If its pleasures at first seem a tad modest, ‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’ – the opening episode of Doctor Who Series 11 – is all about delayed gratification. The new Doctor herself (Jodie Whittaker, as if you didn’t know) doesn’t arrive until nine and a half minutes in; she doesn’t get to say, “I am the Doctor” until the action finale, and she’s still wearing the previous Twelfth Doctor’s clothes until the epilogue, where she finds her new costume in a lovely visit to a charity shop. As for the new opening title sequence, we wait and we wait, and it never comes. And don’t expect a good look at the renovated TARDIS yet. Showrunner Chris Chibnall is holding it all until Episode 2.
What the season opener does give us is a delightful introduction to our new Doctor and her gaggle of companions, Ryan, Yaz and Graham, making light, frothy work of drawing the connections between them. Chibnall manages the extraordinary trick of making us care about all of them by the end of the episode so we can’t wait to see how they continue to bond with each other and the Doctor in their adventures to come.
Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is smart, but never a smart-arse.
As for the Doctor herself, Jodie Whittaker is somehow bossy yet friendly, brilliant yet grounded; she calls herself “just a traveller” and she has a solo tourist’s palpable desire to connect with anyone and everyone. Within an hour or so, she’s best mates with the first four humans she meets, and they clearly love hanging out with her. It’s no accident that Chibnall has dialled down on the Doctor’s eccentricity and egotism, and Whittaker’s performance is all about being open and having fun. She’s smart, but never a smart-arse.
Indeed, the show as a whole has a new emphasis on feeling welcoming and friendly – despite the villainous alien with human teeth in its head – while visually it feels bigger in scope, more textured. From the propulsive music by new composer Segun Akinola to the stuck-in-space cliffhanger at the end, every element of this opening mission statement from Chibnall and his team is designed to get us excited about the pleasures to come. We’re onboard.
Read the review of Episode 2, The Ghost Monument
Read the review of Episode 3, Rosa
Read the review of Episode 4, Arachnids In The UK
Read the review of Episode 5, The Tsurunga Conundrum