Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is Finally In and the Result is…
After months of anticipation and waiting- lots of waiting, the 11th season of Doctor Who finally debuted. In a global simulcast, Jodie Whittaker assumed the role of the iconic Doctor. In the premier episode ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’, marking the first official time that the character was portrayed by a female.
Whittaker’s taking on the role of the Doctor has been fraught with praise and controversy. The casting of Whittaker by the BBC/BBC America series’ new show runner Chris Chibnall was seen as a touchstone moment for the gay and transgender communities. For women, a female Doctor destroyed a glass ceiling in sci-fi television. Yet there were also detractors. A large portion of fans, especially males, felt that Jodie Whittaker’s casting was done as a way to yield to social justice warriors.
As a long-time viewer of the revival series, and a woman, I’ve been asked by the OG editors to give a female perspective on Jodie Whittaker’s debut. In order to assure that I do not have a pre-biased opinion of the new Doctor, let me give you a little perspective on my thoughts about the Doctor.
- Matt Smith is my Doctor. I started watching the series with his first episode. Since then, I have watched the entire run of the modern series and many classic episodes with my husband. In my opinion, Matt Smith IS the Doctor. Nobody else can come close.
- I don’t care if the Doctor is a woman, black, or even disabled, (all variants of the Doctor clamored for on social media) it’s the quality of the actor that counts. Well, that’s not quite true. The series also needs good writing, editing and theme music. Chris Chibnall has some mighty big shoes to fill with the departed Steven Moffatt. But I like Chibnall’s previous series Broadchurch, so I don’t have any biases towards his abilities.
- Lastly, I wasn’t such a big fan of Peter Capaldi, Smith’s successor. But after a while, he grew on me. Mostly, it was due to the absence of Jenna Coleman as Clara. Once she left the show, Capaldi got good. To me, that means that casting of the Doctor is important, but overall casting of the TARDIS crew is extremely vital as well. You must have chemistry between the Doctor and the crew.
So how did the opening episode fair? Let’s jump right into a review of the Season 10 opener…
The Woman Who Fell to Earth
Directed by Jamie Childs
Written by Chris Chibnall
Starring Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair, Mandip Gill as Yasmin Kahn, and Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien
The new episode held my attention. Chris Chibnall did okay for a first episode. It was definitely a darker episode. It felt like it has lost the last vestiges of Moffatt’s camp quality in his stories. If the series is going for more serious in tone, the loss of humor is sad. In other words, the attempts at humor kinda fell flat.
For instance, there were moments when Whitaker’s Doctor is getting used to her new body. With the other Doctors, those moments are supposed to be extremely funny. They also help you get to know the Doctor a little more intimately. But for this Doctor, those moments fell flat.
Overall, Jodie Whittaker’s first official appearance as the Doctor was good. But not Matt Smith great. From the very first episode of the Matt Smith era, his Doctor was a lot more confident. This 13th Doctor lacked a voice of confidence. Stating questions that she intends to solve is something I expect of the character of the Doctor. Rather, we got a Doctor that posts questions she has no idea how to answer.
Whittaker’s Doctor also keeps apologizing throughout the episode. Sure, the Doctor apologizes a lot (cough- David Tennant.) But throughout it was like she was apologizing to fans for there being a female Doctor for once. That may change later on- one can only hope.
The Doctor’s new group of companions have merit. Having Bradley Walsh playing a step-grandfather keeps with the motifs established from the very first Who episode way back in 1963. Remember, the Doctor was Susan’s grandfather in the first few season. The characters of Ryan and Yasmin add that youthful touch that companions such as Amy Pond and Rory have brought to the TARDIS for decades. All three new companions are very likeable. But is the energy of Cole and Mandip and Walsh’s wisdom enough to bring fans back for more?
The key counterweight to the 11th season of Doctor Who is Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall. Whittaker still has yet to really find herself as the Timelord. But those first regeneration episodes aren’t always a clear look at the new Doctor. Then there’s the new producer. Chibnall claims that this season will not have any classic villains. As the first episode is also minus a theme song and a TARDIS, the question ultimately is how much change will be too far for fans of the series?
We’ll all have to tune in next week for the second episode of the Whittaker/Chibnall era to get more pieces of that puzzle.