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Doctor Who

The Woman Who Fell To Earth

Review by Paul Bowler

Finally, after the long months of waiting, speculation, and expectation Doctor Who is back! Series 11 kicks off with the hour-long premier episode The Woman Who Fell To Earth, written by Chris Chibnal, directed by Jamie Childs, and staring Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor, who, along with her new friends Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole ) team up to face a ruthless alien threat in Sheffield.

Last time we saw her the post regenerative Doctor was sent tumbling from the TARDIS in the closing moments of Twice Upon a Time (2017). Now in the present day Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan and Graham O’Brien lives are about to change forever when a mysterious woman suddenly falls from the night sky. Can they really believe this bubbly, unpredictable stranger? She might not be able to remember her own name, but is seems she’s the only person that could be able to help solve the mysterious events unfolding around the city?

Settling into its brand new timeslot on Sunday’s with ease The Woman Who Fell To Earth begins series 11 of Doctor Who in fine style as Jodie Whittaker’s newly regenerated Doctor crashes through the roof of a stranded train to begin her adventures. She might not have the TARDIS or a even a sonic screwdriver to hand, but once the wry nods to the Time Lords new gender are out the way the 13th Doctor’s fun, and quirky persona quickly shines though as she embarks on the first of this new seasons self-contained adventures.

When people need help, I never refuse.

.Jodie Whittaker’s endearing performance instantly harnesses the quintessential Doctorishness necessary to make you wholeheartedly embrace this new incarnation of our favourite Time Lord. Jodie brings a breathless sense of heroic energy to the role that makes her Doctor feel exciting, dynamic, and fun to be around. Chris Chibnal’s clever scrip weaves all the classic tropes into the narrative for the new Doctor, everything from meeting her new friends after confronting the tentacle strewn alien probe on the train, to making a new sonic screwdriver from scratch, and the brilliant scene where she chooses her new costume all ensure that Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor instantly becomes a version of the Time Lord that fans old and new will quickly take to their hearts.

So, what of the Doctor’s new friends? Bradley Walsh is great as Graham, brining both a sense of fun and emotional depth to his role. Mandip Gill is also excellent as the resourceful Police Officer in training Yaz, as is Tosin Cole as Ryan, a warehouse worker and former school friend of Yaz’s with Dyspraxia who wants to become an engineer. Walsh’s character Graham is also married to Ryan’s gran Grace (Sharon D Clarke), making him Ryan’s step-granddad. Right from the outset Ryan’s moving opening address on his YouTube channel, along with his determination to master riding a bike with the help of Grace and Graham, movingly foreshadows the episodes underlying themes and events as the young man stumbles upon an alien travel pod and inadvertently activates it. There’s a really fun dynamic between the Doctor’s new companions as well. The banter between them and the Doctor feels very natural and warm, the characters are also instantly relatable, grounded in reality, and even at this early stage its clear they have the makings of a great TARDIS team.

While this episode does begin a little differently than expected – we’ll have to wait until the next episode to see the new title sequence and the arrangement of the brilliant new nostalgically pitched opening theme by the series’ new composer Segun Akinola finally brought together as one – once Jodie’s Doctor has had a little nap and a sprinkle of regeneration energy mid-way through the episode its time for the Time Lord to get on the case of the alien mystery in Sheffield. With Jamie Childs glossy direction Chris Chibnal’s script positively fizzes with vibrant action, with an eerie alien pod set to open at any moment, DNA bombs primed to explode, and a fearsome hunter lurking in the dark. There are slight references to the series’ past, but nothing to overload the script as has sometimes been the case in previous seasons, and I feel that this premier episode is all the more refreshing for it.

Of course you can’t have Doctor Who without scares, weird goings on, and… monsters! The 13th Doctor’s first adventure certainly has a couple of edge of the seat moments, especially with a bizarre probe and a super scary beast stalking the streets, but the reasons why this dual extraterrestrial menace is happening in Sheffield yields even more intriguing surprises for the Doctor and her friends. The special effects are really impressive as well. Its not long before the Doctor realises the probe is really weaponized bio-tech, gathering coils, used to select victims for a hunt – something which it has evidently been responsible for on Earth before – while the pod is actually a transport device for a second alien, an armor suited Stenza warrior who proves to be a rather frozen, toothy threat in more ways than one!

I’m just a traveller. Sometime I see things need fixing, I do what I can.

As the final showdown unfolds on the cranes at the construction site between the Doctor and the Stenza warrior Tzim-Sha hunting the hapless crane operator (who was also on the train with Grace and Graham when the Gathering Coils first arrived and he unwittingly became the target of the aliens hunt), the Doctor finally remembers her name as she steps up to the plate to confront the alien warrior and dispatches it with ease. It’s a brilliantly staged scene and the defining moment where Jodie Whittaker unequivocally becomes the Doctor without a shadow of a doubt.

With its showcasing of the programmes first female lead in the role of the Doctor, a brand new transmission day, and biggest regular cast since the 80’s (although I don’t see where that’s really that big a deal as there’s often been more than one person travelling with the Doctor since the series returned in 2005) Doctor Who returns feeling fresh and reinvigorated. Sure, I had some minor quibbles, I felt the incidental music got a little bit intrusive at times, sadly we didn’t get to see the TARDIS yet either, and while I don’t regard The Woman Who Fell To Earth as one of the strongest first stories for a new Doctor it was certainly one of the most contemporary and revitalising opening episodes for the rebooted series that I’ve enjoyed since 2005’s Rose.

The simplicity and fun sense of adventure in The Woman Who Fell To Earth reinforces show runner Chris Chibnal’s back to basics approach in every conceivable way, and quite possibly makes it one of the most easily accessible episode of Doctor Who ever. You really don’t need to know anything about Doctor Who to enjoy this episode. It’s the perfect jumping on point for new viewers, and there’s plenty here for long term fans to enjoy as well.

Although circumstances and thrilling adventure brought the Doctor and her new friends together, there’s also tragedy for them to contend with in the aftermath of the events in this episode. This really gave the ensemble cast their chance to shine, with powerful emotional beats that resonate long after the credits have rolled, by which time the Doctor, with the help of her friends, has programmed the remains of the Stenza transport pod to lock onto the energy trail of the TARDIS and transport her to the planet where the time machine is supposed to be. However, as the Doctor says her goodbyes she accidentally ends up transporting them all away – leaving them marooned and floating in deep space!

Right, this is going to be fun!

In short, Jodie Whittaker totally nailed it as the new Doctor! The Woman Who Fell To Earth was a fun, exciting, and emotional start to the new series of Doctor Who. So, as this first episode of the new series closes with a cliff-hanger, we are left pondering where the Doctor and her companions adventures will take them next as we are treated to a glimpse of the galaxy of stars appearing in series 11 and a tantalizing trailer for he next episode. I can’t quite remember the last time I enjoyed an episode of new Doctor Who quite this much and known next to nothing about it, or indeed the series itself, before hand, and I think that’s been the key factor in making this new series feel extra special for everyone. We really don’t know what to expect this time around as everything feel so new and different The universe is calling and it looks like we are going to be in for one fun packed ride!

Here’s the Episode Two Trailer | The Ghost Monument | Doctor Who: Series 11

And Coming Soon in Doctor Who: Series 11…

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