seen the new Master before he actually has a bit of a Who pedigree, with Dhawan starring in 2013 behind-the-scenes drama An Adventure in Space and Time as Doctor Who’s original director Waris Hussein.

Dhawan has also starred in Marvel’s Iron Fist, Sherlock, Line of Duty, The Boy with the Topknot, The Tractate Middoth, Being Human, Utopia, In the Flesh and No Offence among many other roles. HF

Was there ever a real O?

Yes – the Doctor’s old ally ‘Horizon Watcher’ was a real person who, it appears, did look like Sacha Dhawan. Though the exact circumstances of how the Master replaced the real ‘O’ aren’t clear, it appears the Time Lord villain somehow mimicked the MI6 agent’s form after shrinking the genuine article to the size of a matchbox.

The Master has form in ‘stealing bodies’ rather than undergoing a traditional regeneration process – 1981’s The Keeper of Traken saw him possess the body of Tremas (Anthony Ainley), while the 1996 TV movie had the Master possess a paramedic named Bruce (Eric Roberts) and even attempt to steal the Doctor’s own body.

As for how he shrunk the real ‘O’, well... MJ

How did the Master shrink him?

Though it’s not explicitly stated, it’s safe to assume that ‘O’ was killed using the Master’s Tissue Compression Eliminator – a device that the character used frequently throughout his appearances in classic Doctor Who, but which, until now, hadn’t resurfaced in the modern series.

A weapon that kills by shrinking the bodies of its targets to the point where their life functions cease, the ‘TCE’ was swapped out in favour of a ‘Laser Screwdriver’ and other devices post-2005, but now it appears that this sinister tool has found favour with the Master again. MJ

Where were Yaz and the Doctor transported to?

Tosin Cole as Ryan in Doctor Who (BBC)
Tosin Cole as Ryan in Doctor Who: Spyfall (BBC)

Having snuck into Daniel Barton’s office, Yaz and Ryan are confronted by the enigmatic alien spies, with Yaz being snatched up by the monsters and transported to a strange otherworldly plane…

The Doctor is able to retrieve her friend, but wherever she was, it’s clear that the visit has left Yaz traumatised – she becomes tearful reflecting on her experience afterwards, with Ryan doing his best to comfort her.

Later, with her companions trapped aboard a plummeting aircraft, the Doctor is transported by the Master to the same strange location – but where is it? Could it be the aliens’ homeworld, or spacecraft? Or even part of the interior of the Master’s TARDIS? (We see the house that apparently belonged to ‘O’ somehow flying alongside the airplane housing the Doctor and friends – so could the house be the Master’s TARDIS in disguise?)

Or, given that the aliens appeared to “conduct” themselves through the “trees,” is it more closely tied to their species, perhaps some sort of pocket dimension that helps them transport themselves around the world? MJ

What is the Doctor’s lie?

Doctor Who Series 12

Before teleporting away, the Master notes to the Doctor that “everything you think you know is a lie,” and we’ve been racking our brains to try and work out what he’s referring to.

Could he be referencing some Time Lord secret related to their shared upbringing? Has the Doctor repressed some knowledge about her past that could paint her in a less favourable light? DOES the Doctor have a secret collection of extra regenerations nobody knows about yet? Or is this new mystery in some way related to the Timeless Child arc introduced in 2018?

We imagine these might be questions we’re asking ourselves for the next few weeks… HF

What’s the Master’s plan?

Worth asking, actually…so far, apparently the Master’s plan has revolved around recruiting aliens to rewrite the DNA of spies, embedding himself inside MI6 for years, hanging out with the Doctor and her team and then stranding Yaz, Graham and Ryan on a crashing plane while the Doctor’s trapped in another strange location.

Teleporting away, all we know for sure is that the Master seems to be allied with the mostly human Daniel Barton, who spoke of the aliens and his need to “defend” something. So, er…what?

Yes, we’re a bit flummoxed so far. Maybe the aliens’ plan revolves around turning humans into them for some reason, and the Master saw this as an opportunity to get revenge on his old frenemy as well as gain some power over Earth. Or maybe the aliens have been created or otherwise tricked by the Master to do his bidding, for an overall nefarious purpose we can only grasp at currently.

In other words, no, we don’t understand what the Master is up to yet. But for once, we only have about four days to wait until we find out! Bliss. HF


Doctor Who continues on Sundays on BBC1


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