A Bold New Direction For Doctor Who
Back in 1963 a little sci-fi show called Doctor Who came on air and with it, the start of the longest running sci-fi show in TV history. Boasting a vast catalogue of memorable episodes, villains and iconic actors taking up the mantle of the illustrious Doctor character, Doctor Who is one of those shows that has constantly reinvented itself through the years. From the eccentric Uncle model taking his companions on fantastical journeys through time and space to a much more modern take with a younger Doctor character, the show has never been afraid to shake things up over the years.
Following head writer Stephen Moffat’s departure from the show along with composer Murray Gold and lead Doctor Peter Capaldi, Chris Chibnall shocked the world as he stepped up to front the show, announcing that a woman, Jodie Whitaker to be precise, would be stepping into the Doctor’s boots for the first time.
Last night saw the premiere of the first episode of the new season, aptly named The Woman Who Fell To Earth. With 8.2 millions viewers and a country eagerly awaiting to see if Jodie Whittaker could step into the iconic role and quiet the naysayers, the most important question is did the first episode deliver?
We won’t divulge the entire plot arc here but the basic story revolves around two aliens crash landing on Earth, seemingly looking for something and terrorising Sheffield in the process. This forms the backdrop for establishing our three new companions and Jodie as the Doctor. All three characters have their own backstories and the clever idea to have them involved in established relationships with one another is a smart one, avoiding some unnecessary filler for us to catch up on. Young adult Ryan (Tosin Cole) begrudges his Grandfather-in-Law Graham (Bradley Walsh) for his involvement with his Nan while school friend and police cadet in training Yasmin (Mandip Gill) bolsters out the trio of key companions. Some of the acting is a little spotty here and there with Bradley Walsh the obvious stand-out in terms of acting prowess.
Not long into the episode we witness the Doctor literally falling from the night sky and into the thick of the action. Jodie Whittaker’s portrayal is one that’s likely going to take a few episodes to gel and put her own stamp on the character but first impressions here are generally good. Her whimsical, charismatic presence has echoes of David Tennant and Matt Smith mixed in with the soft approach of Peter Davidson. Perhaps if we’re being overly critical her portrayal is one that’s a little too safe but with only one reference to her gender and a whole episode that feels new but also very familiar to the Doctor Who format, the first episode is one that certainly looks promising for the season ahead.
One of the biggest changes to the show this year comes from a more technical perspective. With Murray Gold’s iconic music missing, the orchestral score is far more subtle this time around, allowing the cinematography to really shine and stand out. A few gorgeously shot scenes coupled with a real eye for detail help every scene pop and stand out. The suitably dark tone hanging over large stretches of the episode is certainly a throwback to some of the more frightening episodes in the show’s history but after this mysterious opening, all the usual tropes with the Doctor show up; a brand new screwdriver and plenty of comedic quips toward the big bad of the episode stand out.
A cliffhanger ending and a promise of some talented actors showing up in the season ahead certainly hold a lot of intrigue and if this episode is any indication to go on, the future feels invigorated and renewed for the better, at least for now. It’s far too early to tell whether this momentum can keep up through the episodes and whether Jodie’s character will stake her own place in the Whovian universe but based on the first episode alone, our first female Doctor does an excellent job filling the illustrious boots left for her and for that, Doctor Who remains a dominant force in sci-fi.