The eleventh series of the Doctor Who reboot wound up a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to share some thoughts on the now-completed season. I did like these episodes, but it was clear that the show runners were casting their lines out for things that really fit this iteration of The Doctor.
First, Jodie Whittaker is amazing. I love her as the doctor, though there were episodes where the writers didn’t give her much to work with 1. When Whittaker was allowed to release the quirky and distracted Doctor she’s envisioned it really worked. I really like her.
The companions, however, were hit or miss. Ryan supposedly has a neurological disorder that was forgotten about for a number of episodes, only to be brought back to the forefront at random later on. Yaz was a childhood friend of Ryan, but was underdeveloped throughout the season – though the one episode which focused on her, “Demons Of Punjab,” was the second best episode of the season. Graham is Ryan’s step-granddad, and is the quirkiest of the bunch. He leverages his status as a bus driver in the strangest of situations, and reminds the group they have to eat. Individually, each would make a fine companion 2. Unfortunately, the whole was less than the sum of its parts. I think this may have been because these characters each had a relationship with one another pre-Doctor, which made it more difficult for the show runners to show them developing a relationship with the Doctor. The companion who worked best in the reboot era, Amy Pond, established her relationship with the doctor and then dragged her supporting characters into that arc. This was also true for Rose Tyler, Donna Noble, and Clara Oswald 3. Because this relationship was established first when other supporting characters came in you always knew who the primary companion was. The trio who follows Number 13 all came in at the same time, so there’s no one set of eyes through whom we get to connect to Whittaker’s Doctor.
There is much about this past season which signaled a return to an older style Doctor Who. The opening titles, for example, look like a modernized version of the original. I’m sure having multiple companions join the Doctor at the same time is also a throw back to an earlier version of the show, but there was a reason why the idea of a primary companion came about as Doctor Who matured. I’d love to see this rectified in the future, with either Yaz or Graham taking on the role of primary companion, as it would help viewers connect to what this version of the Doctor is doing.
The episodes are where I saw the show runners doing most of their flailing about. “The Woman Who Fell To Earth,” was a good introduction to the Whittaker’s interpretation of the character. “Rosa” might have been the best time-travel science-fiction episode I’ve ever seen, and “Demons of Punjab” is a close runner up. These were three really solid episodes. “The Witchfinders” was hit or miss, it seemed there was a lot of unexplored potential in the episode 4. I felt that “Ghost Monument” was a mess, and “Kerblam!” was built upon a lot of forced tension. The other episodes – “Arachnids in the UK,” “The Tsuranga Conundrum,” “It Takes You Away,” and “The Battle Of Ranskoor Av Kolos” were… ok. Nothing earth shattering, and not terrible, just… ok. So there were there was a great introduction, and two episodes which should go done as some of the best Doctor Who ever 5. The other episodes get as high as “ok.” I was hoping for better.
Like I said. I did like this season, like. As a whole it wasn’t the best Doctor Who I’ve ever seen, and at times it felt like the show runners weren’t sure which target they were aiming for. Overall these episodes, even the two best in the season, would have been improved if there had been a primary relationship with the Doctor which could serve as our bridge to the series 6. It would have allowed Whittaker to shine more, and let us know why the character felt a connection to the Doctor. I’m hoping for a tighter presentation in the future.
- The “Ghost Monument” was the most notable of these. ↩
- Perhaps not Ryan. Even in the episodes in which he was featured, “Kerblam!” and “The Witchfinders,” there just wasn’t much that made him distinct. Aside from his off again/on again neurological disorder, that is. ↩
- Though people don’t like Clara, for some reason. I always enjoyed her. I would have liked to see her meet Amy Pond. ↩
- Including a rather Paranoid King James. ↩
- Though if I had one problem with “Rosa,” it’s that it felt like Quantum Leap in a Doctor Who skin from time to time. ↩
- I vote for Yaz. ↩