Review: Doctor Who – The Woman Who Fell To Earth

Andy Howells reviews the first new episode of the 2018 series of Doctor Who. The Woman Who Fell To Earth was written by Chris Chibnall and stars Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor. (Potential spoilers ahead if you still haven’t seen it, but not too many!)

I’ve watched Doctor Who all my life (and that’s some half-century now folks!), and even though Jon Pertwee was my first Doctor, it’s always been a mark of pride that I can feel I grew up watching the series at its absolute sci-fi best when Pertwee’s successor, Tom Baker, was at the helm of the TARDIS.

Tom Baker was and is Doctor Who for me, alien but calming at the same time, with an element of wackiness that ensured viewers would never know what he would react when backed up into a corner by an alien or evil mastermind bent on interplanetary domination.

None of Tom Baker’s successors quite matched him, or his three predecessors (William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee) for me. Even when the series returned after a 16-year hiatus in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston and then David Tennant, there was still nothing quite like Tom Baker’s run as The Doctor for me. Yeah, it could be occasionally fun, but there was a little too much of the Doctor been all grown up and a snogging Billie Piper for me.

Matt Smith’s arrival in The TARDIS was a little bit more original., carrying all the necessary newness and wackiness for a new Doctor while at similarly, you could believe he was an ancient time traveller trapped in the body of a younger person.

I think I’d almost given up on maybe enjoying another Doctor Who as much as Matt Smith after the arrival of his successor, Peter Capaldi. To my mind, Capaldi was a bit of a mixed bag tribute to Jon Pertwee and film Doctor Peter Cushing. I didn’t dislike Capaldi in the role, but I felt he carried over a lot of baggage from previous Doctor’s to be totally new and didn’t really come into his own until his final series.

So, to summer 2017, when it was announced that Capaldi’s replacement would be actress, Jodie Whittaker, who coincidentally would simultaneously materialise with new Doctor Who showrunner, Chris Chibnall.

As a life-long Doctor Who fan, I did my hardest not to panic as I heard a tirade of fans rejoice and scream around me how this could or could not happen. The Doctor would now be a woman, (after all, the first indications that The Doctor could change gender were remarked upon by Tom Baker himself back in 1980 on his departure from the series).

And so, it happened at the climax of last years Christmas special, Peter Capaldi magically became Jodie Whittaker and The TARDIS even appeared to have a bit of a shock by rejecting the new Doctor, throwing her out into space and apparently exploded.

So here we are some ten months later, the beginning of a new series with The Woman Who Fell To Earth. The new Doctor falling to earth (well, Sheffield to be exact) in the rags of Peter Capaldi’s clothes complete with Yorkshire accent and finding herself pitted against a psychopathic growling alien, Tim Shaw that removes teeth from its victims and wears them as trophies. Pretty much the horror types we’ve been encountering on most Sci-fi fantasy series since Buffy The Vampire Slayer happened two decades ago.

Tim Shaw does have his fair share of menace, once you get past his dentistry skills and is a worthy opponent to take the new Doctor Who into the first chapter of her new era in an hour of edge of your set thrills and spills.  Chris Chibnall’s script gives Whittaker’s new Doctor a clean slate, new friends played by Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill and plenty of alien wackiness as she comes to grips with her new persona.

Some scenes are vaguely reminiscent of the magic of Pertwee and Tom Baker (Pertwee was confined to Earth, Tom Baker even lost his TARDIS for a few stories) but overall the nods to the past are kept to a bare minimum, not a bad thing, as Whittaker clearly is The Doctor and owns Doctor Who from entry.

Action packed and with a dash of wackiness to boot Jodie Whitaker’s Doctor Who has already exceeded my expectations. Roll on next week’s episode!

Photograph: BBC