Doctor Who is my favourite TV show, and so it’s always exciting when a new series starts back on BBC One after a long break. Doubly exciting when it’s a new Doctor, and triply exciting when it’s a new showrunner. Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who feels like a completely fresh start, just like when Steven Moffat took over from Russell T Davies in 2010.
I loved Moffat’s fairytale take on Who, and Peter Capaldi was probably my favourite Doctor of the revived series, so I suppose I should have been apprehensive – but in all honesty, I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for long enough now (twenty-six years!) that I’ve learnt to embrace change and am always excited to see where the story will go next.
Jodie Whittaker is wonderful as the Doctor from the off. Much has been made of the novelty of her being the first female Doctor in the regular series, but all of that is soon forgotten when watching her performance, as she inhabits the character so beautifully. It’s not treated as a big deal onscreen (although I did roll my eyes a bit when she became the first Doctor to choose her costume through a long drawn-out ‘trying-on-clothes-in-a-shop-dressing-room’ process, with the companions standing in as the long-suffering husband), so hopefully it won’t be treated as a big deal by the viewers either.
I also really liked that the episode was set in Sheffield, and so that’s where the companions and their communities are based. There have been complaints since 2005 that the series has been ridiculously London-centric – most of Moffat’s primary companions did mitigate this issue to some extent, with a Scot based near Gloucester and a Lancashirewoman based in London, but this is the first time that it properly feels like Doctor Who is finally set somewhere else. Now if we could someday soon have a primary companion who’s not from the present day, I’d be a very happy girl!
Speaking of the companions, I’m also very intrigued by the fact that we’re going back to a ‘Team TARDIS’ setup, with three companions travelling with the Doctor. This number of companions worked brilliantly in the ’60s, but was handled poorly in the ’80s, with one companion normally having to be sidelined for a story (often by being knocked unconscious by psychic alien means or a similarly poor excuse). It’ll be interesting to see how it’s done this series – I did feel that I’ve not properly got to know Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yasmin (Mandip Gill) yet, though Bradley Walsh is brilliant and touching from the off as Graham. What I’m hoping for is that each companion will have particular episodes to shine during the series.
I also loved the character of Grace (Sharon D Clarke) – I’ve gone into this series spoiler-free, as I’ve not had time this year to keep up with Doctor Who news, and so was expecting her to become a supporting ‘companion’s family member’ character. As such, I was shocked when she was killed off towards the end of the episode. As two of the companions are now grieving a family member, I would expect this to have a significant impact on their character arcs (or at least more of an impact than when Tegan immediately forgot about the Master murdering her Auntie Vanessa back in 1981!), and I also wonder if this is an indication that Chibnall won’t be afraid to kill off regular characters. Some very interesting stuff to think about as we go through the series.
The story itself was fairly fun fluff, as is usually the case with series openers. I’m not sure if we’ll see the Stenza race again, but the character of Tzim-Sha made for a good dark villain, and it’s good to see Chibnall making his mark on the Whoniverse with new monsters already.
On the whole, I loved the episode, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series!