Each week the Blogtor Who team give their thoughts on the latest episode of Doctor Who. Here’s what we thought of series 11 opener, The Woman Who Fell To Earth.
Needless to say, this article contains massive spoilers, so only read on if you’ve already watched The Woman Who Fell To Earth.
Susan Hewitt – Welcome to the Blogtor Who Group Review
This year we are adding a new feature – the Blogtor Who Group Review. With a new female Doctor and a lot of talk about diversity and inclusion, I thought it would be fun to have a short review from all of the Blogtor Who news writers. We are a pretty diverse group. Over the last couple of years, Blogtor has organically grown into a group of writers that are split 50/50 along gender. We also have a complete range of ages from my young daughter (who I have been promising forever that she can write on the site – I think I’m out of trouble now) to the oldest who started watching Doctor Who in the 1960s. (The old-timer happens to be me).
I’m taking a pass on my one paragraph since I’ve got the full review duties for Blogtor this week. But may I just say congratulations to the cast and crew for their first episode.
We are all looking forward to this season!
You can read more about the team behind Blogtor Who on our About us page.
Doctor Who is back! But not quite how you remember it. No title sequence, no theme music, no TARDIS – at least, not yet. Immediately, Chris Chibnall’s era feels markedly different to what came before it. We’re thrust straight into this new direction with slick, cinematic camerawork and a slower-paced, more character-driven script. These changes don’t just feel fresh, they feel right, and make for some truly compelling drama. Ironically enough, it’s Who’s more ‘traditional’ elements that trip this story up. The episode’s villain, for example, is so forgettable that not even the Doctor can bothered to remember their real name. Thankfully, Jodie Whittaker absolutely captivates from her first moments on screen, completely silencing any critics of her casting. Post-regenerative trauma means we don’t get a proper sense of her character until the final few minutes, but it’s a promising start for the Thirteenth Doctor – I can’t wait to see where the universe takes her next. This is a strong debut all round, and if Series 11 dares to shake off the shackles of the past and delve even further into the ‘new’, we’re in for a very exciting season indeed.
This episode really delivers on that promise of mixing old and new. The story and characters could have come from any point in the show’s history. But when was the last time it took until the 39th minute of an episode before the Doctor even figured out what the monsters were and what they wanted? In retrospect, Broadchurch creator Chibnall casting the Doctor as a detective solving the killings and teasing out the motives seems obvious, but it’s deliciously unexpected on first viewing. And the sinister sense of the unknown adds to the unnerving, horror-tinged tone of the story. As does Segun Akinola’s sparse electronic score, though it will take a while to get used to after 13 years of theme-driven Murray Gold. The woman of the hour herself is both the most different and most pure Doctor we’ve had for a while. Recent Doctors have been showmen – with a wall of performance built around their soul, but Whittaker’s Doctor is defined by her absolute sincerity and conviction. There’s never any doubt that whatever she’s feeling at any given moment – enthusiasm, outrage, sorrow – she feels it to her core.
A wonderful, strong start to this new era of Doctor Who! Jodie Whittaker truly is the Doctor, from the very first moment she crashes on to our screens. She brings with her the wit, compassion and strength of every previous modern Doctor, all infused with her own unique and unstoppable energy. But this episode isn’t just about her – each of the human characters were instantly relatable in a way that many companions haven’t quite been in recent years.The story itself was expertly paced, and saw Chibnall use the element of mystery to brilliant effect, keeping us guessing until the last possible moment. With Chibnall at the helm, Doctor Who now feels far more grounded in the ‘real’, which is by no means a complaint. Now more than ever, actions have consequences, and when people die, they’re really gone. It has to be said that this episode became a little dialogue-heavy at times, but that’s a minor detail within such a fantastic series opener. It’s everything I could have asked for, tied together with incredible cinematography, effects and Segun Akinola’s beautifully atmospheric score. I for one can’t wait to see what the universe throws at the Doctor, Yasmin, Ryan and Graham next (particularly after that cliffhanger!)
With most of the typical Doctor Who trappings saved until later, The Woman Who Fell to Earth puts the new cast at the forefront. So of course this episode was going to live or die on the strength of its characters. Luckily, Chris Chibnall and the actors give these roles enough texture to carry a fairly by-the-numbers adventure. Sharon D Clarke in particular proves to be the standout of the episode as Grace. Which only makes the character’s demise all the more tragic and, if it turns out that Clarke’s “recurring role” was a misdirect, a major loss to the series. Keeping the Doctor away from her TARDIS for a little while definitely feels symbolic. With the senseless backlash from a vocal minority of the fandom over Jodie Whittaker’s casting, having her “earn” her key is a clever way to win them over as an opening arc for the Doctor’s new incarnation.
GMGH – A View from Our Youngest Writer
I liked the new Doctor. I enjoyed how she was quirky, still like the old character that I liked, but there were new aspects. Such as she created an awesome new sonic screwdriver and that she was a she. I liked the new companions especially Ryan because he was interesting. I loved the start when everyone was zapped but you didn’t know why. And later it turned out they had DNA bombs planned on them because you had to guess what was going on. There are going to be a lot of new aliens this year. #Yay! Can’t wait ‘til the next episode.
This is an episode that doesn’t waste any time. Every second of its 60 minute extended running time is expertly used to create an engaging and thrilling first episode that hooks us in and leaves us wanting more (seriously, I want more right now. Why is the next episode not here already?). From the opening few scenes setting up our Doctor’s new companions, through an unfolding mystery, exciting action and emotional heartbreak, this episode balances it all brilliantly. The music from new composer Segun Akinola fitted seamlessly with the visuals of the episode and with tracks using samples and distortions there was something of a Radiophonic Workshop vibe about it. And what an end! Both the earlier emotional heft of the conclusion to the plot (which leaves me confident of how character development will be treated in the series) and that wonderful cliffhanger – a somewhat serialised method of storytelling that I am happy to see. Bring on episode two!
So, the Doctor is here and she is BRILLIANT! There is a feeling – right from the very start – the Jodie Whittaker has inhabited this role for longer than this 60 minutes. At one point, while dealing with the genuinely horrible old tooth-face Tim Shaw atop a crane, our favourite time traveller from Gallifrey finally remembers who she is. “I’m the Doctor!” she declares and this writer jumped in the air with a clenched fist shouting “Yes you are!” While there is much that is familiar in this new series, there is enough that’s different to make you sit up and wonder what might possibly come next. There’s death here. Not ‘hit the reset button’ death or ‘parallel universe’ death, but actual death. Daisy’s grandad was bad enough, but then to have to deal with Grace…it was almost too much. At the other end of the emotional spectrum was the glorious scene showing the Doctor making her own sonic – from spoons! Chris Chibnall is clearly making his mark here and leaving us wondering what’s next. With this Doctor and this team around her, I can only see good things ahead.
With The Woman Who Fell To Earth, Chris Chibnall boldly stamps his mark on a show which feels very different to what has come before. Yet it’s still unmistakably Doctor Who, not least in its thrilling climax which – along with some impressive stunt work – makes a point of pitting the best of humanity against the villain’s selfishness and disregard for life. Jodie Whittaker is the Doctor, full of warmth, wit and energy, and in contrast to her character’s post-regeneration struggles, Whittaker herself feels as though she’s been playing the role for years. The sci-fi elements are engaging but do feel slightly underdeveloped; however this is compensated for by the sterling character work that comes through both in Chibnall’s writing and the sublime performances of everyone involved. The episode is paced well, deftly intertwines moments of levity with darkness, and is visually stunning. Overall it’s a hugely promising start to the Thirteenth Doctor’s era, with definite potential for some intriguing growth in the weeks to come.
A new Doctor. A new showrunner. New companions, sonic, setting and composer. A new era all-round. We have had a long wait. Anticipation has been building for months. But on watching the episode I was left feeling underwhelmed. This is because my expectations were that I was going to be presented with a vastly different interpretation of Doctor Who. An instalment of my favourite TV show, the like of which I had never seen before. Something I wasn’t confident that I was going to like. Instead of this however I was presented with Doctor Who that I was very much familiar with. An Earth setting. The traditional ‘man in a suit’ portrayal of an alien creature. A standard CGI creation. Incredibly likeable companions. A Doctor full of energy and invention. Ultimately The Woman Who Fell to Earth failed to meet my expectations and was all the more comfortable and enjoyable for it.
We usually look back at the past and refer to them nostalgically as simpler times. In typical Doctor Who fashion, it’s taken until series 11 to reach those simpler times which now seem to lay ahead of us. First Doctor episodes are always a little bit like that anyway I guess, and this hits all the Doctors first moments that we’ve come to expect but never reaches the heights of the Christmas Invasion or The Eleventh Hour. The dialogue is stripped back and simplistic, as is the story which features a few moments of glaring on the nose exposition. Even so, we have a great new Doctor leading an intriguing bunch of people and it is a fun episode. And finally,it left me really intrigued by the closing 20 seconds which looked visually stunning and seemed to recall a moment from The Mind Robber.
Haters gonna hate, and lovers are gonna love, and I don’t think there’s anything that will change anyone’s opinion in this opening episode.
You can watch The Woman Who Fell To Earth on BBC iPlayer now.
The next episode of Doctor Who – The Ghost Monument – on BBC at 18:55pm on Sunday 14th October.