Doctor Who: “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”

After what seemed like an interminable wait — one which actually exceeded the amount of time the show was on hiatus in the 1980s! — Doctor Who‘s eleventh season has finally arrived, starring Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor in her first episode, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth.”

And I loved it.

Chris Chibnall, the new show runner, has breathed new life into what had, in my opinion, grown stale under Steven Moffat. There was a wonderful, season one/Christopher Eccleston-era feel to the whole thing. The cast is extraordinary. I love that Graham, Ryan, and Yaz all know each other, from family and from living in the same town, and I have the very pleasant sense — almost relief, really — that it’s not anything bigger than that, not some Moffat-esque tilt at destiny or forced “Impossible Girl”-type mystery. They are written and performed realistically, marking a welcome change from the often cartoonish characters and walking bundles of charming quirks we’ve seen so much of.

Jodie Whittaker is a revelation as the Doctor. She’s energetic without bringing the weird, sometimes off-putting mania that Matt Smith did. I’ve been missing the feel of the Eccleston and Tennant eras of Doctor Who for a long time now, and this feels like a return to form. I thought the incidental music throughout the episode was fantastic, and Segun Akinola’s classic version of the iconic theme was delightful.

Do I have quibbles? Sure, I always do. It didn’t seem to take the Doctor very long at all to make a brand new sonic screwdriver out of whatever just happened to be available in that old warehouse. She’s finished just as some other characters come to tell her they’ve found something that we saw them find right before she began work on it. There’s a lot of getting from place to place so quickly as to almost be magical. Karl was hilarious and should also be a companion. Okay, maybe not, because that would be a lot of companions, but still, I liked Karl.

It’s only the first episode of the new season, but I’m already very, very pleased. To me it feels like Doctor Who is back, and for the first time in a long time I can’t wait for the next episode.

7 responses to “Doctor Who: “The Woman Who Fell to Earth””

  1. Brian Knight says:

    Strong agree on almost everything you said. Not my favorite monster, and Eat My Salad guy was a bit on the weird side, but I was very happy with the new Doctor.

  2. R. Francis Smith says:

    I’ve been at DEFCON 2 since the episode because I will fight a person who gripes about the “PEE CEE” or whatever. Woman Doctor, of course, but Indian-descent woman professional (shades of the underrated Martha) companion, older companion, companion with dyspraxia, so I think my entire family is carefully represented in this group, which is no mean feat.

    I am so very happy. As a lifetime subscriber to White Dudeness, I was unprepared for the challenge of raising two distinctly unwhite daughters and explaining to them why everyone on TV is, well, you know. They love Doctor Who anyway, and it’s like they’re getting a love letter back from the show.

    Okay, that aside now. Yes, I thought the monsters were kind of throwaway. The teeth in the face thing seemed kind of stupid if I thought about it for any amount of time. It’s maybe not great that I thought the big ball of sparky cables was more compelling.

    But who cares? 95% of Doctor Who monsters suck. (And the ones that don’t then get run into the ground, but let me not get off topic.) What matters is how the Doctor and companions handle the situation, and in this case… in this case no companion was, in my view, unrealistically stupid to move the plot, and, well, okay, maybe sometimes unbelievably heroic, sure, but they you had Graham (Graeme? I’m not sure) urging caution AND BEING RIGHT — the dynamic is strong so far. I hope they can keep it going. Some of my favorite Doctor Who times have been multiple companions with some friction amongst them.

    And yeah, I hope fervently that there’s no mystery about them. Let them just be folks from Sheffield who were in each other’s orbit for no greater reason than the ones we’ve been told! It makes their participation that much more heroic. Examples from the old series abound! Heck, once again, Martha Jones… anyway.

    It’s exciting to be excited while you’re excited about Doctor Who! 🙂

    (And yeah about the sonic screwdriver, although I’m amused by the French grip as it makes perfect sense the dang thing is never ever held like a screwdriver anyway…)

    • Nick says:

      Changing the Doctor’s sex is a big deal, there’s no doubt about it, but it works. That’s either because of Jodie Whittaker, or the material, or just the malleable nature of the show, but it didn’t feel off or jarring to me one bit.

      • R. Francis Smith says:

        The Doctor was a different person. The Doctor is ALWAYS a different person. That’s pretty much how it felt.

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