The Woman Who Fell to Earth – Doctor Who’s New Dawn
The BBC threw a lot of promotion at this series opener. Social media, video interviews, sneak peeks, billboards, the tour of chat shows on both sides of the pond. It has been staggering to watch and it feels like the powers that be have finally put some love back into the show. As a result, there is a lot riding on this one.
Jodie Whittaker steps into the TARDIS, or more accurately, falls out of it. The hope is to bring back viewers who have fallen off, as well as enticing new ones. New Doctor, new writers, new show runner, new composer, new everything, it seems. A new dawn!
Time to Start Again
And it does feel like a breath of fresh air. Any show that has been running for eleven seasons is going to struggle to maintain its momentum. Even a show like Doctor Who, which is notorious for resetting itself every few years. This was the perfect opportunity to completely reinvent the show, give it a new vibe, a new look, and a new direction.
While the Steven Moffat era tended to be quite experimental, darting from one idea to the next with excitable glee, Chibnall has, it seems, gone back to basics. I think this was really the most logical choice. The show exists on a pendulum swing, with every series, Doctor, and writer responding to the one that went before. After a period of stability, it was time to go a little wild. And now, after some years of experimentation and challenges to the audience, it was time to bring things down to earth again.
Quite literally, it seems.
Chris Chibnall is at his best writing ensemble pieces, and has said as much in past interviews. A wide selection of characters and a big pool of concepts to play with, making his series something of a sandbox for writers to explore.
For this episode, we are given a taste of what’s to come with this new TARDIS team. Yasmin Khan, the ambitious police officer in training, Ryan Sinclair, the determined warehouse worker, and Graham, a chronically worried curmudgeon.
Each character brings a different dynamic and I foresee a lot of potential for stories and complications along the way. Ryan’s family troubles will no doubt be a big player not only as a plot point, but as a key component of his character. As is revealed, his father is a serial promise breaker, which may give rise to trust issues in Ryan going forward. He may also struggle to let Graham become a father figure, and their relationship will inevitably take some building and rebuilding.
Yas and her ambitious nature, her drive to be challenged, certainly could be something that puts her in the driving seat. Her drive along with the Doctor’s thirst for adventure could very easily lead down some brilliant roads and I expect the writers had a lot of fun with her. It will be interesting to see how someone trained in law enforcement deals with the Doctor’s historic disregard for the rules.
Segun Akinola has taken over from Murray Gold and has delivered a score that is distinct from what many will be used to. For the most part, it is subtle, underplayed, and just nudges the mood of a scene in the right direction. While Murray Gold could stir the spirits with a rousing orchestral flare, Akinola prefers to have the music as a supporting piece, and it is to great affect.
The Doctor’s theme, which played as she finally worked out who she was, will no doubt make a return as she comes into her own throughout the series.
But the moment that really sold me was when the Doctor first fell through the ceiling of the train. We heard a few beats of the theme music, announcing her arrival. It certainly gave me a little leap of joy in that moment.
As for the theme tune arrangement, I liked it. Sampling Delia Derbyshire’s original while giving it a punchy new baseline. Again, it feels somewhat stripped back from the full orchestral bursts we’ve become so used to. Much like the vibe of the show, it felt very back to basics.
Jamie Childs has really taken advantage of the scenery around Sheffield and created a vast atmosphere. If you look through his catalogue of work, you will see that building and maintaining atmosphere is something he tries very hard to do.
The sweeping landscapes, the vibrant colours, and the darker shadows seemed to blend quite well. Though I would have liked more of the colours. Doctor Who has seemed a little dark and the colour palet has been dulled for some time. Given much of the promotional material, I had been hoping for some more colourful scenes.
Perhaps, this was deliberate, though. There are plenty of fans returning from the previous series, so this may be a nod to them, a holdover of something familiar. In amongst all the bigger changes to the format, giving us a dark and shadowy story out of the gate is something that rings familiar.
The Doctor is in
Jodie Whittaker slips into the role with ease. While it’s always difficult to judge a Doctor based on their first episode, she certainly brought the energy and quirkiness we’ve come to expect.
Bubbling and fizzing all the way through, she was also able to maintain gravity and always be the centre of attention.
“Can we turn the lights and siren on?”
Hearing her say ‘TARDIS’ for the first time put a smile on my face, and when she pulled together her new sonic screwdriver, it felt just right.
It remains to be seen how she does with the character going forward. The rest of the series will be the chance we finally get to know who this Doctor really is. I, for one, cannot wait to see how it turns out.
Let’s get a shift on!