"Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror" is the third story of Season Thirty Eight (New Series 12) and was written by Nina Metivier and directed by Nida Manzoor.
This is Nina Metivier’s first Doctor Who story. She was previously a script editor on the previous season stories "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" and "It Takes You Away". She was the co-creator of the 2018 BBC iPlayer thriller The A List and worked as both a writer and producer on the mystery drama Dixi (2014-17).
This is Director Nida Manzoor’s first Doctor Who story. She directed the third recording block containing this story and "Fugitive of the Judoon" - the fourth story. Her previous directing work includes the online BBC comedy-drama Enterprice and a pilot for a series called Hounslow Diaries.
Hustle star Robert Glenister and ER star Goran Višnjic were cast as Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla respectively. Playing the part of the Queen Skithra is Anjli Mohindra. She was previously a member of the main cast in The Sarah Jane Adventures playing the part of Rani Chandra from 2008 to 2011. This is her first appearance in Doctor Who.
Bradley Walsh and Anjli Mohindra have worked together before on The Sarah Jane Adventures story "The Day of the Clown". In that story, Bradley Walsh played the story's antagonist, Elijah Spellman. This story therefore sees their roles reversed with Bradley Walsh now playing a companion and Anjli Mohindra playing the villain. Anjli Mohindra said that, despite the fact that they had worked together before, he did not recognise her due to her excessive make-up. She initially believed he was joking with her but it was only when he asked to see a picture of her so he could say hello to her if he passed her in the street that she realised he was being serious.
Robert Glenister previously appeared playing the part of Salateen in the 1984 Fifth Doctor story "The Caves of Androzani" - thus making him one of the select few actors to have appeared in both eras of the show.
The sets used for 1903 New York City was located at the Nu Boyana Film Studios in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The official synopsis dates this story to 1903, however, this date is not given in the actual story. The Thirteenth Doctor describes Nikola Tesla as ‘an inventor from 1900’ when questioning why the Skithra sought him out. As, historically, the tower at Wardenclyffe was completed in 1902, it is likely that the story is set in 1903 and the reference to 1900 was intended as an approximation. Indeed, a newspaper image is briefly seen that dates Nikola Tesla's discovery of the transmission, that he thinks has come from Mars some months earlier, to 1903.
The letter from J.P. Morgan refusing to fund Nikola Tesla was historically received on the 14th July 1903. According to reports, that night Wardenclyffe tower ‘came alive shooting off bright flashes lighting up the night sky’, which does seem to confirm the story as happening at that time.
This story begins where Nikola Tesla has invited a crowd of people to the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power & Manufacturing Company by Niagara Falls.
The Doctor notes that Nikola Tesla dreamt up the 20th century before it happened and that he could have been a billionaire if he hadn't torn up his contract.
It is revealed that Nikola Tesla invented the shadowgraph, the automaton, and the radio. He also coined and thought up the idea of remote control.
Nikola Tesla previously aided the Seventh Doctor and Melanie Bush in defeating the Vardans in the Big Finish Productions audio story "Maker of Demons".
The Doctor notes that, at this point in the history of New York City, Times Square and the Empire State Building do not yet exist. Central Park, however, she states ‘has been around for ages’.
The Doctor is heard telling Nikola Tesla that she created her sonic screwdriver using spoons (see "The Woman Who Fell to Earth").
Graham calls the train they travel in the Orient Express.
Ryan hesitates to jump from one train carriage to another because of his dyspraxia.
The Skithra are giant alien scorpions and are a hive species.
It is revealed that the Skithra Queen has a Venusian spaceship with a Klendov warp drive and a Dullirian resonator. She is also seen using a Silurian blaster.
The Doctor wonders what the ‘alien Harold Green’ uses to appear as human and debunks possession, psionic image cloaking and holograms. The Doctor uses ammonium nitrate, some green stuff and zinc to trap the alien.
The Doctor calls the Thassor ‘one of the ancient races’ and states that they are amazing storytellers, inventors and explorers.
Thomas Edison is first seen making a speech in front of The Edison Electric Illuminating Company.
Graham calls Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison ‘AC/DC’, making a double reference. Nikola Tesla stood for the alternating current and Thomas Edison stood for the direct current.
The Doctor notes to her companions that the Empire State Building has yet to be constructed. In November 1930, the Tenth Doctor, in the 2007 story "Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks", found that the Cult of Skaro had manipulated the construction of the building for their own purposes.
A sign is seen in this story stating ‘Night of Tesla Terror’. This is a play on the title Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror.
Although newspapers in the real world did cast reports on both Tesla's and Edison's views, the newspaper used in this story, the New York Bugle, was never a real world newspaper, nor were the headlines Tesla: I Heard Message From Mars and Edison: Shut Down Tesla. The closest possible real-world connections would be newspapers New York Herald and New York Times, both active at the time.