So I'm one of those people who thinks that the only thing that really needs to be constant in Doctor Who is change. Steven Moffat, a brilliant writer when he's on form, squatted over the franchise for pretty much a decade and by the end of his sixth season as by and large the show's sole creative engine it really showed. Who was tired, the "great" British public was tired of it, little raisins of ingenuity couldn't elevate the tiredness of the porridge as a whole.
The solution to this is of course to get in a new showrunner, pretty much as often as possible in my opinion. Unfortunately Chris Chibnall wasn't anyone's first choice for the job. If you were a hiring manager and CC's CV arrived on your desk, you'd first of all go "wow, everything seems great about this one, all the right qualifications and references" and then get really suspicious at lack of any evidence of actual successful projects. Chibnall was a perfectly good "filler episode" man in previous eras of Doctor Who: if you were short one workable script with the deadline looming, he'd come up with something that wouldn't top any end-of-year polls (nowhere near) but would fulfill all contractual obligations. What happens when you put a writer like that at the creative center of the show?
Sadly the answer when it came, was predictable: a series which had to get onto its tippy-toes to stretch towards mediocrity. Chibnall knows all the things that need to go into a Doctor Who episode to get it over the fifty-minute finish line; sadly he doesn't put anything else in. And so it goes with Spyfall (Part 1). Even having hit upon the perfectly cromulent idea of doing a Doctor Who/James Bond crossover episode (Enemy of the World Part 2?), his playbook is just to tick off a list of things that should perfunctorily appear in a James Bond film (intercontinental locations, car chase, gadgets, Bond villain, casino, bike chase, crashing plane)... and done. There's no pushback from Doctor Who against the genre it finds itself in this week, its is content merely to run with being a weak spoof on a presumable tiny fraction of an actual Bond budget.
The redeeming qualities of the episode, such as they are, come in the form of talented actors being better than the material deserves. Stephen Fry is exactly the person you'd want to play M in your dream Doctor Who episode, but he doesn't make anything of his purely functional cameo. Much better is Sir Lenworth Henry projecting genuine cold menace in the Bond villain role despite the script giving him equally little to work with, and Sacha Dhawan who was instantly utterly likable as the spymaster, though it remains to be seen what he will do with his character after the sharp swerve his plotline takes in the final few minutes.
We've got some aliens too: I usually don't rate "creatures of pure energy" very highly - men in cumbersome rubber suits is what we want in Doctor Who - but these had a neat/creepy special effect going on as they moved through physical objects, which I'll generously say cancels out their current eyeroll-inducing stated motivation of taking over the entire universe. Seemingly by the unconventional strategy of sending spies to one small inconsequential planet and taking out enemy spies there. That's bound to work.
I'd like to say something about the TARDIS crew but they don't do anything here except say "coo, we're in a spy story". There's a scene that hints at burgeoning romantic feelings between Yaz and Ryan, but it's not particularly subtle. The Doctor's sonic screwdriver doesn't work, a lot, leaving her looking even ineffectual and out of her depth than normal. I hate the superhero, "and with a single bound he was free", presentation of the Doctor as much as anyone but making the first ever female Doctor a perpetually panic-stricken wuss seems like a dick move.
On the plus side, kids will have been taught the excellent word "steganography". 6/10, pending the resolution in Part Two. 6/10 is pretty good for Chibnall. Will he ever write a 7?