I know I’m late, shut up.
The eleventh season of Doctor Who is finally upon us, and with it comes a whole bunch of new things for the series. A brand new actress playing the thirteenth Doctor (who is also a woman now, by the way), a new show runner and a brand new story.
But here’s the question: was it good?
I was really scared for this episode. All the marketing gave me mixed feelings, although they leaned more towards negative than they did. From the music to some out of context lines to the way too on-the-nose teaser of the glass ceiling exploding over #13.
Really guys? A little subtlety never killed anyone.
Luckily, the episode itself managed to rise above my expectations. Is it perfect? Far from it. But it did exactly what it needed to do as a first episode: it introduced a likable cast of characters, set the tone for the rest of the season, and it got me excited to see more.
Let’s go through this beat by beat, starting with the new characters. Aside from the Doctor (who we’ll get to after all these guys) we’ve got a whole new cast of companions. There’s Rian Sinclair, a young man with a disease that makes riding his bike an incredible challenge, his grandmother and her new husband Graham, and Rian’s childhood friend I guess (it’s not super clear) Yasmin. All four of these characters are likable, interesting, and a ton of fun. I can’t wait to see more of them.
They are, however, not the greatest characters. Each of them adapt to everything a little… too quickly. The only one who requires some convincing is Graham, and even then he’s still a little reluctant.
Which is why he’s the best character.
And then there’s the Doctor herself. Jodie Whitaker gives the performance her all, and god damn it she is charming as fucking hell. She’s friendly, charismatic, and goofy as hell. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, her character sheet is basically a copy-paste from Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor (my personal favorite), but she gives such an amazing performance that I find it hard to care.
The story on display with these characters is also decently interesting. An alien prick has come to earth in order to capture a random human as a trophy and become the new leader of his people, and it’s up to the Doctor and friends to stop him. It does take a bit to get to that point, but it becomes super engaging and fun once things start moving.
It’s also well told with the visuals. The cinematography, lighting and editing are spot on. It manages to keep your interest from start to end. On top of that, the special effects are better than any season before it.
I do have one issue, however: the music. Doctor Who has the excellent composer Murray Gold, and he has created some of the best tracks in television. His work for the series has been absolutely killer, including such tracks as ‘I am the Doctor’, ‘The Majestic Tale (of a Madman in a Box)’, ‘Vale Decem’, ‘The Shepard’s Boy’ and more. It’s all spectacular music that would get you humming for hours to days at a time.
Or years. If you’re me.
But here, the music lacks that memorable magic. It’s not bad music at all, in fact it’s really good. It’s just… very forgettable. I can’t hum a single track from this episode except for the new rendition of the Doctor Who theme song that plays when the Doctor shows up.
And that does not count. I’ve heard that tune over a thousand god damn times.
So the story is good, the characters are good, the visuals are great, and the music is mediocre. Overall, a very good episode. If every episode this season matches this one’s quality, then this is shaping up to be the best season of Doctor Who since the Matt Smith days.
In that it’s basically just the Matt Smith days again with a woman. That may sound like a complaint, but I assure you it’s not. At least not for me.