CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's Doctor Who as it goes all 007

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Sir Lenny’s in the Aston’s driving seat as Doctor Who goes all 007

Doctor Who

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Bancroft

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Male or female, dressed in frock coat, fez or cricket whites, with or without a stripey scarf, the Doctor has one duty. And it isn’t preaching political correctness.

Like an intergalactic social worker, Jodie Whittaker spent most of her first series on Doctor Who (BBC1) deploring the British Empire and promoting the U.S. civil rights movement.

Once, it was Daleks and Cybermen who threatened to destroy the Earth. Jodie’s Time Lord seemed more worried about casual sexism, as if aliens were planning to invade and wolf-whistle us all to death.

But she and the show’s chief writer, Chris Chibnall, have taken a year off for a much-needed rethink — and come back with a better understanding of what the Doctor ought to be doing. To wit, saving the world.

‘Doctor, the security of this entire planet is at stake,’ implored Stephen Fry as C, the head of MI6. ‘Can we rely on you?’ Of course we can. Fat lot of good it did C, though, who got his head blown off moments later by an extraterrestrial sniper

Stealing the show is Lenny Henry’s job. He’s the villain, a Silicon Valley psychopath whose DNA is 7 per cent alien — though some might think that makes him surprisingly human compared with certain dotcom billionaires

‘Doctor, the security of this entire planet is at stake,’ implored Stephen Fry as C, the head of MI6. ‘Can we rely on you?’

Of course we can. Fat lot of good it did C, though, who got his head blown off moments later by an extraterrestrial sniper. That was an effective way to ensure that Fry’s cameo didn’t steal the show.

Stealing the show is Lenny Henry’s job. He’s the villain, a Silicon Valley psychopath whose DNA is 7 per cent alien — though some might think that makes him surprisingly human compared with certain dotcom billionaires.

The episode opened with a classic device of TV spy thrillers: around the world, agents were being bumped off by an unseen killer. All they could do in their final moments was to stare into the camera and scream silently. Way back in the Sixties, almost every edition of The Avengers used to begin this way.

Jodie Whittaker (above with Lenny Henry) and the show’s chief writer, Chris Chibnall, have taken a year off — and come back with a better understanding of what the Doctor ought to be doing. To wit, saving the world

The brilliant but timid secret agent who was tagging along, played by Sacha Dhawan from Mr Selfridge… he was the Doctor’s age-old nemesis. The Master is back

But Jodie and co were intent on sending up another spy series. If the Doctor’s sardonic satnav didn’t give the game away — quipping, ‘In five seconds, die!’ — then we were bound to guess as sidekicks Graham and Ryan (Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole) availed themselves of MI6’s gadgets.

The tongue-immobilising chewing gum might come in handy if the Doctor starts spouting gender neutral, equal opportunities jargon again.

Soon, they were swanning round a casino-themed party in tuxedos, before giving chase to Sir Lenny’s Aston Martin and finding themselves trapped on a private jet at 18,000ft with a bomb in the pilot’s seat. It even had a digital display counting down to zero.

And then came the real twist. That brilliant but timid secret agent who was tagging along, played by Sacha Dhawan from Mr Selfridge . . . well, he was the Doctor’s age-old nemesis.

The Master is back. This series of Doctor Who really is returning to basics. And it works.

What doesn’t work so well is a second serving of Sarah Parish as the murderous DCI in Bancroft (ITV) — controlling the drugs supply from Manchester to Newcastle and bumping off colleagues who get too nosy.

Elizabeth Bancroft is not just an anti-hero, she’s thoroughly dislikable, too. 

When she discovers her estranged son is planning to marry, her first reaction is to wonder if the girlfriend can be fitted up for a double murder… of her own father and stepmother.

What doesn’t work so well is a second serving of Sarah Parish as the murderous DCI in Bancroft  — controlling the drugs supply from Manchester to Newcastle and bumping off colleagues who get too nosy

We know that single mother Bancroft will do anything to make her son love her, but we’re bound to lose sympathy if that includes destroying the lives of every woman he meets.

Last time the poor lad lost his heart, Mum put the girlfriend in hospital and then administered a lethal injection.

Few actresses are better at playing evil than Parish, and Ade Edmondson is great fun as her frustrated nemesis. But there’s no one to root for here.

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