DW Reviewed | 11.1 The Woman Who Fell to Earth

A little while ago I planned to rewatch, review and write about every series of new who from 1-10 in order to catch up in time for Series 11. I did manage to do that, just about, watching last year’s Christmas special on the Saturday before the premiere of Series 11. I still plan to write about all the previous Doctors, their adventures, companions and stories (I’ve made a LOT of notes) but thought I might also write about the new Doctor while I’m at it too and remain ~relevant~.

Spoilers APLENTY so warnings aside, let’s begin!

11.1 The Woman Who Fell to Earth – Chris Chibnall

Story

The story is so much more low stakes than Doctor Who has been in a long time, especially for a series opener. It boils down to saving one life and that’s quite important in establishing who the Doctor is and what she stands for but does not make for the most exciting opening episode.

The Doctor finds herself, having fallen to Earth, sans TARDIS and sonic screwdriver and with empty pockets. Landing directly onto a stopped train in the middle of a supernatural attack by a massive tangle of electronic cables, she meets her new companions; Yaz, Ryan, Grace and Graham. She also discovers that another unusual thing has happened in Sheffield that night: the appearance of a strange orb that resembles a Hershey’s kiss.

Hershey's Kiss.png

They must be connected (never ignore a coincidence) so the Doctor sets about, in a post-regeneration haze, trying to simultaneously figure out who she is as well as what the alien things are. She eventually figures out that the Hershey’s kiss was a travelling orb inside which an alien lies. This is a Stenza warrior, called Tzim-Sha, down on Earth to ritually hunt a human being. The mass of electronic cables are his tech. Pretty straightforward plot once you get down to it.

The climax of the episode occurs on a building site – the target human is a crane operator. It’s here where the Doctor confronts the warrior and tells him who she is

I’m the Doctor. Sorting out fair play throughout the universe. Now please, get off this planet while you still have a choice.

I’m not 100% sure how I feel about Whittaker as the Doctor but the conclusion was fitting for Doctor Who. She gives him a chance, threatening to prevent his return trip home and uses his own tech against him after MacGyvering a sonic screwdriver along the way.

Plotwise, this was nothing special though and although it had it’s moments, I didn’t like this episode much. It wasn’t very exciting, the pace was slow and the entire tone of this episode differs from anything we’ve had before from Doctor Who. I’m really hoping for more plot in future episodes.

Fun parts

  • The use of the new retro-sounding theme tune plays as the Doctor appears (but no opening credits!)
  • Addressing her gender was done really well (i.e. not focused upon too much):

    Why are you calling me madam?
    Because… you’re a woman?
    Am I? Does it suit me?
    What?
    Oh yeah, I remember – sorry, half an hour ago I was a white-haired Scotsman!

Building a Sonic.jpeg
The Doctor posing with her new Sonic Screwdriver
  • When the Doctor remembers that she can build things and just makes a sonic screwdriver in someone’s electronics workshop.
  • Thirteen in Twelve’s clothes actually looks really good.

Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff

The episode ends with the Doctor using the alien transport pod to track and take her back to her TARDIS. This ultimately backfires ending the episode with the Doctor and her new tag team of companions all floating in space, no TARDIS in sight.

Stuck in Space
Gorgeous shot, good cliffhanger

Monster of the Week

The Stenza Warrior is armoured, blue, with a face full of teeth – trophies from previous kills – and was a little bit awful to look at. He’s called Tzim-Sha which sounds like Tim Shaw when the Doctor says his name (a joke I had to Google…). Probably scary if you bumped into him in real life but not particularly exciting or interesting. 7/10.

Stenza Warrior
Blue, toothy and gruesome Tim Shaw

Closing Thoughts

I’m so, so wary of the new series having longer episodes because this felt slow to me and I felt that it could have easily been trimmed down with a tighter script. Maybe they’ve done it to accommodate the growing American audience and the millions of adverts associated with American television but I hate the pacing.

The production quality is fantastic; the CGI is better than it has ever been and I love the cinematic filming. The BBC are now using anamorphic lenses which means that you get beautiful wide shots. Where the first few series were strong on storytelling but weak on CGI, I really hope the opposite doesn’t happen with Series 11. Chibnall’s previous episodes on DW haven’t been particularly standout ones, but look what happened when Moffat was given too much power so maybe it will be fine?

I like the new Doctor, as I said not 100% sure on my feelings yet. But my gosh I feel like she’s been shortchanged with this episode. Having to introduce four extra characters in an episode where we haven’t been introduced to the new Doctor yet meant that valuable screen time was spent on the new potential companions. Also because she wasn’t advertised as being an official companion, I figured out pretty early on that Grace was going to die because it didn’t make sense for her to be left behind.

Thirteen in Twelve's clothes
So many new characters, such a dark episode.

I’m not a fan of the tone of this episode. It felt very quiet and the music is so subtle that only when rewatching clips to write this blog post did I properly hear it. Music has such a profound effect on the mood of a film or TV show that I think my enjoyment of the episode really suffered for it and I don’t think I felt the things that the episode wanted me to feel because of it. It was also very visually dark, so all those beautiful shots of the crane – while fluid and smooth to watch, didn’t give the kind of impact that the sheer drop from that height should have given.

I’m looking forward to the team dynamic and I think the show will benefit from this soft reboot if for nothing else to keep it fresh. I’m also glad that, despite my opinion, overall it’s had such a positive impact because when it comes to female-led shows we have fewer chances than men to do well so I desperately want this to succeed as well as wanting to like it. Let’s see what happens.

3 thoughts on “DW Reviewed | 11.1 The Woman Who Fell to Earth

  1. Hmm, how much longer is it compared to the previous seasons? I’m used to NA shows being 45 to 50 minute-ish, but had no idea UK shows were shorter! Also, I’ve been hearing mostly positive things about the new doctor and I’m kind of tempted to try out the series. 😀 Fingers crossed this triggers an influx of SFF shows with female-leads (okay, probably not an influx, but still), because good god, there are so few of them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So as it’s on the BBC we don’t have any adverts and it used to be 45 minutes straight and then the odd Christmas special was 60 minutes long. Recently though the show has frequently had 50-60 minute episodes and it feels long to me haha.
      Yes, I really hope so! Have you watched Killjoys? It’s one of my favourite SF show at the moment about space bounty hunters with a female lead. It’s so good!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s