‘THE WOMAN WHO FELL TO EARTH’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Thirteenth Doctor Begins
It is the beginning and the moment has been prepared for!
The Steven Moffat era of ‘Doctor Who’ was a pretty mixed bag for me. It was an era full of complicated storytelling; underwhelming characters and way too fast pacing. It’s not an era I look back on with many fond memories. I found it average and no-one’s obliged to agree with me on this.
So when the news came in 2016 that Steven Moffat was to step down as showrunner and to be taken over by Chris Chibnall in 2018, I couldn’t help but feel an immense sense of relief. At last, we were going to get an era of the show with some decent storytelling and I hoped proper character development.
As a reminder, Chris Chibnall contributed to the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series in both Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat eras. He wrote the episode ’42’ starring David Tennant and the four episodes: ‘The Hungry Earth’/’Cold Blood’, ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ and ‘The Power of Three’ starring Matt Smith.
I found how much I enjoyed the episodes that Chris Chibnall wrote for Series 7 of ‘Doctor Who’, especially with enhancing Matt Smith’s Doctor, Amy and Rory. He also wrote the prequel series ‘Pond Life’. Chris Chibnall was also the showrunner for ‘Torchwood’ for the first two seasons on TV.
And it would be remiss of me not to mention the fact that Chris Chibnall was also the showrunner for ‘Broadchurch’ on ITV starring Olivia Coleman and David Tennant. Therefore Chris Chibnall was an ideal choice to take over as showrunner of ‘Doctor Who’ from Steven Moffat when it came to 2018.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when Chris Chibnall took over as the new showrunner for ‘Doctor Who’. I had some predictions on what his era of the show would be like. I hoped he would bring back some traditional storytelling compared to the ‘new’ approach Steven Moffat tried to incorporate in his era.
I hoped there would be some proper character drama as well as some enjoyable storytelling that would make me feel for the characters featured throughout the episodes. But whatever the case, I was looking forward to Chris Chibnall’s new era of the show and hoped it’d be pleasing for everyone.
But then this happened.
Yes! The announcement had been made. Jodie Whittaker was to play the new Thirteenth Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’ for 2018. And this time…it was a woman! This divided a lot of fan opinion when the news was announced back in July 2017. Many people loved the news; many people hated the news.
Me personally, I was okay with it. I had my doubts of course and wasn’t sure whether this was going to work. I even shared my thoughts on the news on my blog when it happened. But in a strange way, I was looking forward to seeing the new female Doctor and find out what she’ll be like for Series 11.
There was plenty of time to think about and reflect on what this change of direction of the show would mean to me as a fan and whether I could adjust to it. It was a controversial and radical change of direction on Chris Chibnall’s part for certain. But it was so brave and I wondered what it’d be like.
Later that year in October 2017, the news came that Jodie Whittaker would be joined by three companions. Not one or two…but THREE! It was the Crowded TARDIS again! I shared my thoughts on that news on my blog too. I wondered how this pretty brave move would affect the TV show too.
The three new companions would be Bradley Walsh (of ‘The Chase’ TV show fame) as Graham; Tosin Cole as Ryan and Mandip Gill as Yaz. The decision to have Jodie’s Doctor travelling with three companions harkens back to the William Hartnell; the Patrick Troughton and the Peter Davison days.
The challenge of telling new series ‘Doctor Who’ stories with four characters in the TARDIS was pretty evident from the start. It had its pros and cons and there was no going getting away that this would probably backfire. But I was looking forward to seeing how the new TARDIS team would work.
Eventually, it came to the day when ‘Doctor Who’ returned to our TV screens back on the 7th of October in 2018. And the show was being shown on Sundays instead of Saturdays. This was a pain for me as I enjoyed watching ‘Doctor Who’ on Saturdays and had commitments on Sunday evenings.
I didn’t get to see ‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’ on TV at 6:45pm that Sunday evening sadly, but thankfully my parents and I watched the episode when we caught up with it via BBC iPlayer. We saw the episode on our home computer and we had a Domino’s Pizza and everything with it. Yummy! 😀
My parents and I didn’t want to miss out on the first TV episode with Jodie Whittaker as the new Thirteenth Doctor. I was pleased to be watching this special episode of ‘Doctor Who’ with my parents that Sunday night and discover for myself what the new female Doctor was going to be like.
Before we get onto talking about the first episode and Series 11 itself, I want to make something abundantly clear. I know not everyone is going to warm to the fact that it’s a female Doctor here. I know there are still fans out there who are feeling uncomfortable that Jodie Whittaker is the Doctor.
But me personally, I’ve enjoyed all 10 episodes of Series 11 with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and I want to share my thoughts on why I like these episodes so much. I want to share why I enjoyed Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor as well as her companions Graham, Ryan and Yaz throughout this special season.
I’m also not going to bring up any gender equality-related issues or political correctness issues that people have been talking about with regards to this season in my reviews. I want to review these ‘Doctor Who’ episodes as ‘Doctor Who’ episodes. With that out of the way, let’s talk about Series 11.
The season begins of course with ‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’ by Chris Chibnall. It takes place in Sheffield in the present day. Hey, I’ve been to Sheffield for the ‘Valiant’ convention in March 2015.
It’s also the place where Jodie Whittaker’s character in the four-part TV serial ‘Trust Me’ came from. Bit of a coincidence there! 😀 Anyway, this is where we’re introduced to our three new companions.
I like how this episode focuses on the point of view of the companions from the start of Series 11. This happened in the same way with Rose Tyler at the start of Series 1. It’s all a new beginning here.
The new companions are of course Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien; Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair and Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan. I found the three new companions to be very good in the first episode!
By the way, this episode features no opening titles at the start. There’s not even a teaser scene for the opening credits. Odd decision, I’ll admit that. I did wonder if we were going to get opening titles.
But at least the episode didn’t take the route that ‘Sleep No More’ went down on with no opening titles. I hoped that we would get the new opening titles and the new titles music in the next episode.
Incidentally, there is a bit of the ‘Doctor Who’ theme music when Jodie Whittaker crashes into a train and appears as the new Doctor for the first time. That was quite an exciting moment to watch.
And thankfully we get to hear the new ‘Doctor Who’ theme music composed by Segun Akinola during the episode’s end credits. I found it to be pretty good and I consider it one of my favourites. 🙂
Of course the episode takes place directly after Jodie’s Doctor fell out of the TARDIS at the end of ‘Twice Upon A Time’. I thought the episode would begin immediately after Jodie’s Doctor fell out. 😀
It did take a while for Jodie’s Doctor to make an appearance in the episode with all the other characters being set up. But when Jodie’s Doctor does turn up, she’s into action already and is good.
I like how the three companions are set up in the first episode. I liked Ryan Sinclair as a character. He’s 19 years old and has a dyspraxia problem. It was very intriguing to discover what dyspraxia was.
It turns out to be some kind of coordination disorder that I’d never heard of. It was interesting to watch Ryan struggling to ride a bike before he utilises the strength of Superman to throw it away. 😀
There’s also Graham O’Brien who is married to Sharon D. Clarke as Grace, Ryan’s nan. Essentially, Graham is a granddad to Ryan. Although early on, Ryan is reluctant to accept Graham as a granddad.
And there’s Yasmin Khan – Yaz to her mates – who is a junior police officer in Sheffield. I liked Yaz’s character in this tale as she seems a nice person, despite feeling reduced in her role as police officer.
I know that this was just the beginning of the series and Graham, Ryan and Yaz don’t seem to have equally strong standout moments in the episode. This is often the problem introducing companions.
Ryan stood out pretty well for me as a character in this episode compared to Graham and Yaz. But I found this episode provided a pretty good introduction to them all and I found them very likeable. 😀
I really liked that first scene in the train where the Doctor arrives, sorts out an alien and then meets up with her three potential companions (four if you count Grace as well). We’ll get onto Grace soon.
It was funny when the Doctor asked Yaz why she was calling her ‘madam’ when they and Ryan walked down the train. It was a good scene to watch and was used as a teaser/first look on YouTube.
In this episode, Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor won me over in an instant. I liked how she played the character in the first episode, full of potential promise. This was a refreshing interpretation for me. 🙂
My Dad described Jodie’s Doctor as a female version of David Tennant’s Doctor and I suppose that’s true. But what I saw so far, I felt that Jodie had made the character her own and added her own spin.
I was quite relieved that there weren’t any sexual innuendos made in the episode, especially about the fact that the Doctor was now a woman, not a man. I was expecting there to be during the story.
Thankfully there wasn’t. That had been worrying me. I’m glad that the episode gets straight to the point with Jodie’s Doctor sorting out the alien menace attacking Sheffield and she’s not sidetracking.
Speaking of which, I found the writing to be much stronger in the episode compared to previous ‘Doctor Who’ episodes I’d seen. The pacing is sharper, especially as things happen more coherently.
I didn’t feel things were going too fast and being thrown in your face as was the case during the previous era by Steven Moffat. I was afraid that might persist during the new era. Thankfully not! 😀
I found myself on the edge of my seat when watching some really tense, scary moments. This could do with the fact that most of the episode was set during night-time and most scenes were darkly-lit.
The episode’s monster is Samuel Oatley as the Terminator, sorry…Tzim-Sha. I found him to be pretty intimidating opponent for our Doctor to face. This was something I hadn’t seen for a long time here.
Jodie’s Doctor called him Tim Shaw for some reason. 😀 Seriously, was Tzim-Sha’s name really that hard to pronounce? Unless I’m pronouncing wrong! But I can say Tzim-Sha as well as Tim Shaw in this.
I did feel that Jodie’s Doctor had her heroic moments in the episode. This is especially when she was rescuing Johnny Dixon as Karl who is chosen as the victim for Tzim-Sha/Tim Shaw’s hunt in the story.
There’s that impressive moment when Jodie’s Doctor jumps from one construction crane to the next. I found that to be a pretty iconic and memorable moment identifying Jodie’s Doctor’s heroism.
Jodie’s Doctor also had her moments of compassion throughout the episode. This is especially in good and bad moments when confronting Tzim-Shaw/Tim Shaw and giving him a choice at the end.
The episode also has Jodie’s Doctor building her new sonic screwdriver when she’s in a warehouse of some sort. That’s handy, isn’t it? I like Jodie’s new sonic screwdriver. I even bought one in Cardiff. 😀
It’s interesting how this episode doesn’t end with Jodie finding the TARDIS again. Usually first episodes for a new Doctor end with that. I did hope that Jodie’s Doctor would find her TARDIS again.
There is a pretty shocking death in the episode. The person who dies is of course Grace O’Brien. Up till that point, she’d been one of the Doctor’s team dealing with Tim Shaw and those gathering coils.
But towards the end, Grace makes a noble self-sacrifice in order to help the Doctor and save Ryan. It was pretty emotional and heartbreaking to watch when my parents and I saw the episode first time.
It was also beautifully handled and I was amazed by how the actors put their all into that emotional scene of Grace’s death. I had not seen a great emotional scene like that since the David Tennant era.
This of course all leads to a funeral in…oh my goodness! Is that St. Mark’s Church in Gabalfa, Cardiff?! It is! They filmed a funeral scene in St. Mark’s Church!!! I know that place! I’ve been there!
I was actually in the church before watching the episode on BBC iPlayer that evening. No seriously, I was. Very ironic that I was in that very same church before watching the episode with my parents. 😀
I wish I was there on the day they were filming the funeral scene back in November 2017. I could’ve made a cameo appearance in ‘Doctor Who’ with Jodie Whittaker. Ah well. Better luck next time hey?
It was pretty sad when Graham shared how much he loved Grace to everyone attending the funeral. The scene and the next one also highlight Graham’s character. It transpires that he once had cancer.
I did like that quiet scene between the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz where she shares with them about her family and that she’s just a traveller. This is before she decides to go and find her TARDIS.
I was a little concerned when in the episode; Jodie’s Doctor stated that it was a long time since she/he had worn women’s clothes. This is before she chooses her new Thirteenth Doctor outfit here.
But the more I thought about it, I realised that Jon Pertwee’s Doctor did dress up as a cleaning lady in ‘The Green Death’. So I suppose Jodie’s Doctor’s remark about women’s clothes made sense here.
The episode ends on a cliff-hanger. Jodie’s Doctor, now out of the Peter Capaldi outfit (she wore that outfit well in the episode) and finally into her Thirteenth Doctor outfit, is off to find her TARDIS.
The Doctor’s new companions, Graham; Ryan and Yasmin also join her too. Accidentally I might add. It was pretty exciting and tense when seeing the Doctor and her companions floating out into space.
Before we finish, I must tell you how much I enjoyed ‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’ when I first saw it on TV. Jodie Whittaker did well for me playing the Doctor as she became one of my favourites.
I also found the writing to be stronger by Chris Chibnall and a big improvement compared to the previous era so far. I hoped I would like the new era of ‘Doctor Who’ and very thankfully I did so far.
I hoped things would get better as Series 11 progressed. I knew it was early days, but I couldn’t help feel good about Series 11 and Jodie Whittaker’s era of ‘Doctor Who’ overall with a superb beginning.
The DVD/Blu-ray special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 1 of ‘The Complete Series 11’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s ‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’ – Closer Look’ featurette as well as a commentary with Jodie Whittaker and director Jamie Childs.
‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’ rating – 9/10
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