If one moment stands out from the first episode of the new Doctor Who, it’s probably the ordinary Sheffield bloke throwing bits of his kebab into the face of a terrifying alien.
He blurted out some endearingly lame putdown such as, “eat my salad, Halloween”—and seconds later was dead.
Like the episode as a whole, it was simultaneously fun and chilling, ordinary and weird.
The Woman Who Fell To Earth was the start of a new era for Doctor Who. As well as a new Doctor—making Jodie Whittaker the first woman in the role—a whole new ensemble cast breaks from the recent tradition of Doctor-and-assistant double-act. There’s a new, earlier, time slot and a new showrunner, Chris Chibnall, with a mandate to make must-watch and must-talk-about TV.
If any miserable sexists were still waiting to see Whittaker fail they’ll have been disappointed. It’s a stretch to describe anyone playing an eccentric space wizard with two hearts and a magic phone box as “believable”. But Whittaker’s Doctor was certainly compelling: loopy enough to be a bit unpredictable but not so much as to be ridiculous.
Like her predecessors she’s a technical whizz and a staunch pacifist. But unlike Peter Capaldi’s often gloomy and grumpy Doctor, Whittaker’s is cheerful going on jolly. This brings back memories of the revived show’s early days with Christopher Eccleston and particularly David Tennant, and producers will hope it brings back their ratings too.
The new cast is an unapologetic picture of the real, ordinary, viewing public, working class and ethnically diverse, put on screen with visible affection. Though while Ryan (Tosin Cole), the Yorkshire vlogger battling dyspraxia, and retired Cockney bus driver Graham (Bradley Walsh) are welcome, the Doctor may want to be careful before inviting police officer Yasmin (Mandip Gill) onto her stolen Tardis!
While much of the episode seemed designed to appeal to children, it wasn’t afraid to be frightening.
We kept meeting characters just long enough to care about them before they were dispatched by something truly gruesome—a hunter with a flying sphere of snakes and a face studded with his victims’ teeth. That scariness got slightly crowded out in a script with so much else to do just introducing everyone, but it’s a good sign for future episodes.
And with our heroes left gasping for air in the cliffhanger ending, the next one can’t come soon enough.