This Is Gonna Be Fun

So, spoilers abound below; read no further if you haven’t watched The Woman Who Fell To Earth yet. If you have seen it (or if you haven’t and yet couldn’t give a monkeys about spoilers anyway) then read on and welcome to a whole new era of your favourite time-travelling “kid’s show”.

A few minutes before the episode aired last night, I sent out this tweet…

… and that was quite correct, almost. Doctor Who has a huge and unique heritage; 55 years and one single, ongoing narrative, like a time-wimey soap opera. However, throughout the history of that canon only one thing has remained constant… change. This series 11 / season 37 opener is one in a long-line of ‘reboots” where pretty much everything is different from cast and crew to music and effects, even new cameras with with their anamorphic 2:1 ratio presentation. However, from that first reveal of the Doctor crashing through the ceiling of a train (with barely a hair out of place) and immediately getting stuck in to solving the alien problem, it was clear that everything was just the same. As she said, “If there’s one thing I’m certain of, when people need help I never refuse. Right, this is gonna be fun” and, with that mission statement, the Doctor was back, same as she ever was.

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The episode needed to tick a lot of boxes. As with Russell T Davies’ glorious comeback episode “Rose” and Steven Moffat’s bow with “The Eleventh Hour” this 60-minutes needed showcase the acting chops of the new lead, introduce us to the lives of the Doctor’s new best friends, set the scene for the tone and attitude that the new series will be taking and give (without hesitation, repetition or deviation) a nice little introduction to the basic Doctor Who-y rules of engagement, such as being armed with nothing more than quick wits and a sonic swiss army knife. By any standards it was job done.

The episode’s threat came from a Predator-esque alien nicknamed via a fun gag (and even credited) as Tim Shaw although referred to in our house as the Tooth Fairy, who came to Earth to showcase his hunting prowess and earn himself a promotion back on his home-world. Trouble is that Tim had been cheating and sent some weaponised bio-tech in advance to gather the necessary information that would allow him to shortcut the route to his objectives.

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The Doctor managed to booby trap the bio-tech, gathering device that eventually led to protagonist’s demise, albeit not before a showdown high above a building site atop two cranes. This was probably my favourite scene in the show with the new characters really starting to gel and find their feet as the final confrontation with the alien drew ever closer.  Upon rewatching the episode it was the incidental music that thrilled during these escapades with its relentless beat ratcheting up the tension. Kudos to new composer, Segun Akinola and his team. Of course, the scene ended with the tragic death of Grace as she fell from the crane. Cutting back to Ryan’s YouTube video that had previously opened the episode, we realised the misdirection that “the greatest woman he’d ever met” was his nan and not the new Doctor after all. Nice touch that.

I think it was a brave move to have a slice of melancholy in a story like this but Grace’s death and her subsequent funeral seemed to have served a number of purposes: it will drive the already frosty relationship between Graeme and Ryan in an interesting direction, it will mean that Doctor’s new companions, as well as the audience, will be all too aware that travelling with the Time Lord (Time Lady?) will be a dangerous business, and it gave Bradley Walsh the chance to break our hearts a little bit with his eulogy.

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So, here are some random thoughts in conclusion…

  • I already adore Bradley Walsh / Graeme.
  • The cold, wet night in Sheffield in which most of the episode is set along with the dark colour palette , seems really at odds with the magnificently colourful promotional material that we all enjoyed.
  • The diverse cast, the treatment of Ryan’s dyspraxia, Graeme being in remission from cancer, the grieving for Grace, Yaz’s yearning for something more out of life all serve to wonderfully ground Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who in a tangible, relatable reality.
  • I love the cliff-hanger ending leading into the next episode.
  • I am going to give TWWFTE a Demon’s Run score of 14 out 20, which may seem to be a bit stingy given that I have done nothing but praise it but I get the feeling I am going to need the leeway to give some higher scores as the next nine weeks fly by.
  • And finally, after making at least three appearances in this episode alone, I have decided that this is my new favourite Jodie Whittaker face….

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  1. October 17th, 2018

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