Review by Chlo Hickson

Before I start, I want to say I love Russell T Davies’ attitude towards the show when writing episodes: Doctor Who hasn’t survived 60+ years by always doing the same thing. It should be a show where you can do anything.

For this reason, ‘The Devil’s Chord’ is single handedly one of my favourite episodes from the last few years. The weird song they have the Beatles sing, acting, set design, costumes, CGI, and writing were all fantastic. Scenes like London opening their windows to music or the battle between Jinkx and Ncuti, it was perfect. All of these new episodes have had a different feel to what came before, but this is a good thing. The stories seem more energetic and more likely to appeal to wider audience.

Though, can I just say I’m so glad that they decided to release ‘The Devil’s Chord’ alongside ‘Space Babies’ as I would’ve dreaded seeing the next episode for a whole week but thankfully I was pleasantly surprised. The first episode is good but take away Gatwa and Gibson and it would’ve fell flat.

This episode also has the best title sequence transition ever in the show, move over Peter Capaldi. Never thought I’d say that but it’s that good.

I also think this is an important episode for later, it has so much lore and set up for future episodes. It almost feels like every episode will have a role to play as they have been hinting since the 60th anniversary about a lot of things.

Usually it takes me a while to get used to the new Doctor but Ncuti Gatwa has taken to the role like a duck to water. He’s incredible as the 15th Doctor and has brought new life to the character.

To those “fans” that are complaining that the Doctor never runs away in response to the 15th Doctor, can I point out what happens in the two parter ‘Human Nature’ and ‘The Family of Blood’? The Doctor literally ran as John Smith.

Donna said to Jenny in ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’ that there’s an awful lot of running.

What did Clara say to the Doctor? ‘Run you clever boy, and remember me’. Let’s not forget the first word the 9th Doctor says to Rose is ‘Run’.

The Doctor has pretty much always ran away before confronting the villain of the episode, it’s like his signature style.

No offence if you’re a newer fan with me addressing this but I think its a ridiculous thing to criticise if you’re a long term fan.

Going back to a more positive thing, I will say though that Gatwa’s definitely a highlight of the new season already. It’s like he’s been the Doctor for years and I can’t wait to see more of him. Millie is fantastic too and I can’t wait to spend more time with both of them.

Ncuti and Millie are pure fun together. I love them and their chemistry so much, from watching interviews prior to the premier of these episodes I didn’t doubt I would but it’s great to actually see them as their characters. They are a perfect match!

I love the fact that Ruby gets them inside with some simple bluffing rather than the Doctor using the psychic paper to make it easy for the writers. She knows they can get in if they just act naturally so its a nice way to show how useful the companion can be.

I am honestly very invested in Ruby’s story arc.

Speaking of Ruby’s arc I do have a bit of a problem with it, and it’s not just my personal one.

I don’t think Davies should have chosen to focus so much on something festive related being the main story arc that drives this season due to how many religions there are, it is very alienating and surely isn’t a very good idea for ratings.

There’s also the fact that some people find that time of year difficult especially after Covid so why did he think it was a good idea? Hopefully if the next 5 episodes focus on the snow aspect of the idea rather than showing us scenes from ‘The Church on Ruby Road’ and playing Carol of the Bells or anything else that might pop up.

Speaking of the song in Ruby’s heart, did anyone else think of Emma Swan in Once Upon a Time as its a VERY similar idea. Emma didn’t know who her parents were but they left a song in her heart for when she has her final battle. Could we get a clue from this?

While I’m talking about songs I think it’s the perfect time to talk about Jinkx Monsoon as Maestro.

Jinkx might be one of my new favourite Doctor Who characters as the living embodiment of music. She absolutely smashed the role.

The episode worked so well as a sequel to ‘The Giggle’. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Maestro but it just proves you shouldn’t judge until you see the episode/performance rather than the casting!

She captured the essence of the Toymaker while giving Maestro their own spark of uniqueness. I absolutely loved all of Monsoon’ expressions, and the way their voice would suddenly deepen when they became irritated I honestly got chills. It was a genuinely intimidating performance, what a great villain.

That silent scene was so intense! The decision to have a minute or two completely without sound was amazing.

I will say though that the use of pronouns for Maestro at the beginning was confusing. Harbinger called them his daddy and Timothy Drake called them a him, isn’t it wrong for RTD to mis-gender them in his writing?

On a more positive note (pun intended), I hope Maestro returns!

Is it a coincidence that Maestro and the Toymaker were both released in the same year in 1925? There’s a lot of things to unpack it seems.

I’m not really a fan of musicals, only literally having a few exceptions, but I enjoyed the twist at the end. It was a fun little extra for the return of music to the world. Also, I don’t know if it was intentional but we’ll see, if you hum it it’s got a similar tune to the Toymaker’s giggle. Ignoring that for now though, I think it would’ve been more excepted if the Doctor and Ruby were watching people dance with him explaining to Ruby that its bursts of that missing vibe being given back to humanity. Narratively I think it works, its a celebration of music and its what was taken away by Maestro.

Also, how can you have an episode about music and how it affects us without a musical number? It was honestly to be expected. Besides that we see the return of Harbinger during the dance sequence, could he be foreshadowing something bigger? I could be overlooking it, wouldn’t be the first time, but harbinger means a person or thing that announces or signals the approach of another in the dictionary. Could this be more of the Pantheon or The One Who Waits?

I just want to add Murray Gold, the composer of the show, having a cameo in ‘The Devil’s Chord’ might be one of my favourite things about the episode.

Furthermore, I assume that the 6 month gap is for the comic book series that’s starting next month, Big Finish and the new novels to fill? Either that or this episode was supposed to take place later on in the season and got pushed forward. The Doctor and Ruby just feel much more familiar with each other, especially with Ruby saying ‘You never run’ when it was a plot point that the Doctor ran from the monster in the previous episode.

This season’s arc is really intriguing as well. Maestro is a literal god and there was only one thing that scared them and it was Ruby! I could be looking too much into it but Maestro calls Ruby a creature instead of a human, could this mean something?

There’s so many things happening already that I think are leading to something big, first mavity and now 4th wall breaks. Maybe some ancient being, perhaps the one who waits is sowing seeds of chaos into the universe. The Doctor did mention the Pantheon again in this episode.

I don’t know if this needs to be noted, I don’t think I’m the only fan taking notes during the episodes haha, but did anyone else notice the Doctor mention non-diegetic? I honestly had to look this up, but non-diegetic music is the music the characters in a show can’t hear, like the theme tune. How can the Doctor hear this type of music?

In conclusion, I honestly feel like the huge time gap is a bit stupid, unless it’s explained later on, I don’t understand the need for such a big gap. I love watching the characters get to know each other and now I feel like I’ve missed important moments in their friendship. I really enjoyed specific moments in this episode. The wall breaks, talking about Susan, the Doctor’s speech about finding the chord. This was just a fun episode. Maestro was brilliant, the Doctor and Ruby have cemented themselves as a great duo to me. I think the ending with two members of the Beatles appearing out of no where to save the day was a bit random, I know this episode was branded as the Beatles episode, but it didn’t really have them in it? Obviously apart from what I’ve just mentioned and a couple of other scenes. Why couldn’t the Beatles – I obviously mean the people behind the Doctor Who crew for legal reasons when I say this – have composed a song to rescue the Doctor and Ruby and stop Maestro? Something was a little bit off in that scene. Also the Doctor gets excited when Ruby mentions about visiting the Beatles, claiming companions never ask to see that kind of thing. Does any Classic Who fan remember Ian, Barbara and Viki getting a glimpse of the Beatles in the Time Space Visualiser in episode one of ‘The Chase’?

I honestly don’t understand the hate for this episode, obviously we all have different taste to what we like, but this episode went to some dark places and showed why we as a society need artists like musicians.