A new series, a new producer, new companions, a new composer and a new Doctor await us in one of the most talked-about premieres in the show’s history.
The Woman Who Fell To Earth
Directed by Jamie Childs
Written by Chris Chibnall
Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor
Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien
Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair
Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan
Sharon D Clarke as Grace
Samuel Oatley as Tim Shaw
Jonny Dixon as Karl
Amit Shah as Rahul
Asha Kingsley as Sonia
Janine Mellor as Janey
Asif Khan as Ramesh Sunder
James Thackeray as Andy
Philip Abiodun as Dean
Stephen MacKenna as Dennis
Everal A Walsh as Gabriel
A newly-regenerated Doctor arrives in Sheffield, England, Earth, just behind a mysterious alien in black armour and a large bundle of floating tentacles. She quickly meets up with a local family and discovers that, naturally, she’s not going to get a chance for a nice post-regeneration nap just yet.
Possibly the best explanation of what regeneration feels like, and why the Doctor’s so often been terrified of dying, that the series has ever delivered.
Okay so I don’t actually live in Sheffield, but I’m not far south of it and where I’m from we don’t operate giant cranes in the middle of the night.
Originality: I feel like we’ve seen some of this before – particularly thinking back to Matt Smith’s first episode. And David Tennant’s first episode, come to think of it. There’s a definite formula to a Doctor’s first episode that the new series hasn’t strayed from very often. It’s kind of a shame to see it again, although the characters along the way do make this feel like a different take on it. 4/6.
Effects: Maybe they’ve got a better budget, or a better choice of what to show, or better technology to render them with – or maybe all three – but the effects work throughout the episode is excellent. Much of it has a real physicality, although the big bundle of floating tentacles is just a little too clean and perfect to be really believable. 5/6.
Acting: Jodie Whittaker has a fantastic physical presence, as befits the character, and a deep enthusiasm. Strong performances from the rest of the cast, but I particularly have to call out Sharon D Clarke for her portrayal of Grace’s effortless affection, competence and commitment to her family. Tosin Cole as Ryan might be a bit weaker, but I think it’s more that this episode hasn’t given him a real chance to shine yet. 5/6.
Production: It’s new Doctor Who, it’s slick and serious quality and although I’m sure those who grew up in Sheffield will find the locations a bit disjointed it does feel like the city and the surrounding countryside to me. The music is very noticeable this time, because the style’s changed significantly. It’s sparser, with a greater use of synthesisers for a really atmospheric feeling, and there’s restraint shown throughout, with silence where silence is warranted. This carries over to the new version of the theme music, which has a very strong callback to the very first version with an industrial feel added. 6/6.
Story: I’m left with a big question: why? It’s not that the story’s fundamentally badly crafted, but it’s valuable more for the characters meeting each other and the glimpses of things we get to know – the little moments with Karl at work, or with Grace just getting on with stuff like the practical woman she is – than for the main plot, because really the reason the aliens have turned up is frankly pretty lame. They might want to consider mystical women distributing swords as a better system of government better than their current one. 4/6.
Emotional Response: Yeah they got me. The new Doctor is joyful, the relationships with the supporting characters throughout the episode are strong and natural, and while it’s not exactly a surprise it still packs a punch when the climax comes. 5/6.
Overall: It is mostly a vehicle to introduce us to the new Doctor and new companions and a new era for the show rather than a fundamentally good episode, but it’s also not a fundamentally bad episode. 4/6.
In total, “The Woman Who Fell To Earth” receives 33/42
I live not far from where these events take place. Fortunately the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me in Grindleford was breakfast at Grindleford Station Café. I continue to be amused by how Doctor Who goes to great lengths to avoid referring to any real British police forces, this time with the fictional Hallamshire Police covering some of South Yorkshire Police’s area (Sheffield) and also some of Derbyshire Police’s (the Hope Valley, sadly only seen as total darkness on screen).