Finally, finally, Doctor Who is back! New showrunner, new Doctor, new gender. So, what’s the verdict?
- To my relief and pleasure, I really, really like Jodie Whittaker here. After all that concern, it’s no trouble at all to accept her as the Doctor. Almost as soon as she appeared on the train, I got a slight David Tennant vibe from how energetic she was; and her talk with Yasmin, where she brought brutally honest sense to the situation, was very Doctor-esque. I like her gestures, from touching her tongue on the train, to seeing her with her sleeves rolled up after making the sonic screwdriver, to her “Eureka!” expression where she opens her mouth and throws up her hands. Thirteen also seems to be friendlier, more empathic and more of a typical hero than Twelve, like when she apologises for not being able to resolve the situation yet – and as much as I appreciate complex protagonists, I do love a hero who’s just a nice person.
- Having four people running around after the Doctor in this episode did feel like a bit too much. It’s going to take some time to know them properly, but Ryan, Yasmin and Graham all seem a decent bunch, and we do get glimpses that make us admire them, like Ryan’s decision to climb up the crane despite his dyspraxia. Since we already knew Grace wouldn’t be travelling with them, I predicted to myself that she was going to die, but I was still sad when it happened.
- I absolutely love the musical score by Segun Akinola, especially in the Doctor’s building-the-sonic-screwdriver montage. The latest version of the theme tune that plays over the end credits is very good – after ten series of getting further and further away from the theme styles of Classic Who, this one is closer to the 60s and 70s version than New Who has ever been.
- I’m not a fan of that new sonic screwdriver, though. It looks like the Doctor made it out of a Cyberman’s finger.
- I can see the difference in atmosphere and direction under showrunner/writer Chris Chibnall and director Jamie Childs. Outside of the sci-fi elements, it feels darker and more real, from the spooky sequence on the train, to Graham revealing that he’s in remission from cancer, to the guy picking vegetables out of his takeaway. I’ve never actually watched Broadchurch, but this does feel appropriate for someone who previously worked on a crime drama.
- 19 people viewed Ryan’s YouTube video, and 13 of them bothered to give it a thumbs up or down? Pull the other one. If those 11 thumbs up and 2 thumbs down are meant to represent 13 Doctors, which two are the thumbs down? (I bet one is Colin Baker.)
- I feel cheated that we didn’t get to see a new title sequence in this first episode.
- A police officer who’s just starting out and feels she’s not being challenged enough – so Yasmin is basically Judy Hopps?
- Graham thinks there’s no such thing as aliens? Did he seriously miss everything that happened in the last ten series, plus the more high-profile stuff in Torchwood? Or is it just that with a new showrunner, they’re starting from scratch and putting a block on references to the past, except for Thirteen saying “Half an hour ago, I was a white-haired Scotsman.”
- The climactic crane scene is very well done, with a real sense of danger and the height involved.
So this was a very promising first episode. It took a while for a proper sense of the story to emerge, but it was simple and coherent once it came together. As I said, Jodie Whittaker has made an excellent start, though she couldn’t help but draw attention away from the less interesting side characters in the process – hopefully they’ll be handled better in episodes to come. Rating: 3.5/5.