Doctor Who – The Devil’s Chord

Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) and the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) in The Devil's Chord (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)
Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) and the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) in The Devil’s Chord (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)

“The Devil’s Chord” is an episode of the 14th season of the new “Doctor Who” series, also indicated as season 1, and follows “Space Babies“. It’s available in the UK and Ireland on BBC channels and in many other countries on the Disney+ platform.

Beware that in various adverts and marketing materials, this season is promoted as season 1, marking the start of production by Bad Wolf and distribution by Disney+, hence the double notation. On BBC’s website, “The Devil’s Chord” is indicated as episode 2 of 8 while Disney+ indicates it as episode 3.

Note. This article contains some spoilers about “The Devil’s Chord”.

Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) asks the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) to take her to see the Beatles but when the travelers arrive in 1963 and manage to go and see the Beatles record their first song, they quickly realize that there’s something wrong. When they talk to Paul McCartney (George Caple) and John Lennon (Chris Mason) trying to stimulate them, they start seeing the manifestation of Maestro (Jinkx Monsoon).

The tritone was nicknamed the devil’s chord, the devil’s interval, or other similar expressions for its dissonances and their effects on the mood of the people who listen to them. According to legend, it was banned by the ecclesiastical authorities but there seems to be no real basis for that claim.

Russell T Davies put a lot of imagination around this legend, much more than he did with the historical basis of “The Giggle” creating a story in which the devil’s chord can summon Maestro, an entity who is the Toymaker’s child. The Doctor has a fresh memory of the aftermath of his confrontation with the Toymaker and his warning of the presence of other entities like himself.

In “Doctor Who” we have already seen creatures that take something away from humans but the taking away of music from all of humanity is new. The long-term consequences are deeper than you might think, to the point that the Earth of 2024 becomes a world ravaged by a post-atomic winter. In an episode where the Doctor continues to talk to Ruby about his past, that scene is a reminder of “Pyramids of Mars” and its alternate 1980 where Earth is a barren world, in that case, after the intervention of an Egyptian god, Sutekh the Destroyer.

An episode based on the importance of music in the history of humanity has interesting elements. They say that music will save the world and in “The Devil’s Chord” missing it condemns humanity. Missing music goes far beyond the loss of the Beatles.

I’m only partially convinced by the execution of this episode’s central idea. Maestro is totally over the top and this could be OK thinking of the Toymaker in his recent version. Once again the Doctor has to look for the weak point of an entity that has powers that not even he can counter in order to ban it from the universe. In my opinion, that’s the best part of the episode.

Frankly, the musical ending completely turned me off because musicals tend to bore me to tears. I saw it as a manifestation of an unrestrained Russell T Davies who is including bits into his latest stories that are pointless to viewers who don’t have certain specific tastes.

Despite an ending that for me is colder than the alternative 2024 nuclear winter, I liked “The Devil’s Chord” as a whole. It also includes some new clues related to Ruby and Susan Twist which will certainly see new developments in the coming episodes.

Maestro (Jinkx Monsoon) in The Devil's Chord (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)
Maestro (Jinkx Monsoon) in The Devil’s Chord (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)

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