TV Recap / Review: The Doctor Meets Jinkx Monsoon’s Maestro and The Beatles in Second Episode of “Doctor Who”

Premiering simultaneously with the first episode “Space Babies,” the second episode of the new season of Doctor Who, “The Devil’s Chord,” has arrived on Disney+. The TARDIS heads to the swinging 60s and Abbey Road, where the Doctor and Ruby meet The Beatles and the Doctor’s most powerful enemy yet! Here’s my spoiler-filled recap of the opening episode.

The episode begins with a pre-title sequence set in 1925, where a piano teacher is shown teaching a young student. He proceeds to tell him about one of the rarest piano chords, the titular Devil’s Chord, which was banned by the church in medieval times for the thought it might summon the devil. As the teacher begins to play the chord, someone does appear – the wicked Maestro, played by Jinkx Monsoon. She immediately takes over the scene with massive charisma and terrifying charm. Turns out the little boy, Henry Arbinger is her “son” or more so, a harbinger. He is considered the Maestro’s prelude, and with a flick of her wrist, he is gone. The teacher’s finding of the lost chord is what brought Maestro into this world, and with that she makes him disappear with the power of music – with chords emanating from his soon-to-be destroyed body.

Saying “now” to the camera, a piano version of the Doctor Who theme begins to play, before morphing into the regular title music. On the other end of the title sequence, the theme song is heard coming out of the jukebox on board the TARDIS. Here, Ruby (Millie Gibson) asks the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) to take her back in time to the 1960s to see The Beatles recording their very first album. The Doctor is super impressed by Ruby’s request, which came across as a very different sort of request than what he usually gets. To the sound of “California Soul,” the Doctor and Ruby change into their fantastic 60s-inspired outfits and arrive at Abbey Road.

After walking across the famed Abbey Road crosswalk, they arrive at the famed studios, which in 1963 went by E.M.I. Recording Studios. Making their way inside by pretending to be part of the staff, the first recording booth they make it into just so happens to be that of The Beatles, where they’re about to record their first album with the help of producer George Martin. However, things aren’t as they should be, as the song that comes out of their mouths is not one of their iconic hits, but rather a rather droll and lifeless tune. The same can be said for another famed English recording artist showcased, Cilla Black.

The Doctor and Ruby begin to ponder what has happened, with music being considered the highest form of thought. Take it away and the human race follows a completely different path. The duo split up and talk individually to John Lennon and Paul McCartney where they both talk about wanting to give up on music, considering it nothing but a silly diversion. Trying as they might to change their minds, the Doctor and Ruby are unsuccessful, as the two Beatles both storm off in a rage.

The Doctor gets a piano placed on the roof of Abbey Road for Ruby to play, as she is the only human currently on the planet with music in her soul. What follows is a beautiful piano performance of Ruby’s theme (composed by Murray Gold), with scenes of people nearby hearing and being affected by the music. Unfortunately, the music also gains the attention of Maestro, who appears out of the top of the piano in fabulous fashion.

Hearing the same “giggle” from his encounter with the Toymaker, the Doctor is immediately concerned with the Maestro, who ends up being the Toymaker’s son and a part of his legion that the Doctor was warned about. In fact, Ruby calls him out as he’s actually scared and needs to hide – saying he “can’t fight this thing.” Using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor is briefly able to take the sound away from Maestro, before she gains it back.

Maestro then hears an old woman playing a piano in a nearby apartment, and works to take away her life by jumping through one piano to another. The Doctor tells Ruby that meeting the Toymaker literally tore his soul in half, likely referencing the bigeneration, and that he can’t survive that again. Ruby then says to the Doctor that the world wasn’t destroyed in 1963, that she’s from 2024 and everything is fine. But of course, things aren’t so simple, which the Doctor showcases by taking her back to the future, where London is now an apocalyptic wasteland. It’s because of this that they must defeat Maestro and restore music to the world.

Maestro follows the duo to 2024, where she immediately turns the world into darkness. Playing the piano, Maestro explains to the Doctor just who she is in a tour-de-force of acting by Jinkx Monsoon. She’s able to switch from flirtatious and fun to menacing anger at the flip of a switch, and it's a joy to watch. Just as the Devil’s Chord brought her into the world, there’s another chord that can take her away – and it’s up to the Doctor and Ruby to find it. Traveling back to Abbey Road, they begin this quest, but not before Maestro ensnares Ruby in a tentacled mess of musical notes. Once again, the coincidence surrounding Ruby’s life manages to set her free.

From there, the Doctor and Maestro have a “music off.” Unfortunately, the Doctor hits a bum note, and he and Ruby are temporarily captured – trapped inside a guitar case and a drum. Together, John Lennon and Paul McCartney end up saving the day by hitting the final note of the chord that will trap Maestro. But before she departs, one final message is left with the Doctor – “the one who waits is almost here.” How ominous!

Music is restored to the world, and the Doctor and Ruby both partake in a glorious original musical number that beautifully plays off the fact that there’s “always a twist at the end.” Unbeknownst to our heroes, Maestro’s son, “the harbinger” appears in the hallway during the musical number, so perhaps we haven’t seen all there is to see from the villain.

The Doctor and Ruby make their way back to the TARDIS, but not before having a playful dance along the Abbey Road crosswalk. Next week, the Doctor and Ruby land in the middle of a war where one wrong move can equal “BOOM” in the highly-anticipated return of acclaimed writer Steven Moffat to Doctor Who.

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Luke Manning
Luke is a fan of all things theme parks and self-proclaimed #1 fan of Joffrey’s Coffee, who lives in Kissimmee, FL