RogerBW's Blog

Doctor Who 2/11.01: The Woman Who Fell To Earth 10 October 2018

I gave up on watching Doctor Who around series 6 of the new iteration, in exasperation at Steven Moffat going on and on and on doing the same old things. Now he's finally left, so I gave it another try.

And… it more or less works. It makes the bold and unexpected decision to start off by dealing with people: yes, the flashy effects will happen soon enough, but the people come first. And they're not the complete losers we sometimes see, but people who have at least some things going for them as well as their vulnerabilities. I'm frankly amazed to see work like this from Chris Chibnall, who was largely responsible for the execrable Torchwood (pee po belly bum drawers), as well as having written the not particularly great 42 for Doctor Who (and having reintroduced the Silurians in a double episode that has left no impression in my memory at all). Yes, all right, some of the Big Emotional Message is kind of heavy-handed, as is the Tugging At the Heartstrings; but from the writer who put his name to Cyberwoman and Countrycide it's nothing short of revolutionary. (And at least it's not Mark Gatiss.)

Some scenes "at the top of a crane" are very, very obviously not happening in any sort of high place; I suppose the cost of long shots means the framing can't be established as well as it should be. Otherwise, although most of the episode takes place in darkness, the scene-setting is pleasingly clear and doesn't get in the way of the story; the same is true of the effects, which give a general impression but don't require one to study them frame by frame in HD to see what's going on.

It's not the show I grew up with, but making it that would be an error anyway. This programme has always reinvented itself, sometimes successfully, sometimes rather less so; what it has to avoid doing is being more of the same. And so far it's doing all right. Yes, we still have the Doctor as an unabashed Crusader for Good, but at least it's not a Doctor who has all the answers and does all the important things while the bystanders get to wave little flags. Not quite. There's some of that here, but it's kept under control.

Meanwhile we get plenty of women and non-white people – without making a fuss about Look How Cool We Are. You pick random people in Sheffield, you're probably going to get something other than an endless parade of young white men, and so we do. And of the three women among the principals, none of them fits either the Boring Mum or the Sexy Fun Girlfriend attractors to which all of Moffat's female roles tend to gravitate.

As for Jodie Whittaker: it's a first story, so there's lots of the requisite disorientation, but she seems to be settling in all right so far. Certainly she's got the basics down; I look forward to seeing her make the role her own.

I'm surprised and cautiously hopeful, in other words.

  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 02:25pm on 10 October 2018

    I would concur though not being as miserable an old sod as you I am less surprised.

    I do hope he got over his blatant misery manipulation phase with TORCHWOOD though.

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