So, all the wait is over and we’ve had the first episode of a new era for Doctor Who. The Doctor is female, younger and despite all the external changes, still very much the Doctor! I’ve watched it twice, and even slept on it, so hopefully my thoughts are more measured than they might have been.
I rather enjoyed it. How much and why? Let’s chat… Ok, and there will be spoilers…
The Woman Who Fell to Earth
I’ve lots to say so I’ll break it into chunks – feel free to skip to the bits you’re most interested in! I’ve also taken some pictures from the latest gallery.
Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor
Well, Jodie Whittaker has arrived, and a largely strong performance perhaps yet to find full definition. First run through I thought the dialogue was very David Tennant in places though second run I thought it more Christopher Eccleston! [As an aside I think this kind of comparison, if not always useful or even apparent to others, is part of the psychology of watching the show as a fan. Expect a post on the topic.]
In reality I need a few episodes to get the character established in my mind, but core values are there with the need to help, an alien perspective and a desire to coach people (eg with the good questions comments). Daring and resourceful the Doctor still acts through others and has lines that must not be crossed. I wonder how the costume will change the way the character is performed? Let’s wait for next time!
I made it three major strands, apart from any season long aspects not yet visible. There’s a central alien menace to be defeated and in many ways its the pretext to draw the companions into the Doctor’s orbit. Tim Shaw (Samuel Oatley) was performed with gusto, had a touch of horror [a bit Class-like – see my earlier point on psychology].
The longest thread was the story of Grace’s family: Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), Graham o’Brien (Bradley Walsh) and Ryan’s school friend become probationary police officer Yasmin Kahn, aka Yaz (Mandip Gill). There’s death, relationships with potential a-plenty and now they’ve been swept up into travelling with the Doctor. How will they develop? We’ll find out.
Then their’s the Doctor’s thread. We’ve had regeneration trauma / confusion many times now, and it did take some airtime as well as give us plenty of exposition. As to the length of the story, it allowed lots of time for characters to chat but felt different (see Style later) and it would have been easy to cut back. It does mean we’ve learned somethings about Ryan and Graham though.
The story was stripped back a long way in terms of tropes, with the TARDIS not present though referred to. The sonic appeared halfway through, and I may post (ie winge) about the pedigree of the new sonic elsewhere. Interestingly the Doctor’s patience became thinner once she had the sonic, and Graham was treated to a complaint about too many questions. Maybe that’s just how she will deal with him as opposed to the others?
We do need the TARDIS, and I do hope we don’t spend too many episodes chasing it. I don’t mind a quest, but the TARDIS is a big part of the character of the Doctor.
Apart from that there were holes here and there, a lack of clarity on what happened for the few days around Grace’s funeral (and the Doctor didn’t get changed until after), we skipped the ‘What do you mean your name’s Doctor? Doctor Who?’ that must surely have happened, though we’ve seen it all before so can take it as read (see earlier on over-selling regeneration).
Three companions can work, and I have to say Bradley Walsh is every bit as compelling as Graham as I hoped he’d be. Ryan has backstory as well, as well as dyspraxia. The latter needs to be portrayed accurately, and not brushed under the carpet in a couple of stories, or allowed to define the character. Yasmin is the glue that held some of the plot together and I trust she will develop in a later episode – this is a series not a one-off, and not everyone has to be the centre of attention on day one. I did like Grace as well, and Sharon D Clarke seemed to relish the role. I do hope they all survive, though I expect a range of emotions from them all regards being taken away from Earth.
In places it felt very different, the music was more subtle, camera work was different and it was easy to make comparisons with Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures in terms of feel. I think the style should be judged after a few episodes, though I don’t like the end credit background effects. In some ways it’s like football, and you shouldn’t judge your team on the first result of the season, but take stock after a few matches. There does seem to be a more real look to things, but perhaps that was about making Sheffield not like London. I haven’t spoken about Sheffield; I did think it worked as a location.
That’s enough for now, expect a few more posts on the way to The Ghost Monument. I am pleased with the reactions I’ve seen from fans on The Divergent Universe forum – long may it continue;-)