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Doctor Who Season 11 Episode 1 Review

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6.5

A welcomed, fresh, retelling with an entertaining new lead. However, it lacked consistency with its pacing and development of characters.

  • Rating 65%

The eleventh series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who premiered on 7 October 2018, and will consist of ten episodes. The series is the first to be led by Chris Chibnall as head writer and executive producer, alongside executive producers Matt Strevens and Sam Hoyle, after Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin stepped down after the tenth series.

This series is the eleventh to air following the programme’s revival in 2005, and is the thirty-seventh season overall. It also marks the beginning of the third production era of the revived series, following Russell T. Davies’ run from 2005–2010, and Moffat’s from 2010–2017.

Network: BBC
Genre(s): Science-Fiction, Drama
Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill

 

  • Series 11 will be the third season in which every story has the same episode count, following Season 18 and Series 7.
  • Series 11 will be the first season in the revived series without any episodes written or co-written by Steven Moffat, the first since Series 4 without any by Mark Gatiss, the first since Series 7 without any by Peter Harness or Jamie Mathieson, and the first since Series 8 without any by Toby Whithouse or Sarah Dollard.
  • With the exception of Season 1, Series 11 will be the fourth season without any returning antagonists, following Season 7, Season 13, and Season 16.

Review by Eliot Gates

When I was first introduced to Doctor Who, it was back in 2005 and it left a similar impact on me as on my family who had watched the original series over the years; something fun for the weekend.

As the years went on for this renewed series, the stronger its epic journey got and the closer we felt to it. It had delightful creativity, emotional drama, a dash of audacious humour, whimsical charm and clever usages of continuity. When the Russel T Davies era ended, so had an entire arc that seemed to come full circle as a complete piece. With David Tennant’s run leaving so much love as well as heartbreak in so many people, there was no argument that the next production of the show would have big shoes to fill. While production work and casting choices were not so much an issue, it was the new writing that seemed to drift much of its audience away from the show. While it used to feel that Doctor Who was something for all family members, the Steven Moffat era seemed to aim only for a specific youth demographic. While it may have tried to distance itself from its predecessor, you could not help but notice it repeating similar characters and plot devices. Like it was trying to make lightning strike in the same place twice, only it had the opposite effect.

Now with a new season, a new showrunner and an all-new incarnation of the titular character, it was with an open mind I was interested to see the direction it would take. Much like the first time watching this show, it was like being served a rich dessert that I had not enjoyed for years. After tuning into the beginning of this new journey, some aspects reached my expectations while some had sadly been lacking.

In the opening it does a steady job of establishing the mood and location. This was, of course, meant to be the obvious build up for the supernatural that would occur and to also to introduce the side characters. Unfortunately, it does not focus enough on setting them up and instead decides to throw them into the mix where we know too little about them to be concerned for their fate. When we were introduced to our first companion, back in the first season, we were given a rough outlook of what her life was like and why she would take a–hasty interest in a mysterious stranger and yet ask safety questions.

These new characters seem to follow almost without question and consideration. When the Doctor does appear, via falling from the sky, crashing the through the roof of a train carriage and surviving without even a bruise, it is merely glanced over. As the natural human dialogue goes, the human characters tend to obey like robots. Granted they ask the Doctor many questions, so much so she calls them out on it, yet they do not start with the obvious.

“Who are you? How do you know so much? Why don’t you remember your name? How did you survive that fall? If we don’t believe in aliens, then why are we having no trouble believing all of this? Shouldn’t we call the national guard to handle this so there won’t be any human fatalities?”

To be fair these are not stock characters, such as the generic pretty female who is just there to flirt with the Doctor or the jealous third wheel boyfriend. They have not yet displayed signs of narcissism, whininess, the need to rudely say “shut up” out of nowhere and carry it of as charming. The direction these new companions are going seems to be very tame even for a child friendly approach. This could be acceptable, but they are still to win approval. How are you supposed to root for or be worried about characters if even their identities are not memorable?

Speaking of other key characters of a Doctor Who story, the villain/s feel watered down. Whether intended for a standalone episode or saved for future appearances, the villain should be one of the most memorable, if not the most memorable highlight of the episode. The big monster villain we should just call Tim served as both a plus and a minus. Considering that this episode consisted mostly of dialogue that was not particularly elevating, scenes involving Tim did propel things further but also made the plot confusing. In the Russel T Davies era the villain plots kind of made sense and were at least easy to follow. In this one it seemed two or three ideas for a monster concept were thrown together in a rushed bit of rendering. This stood out due to our main character not seeming to keep track of the villain’s motivation. First the plot goes from an entity planting bombs into people’s collars, to another alien being an evil tooth fairy after freezing people to death, followed by an Alien Vs Predator concept that is mistaken completely and is part of some human hunting ritual. At least I think that is what it was going with.

It would be an improvement to not to have scripts that have too much crammed in or go off in different directions.

The real aspect to share opinions about more than anything has to be our latest version of the timelord, played by Jodie Whittaker. While creating a solid gold character tends to stem from the writing it also depends on how well the actors’ performance itself holds. Though the writers must have had fun writing the dramatic speeches for this episode, it was not necessarily strong enough to leave a memorable mark on the brain. What was memorable was Whittaker’s charm and enthusiasm that she demonstrates from start to finish. She captures much of the eccentricities other actors in the past have while making them her own. Having the Doctor being compassionate, upbeat and not inconsistently creepy is a much-welcome return to the Russel T Davies era. It is also delightfully refreshing to also have the character wear something colourful, original and less waistcoat clichéd to match the persona. If this character were to approach me and propose an adventure, free of charge, I would be tempted to say “yes” before the proposition was fully explained. True I would be walking into almost certain danger but then it is all in the delivery this woman shows us.

On a whole this first episode had a lot of dialogue that needed to be cut or re-worked and left much to be desired. However, it was not seriously detrimental either and anyone who think it was would probably be working themselves up too much over something so harmless. Though this feels like it was written by kids, it is also intended for kids.

Nothing spectacular then, but nothing terrible and there can be much more to hope for in the future.

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