“Doctor Who – The Woman Who Fell to Earth” (Season 11)
Produced by: Chris Chibnall
Featuring: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and Mandip Gill
Tim Shaw: “Who are you?”
The Doctor:“I was a hologram once… for three weeks! The gossip I picked up!”
Well we are now officially underway with the eleventh season of “Doctor Who” as well as the new Doctor and her new friends, the only thing missing now, made conspicuous by its absence is the TARDIS, the main technological aspect of the show that enables as well as sometimes motivates each weeks new adventure. Not to worry though, and I suppose its a spoiler but it does show up this week, like the new Doctor, it is all new and somewhat different which marks the final change from the previous incarnation of the show. My guess is after a new Doctor, new friends, a new look, new show runners the TARDIS is the icing on the proverbial cake. Not exactly, in fact there is one more new change which is right at the top of the show, the new title segment as well as the alteration of the theme music, something that is routinely done with each new Doctor.
Firstly the new opening is interesting in that it does not figure the TARDIS or the Doctor at all, instead opting for a muted theme as well as a quick title card that eschews robust movement or hyped up sound for something more simple which seems to be in fitting with the style of the show. This is in direct alignment with the new TARDIS interior as well as modified exterior. Like this entire show the TARDIS has indeed been revamped in the biggest shift since the series returned all those years ago. It has left behind its steam punk days to be a modernized version of the original version but with a very modern style that plays up to the new Doctor’s individuality and uniqueness that really is pushing the entire show into new directions, I am actually enjoying all of the choices made as it is a shot in the arm for a series that after eleven years had gotten a little stale as well as repetitive.
This new episode itself like many within the genre is based on an idea many people may be aware of, so it takes the framework of a show like “The Amazing Race” giving it an intergalactic spin but as its main prize, for our intrepid heroes that is, the TARDIS so the fates of our heroes and some strangers are intertwined for the remainder of the show. Of course we learn about our guest stars and their stories as well as their motivations and why we should be interested in their story as a whole. Like many other stories similar to this of which there are many, especially in the “Doctor Who” canon, it isn’t the non regulars fate we really care about. In fact the plot of “The Ghost Monument” is like the first episode, pretty standard fare with little surprise as to its outcome. This is setting the scene and completing introductions from the first episode so in that it succeeds without being too flashy.
In terms of guest stars there are three character actors appearing who all do great work considering their limited impact on the story or regular cast, however because I am a big fan of Susan Lynch it was a treat seeing her in a science fiction show something out of her wheelhouse, she did incredibly well especially as it was a very physical role. Rounding out the guest stars are Shaun Dooley and Art Malik all playing very recognizable trope laden characters who all perform their parts admirably. Moving forward from this episode it will be interesting to see how and when larger named guest stars are deployed and to what end, particularly with a reliance on them if Whittaker begins to be second guessed in her performance.
Speaking of course of the biggest change in the casting of Jodie Whittaker, how is she going after two episodes? Well I think the answer is very well, she seems to understand the randomness as well as the whimsy of the character as well as how to deliver her lines, should we have expected anything less of someone who has skill and time in her profession? Probably not, however she does have something that many of the great ‘Doctors’ have, that is that ability to project true emotion in the understanding of what is important to the main character. In this weeks episode the major aim was to retrieve the TARDIS which she does, but when they are reunited her performance in portraying how important this was is done extremely well, the bond between them is undeniable which is illustrated in her words but also in the actions of the TARDIS itself, this is accomplished like few times before in the series, maybe only executed better in “The Doctors Wife” (2011) which really is saying something.
Even though we have been led to believe that the Doctor is returning her friends to Earth it is obvious they are going to be around for a few more episodes yet, my only concern is that with three of them one or more is likely to get short changed in the story department but other than that I am looking forward to seeing where this season will be headed, if it is one off stories then that may be a good re-set for the series heading into twelve.
“The Ghost Monument“
Written: Chris Chibnall
Directed: Mark Tonderai
The Doctor and her new friends are rescued from deep space by Angstrom and Epzo, aliens competing in an intergalactic competition playing out across the stars. Caught up in their contest, they join them in a trek across a deadly planet to reach the ‘Ghost Monument’ – a mystical box that the Doctor quickly recognises as her TARDIS. They soon discover that the planet has been ravaged by lethal science experiments, a testing ground for the Stenza – the warrior race they previously encountered in Sheffield – to develop new weaponry. The team eventually reach the site of the Ghost Monument and the Doctor is reunited with her TARDIS, sporting a new look.