Sunday, 7 October 2018

Doctor Who - The Woman Who Fell To Earth

Fall From Grace

Doctor Who
The Girl Who Fell To Earth

Airdate: 7th October 2018

Warning: One spoiler in here... though I expect you’ll see that dramatic moment coming a mile off due to pre-publicity reveals mixed with the way the characters are written.

So back in the early 1980s, when Tom Baker finally made good on some of his previous threats and quit Doctor Who for good (almost), there was real possibility that the new incarnation of The Doctor might be a lady. And the same rumours persisted in the British tabloids when Peter Davison finally decided to leave. And I remember, when those rumours first started flying, 14 year old me was terrified at the prospect. How can a lady be the male character The Doctor. Nobody had really thought of the idea that a Timelord, although able to change their appearance and, quite obviously, certain parts of their personality... could possibly change their sex. There just wasn’t a precedent for it. Sure, there were lady Timelords and we all, in those days, assumed that they always were ladies from birth to death and birth again.

Switch to modern times and I actually welcome the idea. There have been examples in the last few years of Timelords regenerating and changing their sex at least twice (and don’t think I didn’t know where you were going to be going with that idea Moffat) and I’d like to think attitudes have changed with the youngsters along with a lot of things involving female inclusion in film and TV. Although, it has to be said, when Jodie Whittaker was first announced last year, a lot of kids (including the kids well into their 30s, 40s and 50s) were not accepting of the idea. Equally, there were also a lot of happier, supportive people too and I’m hoping the new series will really hit the ground running.

That being said, I do have my reservations about this series now but they are much more to do with things which have been said by the new show runner Chris Chibnall rather than anything else and, at the end of the day, I reckon his show direction can’t be any worse than the Steven Moffat years. Nothing against Mr. Moffat mind... he’s always been on my radar as a brilliant writer since I first saw the Doctor Who episode Blink but, he always struck me as someone who would have brilliant openings and terrible finishes...often waving some nonsensical made up scientific sounding tosh and wielding it like a magic wand for a quick fix.

So here we have the 13th Doctor Jodie Whittaker headlining, although she’s technically the 14th since the addition of John Hurt (and don’t even get me started on things established in the Tom Baker story The Brain Of Morbius). She’s also been given a whole load of companions which is something the early shows in the 1960s used to do a lot and which is a trend that came back into fashion a bit during the Peter Davison years. So we have a new Doctor, three new companions... Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair, Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan and the one and only Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien... a new format with hour long episodes (but a shorter series), a new composer in the form of Segun Akinola and, oh yeah, everything’s new.

And it’s also not a bad episode, as it happens.. although I have to say I was the only one in the house who actually liked it. Then again, my folks always take a couple of seasons to get used to the new Doctor.

Right. Where to start.

Well Jodie Whittaker is almost spot on. She’s a bundle of energy and I certainly felt confident she can succeed as The Doctor. I say ‘almost’ because at the moment she seems to be playing it a little like Peter Capaldi’s version in some ways... I could almost hear him saying the lines in my head but I suspect this is more to do with the way the dialogue has been written. The writers maybe haven’t found their feet with the new personality as yet and I’m sure, just like Capaldi did, the character will be more evolved by the time we get around to Jodie’s second series. Anyway, the important thing is... she’s pretty great in the role. Of course, no Doctor has ever proven themselves before they go up against the Daleks but, until we get to see that for ourselves (and we really do need to see that at some point) then I’m confident Whittaker can do a good job of protecting people from alien invasions and such like. And, as it was, the dialogue was pretty great at any rate.

Her companions?

All really good. I was worried the larger ensemble would not give Jodie room to shine but she easily holds her own with what is a fantastic supporting cast, all with certain quirks which lend themselves to a, perhaps somewhat obvious but ultimately refreshing (for this show), set of dramatic character developments.

Okay, another plus is that the incidental music was actually quite good. I was really worried when Murray Gold left that the glue of the show would melt a little and things wouldn’t hang together but the new composer is doing okay so far. I couldn’t detect any leitmotif for the new Doctor yet other than riffs on Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire’s original title theme but it’s early days yet.

If I had to be a little critical I would say the actual storyline and plotting wasn’t up to much and was a little bit obvious in a lot of places. That being said though, the consequences of people’s actions shown was good with a fair few deaths including one important character called Grace who dies while helping save the others. However, the dialogue saved things a lot of the time and I even liked the cheesy way the writers thought to address the growing incidents of knife crime in the UK at the moment.

That being said, there were a few things I didn’t like.

First thing is... no TARDIS. We know it’s waiting for The Doctor somewhere but we don’t know where. Chibnall said there would be no multi-episode story arcs in this show but finding the TARDIS is a pretty big set up if you ask me.

Secondly... no opening titles. Something tells me this is going to be a regular feature of the new show and I really hope I’m wrong about that. We need that familiar theme and set of graphics welcoming us in each week. This seems a bit of a no brainer to me.

Thirdly... there were a few little moments which reminded me that the show is as cheap as it ever was. One thing in particular, where a hand smashes through a glass window but the edit takes us away just as the impact is about to happen makes me believe the sugar glass, or whatever it is they’re using these days, didn’t break all that convincingly and they couldn’t afford to do another take. I may be wrong about that but that’s what that creative edit felt like to me. That last criticism is only a minor thing though. Doctor Who was always cheap and that was sometimes part of the charm. It’s never harmed it too much over the years. Occasionally, maybe... but not for long.

And that’s me done on the first episode of the new series. Too early to tell what kind of shape and style the current incarnation of the show will take but I think we’re off to a fairly good start here. And even if all the other scripts turn out to be lousy... Jodie Whittaker is going to be a good version of The Doctor. I’m pretty sure about that.

So, looking forward to seeing what the timey wimey future will bring to this series. It’s a shame it’s on a Sunday night but what can you do?

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