Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell To Earth

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

Cast

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

Premise

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.

High Point

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.

Low Point

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.

The Scores

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).

6 replies on “Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell To Earth”

  1. lost says:

    I thought the episode was an excellent introduction of Whittaker as the Doctor. Contrary to what all the whingers where saying over the past year, there was no implosion of reality nor did it feel fundamentally different from previously Doctor Who. (No doubt those same whingers who insisted that “Doctor Who is dead” will have watched and are furiously preparing their scathing reviews now.) Indeed, it seemed to me that Whittaker’s performance brought an energy and intensity that is somewhat reminiscent of the 1970s with Pertwee and Tom Baker. And that is a good thing. The next couple of episodes will really dial in exactly what Whittaker’s incarnation will be like. Also, while the narrative did mention the gender change, it didn’t dwell on it or give some sort of overt lecture or anything like that. It merely acknowledged the situation and moved on. In fact, there was a lot of that. Something happens, it is acknowledged, and then the narrative gets on with the story.

    Overall, I’m optimistic that the new showrunning team along with Whittaker will do the legacy proud. I saw an interview where Chibnall, I think it was, said Whittaker’s audition blew them away and that is why she was hired. Having seen this episode, I believe it. Indeed, I can easily believe she was the best choice from all the auditions. Here’s hoping the rest of the season lives up to this starting episode.

  2. It felt a lot more British, much more “Arranging matches“. It reminded me of Torchwood’s Children of Earth or maybe even The Second Coming. They’re good, just… a bit more drawn out and lingering than I’ve come to expect from Doctor Who.

    The meta-commentary about being able to honor who you used to be but chose to be someone new was interesting, and I did like that.

    Also, was it me or did we not get opening titles for this Doctor?

  3. JD DeLuzio says:

    I liked pretty much everything (except for the new version of the theme). The episode and this incarnation of the Doctor feel true to the essence of Doctor Who and, as Matt said, the effects look good overall. I’ll give the nature of the alien’s quest a pass because, honestly, it’s not remotely the most absurd thing this show’s ever done.

    We had a question, however, at our house. Why do Terrans in the Whoniverse question the existence of aliens? They’ve shown up publicly more than once, especially in England. Or does the earth regenerate with each Doctor, and forget about the previous adventures?

    • Why do Terrans in the Whoniverse question the existence of aliens?

      I was going to make a flippant comment about politics or any number or horrible video-game-to-movie attempt after attempt, but the truth is Terrans, at least the humans, are idiots who do not learn from their mistakes, so I have no trouble believing that they just ignore that inconvenient truth and just assume that aliens are something that happen to other people, if at all.

    • lost says:

      They’ve actually addressed the whole “why doesn’t anyone remember the aliens” thing on screen a few times. Basically it comes down to people not wanting to believe. Or maybe some sort of perception filter effect (“somebody else’s problem” field, perhaps?). Or just plain infinite capacity for self-delusion.

  4. Jethro says:

    I, too, think the new theme is the worst thing — by far — about this episode.

    I’m also disappointed in myself; I was going to save all the episodes and then binge the season. But I couldn’t resist seeing how the new Doctor does (really well, IMO).

    @Matt: it’s not that uncommon for construction sites to go 24/7 if it’s a build that needs to be completed fast. Now the way that was portrayed in the episode was a bit odd (there’d be a lot more floodlights and the other people would be way more obvious) but hey.

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