The Woman Who Fell To Earth | Review Score = 3/5
The Ghost Monument | Review Score = 3/5
Rosa | Review Score = 4/5
Arachnids In The UK | Review Score = 2/5
The Tsuranga Conundrum | Review Score = 2.5/5
Demons Of The Punjab | Review Score = 3.5/5
Kerblam! | Review Score = 3.5/5
The Witchfinders | Review Score = 2/5
It Takes You Away | Review Score = 4/5
The Battle Of Ranskoor Av Kolos | Review Score = 2/5
With the departure of show-runner Stephen Moffat and Peter Capaldi deciding to hang up the raggedy clothes of old, Doctor Who promised much change for the season ahead. The first female Doctor raised a considerable number of eyebrows across the world and along with show-runner Chris Chibnall’s respectable filmography, Doctor Who seemed to be in capable hands. To say the ride this year has been tumultuous would be an understatement. On-the-nose political messages, messy characterisation and a disjointed narrative direction make the 11th Season of Doctor Who one of if not the worst season in the show’s history.
With no cohesive narrative to tie the season together beyond a few inconsequential bits of dialogue and one returning villain, the format of Doctor Who is changed to a more familiar structure seen in Classic Who. While this alone would be okay, the tonally inconsistent episodes are held back further by some questionable characterisation and really poor writing. There’s some real highs and lows this year, ranging from well written historical episodes to pretty much anything Chris Chibnall has single-handedly written. This rollercoaster ride doesn’t make for a consistent watch every week and this is made worse when watching back to back as a full season.
The lack of antagonistic threat through large portions of the season is something I’ve mentioned a few times in my episode reviews and although there are a few exceptions, the 10 episodes really struggle to present anything that really challenges The Doctor and her brains. A lot of the season sees her stumbling from one plot device to the next, relying heavily on the sonic screwdriver to get out of situations or regressing to some very hazy logic and hypocritical reasoning.
Much like Peter Capaldi before her, Jodie Whittaker does the best she can with the material she’s given. Her Doctor is one that mixes a wondrous charm with a myriad of different emotions and styles before finally settling into a more consistent rhythm late on. Her presence in the series is one that’s finally given the time to shine during the later episodes but unfortunately the same cannot be said for the companions. At the start of the show I commented that Bradley Walsh would struggle with the emotional depth his character Graham demanded but ironically winds up being the best companion by a country mile.
There’s a profound lack of chemistry between the companions and they’re never given a chance to really stamp their mark on a lackadaisical, sloppily handled season. While Ryan and Graham’s character arc is relatively well written, Yaz has little impact on anything, despite a full episode dedicated to her family. To make matters worse, none of the companions seem to question or care who this strange woman is whose whisked them up in a blue box and taken them around the universe.
Bizarrely, Yaz and Graham share barely any scenes together either which is probably not a coincidence but bizarre nonetheless. Even something as fleeting as a humorous nod toward acknowledging The Doctor is strange or an alien would be nice but there’s just…nothing. It’s a very cold, flat experience in the TARDIS and when you compare that to the natural chemistry of companions and Doctors of old, there’s a really stark contrast this year.
The other issue this year comes in the form of the social and politically charged agenda that completely offsets the fun and innocent feel of Doctor Who. From a Trump caricature to several episodes that tackle racism and sexism, the 11th Season of Doctor Who feels much more political than it ever has before. While it’s true the show has tackled important social questions in the past, the way they’re shoe-horned lazily into the stories this year makes the show a shell of the cleverly written sci-fi entity it used to be.
While there are plenty of issues with the individual episodes this season, and in particular Chris Chibnall’s writing, there are shining beacons of hope going forward. Jodie Whittaker is a really good inclusion as The Doctor and with the right scripts and dialogue she shines in the role. There’s a few really imaginative stories this year too and the new cinematic feel gives a sense of size and scope that’s certainly been lacking in previous seasons. The positives this year are few and far between though and it’s difficult to know where the show goes from here. With a New Year episode to come and BBC’s recent announcement that there’s no Doctor Who until 2020, perhaps this extra time will be just what Chris Chibnall needs to write a compelling season and get back to what made the show so great before he stepped in.