- 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.
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!