It’s official — I have a new favorite Doctor. In the lead up to The Woman Who Fell to Earth, I did my best to stay away from spoilers and not look too much into what was going to happen in the episode. Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is the start to a new era of Doctor Who, and so I did my best to throw as many of my preconceptions of the show to the side as I could, and approach this experience with eyes as fresh as possible. I say “as possible” because as an avid watcher of the series I couldn’t exactly forget all of the Doctors that came before, but I do believe that my efforts to watch series 11 of Doctor Who as if I was watching an entirely new show paid off. By doing so I was able to embrace the changes, instead of resisting them as I think I might have done had I considered The Woman Who Fell to Earth as a strict and linear progression of the show — something that would have been quite foolish. Wibbly wobbly timey wimey indeed.
I’ve inserted a warning below for the spoilerific parts of this review, but first lets go over some spoiler-free points of interest before I get to those bits.
To start with the most obvious change for this series: more than any other Doctor, Thirteen seems to be relying on her own drive, but even as she does so Thirteen is empathetic and conscious of the other people on her “team” and believes in the capabilities of those who surround her. Quirky and fun, Thirteen is absolutely the same Doctor, but just as every Doctor before her, she has an aesthetic, physical and spiritual, that is all her own.
Another big change for Doctor Who is year is actually a return — that of the TARDIS team. Each character has their unique skill set, with advantages and flaws, but what makes them fantastic is how each of them work together. Nothing that happened in this episode could have succeed half as well were not all of them present. The Woman Who Fell to Earth has a cohesive narrative, balancing what is vital to the plot and what is vital to character development in equal measure.
My number one favorite thing about this new series has to be the diversity of the characters represented. Diversity has been a buzzword that people have brought up again and again with this series and while I was wary of buying too much in to the hype, even with the proof of a female Doctor, I have to say that I have bought into it (for this episode at least) and I’m excited to see what’s next. Beyond just being a buzzword, the diversity of the actors and the people they are playing necessitates different but converging stories, and because each character has a vitality all on their own, I get the sense that soon we’ll be able to see those fully fleshed out and I am very much looking forward to it.
All this is not to say that I don’t have issues with the episode — as much as I loved it there are some darker elements that I could have done without (or maybe not — see spoiler section) but overall I did enjoy this beginning to a new era. A highly recommended watch!
SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT!
I gotta say, may hands-down favorite part of this episode was that thirteen makes her own sonic screwdriver. A minor plot point in the 50th anniversary special was that all of the previous Doctors had sonic screwdrivers that looked different, but were the same software in a different case, produced by the TARDIS. Meanwhile, Thirteen has fallen to earth, with no TARDIS and no screwdriver, and so she just up and makes one for herself. Such a badass.
The saddest, and honestly the most expected part of the episode was *SPOILER ALERT* Grace’s death. For all that I tried to avoid thinking about the show outside of the context of the episode as I watched it, the more I saw of Grace’s character the more I realized that there was no way she would sit back while Graham, Yaz, and Ryan went on adventures, and thus she would be incapacitated at some point, if not die, which is of course exactly what happened. I suppose that the most frustrating part of Grace’s death for me was that it seemed so pointless. Thirteen had everything handled, and while disabling the coils was something that needed doing, they didn’t seem to be directly threatening anyone at the time, and so her death only really served to move the plot along. I take issue with a needless death in any media, but this episode in particular hit me hard. I understand the need to tug at people’s heartstrings, but there was so much death in this episode that made it feel much heavier than I was expecting.
While I do have my issues with this episode, they are outweighed by the positives, and I am absolutely looking forward to more!