Doctor Who airs Sunday nights on BBC One in the UK and BBC America in North America. Time slots may vary.
The series stars Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan, Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair and Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien.
In a South Yorkshire city, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan and Graham O’Brien are about to have their lives changed forever, as a mysterious woman, unable to remember her own name, falls from the night sky.
The Woman Who Fell to Earth is one of those episodes of Doctor Who with a lot riding on its shoulders. There are those season openers who serve as a contextual introduction to the next batch of episodes. Then there are those season openers following a regeneration which have to act as a new pilot of sorts for the show.
This is one of those episodes.
There’s a lot to get through in the space of 45mins as we meet Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor properly for the first time. We also need to introduce not one but three new companions. It’s no surprise then that the TARDIS and even the opening theme are parked, hopefully for next week.
Whittaker is in her own words “not yet myself.” As this new Doctor is still regenerating. We get the typical period of unconsciousness and a high level of confusion as she discovers she is a woman and has an entirely new persona.
There’s perhaps one too many monologues from Whittaker as she discusses her own confusion post-regeneration. Much of the episode is taken up by her explaining she is a new person. But its important to note that the change in gender is not an issue here. It’s explained away very easily and very simply in a way which makes sure it feels normal and not extraordinary.
Gill, Cole and Walsh are interesting (at times unwilling?) companions. It serves the story well to connect the three in some way. Sharon D. Clarke also made an interesting addition to the cast though in the plots most obvious device we knew that ultimately she wouldn’t be moving forwards with the show.
Part of me wonders if Bradley Walsh will only remain with the show for several episodes with Gill and Cole moving forwards as the true Companions. But for the purposes of this episode the new Doctor has a fleet of helpers to move her through the new world of Sheffield.
The story of “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” is at times flawed. A strong opening leads in to a meandering second act before the episode pulls it back for the conclusion. Pacing issues seems purely down to the amount of information the episode needed to pack in. The same can be said of the villains.
Visually this episode looks great. It feels like the show has had a cash injection to the budget this series. The cinematography is slicker and the overall image is more polished and “grown up.”
The CGI is also to a higher standard. The tendril-like villain appearing on the rooftop and on the train is one of the best in the series history. The visuals show that the BBC has not given up on the show despite waning ratings.
Overall the episode is very dark and inky. Much of it does take place at night so I don’t expect this to continue. But it’s sure to cause angst for those who feel Doctor Who continues to be darker than its roots would have allowed.
One aspect of the show I was concerned about was the departure of Murray Gold as composer. New composter Segun Akinola does a great job of making the episode feel atmospheric. The new Doctor hasn’t earned her theme yet but there’s still a great soundscape across the episode.
The Woman Who Fell to Earth is a great introduction to Jodie Whittaker. Whilst the story does meander around the middle of the episode it’s emotional climax proves that this new Doctor means business.
Coming up next week…