“Doctor Who – Season 11
Produced by: Chris Chibnall
Featuring: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and Mandip Gill
Tim Shaw: “Who are you?”
The Doctor: “I’m glad you asked that again. Bit of adrenaline, dash of outrage, and a hint of panic knitted my brain back together. I know exactly who I am! I’m the Doctor, sorting out fair play throughout the universe.”
After what seems like an inordinate amount of time the latest season of “Doctor Who” returned to screens with some of the biggest changes in its fifty year history which in my mind are not only welcome but long overdue. The most significant as well as most obvious change is the Doctor’s latest regeneration from the older male Scottish actor Peter Capaldi to the more youthful female Jodie Whittaker is going to divide fans of the show like no previous alteration. The other changes that have occurred this year are a new show runner, a different screening time, a cosmetic change in the look of the show and the way in which the companions are going to be used in relation to the Doctor herself. To be fair on everyone it is far to early to tell how all these changes are going to be received or which ones are going to work and of course which ones are going to fail, you cannot please everyone all of the time.
After viewing the initial episode, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, it appears on the surface that their have been some very wise decisions made and the decisions to cast Whittaker was a canny one by Chibnall who does share a past with the actress after casting her in previous roles. Change whether it works or not is good, it shakes things up, challenges the status quo, keeps audiences guessing and introduces new points of view. After introducing two new ‘Doctors’ as well as following the person that re-started “Doctor Who” in Russell T. Davies, it was time for David Moffat to hand over the reigns especially since the show had seemed to reach a peak and was seemingly a little lost in terms of its arc for the characters as well as feeling that casting Capaldi may have been a mistake as well as little backward looking. There had been from some quarters a call to have a regeneration from Matt Smith that was not a white man, but in fact asking the question that if the Doctor was indeed an alien why would race or gender need to be the same each time, especially for a being that is hundreds of years old, after change is the spice of life.
There is no doubt that Davies struck gold with the casting of David Tennant who was an instant success as the Doctor, he ‘got’ the role like few before, possibly second only to Tom Baker whose career it must be said was to the point of being cast very similar to each others. Tennant, of course has gone on to be in many successful television shows and a few movies that have realised his strengths in creating characters and have let him shine in whatever he appeared in. It was always going to be a struggle following Tennant but the then new show runner cast a seemingly unknown Matt Smith who acquitted himself well, then followed by Capaldi who was an extremely well known actor, he had stamped his authority in movies and film for over four decades, who as I have said may have been too senior for the role in this new millennium. Whoever followed Capaldi was going to have to reset the character as well as be someone who could carry a series that had been around for fifty years. It could have been viewed as stunt casting by having a woman but that really is not an issue when you look at Jodie Whittaker’s oeuvre, she may be one of the most experienced Doctor’s to ever be cast, that is extremely impressive to say the least. I believe she is one of the better actors to be cast, in her career she has played some complicated characters as well as acting opposite some truly great actors, matching them in talent every time.
In contrast to the casting of Whittaker, Chibnall as the new show runner has made some smart choices in supplying a mixed supporting cast to help the main star with her first season in a very unique role where she must be many things to a great many people. So we have young as well as older companions that will be offering very different skills in each adventure, possibly with the light shining on each in different stories involving different antagonists, which is something “Doctor Who” has been doing for years. The other element in the all of the new casting is that there are no holdovers from previous seasons in terms of characters, plot lines and even the TARDIS so that we, as viewers, are starting from the beginning of a narrative that has lasted for decades.
This is should have been one of the most important seasons in the history of “Doctor Who”, possibly just after the reboot all those years ago. Say what you want about the Davies era, that first season was unmissable with a new Doctor, new effects, a great companion as well some stories that had big payoffs and really went for it, they knew that it could end at any point. Now we have the same circumstances but it really has been mediocre because of the structure of the season as well as the foes that have been put forward. Don’t forget that first season brought back at lease two classic Who villains who were used very wisely – I think that is what is missing here.
Normally I would say that I am very much enjoying these new episodes quite a bit, it is a big step up from last season, with stand alone episodes being a very good decision to get audiences used to some very big changes, I am looking forward to what is to come. My hope is that next the season will be another step up, follow through on some of the early promise as well as making the show relevant, not forgetting that it is a sci-fi show first that operates on the fact that the central character is a Timelord who is not only one step ahead of her friends but also knows instinctively what is going on around her, think back to not only classic Who but also the very best of new Who as well.
“The Woman Who Fell to Earth“
Written: Chris Chibnall Directed: Jamie Childs
In Sheffield, Ryan Sinclair accidentally calls an alien pod to the planet, leading to a strange being attacking his grandmother Grace and step-grandfather Graham. He and traffic officer Yasmin Khan attempt to stop it when the newly regenerated Doctor falls out of the sky and sees it flee. Investigating the strangeness, the five discover a second alien is tracking a local construction worker as a hunting game. The Doctor manages to rework the alien’s systems, causing it to flee home, but Grace is killed in the fight against it. After Grace’s funeral, the Doctor reworks one of the alien’s escape teleporters to find the TARDIS. She bids goodbye to Ryan, Yas, and Graham, but accidentally teleports all four of them into deep space.
“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.
Written: Chris Chibnall & Malorie Blackman Directed: Mark Tonderai
The Doctor’s attempt to return her friends to modern-day Sheffield goes awry when the TARDIS lands in 1955 Montgomery, Alabama. The team soon encounter civil rights activist Rosa Parks, just days before she refuses to give up her seat on a bus and ignites a historic black rights movement in the Deep South. However, the Doctor soon realises someone is meddling with history: a white supremacist from the future, determined to stop Rosa from sparking a revolution. The TARDIS team must work against the clock to put history right, and soon end up embroiled in the legendary moment themselves.
“Arachnids in the U.K.
Written: Chris Chibnall Directed: Sallie Aprahamian
Arriving back home in Sheffield, the Doctor and her friends discover massive spiders are attacking the population. They enlist the help of a local scientist, Jade, who helps them track the source of the spiders to a hotel where Yaz’s mother works. The group confronts the hotel owner and American politician, Robertson, who reveals that there is a chemical dump under the hotel. This infected the spiders, causing them to grow to unusual size. The group successfully traps most of the spiders in a bomb shelter, but the mother, the largest spider, is already dying due to her abnormal size. The Doctor wishes to spare it and let it die peacefully, but Robertson shoots and kills it despite her protests. Later, Graham reveals he’s not ready to go back to the apartment he and Grace shared, and he, Yaz, and Ryan inform the Doctor they wish to keep traveling as the group sets off on their next adventure.
“The Tsuranga Conundrum”
Written: Chris Chibnall Directed: Jennifer Perrott
While scavenging on an alien junkyard planet, Team TARDIS are injured when Graham unearths a sonic mine. When they regain consciousness, they find themselves onboard the Tsuranga, a medical ship crossing space to reach a ‘resus’ spacestation. But within minutes of their arrival, the ship comes under siege from the P’Ting, a creature that causes havoc by eating the Tsuranga’s power source. While Graham and Ryan are called to the side of a male patient who’s about to give birth, the Doctor and Yaz rally the ship’s patients to stop the P’Ting – but their victory comes at a cost.
“Demons of the Punjab”
Written: Vinay Patel Directed: Jamie Childs
India, 1947. The Doctor and her friends arrive in the Punjab, as the country is being torn apart. While Yaz attempts to discover her grandmother’s hidden history, the Doctor discovers demons haunting the land. Who are they and what do they want?
Written: Pete McTighe Directed: Jennifer Perrott
“Delivery for the Doctor!” A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer: Kerblam!
Written: Joy Wilkinson Directed: Sallie Aprahamian
Arriving in 17th Century Lancashire, the TARDIS team become embroiled in a witch trial. With the arrival of King James I, the hunt for witches intensifies. However, could something more dangerous be at play? Can the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan keep the populous of Bilehurst Cragg safe from the forces surrounding the land?
“It takes you away”
Written: Ed Hime Directed: Jamie Childs
On the edge of a Norwegian fjord, in the present day, The Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz discover a boarded-up cottage and a girl named Hanne in need of their help. What has happened here? What monster lurks in the woods around the cottage – and beyond?
“The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”
Written: Chris Chibnall Directed: Jamie Childs
The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos finds the Doctor and co on the planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos amongst the remains of a brutal battlefield, where they must field nine separate distress calls. The planet, however, holds far more secrets. Who is the mysterious commander with no memory? What lies beyond the mists? Who or what are the Ux?