Monday, October 8, 2018

Doctor Who 11.01: “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”

“We are all capable of the most incredible change. We can evolve while still staying true to who we are. We can honor who we’ve been and choose who we want to be next.”
- The Doctor

I have now watched this episode twice through and I have to say, it feels good to have the Doctor back on my screen. I know I spent a lot of the previous series complaining about a lot of things but when the new showrunner said this series was going to be fresh and accessible to new fans, they meant it. But, they also made sure to keep hints of the past for those of us who have stayed with the series. Jodie’s Doctor is vibrant and fun and in control and I love it all. I also feel more connected to the three companions (or friends as I believe they are being called now) than I ever di to Bill or Clara. I am properly excited again to go on adventures with the Time Lord with two hearts! v While the plot of this episode wasn’t anything spectacular or new, it served the purpose of introducing us to our new cast of characters. We begin with Ryan and his nan, Grace and her second husband Graham. Ryan has a coordination disorder that makes it really hard for him to do things like riding a bike. He gets so fed up with his failure, he chucks his bike off a cliff, only to be sent down after it while Nan and Graham hop the train home. Thanks to some poor choices (maybe don’t touch the weird glowing shapes in the air), a weird alien pod shows up, prompting a call to the police. Enter Yaz, a young female officer still in training. She’s bored of breaking up stupid squabbles over parking spaces and she jumps at the chance for something a bit odd. It also appears she and Ryan went to primary school together. I like that they aren’t just total strangers. They have a history we can explore.

We jump to Nan and Graham on the train that has a massive power outage and is being attached by a tentacle, electricity-shooting alien. Enter the Doctor. Or rather, she falls through the roof of the train. She’s a bit discombobulated as to who she is but she does fend off the creature for now. And then, in typical Doctor fashion, she starts trying to solve problems. She’s still regenerating so she’s having some memory gaps. I quite appreciated the fact she acknowledged that not long ago she used to be a white-haired Scotsman. I also enjoyed the fact that she was able to explain certain things about what she was going through while still taking charge of the situation. She motivated the gang around her to reach out to their contacts to figure out if anything else odd had happened.

As I mentioned, the story of the episode wasn’t anything new, although the alien certainly was. In a way, it almost reminded me of the Hirogen from Star Trek: Voyager. Not in how they looked (the Hirogen were way better looking) but in how they treated humanity as prey to be hunted for honor and glory. Even if she’s not quite sure who she is, the Doctor is clear she doesn’t like that one bit. She’s still working on a plan to get to the bottom of things, but regeneration energy knocks her out for a bit, reminding me of The Christmas Invasion (one of my all-time favorite Christmas specials and overall episodes of Doctor Who).

It turns out, the alien race has been to Earth before and took a young man’s sister. He’s intent on finding out what happened to her but he’s never going to get those answers because the alien kills him. Oh, and did I mention his name is Tim Shaw? How scary! Tim orders our motley crew to stay out of his way as he hunts his randomly selected human and he thinks he’s got a solid deterrent: DNA bombs that have been placed in everyone. Well he clearly has never met the Doctor before. She’s clever and resourceful. She built her own freaking sonic screwdriver! We haven’t seen any other iteration of the Doctor (at least in modern Who) do that!

Just when the situation seems the direst, the Doctor finally remembers who she is and gives quite the speech. It reminded me a little of Ten and Nine in her delivery. She stops the bad guy but unfortunately, we lose of the companions we’ve started to cling to: Nan. It wasn’t that unexpected given that we knew Graham, Ryan and Yaz were the ones she’d be travelling with. Still, it was sad to see Nan go. Following her funeral, the Doctor acknowledges that there are ways to keep the ones we lose with us by remembering what they would say and do. It makes me wonder who specifically she’s referencing. Her granddaughter Susan? “daughter” Jenny? Wife River? (Don’t get me started on how much I want a Thirteen and River adventure). But, it’s now time for her to move on. Except of course she hasn’t got her TARDIS. And she needs a wardrobe change. I still don’t love the new costume but I like the story behind it. She thinks she’s gotten the leftover alien tech to do what she wants and send her to the planet her TARDIS has landed but as she herself admits, seven layers of the tech made no sense and she zaps herself along with the other three into the vacuum of space. How are they going to get out of this pickle? I can’t wait to find out next week!

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode and I am so pleased by how well Jodie portrays the Doctor. She’s kept that balance of funny, smart and intelligent that so many of her predecessors had. And they didn’t make a big deal of her being female which I think was good. Because for the character, it doesn’t really matter. For the rest of us, it is nice to see someone a little more like us at the helm. We got a lot of strong women in this episode and I look forward to seeing how they continue to grow.

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