Series Eleven, Episode One
The new series of Doctor Who has begun, and it is all change. The showrunner has changed over, from Steven Moffat to Chris Chibnall, and as always with a change of showrunner comes a change in the feel of a show, everything from the cast to the opening titles.
They were very much emphasising the change, that in spite of this being the 11th series of the revived series that brand new viewers could go straight in. The day it was broadcast was changed for the first time too, from now on it will be shown on Sundays rather than Saturdays.
But, of course, of all the changes, most of the focus was on the most groundbreaking one, that the Doctor is played by a woman for the first time, Jodie Whittaker. That heralds an exciting new era for the show! It certainly proved intriguing to viewers, as ‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’ scored one of the highest viewing figures the revived series has ever had!
(Yes, I’m sure there’s an “it’s about time” joke to be made about the lateness of this review. It’s another case of the episode reviews will be up on here when they’re up, unfortunately, but let’s get on with the review).
The episode starts with a YouTube vlog! 19-year-old Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) introduces himself, and tells us about something which happened recently, and we see it as a flashback.
Ryan suffers from dyspraxia, a condition which affects his co-ordination. He and his nan Grace (Sharon D. Clarke) and her husband Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh) are trying to help Ryan ride a bike. He never is able to, and this time in frustration he throws the bike off a cliff. He goes down to retrieve it, and finds that the bike has ended up in a tree. He then sees some weird electronic shapes. Then a giant blue and purple pod appears! It’s also extremely freezing cold to touch. He decides to call the police.
The police officer who comes is Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill). She and Ryan knew each other from primary school.
Meanwhile, Grace and Graham have caught the train back home. An electric spark smashes right through the train, the driver is killed and the train stops, with all the
lights going out. Most of the passengers get off, but the doors of carriage which Grace and Graham are in are locked, trapping them along with another passenger Karl (Johnny Dixon). Then a tentacled, electronic monster comes after them!
It’s at this point the Doctor drops in – literally, she falls through the roof! She manages to fight the creature off, then Ryan and Yasmin arrive. They escape the train, and decide to go to the woods where Ryan found the pod. But when they get there, the pod is gone.
The Doctor is still regenerating, and, just after picking her nose, she collapses. They take her back to their house, and Grace notices the Doctor’s regeneration energy, and the fact she has two pulses. (Time Lords have two hearts). The Doctor eventually wakes up, and notices everyone has a glow on their collarbones. They have been implanted with DNA bombs which will destroy them if they go off! She reboots Ryan’s phone, and uses it as a tracking device.
The pod has been taken in the back of a van by Rahul (Amit Shah) to a garage. He waits for whatever is in it to come out, and is armed with a crowbar. A human-like alien (Samuel Oatley) comes out, in metal armour. Rahul asks the alien where his sister is, but the alien kills him.
The Doctor and her new friends come, and chase the alien, but he escapes. They find Rahul’s body, and discover that he has a tooth missing. Further exploring of Rahul’s
office shows from newspaper clippings and a video on his computer which was labelled to be played in the event of his death, that his sister Asha disappeared 7 years ago, and Rahul believes Asha’s disappearance involved aliens.
The Doctor creates a makeshift sonic screwdriver, using spoons, welding, a hammer and a fire extinguisher.
A dumb drunk throws bits of kebab salad at the alien. Of course, he then gets killed.
The Doctor and the others arrive where the tentacled creature is. The Doctor says it’s a Gathering Coil – dozens connected together in fact, trying to retrieve information. The alien then arrives, and reveals he is a Stenza warrior. When he unmasks himself we see why he steals teeth – he wears them on his face as a trophy! His name is Tzim-Sha, but the Doctor prefers to call him Tim Shaw. He tells them his motive for being on Earth; Stenza warriors select a human, and the Stenza warrior has to go after them, using no weapons and no help, then they bring the human back and the warrior will become the new leader. He is using the Gathering Coil, which is against the rules.
The Doctor works out the human Tzim-Sha is after is Karl! Karl works on a building site as a crane operator. Tzim-Sha kills the site’s security guard, and goes after Karl. The Doctor and her friends arrive, and she tells them to work as a team: Grace and Graham get all the other builders off the site, Ryan and Yasmin figure out how to operate the cranes, while the Doctor herself climbs up the scaffolding to rescue Karl.
She finds Karl, and tells him to jump towards her, but Tzim-Sha catches Karl in midair. The Doctor jumps over. She has the recall which Tzim-Sha needs to get home. He however has the detonator to set off the DNA bombs. Stalemate.
Or is it? The Doctor had anticipated Tzim-Sha would try that, and had transferred the DNA bombs so they will affect Tzim-Sha when detonated instead, so he isn’t going to win this. She tells him to just go home without his trophy. Karl kicks Tzim-Sha off the scaffolding, and Tzim teleports back before he falls to the ground. The Doctor tells Karl he had no right to do that (and it may well turn out to be a very bad move on Karl’s part. I mean, Tzim-Sha definitely has a grudge against Karl now!).
Grace and Graham electrocute the Gathering Coil, destroying it, but Grace falls from a great height to her death. We see her funeral, and we learn that Graham had cancer, which is now in remission, and Grace was his nurse. That is how they met. He credits her for saving his life.
The Doctor says she’d like a little more help from Graham, Ryan and Yasmin before heading on her way. After going to a charity shop to get her new outfit, the Doctor constructs a device from various metal items – including a microwave! – to reconnect her to the TARDIS. It succeeds, but it teleports Graham, Ryan and Yasmin with her – and they are now all floating in the middle of deep space!
The Doctor has many good lines in this episode.
“Half an hour ago I was a white-haired Scotsman!”
She points out that the Sonic Screwdriver is more like a Swiss Army Knife (“only without the knife”). The one she made is “now with added Sheffield steel!”.
The Doctor saying she has a plan – or rather, that she will have a plan by the time they’ve climbed up to the top.
I liked the effect of the pod cracking, it looked very like a volcano!
Karl has a self-help recording, which among other things tells him “Somebody out there wants me!”. This was true in an ironic way, as the Stenza warriors were after him.
The episode served well as an introduction to the new era and the new TARDIS team. That said, it was obvious Grace was going to be killed off, as she was the only one who wasn’t in any of the pre-publicity material, and Ryan talking about “the greatest woman he ever met” in his opening vlog was a massive signpost. It is a shame that Grace didn’t make it out of the episode alive too, as she was really good! Given the sort of show this is though, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see her again in some way.
The villains were OK, not brilliant. But that’s the usual way of things for Doctor Who series openers, it’s more about establishing the new series, the villains are there because of plot necessity.
Jodie Whittaker was excellent as the Doctor, she has nailed the part perfectly!
She is from Huddersfield, a town which I have a bit of a connection to, I lived there for a bit and went to Sixth Form College there. Before the episode was broadcast, there was a meme of the American subtitlers from Jodie Whittaker’s interview on The Late Show writing the town as “Hoodezfield”
This episode was very much an introduction, so we’ll see how the dymanic plays out. But what is quite different this time is that the Doctor has three regular companions rather than just one. That said, on first impressions the TARDIS team is very akin to a family, which we also had around series 6 with Amy, Rory and River Song.
Bradley Walsh was probably the most well known of the new cast, among other things appearing in Coronation Street and hosting gameshow The Chase.
Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill are relative newcomers, but I have seen both of them before from when they were on Hollyoaks. Mandip Gill was born in Leeds apparently, so the series boasts two regular characters played by actresses originally from West Yorkshire!
All in all, ‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’ was a great start to a new chapter for the show!