Doctor Who requires a certain suspension of disbelief – a wilful admission on the part of the viewer that what they’re watching isn’t real.
To do this effectively, it must create believable worlds and characters, and tell believable stories. They can be wacky and alien of course, but they must be realised in a way that's convincing, and doesn’t distract from the overall effect.
The show hasn’t always had a strong track record in this regard, but it should, on the whole, be applauded for convincingly bringing the Doctor’s world to life over the decades.
It’s not just about the big stuff though. From creative problem-solving to truly remarkable last-minute thinking, there are plenty of smaller victories that have slipped under the radar, those production details that have successfully tricked the viewer in some way.
Indeed, if the best special effects avoid drawing attention to the fact that they’re special effects, then it’s the stuff you didn’t notice that deserves the most praise.
10. Yana's Lab Equipment Was Designed To Look TARDIS-y (Utopia)
Utopia is one massive example of a Doctor Who story hiding something in plain sight. Only at its climax do we discover that the seemingly kind and gentle Professor Yana, brought to life so brilliantly by Sir Derek Jacobi, is none other than the Doctor’s nemesis, the Master.
The reveal (and the episode itself) still holds up incredibly well and has tremendous rewatch value, not least because of all the sly references to Yana’s true identity.
Most obviously, there’s his name, which doubles as an acronym for the phrase “You Are Not Alone” – the warning given to the Doctor by the dying Face of Boe.
But that’s not all.
On the web commentary for Utopia, supervising art director (and later Series 11 production designer) Arwel Jones let slip that there was another subtle clue hidden in the episode’s set design: namely, Yana’s laboratory, which, with its central computer banks and hanging wires, was meant to resemble the inside of the TARDIS.
Alas, Yana’s lab wasn’t an actual TARDIS – though the Master had been seen to own one in classic Who, and would acquire another one some time prior to Spyfall.