by JD Phillips
It’s been a long wait for Jodie Whitaker’s return as the Doctor. Since her Christmas cameo, everyone has been desperate to find out what kind of Doctor Jodie would be. If she would be a bold adventurer like David Tennant or a fun goofball with a god complex like Matt Smith.
Sunday that question was answered. She’s a Jodie Whitaker Doctor. The actress makes no attempt whatsoever to emulate past takes on the character. Her Doctor is a fully realized new character who might as well be known as “The Mechanic” instead of Doctor.
This concept is really hammered in by the extended scene where The Doctor creates her sonic screwdriver using spare parts and power tools. Her final speech supports this as well. She’s just a traveler who fixes things when she can.
The show also handles the elephant in the room in probably the best way it could have. Aside from a brief mention that The Doctor was a woman now and a semi-meta speech about how change can be a good thing that honors what came before, the show treats its titular character exactly like it has treated every Doctor before her.
She simply falls into the scene and invites us to come along for the journey. She isn’t going to be “The Lady Doctor”, she’s gonna be “The Doctor who happens to be a lady”. This pretty much kicks all of the trolls right in the head that thought the show would turn into a sjw after-school special.
This is “Doctor Who” the way it should be: scary monsters, confused companions, a non-violent superhero, and a lot of running.
Speaking of companions and monsters, those parts of the story where pretty good but not quite on par with the great new protagonist. “Doctor Who” has always been a weird show that has run in a very specific way since its rebirth in 2005. This time around, the show has a completely different team.
Leading this team is “Broadchurch” helmer Chris Chibnall. The result works most of the time but hasn’t really found its footing yet. The new companions are interesting in their own ways but none of them pop in quite the way Rose, Amy, or Bill did on their first appearances. They all have interesting qualities to them but the show just doesn’t have enough time to set up its new hero and flesh out its side characters. I very much hope that this time next year, I will love Yas, Ryan, and Graham.
What really disappoints is that I won’t get to see anymore of Grace. The worst part of the episode by far was the show’s decision to callously kill of its matriarchal side character. She infused all of her scenes with a lot of energy and it’s sad we won’t see more. To be honest, I figured she would be killed within the first fifteen minutes and it was disappointing that they leaned on such a tired trope while they were trying to shake things up.
The bad guy was also a mixed bag. There was a lot that was cool about the tooth-faced assassin. The design of the character was sleek and appropriately disturbing but he never fully separated himself from the Predator. A warrior race with heavy armor that hunts humans for sport is a bit too similar, especially with the most recent reboot of the character debuting within three months of the episode. Still, there are worse ideas than The Doctor vs. The Predator and the final showdown was pretty fantastic with a big action moment from Jodie Whitaker and The Doc’s patented brand of non-violent bad guy traps.
Ultimately, “The Woman Who Fell To Earth” mostly succeeded in its goals to revitalize the series. It has a winning protagonist but hasn’t quite found the same success with the supporting cast. Regardless, The Doctor is back and bolder than ever. That’s a pretty fantastic feat just by itself.