Doctor Who Season 1 Episode 2 Review: The Devil's Chord

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The Maestro was one of the creepiest villains Doctor Who has ever had.

On paper, they seem like a ridiculous creature. They went to 1963 to steal all the music from the world, starting with the most influential rock band in history.

Doctor Who Season 2 Episode 2 took the Doctor and Ruby to Abbey Road to save the world by inspiring the Beatles while defeating an evil spirit, and it was as scary as it was fun.

Visiting Abbey Road - Doctor Who  Season 1 Episode 2

The Abbey Road Sequences Lived Up To The Hype

When the Doctor Who Season 1 trailer came out, this was the story I was most excited about, and I was not disappointed one bit.

We didn't get to hear any real Beatles music—that would have probably cost a fortune in licensing fees—so instead, we got that musical number about there always being a twist at the end of the story and some weird pseudo-songs courtesy of the Maestro.

The John and Paul imitations were spot on, though. The actor playing John had a bit of a rounder face than the historical John Lennon, but the voice was perfect, and I have no notes on Paul's presentation.

The scene in the cafeteria where The Doctor and Ruby tried to convince John and Paul to keep playing music was a highlight of the hour, especially John's confusion about why he felt sad at the idea of giving it all up and going home to find a wife.

Doctor Who, Tardis Beach

That idea was so antithetical to who John Lennon was, especially as a young man, that it was no wonder he was depressed. When the Maestro stole all the music, she stole his identity and purpose, too.

The Story Was a Love Note to the Power of Music

Throughout the hour, the Doctor and Ruby talked about what music meant to the human race. The Doctor's discussions of how important music was as a means of self-expression reminded me of the way Robin Williams' character talked about poetry in Dead Poets Society.

The desolate wasteland in the world without music said it all. Without music, the human race dies.

I think without music, the human race goes sour. Without a way to express a broken heart, they go to war and don't even know why.

Doctor

The Maestro's evil came from their greedy desire to steal all the world's music to feed their own soul, which was an interesting choice. Most villains want power. The Maestro wanted to hog creative energy.

The Meastro's explanation of their desire when the Doctor saw them in the wasteland was confusing. I got from it that they wanted all the world's music and to finish what the Toymaker started, but some of the specifics were a bit murky.

Doctor Who, Classic Dalek

We also learned more about Ruby's secret superpower and how it related to music.

What is Ruby's Secret Song?

The Maestro's inability to sap Ruby's musical energy was connected to her birth story. The Maestro first said that Ruby had a secret song and was frustrated that Ruby wouldn't sing on command, but something scared them about the music in Ruby's heart.

Science fiction and fantasy often use the tired TV trope of the chosen child whose secret power will save the world. In Ruby's case, there's an original twist: Neither Ruby nor the Doctor knows exactly what makes her the chosen one or what she is supposed to do.

So far, all we know is she has something to do with The One Who Waits, whom both the Toymaker and his offspring are terrified of.

Ruby's World Expands - Doctor Who

The first two episodes have given us other clues about Ruby.

We know she releases energy that connects her to others who were abandoned as children and that the Doctor's crossing paths with her was no accident.

Her past has given her a special connection with children, and she can bring a fresh, child-like perspective to problems that helps her see things the Doctor doesn't.

Could Ruby Be Connected to Susan?

Ruby knows nothing about the Doctor's history, including his relationship with his granddaughter when the series began in 1963. Yet it didn't seem like a coincidence that Susan's name came up.

The Doctor has visited Trotter Road and managed not to run into her before -- 1989's Rememberance of the Daleks involved the Daleks invading the school Susan went to in 1963, yet somehow Susan and her teachers were not there.

 The Doctor Introduces Himself - Doctor Who

It's unclear how Susan ties into the current story or how Mrs. Flood is connected, but I can't wait to find out!

The Doctor Has Found Joy Because of His Suffering

Gatwa's Doctor continues to have a healthier attitude toward his tragic past than David Tennant's Doctor did a few months ago.

Maestro: Are you enough of a genius?
Doctor: Oh I would never call myself that. But I have loved and I have lost. And I can only smile like this because I have lost so much. And if that's where music comes from, I can find the chord to banish you.

I loved when he said he could smile because of all the pain and loss he'd been through.

He now can appreciate the good life has to offer while understanding it is transient -- more so for the human companions he comes to love than for him as a Time Lord. Still, he has died 13 times not counting the bigeneration or the repeated regeneration into Tennant before that.

His attitude toward everything is beautiful and inspiring, exactly what we need from a hero during these troubled times.

Traveling to Prehistoric Times - Doctor Who

The One Thing The Episode Didn't Address

Doctor Who is often big on social justice issues, but one thing was not addressed. As the Doctor and Ruby made their way to EMI Studios, I couldn't help wondering how the Beatles and the other people working in the studio would react to the Doctor as a Black man.

In 1963, the UK had similar racial segregation to the southeastern United States, and Black people were barred from certain professions and public spaces.

When the Doctor was pouring tea, he was fulfilling that servant role, but the confidence with which he carries himself would likely not have been acceptable to white supremacists.

The episode wasn't about race relations, but given the time period, I was surprised that the issue never came up. It didn't affect the story, and stories about Black people don't have to be about racism to be authentic, but I was surprised that the racism of the time was not referenced at all.

Confident and Happy - Doctor Who

Your turn, Doctor Who fanatics!

Did the Beatles-themed episode live up to your expectations?

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know.

Doctor Who streams on Disney+ on Saturdays.

The Devil's Chord Review

Editor Rating: 4.9 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (27 Votes)

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on X.

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Doctor Who Season 1 Episode 2 Quotes

I don't get it. Music is... you can't lose it, you can't steal it. It's just natural. It's the wind going through the trees.

Ruby

Maestro: I am Maestro.
Timothy Drake: What are you?
Maestro: I am music.