Doctor Who 11.01 - The Woman Who Fell to Earth (Review)
Last Sunday, the most important episode in Whovian history aired. What do we think of the new Doctor? Here are the positives, the negatives and what we have to look forward to!
This first extended episode continues from the cliffhanger at the end of the Christmas special in 2017. The Doctor, newly transformed, plummeting to Earth from an exploding Tardis. Doctor Who fans will know that the Tardis often goes through a bit of a rough patch immediately after the Doctor's transformation and this time was no exception.
Jodie Whittaker's Doctor wakes up, confused and disoriented, with no Tardis and only a hazy grasp over who she is. After plunging through the roof of a train, she fights an alien, saves her future companions and sets off to solve a mystery without even knowing her own name.
The scene on the train as the Doctor makes her entrance is probably one of the scariest sequences we've seen in Doctor Who for a while. Though nothing compares to the episodes 'Blink' and 'The Empty Child', I found myself really on edge throughout the whole attack. It looks like the showrunner, Chris Chibnall, will be bringing the darker side of Doctor Who back.
The Doctor herself seems to have found a little of her old joy. If the first episode is any judge, she's managed to shake off the grief and strain which has been prevalent in her character since the days of Matt Smith. The 13th Doctor definitely has something of the childlike glee and wonder we saw in David Tennant. She's forceful, dynamic and ready for adventure.
I'm also excited about these new companions as I feel there is some great character potential in them all.
Yasmin (Mandip Gill)
The most level-headed of the gang, Yasmin is presented as a level-headed, sensible person. In stark contrast to what's promising to be an eccentric Doctor. She's so far the least dynamic of the companions as she feels like the complete package already. But she clearly ambitious, and anxious for the chance to prove herself, which may lead her into trouble.
Ryan (Tosin Cole)
Ryan won me over almost immediately. Ryan is a black, northern, Dyspraxic lad who's beset by anxiety and frustration over what he knows is a less than fulfilling life. Ryan's role is going to be more in line with the wide-eyed companions with untapped who learn and grow under the guidance of the Doctor. I can't wait to see how he's going to develop over the series.
Graham (Bradley Walsh)
For me, Graham is the most underwhelming of new the Doctor's companions. Eclipsed by his wife Grace (played by the wonderful Sharon D. Clarke), he seems like an unnecessary tagalong. On the other hand, so did Rory Pond until he found his strength. Similar to Rory, Graham is likely to be our comic relief. I envision of him discovering a new life somewhere on a strange planet where he can be his own man. Maybe in some world where they desperately need bus drivers and only one man can heed that call.
I only have one real negative with this new Doctor - she seems to be apologising a lot. At least in the first episode. That's not a horrendous flaw, but it's certainly new to the recent Doctors since the reboot, who have all been stubborn and sure of themselves. Even if they've been secretly uncertain. It's a small complaint, and only a complaint if it becomes a constant refrain.
What it suggests is a more empathetic Doctor. One who feels your pain and may - for once - have an actual bedside manner. But I don't want that to detract from the fact the Doctor is the guardian of all time and space and has to make decisions that she can't always feel sorry about. I want her to be strong and I don't want her to be sorry for it.
My other criticism was the script itself. The episode felt rushed - not surprising given what they had to accomplish in so short a time. But it also felt flat. There are very few lines I can remember a day later (unusual for me) and no scene which really stands out as visually iconic, like so many other Doctor Who episodes I could name.
But, debuts with new Doctors need to tick so many boxes, I'm willing to give this one a pass. It got me excited for the new Doctor, which is what it was meant to do.
Things we have to look forward to...
Well, first and most importantly, we will be seeing the new interior of the TARDIS next week. Always a fan favourite.
There's also an amazing host of stars coming up in future episodes including Shaun Dooley, Susan Lynch, Art Malik, Lee Mack, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Siobhan Finneran, Vinette Robinson and the one I'm most excited about, Alan Cumming.
It has now also been confirmed that we have a Christmas Special to look forward to!
Something we don't have to look forward to are the return of old monsters. Chris Chibnall has been very clear that this series of Doctor Who will focus on all new adventures and all new monsters. He's specifically said no Daleks and presumably, that also goes for the Master, Sontarans and Cybermen too.
Fingers crossed for some suitably impressive and or scary monsters to take their place.
All things considered, I'm cautiously optimistic. Jodie Whittaker has convinced us, if she ever needed to, that she can be the Doctor. That's not even slightly in question for me.
What I'm worried about, what I've always been worried about, is the ability of the BBC writers to create scripts worthy of her. This first episode was a solid Meh. I really hope that by the third or fourth episode, I'm adding a Jodie Whittaker adventure to my top ten Doctor Who episodes.
Only time will tell...
If you'd like to read my review for the next episode, The Ghost Monument, click here!