It’s about time… to finally return to Doctor Who, a rebooted, retooled and regenerated Who. As a seasoned fan and new viewer respectively, Will and Tom share their thoughts on Jodie Whittaker’s debut and the start of a bold new era for the BBC’s Sci-Fi staple.
Tom: I’m watching this as someone who has dabbled a little with the Doctor in the past. I’ve seen the weeping angels (and failed to sleep for a week afterwards. Still can’t look at statues…) and a few other episodes, but I’ve never found myself hooked in the way I have with other sci-fi shows. I don’t get the inside jokes, I don’t gasp at names being dropped, and to be brutally honest I’ve always found Doctor Who a bit… hammy.
I’m a massive fan of a strong female lead, so I fully anticipate that Jodie Whittaker’s take on the character will get me in a way that none of the blokes have. I’ve found it so frustrating that certain people (including one of the previous Doctors apparently) have said that they’re not happy with the Doctor’s change in gender because the Doctor is a role model for boys – like we don’t have enough!
Will: For myself, a fan of classic and post 2005 Who, this was a big moment and the third time in the last 13 years the show has gone through a total creative overhaul with a new show runner in place. I must admit I was curious, excited and most of all nervous. A new Doctor is a big change, and throw in new companions, and a claim of all new monsters, just what will be familiar and exciting for someone who has literally seen it all over the last thirty seven seasons?
Tom: Talk about hitting the ground running. The Doctor crashed into the drama and without even blinking, leapt into action. The show gives the Doctor an opportunity to be a bit lost with her new identity, whilst still establishing her as an intuitive and capable leader. I love that none of the other characters even thought about questioning her authority, and joined the cause in the same way they always have with the previous Doctors.
Jodie Whittaker is a fantastic actress, so it was no surprise that she hit all the right notes of authority and comedy that have always been associated with the Doctor. What I did enjoy was that it didn’t feel like a caricature. All too often, my issue with the Doctor is that they just seem far too much like a pantomime character, but this episode avoided that trope. All in all, I think Jodie Whittaker was made for this role.
Will: A throwaway reference to a white haired scotsman is all we get to reflect on the Doctor’s previous form and then we’re straight into some classic post-post-regeneration confusion. Jodie immediately shows some Northern charm, and theres no doubt she’s got the acting chops to handle some big speeches – most notably atop a crane in this first outing. What will need to be proved is if the salt of the earth Northern charm will stay warm and not become tepid as we head into the next nine weeks. I must confess I enjoyed some of Capaldi’s pricklier moments which harked back to more classic Doctors personalities too. Can happy go lucky stay sweet?
Tom: From the off, we understand that Ryan and Graham have an existing relationship. We also learn very quickly, that Ryan also knows Yaz. These relationships weren’t solid (boyfriend/girlfriend, parent/child, best mates etc.) like I’ve seen before, but meant that the characters had a reason to trust each other. This allowed the episode to flow and didn’t leave us wondering why they were cooperating. That said; besides learning that they all have something to prove for their own reasons, it was clear that this episode was all about establishing the Doctor.
Will: This time around, no plucky young lass in need of adventure or wrapped up in a mystery. For the first time in many years some quality time was spent getting to know more complex down to earth characters all with interest and charm about them. It will be great to see the personal journeys they go on rather than serving and over arching season long plot. Bradley Walsh also impressed and any fears of a stunt casting were dismissed.
Tom: I am pleased to report that this had just the right level of jumpiness for me. The episode mostly took place at night, and the villain was twisted enough and powerful enough to be a believable threat. I enjoyed that we started with a villain I’ve not seen before (which I’ve been lead to believe is a theme for this series). One of my struggles with Doctor Who previously is that they bring back the same villains on a regular basis and I never quite understand what their deal is because I’ve not seen that one specific episode which tells you their motivation and back story.
Will: It’s easy to be cynical about being scared by something aimed more at younger audience, but the tone was dark at many points, and the reveal of that tooth encrusted face! I am still yet to be convinced that the Daleks wont pop up before the year is out.
How easy was it to pick up?
Tom: Very – I had moments where I was a little confused and felt like understanding some of the established lore might have helped (WTF was the glowing thing she breathed out?!). Despite that, the show avoided using any of the in-jokes and concepts that alienate (geddit?) new viewers. There was the right amount of “science” to make you understand that the characters are a part of a much bigger universe that they’ll struggle to understand over the coming episodes, but not so much that I felt beaten before I’d started.
Will: This series was billed as the perfect jumping on point for new viewers, and as Tom shares it feels like it does the trick. For me it’s easy to get sucked in to a new Who story. I am fascinated by what new writers and producers look to do with the series as time goes on and it looked and sounded better than ever. For the first time in a while its great to have a clean stand alone adventure – it’s hard to juggle introducing a new lead actor, supporting actors and tell a new story but the extended running time helped give everyone space to let this happen.
Will I be watching next week?
Tom: Absolutely. The show’s new cinematic look and music made the show finally feel like the big hitter it should be in the sci-fi world. It felt like a more grown-up take on a well-established show, whilst still allowing for comedic moments and without taking itself too seriously. The Doctor was established as a formidable character with a history, but without making you feel lost for not knowing every second of that very complicated backstory. She was shown to be intelligent and resourceful (I was not aware that the Doctor built their own Sonic Screwdriver – though that might be new) and thoroughly badass.
The companions were given a very convincing reason to join together in what I am referring to as their “Avengers” moment. I’m excited to see how their relationships are fully established and developed as time goes on.This was a cracking intro to this iteration of the show, and I can tell you exactly where I’ll be at 6:45 pm this coming Sunday – On the sofa waiting to see what happens next.
Will: Yes – a cliffhanger always helps! Cleverly keeping a reveal of the (hopefully) new Tardis gives all fans a reason to tune in. In actual fact I surprised myself in how keen I was for the next story straight away – a testament to the binge-watch days we now live in. The impressive roster of guest stars to come whet my appetite while also cannily keeping future story details scarce. It’s nice to be kept in suspenders again.