“Laura”, I hear you all asking, “are you writing this review of Jodie Whittaker’s first episode of Doctor Who because, once again, you didn’t get round to watching a film this week? Or is it just because writing the words ‘Tuesday Review – New Doctor Who‘ is incredibly satisfying for someone who loves rhyming as much as you?” To which I would respond, why not both? Yes, it’s true that I didn’t quite follow my plan for this week and was in need of something to review but I could have just watched another Netflix film and had a rant about how rubbish they all are. As I’ve made quite clear here, I do love a good Netflix rant. And, I admit, there is something quite lovely about repeating those words over and over in my head. However, this is a momentous occasion and something all of us Whovians have been waiting patiently waiting for. I couldn’t very well let it pass me by without saying something about it, could I?
Now, before I get started with my review of the episode, I have to admit that I was a little worried about this new series. Not because of Jodie Whittaker herself, because I always thought she’d be awesome. No, my fears were just down to the storylines. We saw from Peter Capaldi that even a great actor can flounder when they aren’t given decent stories to work with. I was genuinely terrified that there would be so many awkward references to the fact that she’s a girl now and that everything would become a bit too silly. Boy, was I wrong. It’s different, there can be no denying that, but it feels exciting. And anything but silly. If I didn’t know any better I’d say someone at DC films had taken over.
Although, the only person at DC films with any skill because the first episode was sensational. I couldn’t quite escape the feeling at points that I was watching an episode of Broadchurch with added lens flare just so we know we’re watching a science-fiction show. But, that aside, it looked beautiful. This is very grown-up television. It’s very filmic and carefully shot. Literally dark as well as thematically but amazing to watch. Chris Chibnall and co. have boldly stated, in this first episode, that they’re not here to mess about. I guess, if pushed, I’d say I’m a little worried to see how this new style will hold out as the series goes on. Whether it works as well on new planets as well as on a domestic level. Worried that everything will go a bit JJ Abrams Star Trek with the lens flare. Worried that it might become too Hollywood. But I’m hopeful. If it can keep it together, this series should be set to be the best we’ve seen for ages.
Of course, a series that is so well made deserves a great cast and, from the looks of it, this has got a cracking one. Enough people have been praising Jodie Whittaker’s performance since the episode aired that there’s very little more for me to say but I’ll try. She really captured the spirit of the Doctor whilst still bringing herself to the role. This was the best post-generation episode that we’ve ever had. It got to the spirit of what it is to regenerate and mixed the confusion with sadness and fear. It was spectacular. Then there are the funny asides and quirks that will come to define her Doctor as we go alone. It was a clever and exciting performance and I can’t wait for more of our female Doctor.
As for the companions, I think they’ll be a good fit. I love the energy of having multiple sidekicks again. Even Bradley Walsh who I was super concerned about. The three of them are all fabulous in their own way and work well together. The four of them all shine equally brightly and have strong introductions. Something that we should be thankful to Chibnall for. The opening story wasn’t the most complicated but was purposefully understated to focus on character. You’re only with then for an hour but you come to like these people and are already looking forward to seeing them each week. The best thing? They feel like real people. The kind of people who you would meet on the street and want to hang out with. They speak like normal people and act like normal people. They’re brilliant.
If this opening episode is anything to go by, we’re set for a less smug era of Doctor Who. Gone are the Steven Moffat traditions of self-satisfied in-jokes and showing off This isn’t like watching Doctor Who slowly turn into Sherlock. This is, once again, a show about great characters and, hopefully, great monsters. The only real downpoint this week was the alien itself. Whilst there were some fantastic moments surrounding it (Tim Shaw!) it’s hardly going to go down in Who history as one of the more memorable ones. Still, it’s the first episode so it’s a clever thing to do. You don’t get the big hitters out of the way when you’ve got so much else to do. Sunday night was about one thing and one thing only: showing us that we’re in for a change and it’s going to be amazing.