Thus follows a little (not that spoilerific) review of Episode One - after two viewings...
"We don't get aliens in Sheffield"
Over 10m people have now watched the first episode of the new series in the UK. That number is bound to drop for Episode 2, but it is still an incredible success for the show after months of promised boycotts over a female Doctor. I certainly didn't expect it to rate so highly. Whether any of them liked what they saw is another matter, but I think "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" gave it a hell of a good go.
It was promised as a jumping-on point for new viewers and it's easy to see why. A new crew behind and in front of the camera, with the core components of the show all being reintroduced one way or another, it definitely felt like a lot of baggage had been lost in that fall. If Steven Moffat wanted to make a show for Doctor Who fans, Chris Chibnall may be aiming for whoever happens to be flicking through the TV channels on a Sunday night. If I had one word to describe my initial feelings on this episode it would be "refreshing."
Moffat may have been the master of snappy dialogue, but I can't deny that his constant back-and-forth between characters had started to wear thin on me. Having to introduce a new Doctor and multiple companions, I thought Chibnall put his ensemble writing skills to effective work in presenting a host of characters grounded in the real world, capable of talking in my more than just snark and quips. Allowing us to spend a good chunk of time with Ryan, Yaz, Graham and Grace before The Doctor even turned up was a relief. I think a lot of focus on the lives of the companions had been disgarded once Russell T Davies left the scene. It may not be for everyone, but I think the show is at its best when it has an anchor in "our" world.
I thought most of the "gang" (fam?) were serviced reasonably well, although Yaz didn't have all that much to do. But I'm sure her time will come. They were all presented with their own strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. Chibnall's time with Broadchurch certainly prepared him to deal with a host of new characters. I don't have any complaints when it comes to the new cast - with the exception of one or two scenes which largely demoted them to exposition machines to advance the plot. Seems to come with the territory.
"Why are you calling me madam?"
Of course it doesn't matter if The Doctor is male or female. It never did and off the back of this episode it never will. Jodie Whittaker brings a lot of new energy to the role and makes an immediate impact (see what I did there? eh? eh? eh?). A curious, funny, somewhat compelling performance which is always difficult to entirely gauge first time out due to The Doctor's post-regenerative condition. But I thought there was a lot to like here. The build up to 13's "I'm The Doctor" moment may have been a bit on the nose throughout the whole episode, but it didn't lean on trying to accept her gender, which was entirely the right decision. It barely matters to her, why should it matter to the audience? There were questions to be asked, answers to formulate, gadgets to build and lots of running to do. Pretty much everything you want from The Doctor was accounted for. It's still very early days, but I sincerely doubt many people will cite Jodie Whittaker as the reason they don't tune in for Episode Two.
As someone who has always tried to create and play a wide variety of female characters, with hosts of strengths and flaws, I think the potential that the character of "The Doctor" brings to that is the ultimate blank canvass. I am very excited to see 13 develop and hopefully grow in to an icon in her own right.
If I had to choose the big "negative" of the episode, it would probably be that the villain is a little, well, uninteresting. While initial impressions were more Predator-like, Tim Shaw took on more of a Hirogen persona. He even rather looked like one. One-dimensional, but sometimes Doctor Who just needs a bad-bad guy.. and hey, Tzim-Sha went around and racked up a notable body count by the end of the episode. Also rather refreshing following an era which sometimes seemed to shy away from death to "normal" people. But big blue did lend himself to my favourite gag of the episode and also formed part of a lengthy mystery for the gang to solve. Since details of the series have been so tight-lipped, it was still great to see it all unfold without any idea of what was going to happen. I personally thought the whole crane sequence was brilliant, even if Shaw's ultimate defeat was a bit of a mcguffin.
I want to also mention the music. Murray Gold may be gone but Segun Akinola makes a good first impression here as the new composer. Gone is the sweeping orchestra, replaced with synths and heavy bass. It feels like a return to the classic era in a way - it definitely suited a moody, rainy night in "The North." (after visiting Sheffield recently, it was nice to have an episode set round these parts). We'll see how the new score holds up in future episodes, but so far I'm a fan of the provisional Thirteenth Doctor theme and also the new theme tune - which may sound somewhat uninspired, but I thought made great use of the very original samples from Delia Derbyshire. We'll have to wait for tomorrow to hear it alongside the new title sequence though! I'm hoping that's equally as nostalgic.
The episode also very much looked like a 2018 episode of Doctor Who. In no small part thanks to the new special effects team at Double Negative (whose film division has the likes of Blade Runner, Godzilla, Harry Potter and the Avengers to its name - so no surprises that it looked very pretty). A love a good cliffhanger so it also has that going for it.
All in all, a pretty serviceable start for the next chapter in this show's history. Definitely something solid to build off of. I can't wait to see where it goes next!