Doctor Who “The Devil’s Chord” Review

    Doctor Who has landed the TARDIS with a double-episode premiere! While we’ve watched Episode One: “Space Babies”, we’re now in for a treat with a trip to the 1960’s. Here’s our Doctor Who “The Devil’s Chord” Review. The second episode stars Jinkx Monsoon as “Maestro”, a dangerous villain for The Doctor. Like the first episode, Showrunner Russell T Davies is the writer. However, Director Ben Chessell takes the helm for this adventure with The Beatles!

    SPOILER WARNING! This is Nerdgazm’s full review of Doctor Who “The Devil’s Chord“. The episode is currently live on BBC iPlayer and Disney+.

    Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday and Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor in Doctor Who: The Devil’s Chord (via BBC Press Office)

    God of Music

    The episode opens in 1925, with fictitious composer Timothy Drake (Jeremy Limb) teaching a piano lesson. After he plays the Devil’s chord, a tritone banned since medieval times, the Maestro appears out of the piano. They immediately start chewing the scenery, with Monsoon stealing every scene they’re in. It’s very camp from beginning to end, a delicious villain performance. They kill Drake consuming the music that was inside him, then playing the Doctor Who theme as it transitions to the intro. I’m convinced this episode only has three walls, with the fourth completely shattered.

    In effect, they’ve taken all the music away from humanity, starting in the 20s. The world’s bleaker, and people are noticeably more violent, such as the headline of Khrushchev invading Finland. Smog fills the air, and the planet is literally darkening. It’s clear that the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) needs to find a way to fix this, and they picked the perfect date, February 11th 1963, to try. This is the day that the Beatles record most of their debut album, Please Please Me at EMI, now Abbey Road Studios.

    The Doctor and Ruby (Millie Gibson) have a lot of fun in the TARDIS, making great use of the new set’s corridors for a nifty outfit change. They then dance their way down the iconic Abbey Road crossing, and crash the music studio to watch these iconic artists record. Except the Beatles are playing terribly, as is Cilla Black (Josie Sedgewick-Davies), even the orchestra is discordantly playing Three Blind Mice. Music as a creative medium is seemingly dead in this version of 1963.

    Jinkx Monsoon as the Maestro in Doctor Who: The Devil’s Chord (via BBC Press Office)

    With the Beatles

    After the Doctor chats with Paul McCartney (George Caple), it becomes clear that music died out. Presumably as Maestro continued their reign of terror, they stole all the music from the world. Ruby’s conversation with John Lennon (Chris Mason) similarly reveals how embarrassed they are to be recording music. It’s a sad state of affairs, made much cooler through the appearance of recurring actress Susan Twist as a tea lady, and Maestro appearing as a reflection in all the room’s metal objects.

    In an attempt to bring music back to the world, the Doctor has a piano brought up to the rooftop, overlooking London. The Doctor mentions living in Totter’s Lane with Susan back in 1963, and that he doesn’t know where Susan is anymore. Again, could we be headed for a Susan return? The Doctor says she’s probably dead, but it’s the first time the show has properly acknowledged her in a while. So many interesting characters have been namedropped over these two episodes that I really wonder if we’re headed for some long-awaited character returns.

    Ruby plays a theme on piano, something she composed after a girl broke her friend Trudy’s (Mary Malone) heart. Interestingly, the song she plays is known in the real world Ruby’s theme, The Life of Sunday. It’s nice to see a companion play their own theme on piano, very creative stuff. People are very moved by the music, including an old woman (June Hudson), who designed costumes for the show during the late 70s. It’s a very cute cameo that warmed my heart, although seeing her devoured by Maestro when she played Claire de Lune was upsetting.

    George Capel as Paul McCartney, Philip Davies as George Harrison, and Chris Mason as John Lennon in Doctor Who: The Devil’s Chord (via BBC Press Office)

    Music Battles

    The Doctor figures out that Maestro is one of those vast powers beyond the universe. They’re one of the Toymaker’s (Neil Patrick Harris) legions mentioned at the end of “The Giggle”. Maestro is a very powerful villain, and it’s nice to see the Doctor actually scared and unsure of what to do. The one trick he has up his sleeves to escape involved using the sonic screwdriver to make everything completely inaudible. It’s honestly a pretty neat trick.

    Ruby mentions that the world doesn’t end in 1963, and convinces the Doctor to take her back to her present. The last episode was set at Christmas 2023, but Ruby’s present is now June 2024. It’s clear that Ruby’s been a companion for a while now. The London they arrive to is devastated, completely destroyed. It reminded me a lot of “Pyramids of Mars”, and who doesn’t like a 70s Doctor Who reference?

    Before they can get back, Maestro jumpscares them with a jazz show. They introduce themself as the child of the Toymaker. In creating a nuclear winter, the Aeolian tones make music without the need for people. Their grander goals including destroying the universe by stealing the music of the spheres. They also trigger the TARDIS’ cloister bell with a rendition of Saxon’s Theme on the piano, with some frantic rainbow lighting on the roundels as they musically take control of the TARDIS. It’s nice to see a very powerful villain creating serious trouble for the Doctor.

    Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor and Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday in Doctor Who: The Devil’s Chord (via BBC Press Office)

    The Final Battle

    Back in 1963, the final battle begins. The Doctor uses John Lennon’s guitar to try and find the chord to banish Maestro. Before he can fully solve it, Ruby is pulled away by Maestro’s music. Seeing the Doctor break the fourth wall saying “I thought that was non-diagetic” was hilarious. The episode has a really lovely sense of humour. Breaking the window, the Doctor runs down the corridor (classic Doctor Who stuff) to find Maestro. Ruby’s tied up in the air, this is the Doctor’s last chance to defeat Maestro.

    There’s a song inside Ruby, the only person left with music in their heart. It’s Carol of the Bells. Again, snow fills the room. Maestro seems baffled by this, saying there’s something very wrong about Ruby. They namedrop someone called The Oldest One, who Maestro says couldn’t have been there when Ruby was born. The mysterious One Who Waits also gets a mention as Maestro gets dragged into hell, saying that they’re almost here. So many exciting mysterious villains in the background. I can’t wait to get some actual answers later this season!

    Having Lennon and McCartney find the lost chord was a nice choice. Seeing them work together was heartwarming. They are two of the best songwriters ever, so it makes sense they’d find it. After that, there’s an interesting musical number featuring series composer Murray Gold on piano called “Twist at the End”. It was a little silly, but perfectly okay. Shame there was no twist at the end of this. I had a much better time with the Doctor and Ruby dancing their way back to the TARDIS, with the crossing turned into a keyboard.

    Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor in Doctor Who: The Devil’s Chord (via BBC Press Office)


    Well that was our Doctor Who “The Devil’s Chord” review! A campy romp through the 60s, turned into an absolute gem thanks to Jinkx Monsoon’s Maestro. She really shone in the role, becoming one of the series most memorable villains. I really hope we get to see more villains like them in the future, genuinely superb stuff. The 60s setting was utilised brilliantly, with the costumes and set design being absolutely gorgeous.

    In terms of the series arc, we have a few more hints. There’s something very powerful surrounding Ruby. We learned about The Oldest One, and heard that The One Who Waits is almost here. Ruby’s story is definitely split over the next 2 seasons, so I hope we take the time for each of these villains to have the spotlight. Even Maestro seemed a little scared of Ruby’s power. I couldn’t be more excited about this story arc.

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