Monday, 8 October 2018

Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell To Earth: TV Review

Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell To Earth: TV Review

Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell To Earth: TV Review
In the old days, post-regeneration episodes of Doctor Who were about introducing the new Doctor over a few episodes, throwing in a cursory threat and establishing a template for what was to come, before letting the new Doctor triumph and show the audience it was still the same fella it always was.

Post 2005 Who regeneration episodes were all about hinting at arcs, or knockabout fare that saw the Doctor emerge triumphantly and defiantly onto the screen, burning away the predecessor with a generous slice of one-upmanship.

The debut of 2018's newest Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, is more than that this time around - it's a mission statement from the moment it begins.

For a world that's been split by the fact the Doctor is now a woman for the first time in 55 years, and to a show which was, in truth, losing its way a little.

In The Woman Who Fell To Earth, Jodie Whittaker emerges triumphantly and commandingly as the Doctor - there's no doubting this mix of hyper-kinetic energy with elements of Tom Baker's tooth and curls and David Tennant's bounding enthusiasm fused tightly together into one blonde bundle.

And yet, both new showrunner Chris Chibnall and Whittaker do something more with new Doctor Who - they make it inclusive.
Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell To Earth: TV Review

It's a full 10 minutes or so before the new Doctor comes onto the screen via the roof of a train.

Before then, Chibnall's brought us an England we all know - a melting pot mix of race and culture, complete with a central hero who's identifiable - Tosin Cole's dyspraxic Ryan. It looks like nothing
Who's ever done before and has diversity all over it the moment it starts - from the locations to the people, this is a Doctor Who retcon for all.

And while there are elements of Matt Smith's opener The Eleventh Hour, and elements of one other sci-fi series that had a reboot just recently at the movies, The Woman Who Fell to Earth is as much Jodie Whittaker's hour, as it is her friends around here.
Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell To Earth: TV Review

"Echoes of who I was and calls forward to who I am" is one line uttered by the Doctor, and could in truth be a MO for the show. Sure, it's the series we all knew and loved, but it's changed a bit - and with a multi-generational, ethnically mixed cast, this is a Doctor Who for the now.

Pre-publicity shouted about how it's about time, and the declaration of intent is there from the moment the slickly produced show fires up.

It looks nothing like Who has done before, and that's great; it's a fresh cinematic coat of paint on a series that needed it. But for every moment of freshness, there's a nod to the past.

Atmospherics that drip with tension, suspense that's terrifying to a family audience, and humour from our hero to puncture it (that and a love of a fried egg sandwich, a salty nod to the heart of Sheffield where the show now resides).
Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell To Earth: TV Review

From the moment she falls in from the train, Jodie Whittaker's in charge, and that's a good thing. It's like she's never not been there, and it's a performance that zings as much as it should, as you watch her grow into the role before your eyes, becoming the Doctor while simultaneously acknowledging what's passed. The second episode should give us more insight into this Doctor and character though.

Crafty little echoes of Logopolis, signs of the occasional early ruthlessness of Peter Capaldi's Doctor, but grounded in a humanity, Whittaker delivers all of it and more.

But in truth, her co-players in the ensemble deliver as well - from Bradley Walsh's former bus driver Graham, to Cole's Ryan via Mandip Gill's Yasmin, the team gels instantly, even if occasionally the script's simplicity and sensibilities fail it. (And one glaring plot hole from before goes unanswered.)
Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell To Earth: TV Review

All in all, The Woman Who Fell To Earth is a pacy rallying cry for Doctor Who.

It's both steeped in the past, and looking defiantly and definitively into the future - one speech (that's almost fourth wall breaking) talks of how we can evolve while staying true to who we are, honour who we've been and who we want to be next.

It's stirring stuff, and yes, it's truly about time.

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