Doctor Who – The Woman Who Fell To Earth

  • Doctor Who (2005) Season 11 – Episode 1
  • Air Date: 7th October 2018, 18:55 (GMT)
  • Writer: Chris Chibnall. 

[HERE BE WHACKING GREAT SPOILERS. YE HAVE BEEN WARRRRNED. ARR] /random pirate voice

SOMEHOW I managed to miss the first episode of Jodie Whittakers’ tenure as the Thirteenth Doctor when it aired on Saturday just gone. I’m not sure that’s ever happened to me before. I’ve been waiting for it, patiently, but perhaps the huge wait since the Christmas Special lulled me into a stupor. Dang it. Oh well, I’m caught up now and am all ready to speak my brains on the subject.

Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor. As a male and lifelong fan of Doctor Who, first watching Tom Baker somewhere from behind a couch (yes, I genuinely did this, so my mother never fails to remind me) I’m a HUGE FAN of the decision to cast a woman in the role having campaigned for just such a thing since when Matt Smith announced he was stepping down. I’m delighted the program makers have listened. What a wonderful fresh start for the character after the fifty-year sausage-fest!

Quick interjection: the massively misogynistic fan backlash to this decision has been appalling and deeply shaming for the Dr Who community. If you are one of those people, if you’ve ever joked about “Nurse Who” or images of a crashed Tardis next to “Women Drivers!” kindly stop reading this now and depart back to whatever rock you slithered out from under.

Having now seen Jodie in action I really do like her. She’s a very personable, very engaging actress, with just the right kind of oddness in her Doctor for me to have no trouble with her as the Doctor. This is early days however and I’m looking forward to seeing how she develops as writers get more comfortable with her. The script made her a little Tennant, a little Matt Smith, all whirling, verbalised thoughts changing even as she spoke them but that could be down to her Regeneration still playing out throughout most of this episode, which she even calls out in the episode with her great wee speech about Becoming who she is meant to be while still being composed of echoes from the past. Her accent…I’m going to take a little longer getting used to. Like Chris Eccleston it sounds from “The North” (i.e. Northern England). I’d honestly expected something a bit more regal, a bit upper crust. Not sure why I thought that but it’s nice to have an expectation confounded!

It’s also nice to have a Doctor who is a bit nicer to people, after 12 being all crabbit/borderline autistic and 11 liking to go dark and scare them now and again (except when he’s eating Fish Custard). But you can see when this Doctor interacts with people she’s very open with them, fully engaged and on their level. Personable, as I said, and very charming. It also helps that she’s a good bit shorter than Capaldi which avoids her towering over folk like he did – though if she had shorter legs how did she manage to run in those lanky trousers of his without tripping herself up???

The Tardis. This sainted object doesn’t appear in this episode, which is a unique kind of agony for a fan eager to learn all about the new Doctor. I vividly remember Matt Smith’s The Eleventh Hour – my own high watermark for new Doctor entrances in the new series – which waited until the dying minutes of that episode to pull off a jaw-dropping reveal of the redesigned console room. But here, as seen in Twice Upon A Time, the Tardis has apparently dumped the new Doctor out into the skies above Sheffield (props to the showrunners for choosing any other city in the UK than rassenfrassen seen-it-a-million-times London) then scarpered off into the universe. I’m hoping we catch up with her/it next episode and we’re not in for a season long chase. Having said that…it would be kind of cool to see a Doctor deprived of that machine for a little bit longer than usual – just don’t go all Third Doctor on us, eh? But why did The Tardis react so violently to the regenerated Doctor and then run away? Is it also kind of a sexist a-hole? Or has it glimpsed the future and knows something terrible is coming? We’ll have to wait and see.

The Theme Tune This only played during the end credits so either the Beeb have run out of money to make a decent opening title…or it’s being held back until next week. The tune (as played in the end credits, anyway) itself is a throwback to the very first Doctor Who theme and is quite understated in comparison to the Murray Gold era of BIG ORCHESTRAL OMMPAHPAH, which I very much appreciate (Murray seemingly never understood that less is often more). I’m still getting used to it but there’s no doubting it’s Doctor Who, and different enough from what came before to be distinctive.

The Companions I’m not generally in favour of celebrities becoming companions – real life intruding on fiction, and aren’t there actors out there who can, you know, act – even though I have to say in just about all instances on Who so far they’ve worked out okay. Billie Piper was shockingly good despite my viewing it as joke casting ahead of the actual premiere. Catherine Tate was good, if very much Cath Tate. And now we have Bradley Walsh joining the crew, however inadvertently (well, ‘Team’ is probably more accurate until they find the Tardis). I had only encountered Bradley in his role as game show host and was quite despairing of him being chosen for the role. Check out this clip as he tries desperately to keep a straight face. I actually love this clip but seeing him as a Doctor Who Companion? Nooooo. However, my brother – Doctor Who Superfan – told me he’d done some serious acting in the past and was actually very good. Here, as Graham O’Brien, he’s…actually very good. His star charisma means he easily outshines everyone but the Doctor herself but he copes very admirably with a late-episode speech after a tragedy and with a subsequent personal revelation of a close encounter with cancer that he’s still recovering from. I’m interested to see where his character goes.

Ryan (TOSIN COLE), Graham (BRADLEY WALSH), Yaz (MANDIP GILL)

I don’t have much to say about the other two, really. They’re a bit non-descript so far. Although I am a little worried about the acting abilities of our police-woman. While Tosin Cole (“Ryan Sinclair”) delivers a very natural performance, Mandip Gill (“Yasmin Khan”) seemed to overcook a few deliveries of line and action. I’m hoping that was just nerves and she’ll relax into it. I never liked “Martha Jones” waaay back in Season three (of the 2005 series) but watching Freema Agyeman on Netflix in Sense8 was a revelation.

Overall I’m really pleased the new Doctor is finally here. I caught a glimpse of her Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), sadly after the fact, and she seems lovely as a person, very funny and witty too so I’m looking forward to seeing her sparkle on screen as the series progress.

And that ending, eh? Has any episode ever ended with all four of our heroes unceremoniously dumped into interstellar space? Can’t wait to see how they get out of that one! My guess: quick recalculation of doohickey then BLIP! back to sweet sweet oxygen!

Until next time, folks!

10 thoughts on “Doctor Who – The Woman Who Fell To Earth”

  1. To me, Dr Who ended with Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor and Ace, walking away over a hill in 1989. “Come on Ace, there’s work to do.” Everything since has been some sort of modern sci-fi programme inspired by it, that’s used its name and some of its ideas and imagery, but the entire structure and format of the episodes and series are, to excuse the intended pun, “alien” to me. It’s just not Dr Who to me.

    So from that point of view, I can’t understand the debate over a female “Doctor” in the series. I wouldn’t have a problem with a spin-off series where there was another Timelord who happened to be female and had escapades similar to the Doctor. In fact, the “K9 & Co” series (an undeserved flop – I thought it was brilliant), and the later Sarah-Jane Smith adventures kind-of did this, and they worked.

    In fact, even if it still felt like true “Dr Who”, I still wouldn’t understand why people are arguing about it. My only potential gripe with a female Doctor would perhaps be that the Doctor has always been a male character, but you can get used to that just like getting used to any new Doctor. I’d suggest that the arguments surrounding a female doctor are in fact much more worrying than whether or not there’s actually a female doctor, – particularly the indignation of those on the pro-female side. We can explain-away sexist arguments for a male doctor easily, however the superficially non-sexist argument in favour of a female doctor also has its troubling issues – and not for the reasons you might think.

    As an illustration: James Bond was a male character. Mildred Hubble (the Worst Witch) was a female character. Some characters are male, some are female. There’s no need to give them sex-changes. Get over it. There are other secret agent characters who are female, and other Witches/Wizards/Magicians who are male. It’s like saying it’d be sexist not to reboot a famous series of books and films as “Harriet Potter”. Whilst I can’t see the point of people being outraged that there’s a female doctor (after all, I think it was during Peter Davidson’s tenure when it was stated that the Doctor didn’t even have to appear human, let alone male) I also think that the “feminist” (ugh, I hate that label) side are also taking it all too far. It’s possible for the Doctor to be female, but she doesn’t *need* to be. That doesn’t mean you can’t have female Timelords, but that the Dr’s particular character has always been male. It’s not any more sexist than saying Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow has always been a male character. (I think it’d be hilarious if they wrote him a cross-dressing storyline, though…)

    I guess my point is that you can have leading female characters in their own shows without having to recycle male ones. Recycling a male character in a female role almost implies that the producers believe the female version wouldn’t be as good, so you’ve got to “sneak” or “shoe-horn” them in! Three cheers, everyone! How about that for “progress”! Maybe feminists have to be too extreme in the opposite direction in order to drag everything back towards a happy medium, somewhere in the middle, but it’s actually undermining the equality we all desire.

    1. Now then now then. Lots to depack here. Thank you very much for taking the time to write it.

      Firstly, I find it a bit sad that you consider good old Slyvester and Ace the end of the show. While it took me time to get used to Nu-Who I’ve found lots to love about it in the years since Tennant left and can easily consider this The Continuing Adventures of the man I used to watch as a child. They stopped that awkward romance-with-companion shit after a while, too. It’s all good.

      Now, I’m very pro-feminism, as a person. I do think the last few thousand years have been a bit shit for women in all sorts of ways, and I’m delighted to see the boundaries finally being pushed back towards genuine equality. Not there yet, but a long chalk, but it’s moved more than it ever has in the right direction. The best way to end feminism is to end the reason for it, but that’s still a long way off.

      When it comes to Fictional characters, I can be as close-minded as anyone. For instance I still see Nick Fury as a grizzled white guy. Sometimes even David Hasselhoff. But Sam Jackson plays ANOTHER Nick Fury from a parallel continuity. Not MY Nick Fury.

      I’ve watched Marvel Comics try and cope with increased diversity and, to be fair, they’re struggling to get it right. Riri Williams becomes Iron Man for a spell, upsetting everyone. Jane Foster becomes Thor, upsetting everyone. And now the Doctor is also a woman.

      In this case, though, it’s the ONLY instance where it SHOULD BE completely 100% acceptable because of the established lore. “The way it’s has always been” should be no defence against making a change.That’s how things get stale and cancelled, and we’ve been there before, you and I, with Sylvester and Ace. I do take your point that a story about another female Time Lord could have been crafted. But doing it The Doctor – a character beloved by millions – carries far more weight than trying to get people behind a new character in the same universe. And the message for all those little girls out there who have ever wanted to pilot THE TARDIS, not A TARDIS, but were always relegated to the dumb tag-along role (Until powerful women like Liz Allen and Sarah Jane Smith came along and started to change it) is so much more powerful because of it. Arguably it has a better chance of working this way, too. And it takes nothing away from the little boys who have 50 years of role model still to look up to and hey why can’t a woman be a good role model for them too, as their mothers are?

      I think the change couldn’t have come along at a better time. I was honestly sick of the parade of blokes in the role. It needed a fresh start. And now we have one. And she’s brilliant. I really do hope you’ll watch and enjoy her as I hope to.

      1. Thank you for your equally long and thought-out reply! I’m also glad this didn’t descend into a flame-war: When subjects are close to somebody’s heart, misreading one little part of any post in a conversation can suddenly turn the whole thing into an argument, so thank you for also taking the time to read my post carefully. Very few people ever do that (with anyone’s posts). It’s certainly given me a lot to think about and I will try my best to get into the new Who, starting right at the (new) beginning, with Christopher Ecclestone… but so far, something has been missing and it’s all just been leaving me a little cold. I don’t know if it’s the episode/series storyline structure, repeatedly giving the Doctor a love-interest, changing the TARDIS interior almost beyond recognition, or maybe just that the costumes and special effects are all now too good and it’s not low-budget enough… It’s a great show, but at the moment it just doesn’t feel like Dr Who to me. It’s still another new sci-fi show. I can’t put my finger on exacly why, though. I will make the effort though. It’s not like I don’t enjoy it when I actually sit down to watch them.

        I can certainly appreciate your point that there will have been entire generations of girls who wanted to pilot THE TARDIS, not any old TARDIS. When I told you I have that slight nagging feeling about not creating a new strong female character from the outset (and developing an entire new series and cult-following around them), I was forgetting one crucial thing. At first, it might seem like it’s just shoehorning a female into an established, previously-male role, as if she wouldn’t be able to be a strong leader “all on her ickle own” without a male character setting it all up for her – but I keep forgetting, the male Doctor has had a 55-year head start on any new female character and her associated series! I don’t think we’d be happy waiting another 55 years for a new female sci-fi character and associated series to build up a cult-following to rival the Doctor’s… So I can certainly see your point!

        Anyway, your passion for the new Who is rubbing off a bit. I’m going to give it another try. I already enjoy the occasional episode every once in a while.

  2. This is a great write up, thank you! I’ve actually missed the last 2-3 seasons as it isn’t always easy to find here in the US but the BBC app is suddenly being generous and I was curious about the “controversial lady doctor”. So far I love this iteration of the doctor and am looking forward to watching more. Regardless of genitals, the doctor is the doctor and she nails the part!

    Being a thick bloke from the US, I don’t pick up on the subtleties of accent, i.e. being from the north or whatnaught, she sounds foreign to me. . . but I like that you liken her to Eccleston. He’s long been my favorite doctor despite his brief tenure. It was a good balance of goofy and straight-man. I think Whittaker might have that in common.

    I’m looking forward to the next ep, will you be reviewing each week?

    1. ….Not THE Prawn? *bows*

      Yes, I will be doing this each week. If you want to keep reading I’d be delighted to have you along for the ride.

  3. For some reason Dr. Who got moved to Sunday here in Canada!
    If I hadn’t caught a brief ad for it I would have missed it.
    I know they got new writers, hope the show stays as enjoyable as always.
    Liking it so far!!

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