Along with its New Year's Day release date, some new information about the upcoming series 12 premiere of Doctor Who has been revealed, with the BBC announcing that the “blockbuster” two-part episode will be called Spyfall.
Clearly, at first glance this just looks like a wordplay reference to 2012 James Bond film Skyfall, a highlight of 007’s recent adventures onscreen that saw Daniel Craig’s secret agent confront his past.
And it’s no surprise that series 12’s first episode will deal with matters of espionage. In the recent trailer we see Stephen Fry (confirmed to appear in the first episode) playing some sort of spymaster who enlists Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and her team into a new mission, followed by scenes where the gang dons Bond-esque tuxedos.
“The name’s Doctor…THE Doctor,” Whittaker’s Time Lord says when introducing herself in the style of 007’s familiar catchphrase, before immediately powering through a sunny vineyard on a motorcycle, battling gun-wielding thugs (including Lenny Henry’s character) and generally getting up to adventures that wouldn’t look out of place in a Michael G. Wilson/Barbara Broccoli production.
And perhaps this title means we should expect an even more complete Bond pastiche. For example, will Stephen Fry essentially be playing M (a role famously played by Judi Dench and, currently, Ralph Fiennes)? Will Lenny Henry be giving us his take on a classic Bond villain? Will there be cool cars and double crosses? Will there be a gadgetmaster kitting out the crew, or will the sonic screwdriver be enough?
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But maybe we’re looking at this a bit too literally – after all, we can’t imagine the episode including the level of alcohol intake and Bond girls that we’re used to – and the spy title only refers to certain elements of the story, a bit of a riff on the genre tropes that still returns to more traditional Doctor Who elements.
Maybe 2016 Christmas special The Return of Doctor Mysterio, which riffed on superheroics, should be our guide for how Who could do Bond – but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing more to learn from the choice of name for the episode.
Sure, it’s a pun, but within the context of the story it has to mean something. So who’s the spy who falls? Can we count the Tardis team as spies, or is it someone around them? And does this “fall” link at all to the title of the first episode of the last series, where a certain woman “fell” to Earth?
After all, if they wanted to just do a fun spy story they could have chosen any title. This one suggests that the “Fall” of the Doctor, someone close to her or some other character (could the fall be a betrayal by an agent?) will be crucial.
Or of course, it could be that the film Skyfall offers some clues within its own story. Remember, of all the Bond films Skyfall is one of the most personal, seeing James return to his family home and his roots. Could this new episode see some element of the Doctor’s past rear its ugly head again, perhaps even from Gallifrey? Or are we really overthinking a title that is essentially just a bit of fun?
For now, that information remains classified – and your mission, should you choose to accept it from the wrong franchise, is to wait patiently for around a month until the full events of the episode are revealed.
Hopefully, the end result is pure double-o-heaven – or at least a Bond-themed episode that leaves you feeling shaken and stirred.
Doctor Who returns to BBC One on Wednesday 1st January