The Woman Who Fell to Earth Review

(213 comments)

Well here we go again.

The easiest way to approach the Chibnall era, as a long-term fan, has been with a sort of hopeful dread. So much of the pre-publicity has been spot-on, feeling at once new and aggressively of its time. The diversity both in front of and behind the camera is demonstrated a show with its heart in the right place. It all looked very promising. The only problem is, well… we don’t need to pile on Chibnall’s past career. With more riding on this than any episode since Rose, there was a real sense of “oh god don’t fuck it up.”

Reader, they did not fuck it up. It’s comfortably Chibnall’s best Doctor Who script to date. Neither of these are the loftiest bars to clear, but they are sailed over comfortably. The Woman Who Fell to Earth never threatens to be a classic, but it never flirts with disaster either. It’s a solid, workmanlike episode. Indeed, what stands out most about it in contrast to the preceding six seasons is how straightforward and uninterested in being clever it is. Heck, the preceding ten seasons. This really isn’t invested in impressing the audience.

But that turns out to be very different from playing it safe. I’ve long noted that the main thing I want out of new Doctor Who is something I haven’t seen before. This qualifies. The pacing and way in which information is presented has fundamentally shifted. The way in which alien elements, from the transport pod to the Gathering Coil to the Doctor herself just appear without buildup is strange and off-putting. This episode goes for the Weird in a way the show hasn’t for a while. The way the Doctor works out and explains the plot is new. The dynamic, with a full-on ensemble cast, has a different rhythm to it.

Indeed, the ensemble itself is different. The first middle-aged companion, the first desi companion, and the first disabled companion. That’s quite a medley on its own, and all of it is handled with an unfussy plainness consistent with the episodes general feel of not looking for congratulations. With five new characters to establish in an hour alongside an actual plot nobody gets too fleshed out, but the early strokes are there. And everybody falls well outside both the Davies-style “companionship as self-improvement project” approach and the Moffat “quips and mythos” approach to designing a companion. So far, in fact, they’re back in the Lambert-style “well shit we accidentally got kidnapped by a crazy alien” approach, which is refreshing in the extreme.

And, of course, there’s Whittaker herself. Chibnall wisely dials back the regeneration trauma, mostly sticking to a more pro forma thing where the Doctor passes out for a bit and her forgetting her name until the big monologue  Instead Whittaker hits the ground running, immediately jumping into problem solving and general Doctoring. She’s immediately focused on what she does as an identity; notably her big monologue describes her in terms of what she does (“sorting out fair play”) and how she feels (“bit of adrenaline, dash of outrage, and a hint of panic”) as opposed to who she is. She’s also, in the one real thing that’s hard to separate from her gender, appreciably more empathetic than previous renditions, with little touches like her litany of apologies after finding the body (which, in contrast to the Tennant “I’m sorry I’m so so sorry” catchphrase, are actually focused on specific things, starting with the very touching “I’m sorry you had to see that”) and her thanks to Grace for attending to it. It’s as solid a first effort as they come, which is to say that she hasn’t had a great moment yet she has plenty of good ones.

There are flaws, certainly. This is a curiously dour episode, weirdly low on humor. The Doctor gets a few wacky bits, and the “making the sonic” montage is cute, but there’s nothing in the way of outright laugh lines. Indeed, perhaps the weirdest thing is that after a marketing campaign more colorful than the New Paradigm Daleks we got an episode that’s all night shots and industrial settings. This feels slightly worrisome, as there’s no particular reason this should be such grimly serious fare; it’s not like it’s going for being really scary or anything either. If this is providing a baseline for the series, I foresee problems.

And then there’s Grace. It seems churlish to complain about killing off the black middle aged woman proto-companion in the context of such aggressive diversity in the show. Doctor Who has a body count, and a diverse Doctor Who is going to have a diverse body count. Grace was a great character who would have been lovely to see more of, but that’s necessary for her death to have any impact. No, the problem is just that it’s cheap and lazy. If this is what they wanted the BBC could have had Toby Whithouse for far cheaper. 

But for the most part this is far better than that. It’s far from clear what the Chibnall/Whittaker era is going to be like. But so far it’s confident, fresh, and interesting. That’s a good start. Let’s see where we go from there. 

  • An isolated but kind of delightful detail: Tim Shaw’s face of teeth. It’s pleasantly fucked up and unexpected. More of whatever that instinct in Chibnall is.
  • Actually, the overall design is worth remarking on. These monsters just plain look different from what we’re used to. The body armor alien and writhing tentacle/electricity thing are both solid visuals. Neither is a classic design, which again feels like something the episode just isn’t going for in the first place, but they have a pleasant moment of “hm, that’s new” to them.
  • I initially thought Whittaker’s “I’m the Doctor” monologue was a bit drab and understated before I realized that I was just no longer used to hearing a rousing speech without Murray Gold trying to emote my ears to death. Segun Akinola is off to a good start here with an approach that’s a little more Dudley Simpson instead of an orchestral Keff McCulloch.
  • We can all relish this brief moment in which Lawrence Miles’s opinions about an era of Doctor Who are basically all correct. (I mean, I’m still hoping Chibnall is elevated by the job, and I’m not that bothered by Graham, but still.)
  • Speaking of Lawrence Miles, or rather not as it’s Volume 6, there’s a bit in About Time where Tat Wood notes that Paradise Towers is the first story in a long time to be free of continuity references. That’s not quite what’s going on here, not least as Whittaker references being Capaldi and is still in his smoking jacket, but the sense of a restart is considerably more intense than even The Eleventh Hour, which culminated in a montage of past Doctors and monsters. There’s been a tendency in some circles to compare the imagined Chibnall era with the Davies era, and this stated “no old stuff” policy, though more extreme than what Davies did with Series 1 (which of course had three Dalek episodes and opened with a Spearhead from Space riff), harkens back to that. It feels like the right choice so far; there’s time enough for Daleks later.
  • Trans elements of the Thirteenth Doctor: the puzzled delight at buying women’s clothes.
  • The no TARDIS thing is interesting. Presumably on its way soon, as a season-long hunt for the TARDIS that involved lots of space and time travel would rather undermine it’s basic coolness. But holding back all the TARDIS set pieces for an episode is an interesting way of increasing the focus on the characters, and makes for a pretty good cliffhanger too.
  • Don’t expect these reviews to reliably be on Monday morning. I’m always going to give Patrons at least a few hours lead time with them, and so they’ll be Monday or Tuesday, but probably very rarely Wednesday.
  • No fixed podcast day either; I have a weird schedule at the moment that makes early week coordination a challenge, so I’m going to try for Thursdays but will probably miss.
  • First podcast guest by the way will be Caitlin Smith.
  • Ranking seems a bit silly here, but speaking of it if you want to see my updated ranking of every Doctor Who story through Twice Upon a Time, it’s a Patreon exclusive. But I will say that The Woman Who Fell to Earth would come in at 116th.

Comments

Chicanery 1 year, 1 month ago

Reposting from Patreon:

"It worked, but it wasn't that great. It certainly felt more cinematic, but the cinematography was empty. It looked pretty, but didn't manage to convey anything that wasn't conveyed by more prosaic direction.
The biggest problem is obviously the transparent fridging of Grace, which is intensely worrying. I hope Chibnall can course correct."

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 1 month ago

So is the episode title about the Doctor or about Grace?

On the one hand, the Doctor fits the Bowie film reference better.

On the other hand ... "fall from Grace."

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Derik 1 year, 1 month ago

By default this episode was about Clara.
(Cleverly disguised as a ball of writhing hentackles.)

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Blue Mouse 1 year, 1 month ago

How is Grace "Fridged"?

Traditionally, "fridging" refers to the gratuitous death of a (often female) character to drive another (often male) character to revenge or to kickstart some other plot requirement.

Grace's death wasn't fridging. It was consequence of an active, empowered character making a decision. Her death didn't drive anyone to revenge, or any other plot requirement, but united them in grief. It was sacrifice for family, for friends, for future life, an understandable behaviour of someone who went in for nursing.

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Jarl 1 year, 1 month ago

"If this is what they wanted the BBC could have had Toby Whithouse for far cheaper."

Oh god, that stings.

Overall, I basically liked it, and I remember saying out loud "This feels very different" part way through, I can't remember the exact moment but it was during an establishing shot of Sheffield at night.

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Ciaran M 1 year, 1 month ago

That sure was Jodie excelling during a whole lot of nothng!

Overall tone feels a kid's adventure show slotted into a prestige BBC procedural. Which I guess is what we all expected.

Hey what was with that salad guy who got killed? Why did that occupy screen time?

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prandeamus 1 year, 1 month ago

I speculate (oh why not, get it in now) that Salad Drunk Guy Who Gets Killed By The Monster is the Chibnall equivalent of the Letts Tramp/Yokel Who Gets Killed By The Monster.

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Alex Watts 1 year, 1 month ago

Some of the dialogue felt a little clunky to me.

"Every day's a learning day"...isn't a phrase is it? It felt like every day's a school day got slightly confused with not missing leg day at the gym. And "sorting out fair play across the universe" felt more like a Conservative Party Conference slogan than a statement of intent for the Doctor.

That was more than outweighed by the good bits for me. Lovely performances, a script that's content to not be all flourishes all the time, very pleasing direction. And for all the monster wasn't the main focus, Predator as a posh boy throwing money at his inadequacies was a nice angle.

The Doctor's back, and just in time. We need her.

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Ettin 1 year, 1 month ago

Every Day's A Learning Day is part of the lingering Scottish conspiracy: https://education.gov.scot/parentzone/Documents/EveryDaysaLearningDay3to6.pdf

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Jesse 1 year, 1 month ago

Some of the dialogue felt a little clunky to me.

*Lots* of the dialogue felt clunky to me. I suspect this will be the area where I'll miss Moffat the most—we've just gone from "Even in the worst installments, you know there'll probably be at least one sparkling exchange" to "How many rote phrases from a thousand other TV episodes can we string together in this scene?"

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Kate Orman 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm so disappointed it was nothing like Countrycide.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

It was actually similar to what Countrycide appears to be about in the beginning: aliens are regularly hunting humans.

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Kate Orman 1 year, 1 month ago

Well, yes, but _other_ than that. XD

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CJM123 1 year, 1 month ago

It does have a truly great bad pun for a title. That's gotta count for something right?

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mx_mond 1 year, 1 month ago

I think I would have had less of a problem with Grace’s death if she didn’t have one of the Symbolically Meaningful Names for Female Characters Who Are Inevitably Going to Die (the others being Faith, Hope, and Zoe).

But other than that, and the aftemath, which I think most flagrantly displayed Chibnall’s propensity for some cliched dialogue, I really enjoyed this. I mostly want my Doctor Who to have a distinct feeling and contain at least a few nice, interesting touches, and this episode had that. In particular, I liked Carl’s self-affirmations and Tim Shaw’s “You will never know” in response to Rahul asking about what happened to his sister. I also thought Jodie Whittaker gave a really good performance and I’m really excited to see more of her.

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Kate Orman 1 year, 1 month ago

How _much_ more of her? (I shouldn't tease, she has me on a string.)

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mx_mond 1 year, 1 month ago

Ha! I mean, I’ll take whatever they give us.

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Luca 1 year, 1 month ago

Oh god, I hated it so much.Whittaker was the only element I liked so far. Even the great diversity just felt perfunctory, and the whole thing was so drab and humorless, I just wanted it to be over. I really hope the writers can get a better balance with time.

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prandeamus 1 year, 1 month ago

The insistence on all that night shooting bugged me a bit, but it may be a cue to have my eyes checked out or get a new TV; I'm finding night shoots increasing hard to watch on all shows.

The timing was a bit wobbly - it takes days to arrange a funeral service (and lie to the authorities about the true cause), but it seemed to be instant. And the sense of distance off a bit. How far fro the train crash to the hill. (Why was Yaz the only police officer attending to the train?) Maybe that's the choice of Sheffield, which is a Pretty Big City but isn't as recognisably big as London or as small as Leadworth. I'm glad they showed this hills and didn't merely go for Dark Satanic Mill Northern City cliches.

The landing pod thing kept reminding me of Hershey's Kisses. I need more crappy chocolate in my life.

Some of the dialog about not being scared of change is there to reassure the kids, and I get that.

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kevin merchant 1 year, 1 month ago

An OLED screen works well

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mx_mond 1 year, 1 month ago

“Some of the dialog about not being scared of change is there to reassure the kids”

Manbabies, more like.

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Kate Orman 1 year, 1 month ago

Regarding the manbabies... there's a Game of Thrones thing where you can never enjoy someone getting their comeuppance, because there's always a disastrous price. This is how I feel about the boys on Twitter who have tried to gatekeep Paul Cornell and Neil Gaiman just now. They need a good slap, even a couple of good slaps. They'll get ten thousand slaps. Me of all people shouldn't care a damn about the damage bullies bring on themselves, but I've been on the receiving end of too many dogpiles myself.

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Kit Power 1 year, 1 month ago

I just wanted to thank you so much for the above comment. It's a very elegant expression of a messy half thought I've had circulating for a while.

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Kate Orman 1 year, 1 month ago

*tips hat*

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Leslie 1 year, 1 month ago

It is implied that it was a few days afterwards for grace's funeral, as Yaz mentioned The Doctor was wearing the same clothes for several days.

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Sleepyscholar 1 year, 1 month ago

I noticed one very subtle reference to the past, but it's so subtle it may be just me projecting. When they ask the Doctor about her family, and she says she lost them a long time ago, what she goes on to say strongly reminded me of the second Doctor's similar conversation with Victoria.

What I liked was that I noticed this, but it would never stand out to a new viewer as anything other than a natural response.

Give me this sort of thing over throwaway conversational references to Metebelis 3 any day.

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kevin merchant 1 year, 1 month ago

Or as Matt Smith had it : "MetAbolis 3"

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 1 month ago

I definitely interpreted it as a deliberate callback. After all, scenes where the Doctor talks about his/her family are few and far between.

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CO 1 year, 1 month ago

It was a fairly humorless episode, yeah, but I did crack up when Whittaker wiped out Ryan's phone. "All my stuff is on there!" "NOT ANYMORE!" with a delightful grin. her most "Doctor" moment for me so far.

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Sleepyscholar 1 year, 1 month ago

I am sufficiently immature that I thought 'Tim Shaw' was a reasonable gag.

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5tephe 1 year, 1 month ago

They were both pretty great gags. Thought the direction/editing of the "Tim Shaw?" joke could have hit it harder, but they're obviously ain't away from the sillies to begin with.

An instinct that, while understandable in a new show, I hope they will grow out of quickly.

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Lolotehe 1 year, 1 month ago

I liked the 'Tim Shaw' gag, but it reminded me too much of the Tick vs Thrakkorzog 'Susan' fight.
That was also on a rooftop.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

I laughed MANY times.
When she went over different words of calling the group: "fam? I'm distracting myself."
The way she told Karl to "just... step over". Hilarious!

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CJM123 1 year, 1 month ago

I loved Ryan at all points he was on. "It's my Dad's company" is a great joke, and fitting for the weirdly cliquey world of crane drivers.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 1 year, 1 month ago

So since you seem to be speaking from experience, off-topic and a bit weird, but would the crane drivers have really sprung into action and helped Spiderman swing into action in unison in The Amazing Spiderman movie?

And are real-world crane drivers cliquey because of the experience/skills necessary to operate the machinery, or is this a joke about how crane drivers are portrayed in media? Trade secret and such?

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CJM123 1 year, 1 month ago

It's not my experience, but my dad's slightly out-of-date experience. Basically, it takes a lot of skill to operate a crane; far more training is needed than any other building site vehicle. But at the same time, there isn't a lot of need for cranes. Most cities will be using double digits, not triple. In Britain, it used to be very hard to get access to learn how to drive a crane unless you had a family member who already did. Quite an exclusive local boys club at the time, ran by people who wanted to make sure their kids could do a well-paying job without having a lot of competing people going for limited jobs.

I don't know what crane drivers are like in New York, but my guess is they aren't a hive mind. Still, it would probably still get Spider-Man some good press, and probably support from them. Not sure they could all access their cranes out-of-hours to help him swing to the Lizard that easily.

I can't believe I said "Ryan" instead of "Karl" by the way.

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5tepbe 1 year, 1 month ago

Loved it.

Yes, I think Chibnall had a pedestrian quality to him, but also a determined awareness of his own privilege which is clearly in display. I predict that these two elements will lead to an era of Who which is full of solid storytelling, politically and philosophically advanced, and wildly popular.

Yes, I'm an optimist.

One great thing to note: "You had no right to do that!" suggests that this Doctor might actually be truly pacifist. She will never actually take a life. Now THAT would be a radical (and welcome) change.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

She literally slipped a bomb inside the alien and goaded him into detonating it.

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mx_mond 1 year, 1 month ago

I didn’t feel like she goaded him – she offered him a fair exchange, while also making sure that if he went ahead with his plan, it would backfire on him, but in a non-fatal way.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

It wasn't a fair exchange as he didn't understand what the options were.
It's like Brexit all over again.

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

How was it non-fatal? Each of those things was deadly, and she gave him five.

It's pretty standard Doctor modus operandi, like a micro-scale Hand of Omega routine, but it's a very long way from being pacifist. And having premeditatedly set Tim up for this "nasty" death using a banned bioweapon, it's a bit rich to berate some random civilian for pushing the already-dying mass-murderer who had lined him up for a fate worse than death off a crane.

That sort of hypocrisy is also hardly unprecendented for the Doctor, but I don't think that element of it was intended, and it would seem tonally weird in that context if it were.

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mx_mond 1 year, 1 month ago

Seems like I have to go back and watch that moment again, because it seemed to me that he was seriously hurt/incapacitated by the detonation, but there was an assumption that he would be able to teleport to receive help.

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

It was odd. It played out as though that was an implicit expectation ("Go home!" as well as the rebuke to Carl), but I don't think nothing was actually said to indicate that it was likely or even possible, let alone certain, nor that the Doctor had any reason to think it was. The set-up about how horrible the bombs were, the mention of them being quick-acting and the emphasis on giving him all five all pointed in the opposite direction.

One way or another, I definitely think it was poor writing.

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

(Incidentally, regarding the bombs, the idea that you silence witnesses by implanting weapons in them which you will eventually detonate at some unspecified point in the future, having given them ample time to do whatever word-spreading they are inclined to do, was impressively nonsensical, though for conspicuous absurdity it didn't match the Tardis-like capacity of Yaz's car to get her and Ryan from somewhere out in the woods to a train in the middle of a field on a very vaguely-identified stretch of railway line in about a minute.)

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mx_mond 1 year, 1 month ago

No argument from me there.

And to continue the theme of how odd and confusing it was: did I get it right that Tim Shaw did use the teleport while falling and thus his death being uncofirmed so far?

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

Yes. Though I'm not wild about the prospect of a return appearance. (I'd prefer the visually-arresting biomechanical snake-storm.)

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mx_mond 1 year, 1 month ago

Oh yeah. I’m wondering if this is a setup for a full-on invasion in the finale, or the Doctor being hunted, and... not really being enthused about either of those ideas. As a one-off villain Tim Shaw was okay, but I’m not sure about bringing that concept back again.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

After the Stenza got a significant mention in the second episode, I'll say Tim Shaw is definitely coming back.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

I was also under the impression that the "go home" bit meant that Tim Shaw might just get help. Or he might not. But I agree that it wasn't very clear.

As for the pacifism... I mean, regardless of whether pacifism is a viable strategy in the real world, it's not a good one in an action-adventure world where monsters abound.

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

Absolutely - I'm not suggesting it would be. It would also be a dramatic break with the Doctor's past behaviour. I was just disputing the suggestion that her actions here could be interpreted as such. Even on the mildest reading, she's using a lethal weapon on someone and gambling on the possibility that some unknown person might counteract the effects of what she has done.

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

And on the hope that Tim would not pull the trigger, of course. But the trap was laid for the likely event that he did.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

I understand - my comment about pacifism was more in response to 5tepbe's initial comment.

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Kit Power 1 year, 1 month ago

I think this is the only line I actively hated. Took me right back to the worst of Ten. 'You don't have the right, *victim*, only I, the Time Lord, do'. Far from out of character for The Doctor, but still my least favorite trait.

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Citizen Alan 1 year, 1 month ago

Agreed, it bugged me too. Tim Shaw had literally just been trying to kill Karl seconds earlier, and Karl was literally the only person on the show who had no idea what "DNA Bombs" were. I think he had no particular reason to think Tim had already been defeated (assuming he had been) and was completely justified in kicking his would-be murderer off the crane.

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Paul 1 year, 1 month ago

I also felt the dourness. I was expecting a splashy, fun, colourful new start, like Rose or Eleventh Hour, but instead we got the Misery Cancer Death Funeral Hour, references to mutilated corpses, and a cliffhanger involving everyone suffocating in space.

I was thinking about my sister, who was looking forward to watching this with her 9-year-old daughter (who loved Pearl Mackie) and there's no way I'd want her to watch this. The lack of continuity references mattered less than the forbidding emotional tone - I can't see that it would've got me onside as a new viewer.

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Chris C 1 year, 1 month ago

"References to" being the operative phrase...when they were sat describing how the guy's jaw had been broken open and a tooth removed, because they obviously couldn't get away with showing that, I thought I'd stepped into a Big Finish audio.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

I thought the image of the alien kneeling down to do something to a dead body and the sound were scary enough.

Maybe it was the poor make-up effects, but I thought his helmet was much scarier than his tooth-face.

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Kate Orman 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm hoping that, in a drawer somewhere, there are early designs for ol' Tim in which the teeth are lined up in ways that suggest they're GROWING out of his face -- that he is grinning at us many times over -- and that this was so terrifying that they decided it would be better to just jam them into this head at random as though it was made of plasticine (it's even the right colour, once you've squooshed all the colours together).

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prandeamus 1 year, 1 month ago

"a cliffhanger involving everyone suffocating in space"

I didn't read it that way. I assumed it was just the Doctor's shocked awareness that teletransporterponderthingy had four passengers and not just the one.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

Graham definitely looked like he was suffocating.

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Chris C 1 year, 1 month ago

This may prove to be a less popular take, but I think the most fascinating problem with it is in the direction.

Chibnall is Chibnall, and the script feels a bit like a first draft, but I don't think there's anything in it that couldn't have been salvaged by a defter hand on the steering wheel. You can see Chibnall constantly filling the story with bits hoping to be idiosyncratic or charming (e.g. hammer in the windshield? salad man?), and without fail they get drowned out in a tonal flatness and lack of momentum that makes it all rather boring. It also carries over to the performances, which largely aren't given any real arc over the course of the episode. Even Whittaker is hitting more or less the same note at the end as she was at the start, which is a problem for a script that's self-consciously about her regaining her identity.

But I don't really care about any of that, whereas the handling of Grace's death and its aftermath outright ruin the entire thing for me. That observation about it being Whithouse-esque is spot on. (And yeah, I think I will be churlish and resent the black woman dying first to generate manpain, although I've no doubt the Rosa Parks episode will make it all better.../shudder)
A quick, potted death scene that could have been straight out of a shit Hollywood film, followed almost instantaneously by switching straight out of that mode and rushing into Chibnall's "look I can be clever too!" moment (the twist about Ryan's video blog), and a load of serious drama eulogising that nonetheless feels undermined by plainly not happening in the same show as the last half-hour. This, too, seems like a problem of directorial emphasis, though maybe it goes higher-up than that. By the time Graham conspicuously alludes to his cancer in the speech, then the Doctor immediately asks him what he meant by that and he explains his cancer, we're verging on bathos. I can't understate how much I dislike that entire 10-minute epilogue.

My irritation with the fridging of Grace aside - Chibnall is attempting something genuinely interesting in this episode by the implicit equation of Grace with the Doctor. It's surprisingly persistent and on-the-nose, right down to "That sounds like something Grace would have said!". And I didn't notice the trick with the episode title (both the Doctor and Grace fell to earth...) until I saw it pointed out a few minutes ago. I don't know if it's actually clever or a good thing to do, but its heart is in the right place.

Karl (the self-help tapes guy) is a weird detail. Not sure what the script might be getting at there, but like all the other one-off characters in the episode, one gets the sense Chibnall was writing edgier material than we actually get on screen. Karl reassuring himself that he's special and valued, when ironically he is only valued as prey by a murderous and cowardly big game hunter, seems like it's reaching for Holmesian savagery but lands somewhere more around Saward.

I don't like the music. Ambient, abstract bits are fine, good even. But every time it attempts Murray Gold bombast and soaring emotion, it falls on its face.
The theme's alright though.

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Paul 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm with you about the last ten minutes.

Another annoying thing: two or three times the Doctor does a little mystery catchup in the middle of a scene: "But why... but who... and what..."

THIS IS BAD WRITING

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Ted 1 year, 1 month ago

"Bad writing" goes a bit far, but I was reminded of the similar but much cleverer bit in Capaldi's debut: "Have there been any similar murders?"

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Richard Bennett 1 year, 1 month ago

what's manpain?

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Lambda 1 year, 1 month ago

It's an exaggerated emphasis on the emotional pain of male characters, reflecting attitudes in society that it's what men care about which is really important.

The typical case is something like a story of "woman gets raped, husband goes seeking revenge", where the story is more interested in what the man feels about their wife being raped than what the woman feels about being raped.

This case is a little less simple, since it's death, and nobody actually has feelings about being dead. (Assuming no afterlife etc.) But it's still noticeable that looking at our characters, one of the male characters has his bike-riding problems and youtube channel bookends, and the other has his cancer battle and dead lover, while of the female characters, two of them are just adventure seekers at this point I think, and the third is now dead and won't be feeling anything any more. (Unless things are going to get a bit Moffatty.)

(If the story cares about female angst just as much as it cares about male angst, then it's not manpain, BTW.)

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Richard Bennett 1 year, 1 month ago

in that case the story of the film Paranormal Activity could be considered a good example of manpain. Where the woman is sacrificed to a violent and murderous entity because for them to move out of the house and thus to safety would prove to be a failing on her husband's manhood. So better they stay and he try to protect her, even though he has failed to do so at every juncture.

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dave 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm completely with you on the direction. I felt a few of Whittaker's lines didn't quite land because she was over-enunciating, and all the odd pauses between lines in what seemed to be flowing conversation made me think she'd been directed to deliver them that way. Mind you, a lot of people are praising the clarity of the dialogue, so I might well just be out of line with what's popular.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

Should the Doctor have told Tim Shaw that she had had the bombs transferred to him?

We are supposed, as usual, to read the Doctor's actions as non-violent and commensurate, and that she offered him a choice to leave without harming anyone. But it was a false choice, wasn't it? Tim Shaw obviously didn't make an informed choice, so the Doctor set him up to not have a "high road" option.

After he threatened to activate the bombs, she could have revealed the switcheroo and they would be back to the "let Karl go or I'll drop your transport thingy" stand-off. Then Tim Shaw could choose to surrender.

In legal terms, if you had surreptitiously slipped a grenade into someone's pocket and goaded them into remote-detonating it, I think it would be very hard to defend yourself in court by saying it was their own fault since they thought they were blowing up someone else.

Also, why does Tim Shaw need the big blue blob if he can teleport just with a device to his chest?

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Kate Orman 1 year, 1 month ago

*scratches head* Was ol' Tim about to teleport away to medical assistance when what's-his-face gave him a demonstration of Earth's gravity? If the Doctor expected Tim to survive her trick, it would explain why she chastises, argh it won't come out, what's-his-name for killing him. Unless of course her line means she has the right and he (whn) doesn't.

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

It could up to a point, but the Doctor described the effect of the bombs as "fast and nasty" - and that's just with one, not five. Plus she has no more idea than we do what sort of emergency treatment might be available at the other end of the teleport, so she has to at least think it very likely that Tim will die.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

Others have pointed out that she didn't reprogramme the bombs to match his DNA, so they didn't really melt his DNA as they would have done the humans'. He just got tiny explosions inside his body.

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

Was there any indication that they don't do that automatically?

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taiey 1 year, 1 month ago

The bombs started going off and didn't instantly kill him.

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

They were described as "fast", not instant, and if they were instant, it's doubtful that the effect would also have been called "nasty". In any case, the observed rate of the effects doesn't tell you anything about the processes involved.

I mean, if people want to headcanon around it that way, that's fine, but I don't recall anything in the text that would point to it.

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David Ainsworth 1 year, 1 month ago

"Should the Doctor have told Tim Shaw that she had had the bombs transferred to him?"

No? The bombs are established early on as an absolutely abhorrant weapon (nerve gas level or worse), Tom Shaw kills at least one human purely for kicks, he cheats at a test of leadership, he sees nothing wrong with repeatedly hunting humans and holding them in stasis as rotting trophies, and based upon what we know so far about the "permission" he received to conduct his hunt on Earth, he appears to have issues with consent.

Despite all of that, the Doctor offers him an equitable trade and even (to my mind, convincingly) suggests that he'll still lose the teleport coordinates if he sets off the bomb. In what might be a season theme, she gives him the chance to change, and he behaves just like he has been for the whole episode.

All that said, I didn't get the sense that she was heartbroken by his triggering the bombs. If anything, she expected that as a likely outcome. But I didn't get much sense of the kind of goading that, say, Seven deploys against Davros.

"Also, why does Tim Shaw need the big blue blob if he can teleport just with a device to his chest?"

It is at least implied that he's not supposed to have certain tech with him but is cheating. The teleport in his suit may be one such cheat. If so, the blob is for the benefit of the folks back home.

Alternately, the blob may be necessary to boost the signal and it's possible he didn't make it all the way home.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

By that logic, the Doctor would be excused for just shooting him in the face.

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Kate Orman 1 year, 1 month ago

Guerilla dentistry.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

The Doctor shoots villains in the face all the time, (s)he just doesn't usually use an actual gun to do it. I don't see how tricking someone into blowing themselves up, exploding their spaceship or letting them get sucked into the crack in space and time is morally different than killing someone with a gun.

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mx_mond 1 year, 1 month ago

For me there is a lot of difference between harming someone directly and making sure that if that person performs a harmful action, the only person they harm will be themselves.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

I thought it was a nice touch that Graham the cancer survivor seemed to be very familiar (and horrified) with the concept of a "genetic bomb". Naturally he was very focused on "how much time have I got left" and "is it reversible"?

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

One of the early reviews I read mentioned a tiny similarity between the villain and the Doctor (which was so common with Moffat).

For me, I instantly thought that Tim Shaw's description of what they do to humans sounds a lot like what the Doctor does. S/he takes humans and keeps them in a state of limbo, neither here nor there, neither then nor now, as if in stasis. Are we going to get some exploration of the Doctor's relationship to Earth and humans as in some way predatory?

Someone above mentioned "Karl reassuring himself that he's special and valued, when ironically he is only valued as prey by a murderous and cowardly big game hunter". I find that too sounds like a description of a companion. We have been told that the reason why certain people get to be companions is because they're special (something that Adam didn't have). They're valued because "someone out there (the Doctor) wants them"...

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

Another similarity I picked up upon rewatching is that the Doctor's threat of destroying the recall circuit would leave the villain "stuck" on Earth without transport, just like she herself is.

I also remembered something that RTD said about Adam Mitchell. That he justifies and commemorates all previous and future companions by showing that not everyone can be a companion. In other words, one must be special in order to be a companion, which is what Carl keeps telling himself that he is: because "someone out there is looking for him". One is special to the extent that one can be and is willing to be a companion. So Carl's refusal to stay in the train with the others marks him as not companion material. In fact, he has to make do with being the "companion" of the the twisted sick version of the Doctor, who will snatch him away from Earth and keep him between "life and death".

In the end, we see the Doctor snatching away three humans, and they are static, floating in outer space, between life and death.

Also, isn't the Doctor also a posh member of a warrior race who cheated (by stealing the TARDIS)?

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

I think most of the similarities you mentioned are way too weak to be intentional. Or, in any case, the episode didn't put much emphasis on the things the Doctor and the villain might have in common.

If anything, Karl's "I'm special" mantra would make him a companion material during RTD/Moffat years... but here it disqualifies him. The Doctor doesn't seem to actively be looking for companions in this story - she fully intends to leave them at the end of the episode. They become actual time-and-space-travelling companions only because they were accidentally caught in the teleporter's range. There's nothing special about them. It's a nice and fresh take after so many years of Impossible Girls and fate-ordered human-Time Lord metacrisises just waiting to happen.

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taiey 1 year, 1 month ago

Have you heard of Bill Potts?

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

Fair point, I kinda forgot she wasn't "special" because of the way her story ended (being turned into a powerful space-travelling water being leaves an impression). Although she was still hand-picked by the Doctor and invited to travel in the TARDIS because she was different than everyone else who attended his lectures. She was still "special" in his eyes.

Meanwhile, Thirteen mostly stuck with Graham, Yaz and Ryan because she needed help during that particular adventure and not because they caught her attention. And she was planning on leaving them on Earth after the adventure ended. For me that's still a significant departure from the previously-default "companions are special" model.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

I don't think so. (When was the Doctor responsible like that?). It's not the act of invitation that matters here, it's the intent. At the very end, when the Doctor is about to teleport, she says she's going to "almost miss" Graham, Ryan and Yaz. She didn't tell them "wait for me, I'll be right back". Maybe she would've come back for them at some point anyway but at that moment, I feel like the connection just wasn't strong enough. I feel like she's still not out of Twelve's "connecting to people is pointless, I always end up alone anyway" mood.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

I liked that the Doctor's building her sonic from scratch was a very nice way of pointing out that her lack of certain... equipment... was no hindrance to her.

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BeatnikLady 1 year, 1 month ago

Brave, different - and not yet quite fully-formed. That, however, is something which happens regularly with post- regeneration stories.
Grace dying at the end shouldn't have been necessary. She had promise as a character and having an older, active woman in the series would have put to rest the idea of "Sure we can have non-traditional female characters - just not over the age of 40 or 50" which seems to persist in fiction (probably without anyone even meaning it.) Like others here, I also would have liked a little more humour this early in the series, but I'm not going to worry just yet.

Plenty to like here too - the people in this episode were real people from a real Planet Earth - this is no fairy tale. As with Christopher Eccleston we have a Doctor who's brilliant and audibly working class. This may seem like a minor point, but it still isn't nearly common enough to represent heroes this way and representation is important. Everyone who participated in events along with The Doctor happened to be working class too, so tokenism was avoided.
I remember over the past few months people were speculating about who Whittaker's Doctor would most resemble out of her predecessors, but it feels like she's going to be her own woman. Comparisons with David Tennant aren't completely unwarranted, but the similarities in this episode mainly came from how she delivered her lines. She isn't going to be a detached, thoroughly 'alien' Doctor, but that's something she shares with a group of her predecessors.
One comparison I will make - a young, blonde, fairly earnest Doctor is heading off for adventures with three companions, giving potential for space-set soap opera. Perhaps Chibnall can correct some of JNT's mistakes.

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Paul 1 year, 1 month ago

They are "real" people but they didn't really feel "alive" to me in a way that some of Moffat's more fantastical characters did (young Amelia in Eleventh Hour, for example).

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Spacestronaut 1 year, 1 month ago

There were clearly too many supporting characters. And Chibnall went with the wrong impulse and tried killing one off when he should have just introduced fewer of them in the first place.

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Homunculette 1 year, 1 month ago

I kind of felt this with every aspect of the show - both Davies and Moffat could immediately bring a script to life really efficiently. I’m thinking of the first 6-ish minutes of Rose, or Blink. This all felt really flat and lifeless.

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Paul 1 year, 1 month ago

Right! We watched Eleventh Hour afterwards last night - there's a lot of nonsense and naffery in that episode, but all the characters are beautifully set up.

There was lots of character setup here but it felt very Screenwriting 101."Job + past trauma = character"

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

Both the title and Ryan's vlog offer the switcheroo of seemingly being about the Doctor and then being about Grace. It is solidly in the tradition of "why shouldn't Clara be as good as the Doctor?"

It also seemed to repeat the interesting juxtaposition of the Doctor as a doctor and Grace as a nurse (11th and Rory, or 10th and Martha as doctor-in-training). Grace is the healer who is helps people, is fun, and daring. But she falls and dies.

I presume that Graham will probably challenge the Doctor about this in the future: "Why do you get to survive!?" Which is basically what he feels about himself outliving Grace, so he might even transfer his guilt.

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Peeeeeeet 1 year, 1 month ago

I've been somewhat negative elsewhere, so I'll mention one thing I liked that I haven't seen anyone else talk about. When Ryan says his dad isn't coming, the Doctor just nods in sympathy. There could have been a cheesy heartwarming speech ("as long as you're there, that's what she would have wanted" - that sort of thing). Instead the moment is allowed to just quietly pass. More of that sort of thing, please.

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

Though playing into the whole "feckless absent black father" thing is more than a little unfortunate, and it didn't need to be in there at all.

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Peeeeeeet 1 year, 1 month ago

Fair enough, though that feels like more of a US stereotype than a UK one.

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

I don't mean this as a dunk, but it seemed too topical to ignore, by way of illustration - I've just seen a news story about a GCSE sociology textbook being withdrawn after public objections to statements it contained, including "In Caribbean families, the fathers and husbands are largely absent".

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kevin merchant 1 year, 1 month ago

I can assure you, from experience , that white fathers are just as feckless. We could have also just had a white cast as usual and then the father would have been white, so it wouldn't be racist if he left his child

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

It should be possible to write black characters without perpetuating racial stereoptypes, no? The script was written by a person who chose what to put in it, the same person who oversaw the casting process and the whole production. It was not delivered from on high on tablets of stone to a producer whose only choice was who to cast in which role.

And from what we've seen so far, avoiding that would only have meant refraining from including a few extraneous lines of dialogue, though it may be that there will be more to come on this, which might or might not improve matters.

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kevin merchant 1 year, 1 month ago

If you can't have a diverse cast without wrapping them in cotton wool then what's the point? It may just as well be Teletubbies. Watch any soap and you will see that in the UK, most fathers, of whatever race are generally described as feckless

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm not sure that not choosing to write something that resonates with a particular racial stereotype (which exists, whether you recognise it or not), and which seems rather peripheral and dispensible to the story (so far, at least), amounts to "wrapping in cotton wool".

And I mean, I'm not mounting a "Chibnall Out!" campaign, I just thought it was regrettable. I don't doubt his good intentions, but he is also the writer who gave us Solomon, which suggests that he could stand to exercise a little more care about these things.

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Homunculette 1 year, 1 month ago

I didn’t really like it, though watching it with commercials in BBC America format (which bizarrely cut out the theme song) didn’t help so I’m going to need to rewatch it.

There are a lot of ways into the criticism. I agree with the previous commenter about the flat direction suffocating the show and making it feel same-y, but I don’t think Chibnall’s script does it any favors either. The characters all feel really poorly defined, particularly the Doctor, who doesn’t do or say anything the previous nuwho Doctors wouldn’t/haven’t. The companions are the same way. There’s no sense of a group dynamic. Someone on Twitter said it felt like Class and I think that’s exactly right. I also really hate that Yaz is a cop, and I hated the fridging.

The villain was boring too - he also explains his plan and backstory through a huge info dump and misses the most potentially interesting aspects of his concept - a friend I watched this with said they should have played up the space frat bro element, and I agree.

Which gets to the other problem - the dour, dry, grim, miserable tone. Everyone’s miserable except the Doctor, and there is no emotional variety throughout the episode.

Too early to tell on Whittaker - she was not given anything to hold onto in this episode besides the 4 or 5 bathetic speeches she delivers (which are more “tell don’t show” than anything Moffat ever did).

Still, I overall enjoyed it more than not, even if it was deeply flawed. I’m interested in seeing what looks like a totally tonally different episode.

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Lambda 1 year, 1 month ago

My instinct is to hate that Yaz is a cop, but with the "Feds" line, her completely failing to be in charge on the train because the Doctor is there, and the "you can't report this to your superiors" bit, there's plenty of reason to think the writer sees this as a problem too, rather than thinking that cops make good leads.

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Homunculette 1 year, 1 month ago

Hopefully, but considering Chibnall has mostly written cop shows I’m not so sure.

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TomeDeaf 1 year, 1 month ago

He was the only writer on Life on Mars who really wrote the episodes where the resolution was "bent coppers are at fault", though. Both times, IIRC. So that might bode well.

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Spacestronaut 1 year, 1 month ago

What does Yaz being a police officer have to do with anything?

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Homunculette 1 year, 1 month ago

I hate cops.

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Lambda 1 year, 1 month ago

The police are there to enforce the will of the state, which is to say, the ruling classes and the privileged. They may actually have a beneficial effect for most if not all people in practice, because this is in the interests of the ruling classes and the privileged, but they still act as the hammer of the rich when class war occurs, different demographics get very different treatment from them, certain corrupt aspects of behaviour are universal amongst them etc. And this is precisely the sort of thing that stories are supposed to interrogate. If 'police' is a good answer to who can be a hero in your story, you've got heroism wrong.

My heroes are all the kind of people who would never join a police force.

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TomeDeaf 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm not despairing yet - I certainly hope that, whenever Mandip Gill leaves Doctor Who, her character ends up doing something completely different with her life... i.e. her life experiences have changed her to the point there is no way she could go back to being a police officer.

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Spacestronaut 1 year, 1 month ago

Police are normal people who do a normal job. But nonetheless that's not a valid critique of a fictional character. Yaz is not a vehicle of patriarchal capitalist oppression. Justifying her by that lens is an eccentric distortion of her characterization.

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 1 month ago

Amelia Pond asked Santa to send her a policeman, and he sent her a very-much-not-a-policeman in a fake police call box. So we know where Santa stands on this question.

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Ted 1 year, 1 month ago

Some people think it's edgy to be of the opinion that, because some cops are bastards, the whole idea of having a police force is necessarily terrible. Presumably we'd be better off with criminals running round unchecked.

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Homunculette 1 year, 1 month ago

I think you would benefit from reading about what police abolitionists actually believe - it always includes a replacement for the necessary functions the police perform.

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 1 month ago

Isn't it just possible that we police abolitionists think abolishing the police is a good idea because we have *arguments* for that view, and not just because we want to feel "edgy"?

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

Gwen Cooper was an amazing cop lead.

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Random Comments 1 year, 1 month ago

The theme/opening titles sequence is just actually not in the episode.

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JCH 1 year, 1 month ago

The theme song was not cut, it wasn't there in the UK version either, just the end credits and the 'future guest stars' sequence.

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Kazin 1 year, 1 month ago

I liked it! Here's a bunch of random thoughts:

Graham attacking Ryan by asking if he's going to "blame this on his dyspraxia" made me pretty angry, and it was hard to feel for the guy at the end because I kind of had him marked in my head as an ass. But, I'm sure they'll sketch in their relationship as the series goes on.

I'm also certain Graham will die of cancer by the end of the series. I don't know why I'm certain about that but I am.

I thought Jodie Whittaker was fantastic, though. I liked how she played all the lines and how happy to be alive she seems. From her being sad Yaz wouldn't turn on the police sirens to her weird nose/pass-out scene, she really made a quite dour episode light. That episode probably wouldn't have worked for me without her performance.

I really like Ryan and Yaz. Yaz needs some more characterization, but of course we'll get that. Segun Akinola's music was very good as well, and I liked his take on the theme music (which, though I liked it at first, was so bad in the Capaldi era). I'm looking forward to seeing if it's different in the intro next week.

I saw Lawrence Miles' tweet as well, and I've seen Bradley Walsh in nothing but this, so I don't get where he's coming from with the Jar Jar thing at all. I thought he was fine.

It was hard for me to get invested in Grace, because it was obvious given the marketing that she wouldn't be in the rest of the series. I mean I didn't think she was going to die going in to this episode, but had they made it seem like she was going to be around for a while I probably would have felt worse about her death. Which is awful of me, I know. It is crappy they fridged a black woman right out of the gate. But yeah, it doesn't feel as bad as it might otherwise feel because the episode - and rest of the series as far as the main cast is concerned - is full of people of color. I didn't count, but outside the extras in the funeral scene, I'm pretty sure this episode had more people of color than white people in it. That might be the case even if you count the funeral scene, dunno.

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Spacestronaut 1 year, 1 month ago

It felt....different

You call tell this is the first time that Doctor Who is being made with someone without a comedy background. In that sense it really did feel a lot like Broadchurch or basically any other BBC police drama. Just with extra space stuff. None of the offbeat campness that Moffat and Davies felt were prerequisites.

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Paul 1 year, 1 month ago

There were a few decent jokes ("Tim Shaw" and the crane worker who kept repeating his mantras) but they got repeated too often to diminishing returns.

I'm okay with less comedy, but what I'm missing is... voice. Maybe it's good that Doctor Who is becoming less of a showrunner's show, ditching continuity and going back to basics. But so far, this feels like a very generic, anonymous take on DW.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

Almost every funny thing that the Doctor said was delivered hilariously by Jodie and worked for me.

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Ligando 1 year, 1 month ago

Yes, for me is different too. I agree with you.

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Etana Edelman 1 year, 1 month ago

Given that this Doctor has three companions, I was kind of reminded about how the Fifth Doctor's first companions all lost someone in their introductory episodes. And after that we didn't get to see how Tegan reacted to her aunt Vanessa's death or how Adric reacted to his brother's death. It was like it never happened. I'm wondering how the show is going to handle this.

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TomeDeaf 1 year, 1 month ago

Lots to unpack, then! -- in fact, possibly too much to unpack. There's loads going on in this story, from two concurrently running Doctor Who plots that come together in the middle (Gathering Coils and the Stenza warrior) to the key thread of a post-regenerative message about accepting change and moving forward with who you are now to introducing a whole bunch of new characters we need to care about to be sufficiently sold on the series - more than in Rose or The Eleventh Hour - to the more downbeat aspects of the ending. It's more packed with *content* (as opposed to thematic richness, symbolism, heart, or what-have-you) in this respect than either of Davies' or Moffat's "first episodes as showrunners" are. And to give Chibnall credit, I felt like a lot of the juggling came off quite well.

Whittaker is immensely likeable, helped by some generally quite good Doctor material, from the redux of "that conversation from Tomb of the Cybermen" (how lovely was that!) to her fizzing enthusiasm to the overtly compassionate and empathetic moments: lots to like there. I also found the episode funnier than Elizabeth (and other commenters) did: I don't know if part of that may be a Northern sense of humour. I'm still giggling a little over "Tim Shaw?" and "Eat my salad, Hallowe'en!".

The aspect that feels most obviously Chibnall-y are, to my mind, the strong emphasis on place. I'm studying ecocriticism for academic purposes at the moment, and to my mind he fits that school of thought much more than Davies or Moffat: the landscape feels like a character in a lot of his work, but particularly Broadchurch and this (helped by his insistence on filming in real locations, even bothering to go to Liverpool for a few short scenes in Broadchurch S3 - whereas Who S10 couldn't be bothered to pop over the border to Bristol!). Davies comes a bit closer in things like Queer as Folk and Cucumber, but not to this degree.

Cutting away from our leads to Rahul, the guy searching for his sister, for some period of time felt quite un-RTDish/Moffatish as well - as a writer of ensemble pieces about communities and families, he's always going to lean towards polyphonics, towards a multiplicity of different voices and experiences. Note the efforts gone to to give *every* character a backstory or an emotional hook or a funny gag, even the minor ones, from Graham's fellow bus driver to Dennis the grandpa to Karl.

I had predicted that "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" might refer to someone else other than the Doctor - or at least another character as well as the Doctor. That feels like a fairly Moffat-y thing to do: the double-meaning title. But it was in service of what was ultimately by far and away the episode's biggest flaw: offing Grace. Far too fast, too out of keeping with the rest of the tone, too little time to grieve (plus I'm fairly sure she will be back later in the season; she was announced as a recurring character, after all). It wasn't outright awful, but it was very clearly the weakest part of the episode, despite Walsh's valiant efforts. Other than that, I did find myself missing, if not Moffat's jokes exactly, his gift for exposition scenes - Tim Shaw's clunky infodump would've been much smarter in a Moffat script, for instance.

Had a blast watching it, though. And for all that I wish people would stop saying "the show is finally good again" or "best episode since Tennant", the fact it has gone down so inordinately well - 8.52 million views at peak (well above Bodyguard), rave reviews, huuuuge social media buzz - has me beaming from ear to ear.

If Chibnall's Doctor Who keeps millions of children entertained, then as far as I'm concerned he's doing a fantastic job.

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 1 month ago

I thought Rahul, obsessed with his sister's abduction by aliens, might be a nod to Fox Mulder.

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TomeDeaf 1 year, 1 month ago

Yes, a further 90s nod to add to the Predator one. In fact I've seen Lance Parkin claim elsewhere that this is what the show would have looked like if it had been rebooted in 1998 (in a sans-TVM timeline probably), and that it looks like the show Russell did a reboot from, rather than a version emerging 13 years later. I think, especially given the female Doctor and a diversity greater than that in "Rose", that Parkin is being disingenuous, but it's an interesting notion.

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Peeeeeeet 1 year, 1 month ago

... it's interesting you say this (about a theoretical late 90s series) because one thing that's been rattling around my brain is how much this reminds me of when the Eighth Doctor Adventures came after the NAs - in particular Vampire Science. It's hard to describe, exactly, but there was something "clean" about VS compared to, say, The Room With No Doors... it wasn't lighter in tone, but it was simpler, more direct, less reliant on subtext and imagery. Although I personally preferred the NA style, there was something rather refreshing about it, it felt comparatively untethered. Not that it turned out to be the dominant style, since there were several authors pulling in very different directions at that time and with much patchier editorial oversight the whole thing was a bit of a mess - so the comparison is likely to prove of limited use as the season wears on.

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Laser Light Non-Canon 1 year, 1 month ago

It felt like a JJ Abrams Star Trek movies to me - fun and seems to hold together until the second you think about it. All the careful character set up with no pay-offs, the nosensical pacing of the end (what was the Doctor doing for those days/week? Just hanging around? It felt like important scenes were missing), the vauge conflict between Ryan and Graham.

The texture goes a long way towards selling the stakes and horror. The whimsical, airy feel of the Moffat era is totally gone, it feels like shit can really go down.

The deaths are brilliant, because the people are characterised in such a way that they feel real and ordinary, in a way they haven't since the Eccleston season. The granddad dying has real weight, and really does the job of making Carl's approaching doom very tense. The tension feels earned, which was a real problem with the Moffat years for me.

On my first watch I thought Whittaker's line readings were too stagey, in a McCoy Doctor sense, but for some reason I didn't have that problem in a second viewing. I think I was probably just put off by the difference in her and Capaldi's styles of acting.

Her best scenes are the creation of the new sonic (that regeneration monologue! Honestly didn't think Chibnall had that in him) and the crane confrontation - especially "How completely obscene." She sells the hell out of that line, which is very impressive because its very Doctor-y but also something none of the other NuWho Doctors would say. That's all Thirteen.

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Kazin 1 year, 1 month ago

Yes! I love both the line and her reading of it - "how completely obscene."

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Liam 1 year, 1 month ago

Could it be a little homage from Chibnall to his old nemeses Pip & Jane? (How utterly evil" from Mel in Ultimate Foe part 2)

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Peeeeeeet 1 year, 1 month ago

I reminded me more of Remembrance when the Doctor described the little-girl-dalek-battle-computer setup "obscene".

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Chris C 1 year, 1 month ago

I hate that granddad scene so much. A character is on screen for the shortest possible snatch of time in which we can learn they have a generic "human" element to them e.g. having a family. This automatically means we will care when he dies 10 seconds later. It could have been written by an algorithm. A cheap, rote attempt to imitate RTD (who'd have made it absolutely blaze with anger and sorrow). I don't think I'm going to be able to enjoy any of Chibnall's episodes at this point because I can see the paint-by-numbers diagram he's filling in.

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Homunculette 1 year, 1 month ago

I actually laughed out loud when that guy died because the phone call so obviously set up that he was going to die -- I kind of assumed it was deliberate, but looking back it would have to have a level of metatextuality that nothing else in the episode does to make sense that way.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

Yeah, I really disliked the grandpa bit, and for the same reason. If you have to rely on worn-out tropes (and do you, really?), at least hide them better...

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Nick Lord Lancaster 1 year, 1 month ago

It's Daily Mail headline characterisation. "Man dies in accident" isn't good enough. It has to be "Grandfather..." or "Cancer survivor..." or "Love Island contestant..."

At least on TV it's quick. It'd be a full chapter in a novel.

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Sean Dillon 1 year, 1 month ago

If I'm being completely honest, it felt a bit middling. Probably the second weakest post-regeneration story that I've seen (the weakest, for context, is Christmas Invasion). I loved the music and Whittaker felt like she's going to be a lovely Doctor when we get later into the season, but the episode just didn't work for me. (Not helped by noticing that of the four people who died, three of them were POC, one of whom we're meant to read unsympathetically.) I'm certainly invested in where the season's going, but the Chibnall era might be one that I'm not the happiest with.

Then again, this is the first era of Doctor Who I'm going into where the whole of it is in the future (I got into the show during the series 6 break), so who knows if it'll surprise me...

Also, whoever's idea it was to put commercials in the SIMULCAST should be sacked. And it looks like we're very much in the "HOORAY! The Devil Steven Moffat is Gone!!! Now Chris Chibnall will lead us to the GOLDEN AGE of Doctor Who!!!!!" stage of Doctor Who fandom.

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Jack 1 year, 1 month ago

Honestly, it felt a lot like Chibnall watched The Eleventh Hour and then went and filed off all the edges and made it a little blander. Whittaker's amazing, but she seemed to be amazing in spite of the script, rather than because of it. The basic set up of the story reminded me rather uncomfortably of Torchwood, to be honest: it wouldn't be hard to repurpose this story with Yaz as Gwen and the Doctor as Jack Harkness. Otherwise it was the same "the Doctor hits the ground running against an alien threat while figuring out who the Doctor is this time" that we got from Eleventh Hour, but lacking the lovely start with the Doctor and Amelia.

It was by no means bad-overall I enjoyed it, though it took a rewatch of the BBC version, since the BBC-A "simulcast" completely ruined the pace and timing of the episode-but it felt safe. Pat. Pretty much the mean of what Chris Chibnall writing Doctor Who is, really. Whittaker will keep me watching, I just hope the writing takes more chances. This isn't to say "be like Moffat", because, well, we did that already. As much as I loved the Moffat era, it's been done before, and arguably had worn out its welcome with me. I'm worried that Chibnall will make the show a little safe and dull, rather than trying to find a way to make Doctor Who fun and interesting in a different way.

Whittaker is glorious, though. This series won't rise or fall because of her.

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

Pretty much how I feel. The online reaction you mention left me feeling more jaundiced towards the episode than I did after actually watching it, which is either a sign that the internet is bad or that I should grow up a bit, or both.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

This episode had more people of color than white people in it (not counting the funeral scene) and it's Doctor Who so obviously people will die, so... is it really problematic that four POC died and one was unsympathetic? I thought POC dying or being evil is only a problem because there's so little of them on-screen and they only seem to be allowed to play these two roles, which doesn't happen here...

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TomeDeaf 1 year, 1 month ago

Yeah, that was good, though I would have liked to have seen it played up even more.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

I've watched the episode 3 times already, and I can't stop finding similarities between the Doctor and the villain.

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prandeamus 1 year, 1 month ago

Let's hope we never hear one of those dreadful "we are not so very different, you and I, doc-tor" dialogues.

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 1 month ago

One of the things I like about "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is that the "not so different" monologue is delivered by the hero to the villain rather than vice versa.

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 1 month ago

Incidentally, one of the VERY few things that disappointed me about Missy is that she literally used the "not so different" language to the Doctor. Couldn't have Moffat made the same point with a different phrase?

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UrsulaL 1 year, 1 month ago

I was a bit upset to see that the plot turned out to be this wonderful, diverse TARDIS crew running around to save -- an entitled white kid who got where he was because his dad owns the company.

Was saving Karl worth Grace's life? Karl explicitly rejected the others, and refused to help.

There is something being said here about entitled white masculinity. But I think I'm too burned by last week's current events to unpack it all. So if someone here can figure out what I'm trying to get at, please go for it

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TomeDeaf 1 year, 1 month ago

He didn't "reject" the others, he's clearly suffering from anxiety issues to the point where he desperately needed to be on his own after nearly being killed by an alien 'semi-species'. The Doctor's compassionate, understanding look as he heads off because he can't live up to some Heroic Ideal and needs time to get better - rather than some kind of "pff, stuff you then if you don't want to play with us" reaction - is surely enough to sell that we're not meant to side against him in this scenario. Grace's reaction is exactly the same as the Doctor's, FWIW.

I mean, I can see where your reading comes from, and this is obviously not to do down the awfulness of the past week, but I think it ignores bits of the text to get there.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

I agree with TomeDeaf. And besides, the "white kid" wasn't so much entitled as he was stuck in a job that's clearly giving him anxiety. And I think his conflict aversion suggests that it wasn't really his career choice as much as his father's. Sure, he's still privileged but for me that's not the same as entitled. He still travels to work by train...

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 1 month ago

Yeah, he's afraid of heights but he's been bullied into working in a job at a height.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

But Grace explicitly said she was doing it because a) Ryan was in danger and b) she was enjoying it. She didn't care much about Carl.

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Ken E. 1 year, 1 month ago

Judging by her name, Yasmin Khan is clearly intended to be from a Muslim background, yet the actress playing her, Mandip Kaur Gill, is equally clearly, from her name, a Sikh. Why is this? Doesn't anyone think it's wrong for the BBC to have a member of one ethnic group play the role of another?

I would also like to take issue with Sandifer's use of the word "desi" to refer to her. This is a term that's only rarely used in the UK, and when it is, it almost always refers to food, or sometimes clothing or other aspects of culture. Not people, in other words, and to do so might be considered offensive by some. The standard term, in the UK, is "Asian", and while I fully realise this could lead to confusion amongst American readers, since it's the term preferred by the community itself, it must surely be the right one to use.

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UrsulaL 1 year, 1 month ago

Sikhs and Muslims aren't ethnic groups. They're religious groups.

Sikhism originated in the Punjab, and many Sikhs come from that area. But there are also a lot of Punjabi Muslims. (And Punjabi Hindus. India is quite diverse, and while the a demographic variations between regions, they aren't pronounced enough that you can accurately predict someone's religion based on geographic origin.))

It's like casting someone from a Lutheran family originating in central Germany to play a character that's a Catholic from central Germany.

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Elizabeth Sandifer 1 year, 1 month ago

As for "desi," I've seen, and Google seems to confirm a pretty widespread use of it to describe people, so I'd need some citation on it being potentially offensive.

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Peeeeeeet 1 year, 1 month ago

I wouldn't say it was offensive, but it's not really in common usage in the UK. It sounds like slang and thus feels a bit out of place the way it's used here, but ymmv

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

I feel this is a very "awkwardly realising how white we all are" conversation, though maybe someone will come along and put us out of our misery...but as yet another non-Asian contributor, what makes me a little uneasy is that it's a colloquialism that I've not really encountered being used by anyone who wasn't Asian themselves.

I'm groping for an analogy and coming up rather short. The closest I can think of would be a white person in the 70s or thereabouts referring to black men as "brothers", and it's definitely not as bad as that, but that's the kind of flavour I'm talking about. I wouldn't use it myself because it feels like an insider's term that maybe isn't really meant for outsiders' use.

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UrsulaL 1 year, 1 month ago

For what it is worth, my mother is from India.

I'd consider "Asian" to be far too broad a category, for discussing casting. You shouldn't be casting someone from Indonesia to play a character from Turkey.

In this case, however, you're casting a British actor who has ancestry from northwestern India, to play a British character who likely has ancestry from northwestern India.

That's entirely appropriate. Playing a character of a different religion than yours falls firmly into the scope of reasonable acting.

I never heard the term "desi" growing up - I only ran into it once the internet came along. When I googled "desi" just now, the search mostly came up with things about Desi Arnez, and a couple definitions related to the subcontinent. Searching "desi India" (to try to filter out Arnez) brought up mostly ethnic/exotic porn. So it may not be a mainstream enough term for its purpose here.

To refer to the community of Indian decent in Britain, "British Indian" is a safe and easily recognized term.

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Ken E. 1 year, 1 month ago

In the Indian sub-continent, religious differences are, by and large, ethnic differences. And please note I said nothing about geographic origin, but rather, I commented on the names, which are as clear an indicator of religious background, in India, as anything could be.

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Homunculette 1 year, 1 month ago

is your point genuinely that actors should never play other ethnicities, or a lukewarm satirical take about how actors like ScarJo get roasted for playing trans men and East Asian characters? Either way I disagree.

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Lambda 1 year, 1 month ago

As with most easy answers, that easy answer is not an full answer. I just can't use really the word 'Asian' to refer to anything except "from Asia. Anywhere in Asia". My mind just doesn't cope well with such casual inaccuracy. If we actually mean South Asia, I need that 'South'. Or another word entirely.

And don't Asians from other parts of Asia get a say in what the word 'Asian' means?

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

Is Yasmin Khan an obviously Muslim name? I had no idea.

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UrsulaL 1 year, 1 month ago

Khan is often, but not exclusively, a Muslim surname associated with the subcontinent. Yasmin comes from the Persian equivalent of Jasmine (the flower) which skews its use towards the Muslim community as well.

I'd put it as "probably but not certainly" Muslim, associated with northern India, Pakistan or Afghanistan.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

Regarding Muslims and Sikhs - isn't that going a bit far? Would it be wrong for a Russian actor to play a Ukrainian character? Would it be wrong if, like UrsulaL says, someone from a Lutheran family played a Catholic? There's got to be some wiggle room here, surely.

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Nick Lord Lancaster 1 year, 1 month ago

I come from a Catholic family but routinely play an atheist in real life.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

Don't we all?

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JCH 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm not sure it's "clear", Yas (both on and off) duty did not wear the usual headscarf associated with Muslim ladies, I think she is just Asian, because the actress is of Asian heritage.

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

I think many Muslim women don't wear headscarfs.

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 1 month ago

Definitely many do not.

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Adam Thompson 1 year, 1 month ago

I have a worry. The villain is a Predator and there's a scene stolen from the trailer to Skyscraper. I hope the Chibnall era doesn't become a "TV versions of current Hollywood movies" series like Star Trek Voyager and Sliders.

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TheMagister 1 year, 1 month ago

Clearly Thirteen will not step into the TARDIS during her entire time as the Doctor. "I never go into a place that's only initials."

Pay attention people!

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prandeamus 1 year, 1 month ago

Let's hope, then, that the TARDIS is not "only" initials. That's an interesting observation, though. Or should I look forward to the forthcoming episode "Absence of the TARDIS"?

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

Nah, everyone on the show will just have to refer to the TARDIS as Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space every time they mention her. It's what the extra 10 minutes of runtime are for.

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liminal fruitbat 1 year, 1 month ago

No, it just means when she does find the TARDIS again the show's format will change to Jodie Whitaker reading us Target novelisations of the scripts.

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 1 month ago

No more visits to U.N.I.T. headquarters either.

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JG McQuarrie 1 year, 1 month ago

(Sort of) pedantry time! The TARDIS isn't a place, per se, it's a vehicle to get us to a place. A special, unique and wonderful vehicle to be sure, but it's not a destination. I guess we could argue about interior dimensions if you want to stretch a point, but one wouldn't refer to a car as a "place". Even if it could take you to the 15th century or gallifreyintheconstellationofkasterborous...

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

But if you live in your car and don't have any other home, doesn't it become "your place"?

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TomeDeaf 1 year, 1 month ago

Ah, I gather that the DNA bombs is Chibnall reusing his own concept from "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang". A nice little overlap with another of his scripts.

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BenJ 1 year, 1 month ago

The climactic moment where Carl kicks Tim Shaw off the crane and the Doctor turns to him and says, "You had no right to do that." I already liked Jodie Whittaker. Liked the idea of her as soon as I heard it and loved the last two minutes of "Twice Upon a Time." But that moment on the crane is when she really clicked as the Doctor for me. The Doctor needs to have an element of mystery, something contradictory in their nature. Her being willing to call out a schlub for killing the alien who was trying to kill him adds a certain spice and suggests how the Whittaker Doctor might develop.

Anyway, I'm excited.

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Mark Pompeo 1 year, 1 month ago

Seeing that the aliens were an electric-y thing with tentacles and a heavily armored and the Doctor initially thinking they were separate species at war, I thought for a bit that we were getting redesigns of the Rutans and Sontarans.Thank god that wasn't the case, at least for the Sontarans. I wouldn't mind a redesigned Rutan showing up in Nu Who though.

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Nindokag 1 year, 1 month ago

Yeah, I thought that too, for a second! The electrical tentacley thing would be a great Rutan redesign.

Toothface seemed more like a Star Trek bad guy than Doctor Who. Maybe he just reminded me of the Jem Hadar from DS9.

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Mark Pompeo 1 year, 1 month ago

"Toothface seemed more like a Star Trek bad guy than Doctor Who. Maybe he just reminded me of the Jem Hadar from DS9."

LOL @ the Jem Hadar resemblance, and yes the electric tentacle thing would be a great Rutan redesign.

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JG McQuarrie 1 year, 1 month ago

The Hirogen are a better Star Trek fit than the Jem'Haddar, especially with the hunt aspect.

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Aylwin 1 year, 1 month ago

But surely they don't have little toothy bits sticking out of their faces.

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JG McQuarrie 1 year, 1 month ago

Perhaps I should amend to say a better fit in terms of their culture and modus operandi, rather than their physical appearance.

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Nick Lord Lancaster 1 year, 1 month ago

It's obvious that Chibnall was never going to please everyone. In trying to change the (potentially) problematic/unpopular elements of the show, he's stumbled into doing potentially problematic/unpopular things.

If you're trying to move away from Moffatt's focus on the Doctor's manpain, and simultaneously make the Doctor female, then unless the show avoid's angst altogether, the angst is going to come from the companion(s) who are, in the name of male/female balance, more likely to be male. Thus, more manpain.

If you're going to kill a character in a diverse cast where most characters aren't white men, then the character that's killed is probably not going to be a white man. Whether that makes it any less problematic, I'm not sure.

If you're killing a character so you can explore the effect that death will have on the surviving characters (which is a perfectly valid reason to kill a character), then you have to choose the character whose death will affect the most people. In this case, Grace was the only link between Ryan and Graham, so her death fits the bill perfectly. It remains to be seen where the characters go from here, of course. I haven't seen Broadchurch, but I understand it did grief well, so fingers crossed.

All the same, I think the death was sloppily done and underwhelming.

For my money, I expected Grace to die from the start, because I didn't think Graham would willingly leave her behind while he went gallivanting through time and space. I didn't consider that he might become a companion against his will. Given that ending, Grace could have survived the fall, perhaps in a coma, with much the same effect on the characters, and we could explore her recovery (and the investigation into the disappearance of three people) as the series went on. Missed opportunity?

Whittaker was great though. All in all, the episode wasn't a bad start (assuming things improve from here).

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm... not sure how I feel. If this episode was uninterested in being clever then it surely succeeded. It wasn't clever or brilliant or great. It wasn't bad either, but it left me anxious about the show's future. Your first chance to show people what your era will be about and you go with that? That's worrying. I really want to enjoy the Thirteen Doctor's run and now it feels like I'll have to struggle to do so. Hopefully the rest of the season will be better.

Everything just felt so... slow. And full of painful exposition, with the villain's infodump and the Doctor saying things like "Good question!" when the companions are explaining the plot to us. It's like the show is going out of its way to make sure nobody is lost or confused at any point. But why was this necessary when the story is so simple? Explain things, by all means, but only when they're difficult or challenging. Here they just... weren't. I hope the show speeds up a bit...

On a more positive note, Jodie was brilliant as the Doctor and I love how quiet, empathetic and human she is. I also liked what we saw of the companions. The music was great, the cinematography was impressive and the emotional moments mostly worked. And I just really enjoyed being able to watch new "Doctor Who".

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liminal fruitbat 1 year, 1 month ago

Yeah. Apart from "this is what the new Doctor is like" and what little we got about the companions, it just felt kind of perfunctory, like all it had to say was "Doctor Who is back!" In that sense it was like The Christmas Invasion but without the flashy self-confidence. But on the plus side it actually had a great Doctor that hopefully won't eventually make me want to claw my own eyes out, and a better "hoist-by-his-own-petard" moment, so yeah: better than The Christmas Invasion. Yay?

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Rodolfo Piskorski 1 year, 1 month ago

I think the series of questions to which the Doctor has no answers is an intentional thematic pattern to show that the Doctor is still not in full competent mode. "Oh yes, good question". And then silence. That's not normal Doctor behaviour. Even if he didn't know something, he would use companion's questions to speculate and work out the solution. It is at this moment that the Doctor remembers that she has lost the sonic and then that she can make one. After making the sonic, she becomes her normal competent self again. She solves the entire plot very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that it happens entirely off screen. We need that ellipsis so we can appreciate her very Doctorish genius only at the end when it's revealed to Tim Shaw, at the moment of the Great Doctor Speech.

It's almost like the show were doing a tongue-in-cheek reference to misogynistic assumptions that a female (hint: lack of "sonic") Doctor would not be as competent. The truth is that the lack of sonic was not a problem at all as soon as she remembered she is a genius.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

You might be right regarding that particular "good question" scene but for me it was a part of a larger problem with exposition in this episode. It just felt clunky all over. The Doctor kept repeating key words and phrases so that everybody understands (like with the "DNA bombs" that "code into your DNA" and "dissolve your genetic code" [quote from memory]), the villain explains his entire culture in one big infodump... Even the way Jodie speaks sounded strange to me, like she was trying to make every word sound extra clear and understandable.

I just hope the show doesn't get too dumbed down.

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Sleepyscholar 1 year, 1 month ago

"Even the way Jodie speaks sounded strange to me, like she was trying to make every word sound extra clear and understandable."

She comes from a village called Skelmanthorpe, in West Yorkshire. I think that's just how they speak there. ("Loads of planets have a Skelmanthorpe").

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

Is it really? I thought this over-enunciation was separate from her accent. In any case, I'll get used to it eventually, it just sounded very stagy to me.

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Sleepyscholar 1 year, 1 month ago

Not necessarily how they speak in Skelmanthorpe, just how they speak to outsiders if they want to be understood (see what you make of this, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ll0dfWe-63w).

Being from Birmingham myself, I've had to adopt a modified accent (maybe it's also 'stagey'?) to be understood by my Japanese students.

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JG McQuarrie 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm choosing to be optimistic about the first episode. It's certainly pretty functional as far as the plotting goes, but let's look at this from a we're-the-BBC/showrunner perspective rather than we're-Doctor-Who-fans perspective, and I shall put on my devil's-advocate hat. This feels like a conscious reaction against the clever-clever era of the late Smith/Capaldi years which, though wholly unjustified, seems to have stuck in the public's mind as a reason to stop watching or for the show to be seen as inaccessible to all but the ongoing fans. And we know how badly things can go when the fans are pandered to... This is a comparatively clean, simple and uncluttered episode that's basically continuity free and and one which puts the characters squarely front-and-centre and the action on the back foot. Chibnal and the BBC KNOW this is going to get huge ratings because of all the publicity surrounding Whittaker's casting so they've produced something which is, for Who fans, unspectacular, but from a broad audience perspective something that might get their big audience bump coming back for the second episode. Get your audience's interest and get them to invest in the ongoing characters, then start to take them into newer, more interesting places. That seems like a valid approach and the problem we all have writing now is we're making a lot of assumptions and guesses based on one episode without any real idea of where this is all going to go. So my optimistic streak hopes that this will help solidify a big, ongoing audience around an absolutely phenomenal new Doctor, and then the show can take that audience to all the places we want to go to that the show can do so well.

Check back in ten weeks to see if any of this is remotely plausible or correct!

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Nindokag 1 year, 1 month ago

Was looking forward to reading the Eruditorum review + comment section about this episode almost as much as I was looking forward to the episode itself, and I was not disappointed -- y'all have some great observations!

The thing that stuck out to me most was how much time the episode dedicated to hammering the "gritty, real-life, working-class, material" note, perhaps trying to find the opposite extreme from the fairy-tale-ness of Moffat Who. The nighttime, industrial backgrounds, as well as the beautiful hillside where the bike-riding lessons happened, were all really nice and gave it a strong sense of place. And the characters introduced felt real in a way that companions haven't really felt real since... Donna and Wilf?

The whole time I was watching, I was thinking of Elizabeth's statement wayyyyyy back in the Jon Pertwee era that when Doctor Who periodically gets too far away from Material Social Progress it needs to come back down to Earth for a while. But that can be done well or poorly. In this case I felt it was lacking in things like an interesting plot, threatening bad guy or any big new ideas / themes.

Really glad they didn't spend the whole episode on post-regenerative trauma. That would have been so aggravating when we're all here to see Whitaker be the Doctor! I hope post-regenerative trauma is a dead trope -- forgetting your name for a scene is just about all we need of that.

I really liked the two scenes that she spends building technology -- the sonic screwdriver, and the teleporter device. I love the aesthetic where the Doctor's brilliance manifests as a physical tangle of jury-rigged wires, and we haven't seen much of that in a long time.

It's weird that it spent time setting up how Tim Shaw took the dead guy's sister as a trophy years ago, and then that never paid off. I wonder if this is going to be the sort of show that would pick up on that thread later in the season? Since the "writers room" approach may be more conducive to juggling multiple ongoing plot threads as opposed to the "Arc Words" approach.

Finally: i agree with everybody that Grace's death felt off. Too fast, too perfunctory, too movie-cliche, not earned. I liked her and was hoping to see her on the Tardis. But here's a crazy theory: Graham said he wished he could have died instead of Grace. What will he do when he finds out there's a time machine? Is this setting us up for this era's take on You Can't Rewrite History! Not One Line! (twentieth mutually contradictory explanation edition)?

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

By the way, I might be seeing things but noticed a surprising amount of visual references to 80s/90s sci-fi movies. The Predator-like bad guy was the obvious one but there was also his arrival scene which looked suspiciously like the Terminator's arrival scene. And the tentacle thingy reminded me strongly of the robots from "The Matrix" (which the spoons could also allude to). I'm not sure it means anything but I found it interesting.

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Mark Pompeo 1 year, 1 month ago

The weird thing about Tim Shaw's arrival was that it depended on someone standing in the middle of the woods at the exact right time and be curious enough to touch the lights instead of getting help immediately.

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Kazin 1 year, 1 month ago

My theory isn't supported by the episode at all, but I feel like Tim Shaw was just trying to find some random human alone somewhere, and just happened to pick Ryan in the woods.

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Mark Pompeo 1 year, 1 month ago

So it's just occurred to me that the Doctor mocking the villain with the name Tim Shaw harkens back to the 4th Doctor. As Liz so often pointed out the 4th Doctor would recognize the threats at hand and that they could generally kill him while also refusing to take them seriously. I hope we get more of that characterization with 13.

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 1 month ago

"the first disabled companion"

Unless you count the fact that all of the First and Second Doctors' companions were colourblind.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

According to Moffat's novelisation of "The Day of the Doctor" the Doctor themselves were colourblind in their first and second incarnations, seeing the world only in black and white. Which is a wonderful joke.

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Jack 1 year, 1 month ago

There's a lot of gags in that book, but the one about the first two Doctors being colorblind might just be my favorite. I hope El takes a look at that novelization someday, it's brilliant.

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MatthewB 1 year, 1 month ago

She has. She was very displeased at Moffat reusing Whithouse's terrible "joke" from "A Town Called Mercy" about a transgender horse.

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

Well alright, that one was terrible but there's plenty to love in that book. I'd also love to read El's take on it.

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JG McQuarrie 1 year, 1 month ago

It was the only one of the New Series Target novels that was worth a damn, and it's so, so much better than it has any right to be. The others are all... fine, but almost all of them find the writers basically just trying to be Terrance Dicks and then not being as good at doing that as Terrance Dicks (RTD comes closest. But was the man himself not free for one?). Still to be fair nobody's had as much practice at doing these as Mr Dicks.... But Steven Moffat is the only one not trying to do a Dicks impression and actually WRITES, and he knocks it out of the park. Could not recommend more.

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MatthewB 1 year, 1 month ago

I think Uncle Tewwance is sadly retired, by now, due to sheer dint of his age...

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JCH 1 year, 1 month ago

Davros?

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

When was he a companion?

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JCH 1 year, 1 month ago

I liked the episode in general, though it raised the usual issue,aliens arrive on Earth yet UNIT or Torchwood (not sure if they still exist) do not notice? Perhaps they only operate inside the M25.
I also have misgivings about too many companions, sorry 'friends', with the Doctor, it either means scripts split them up, so one story thread is 'Doctorless' or there is one story and a scrabble to ensure everyone has something to do. I feel it never worked very well in the past over as series.

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Mark Pompeo 1 year, 1 month ago

Three or more companions has often been a problem but two is better than one in my book. For what it's worth I think Davies basically nailed it in that respect for the first couple seasons having one primary companion with a series of secondary companions. I think that's a good dynamic.

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Citizen Alan 1 year, 1 month ago

Random thoughts:

1. While I'm pleased with the increased diversity (and have enjoyed mocking all the idiots whining about SJWs and what-not), the way that increased diversity was introduced almost felt like ticking off demographic boxes. Not only do we have a female Doctor (whose journey so far hints at a transgender experience), we also have (a) a young black male with a learning disability from a broken home, (b) a young female British Indian who struggles to advance herself in a traditionally male profession, and (c) we have a senior citizen cancer survivor who was in an interracial marriage until he gets widowed. I'm honestly waiting to see which one comes out as gay.

2. "You had no right to do that!" bugged me. However, "how completely obscene!" was excellent, as was the earlier "I'm curious ... no wait, I'm offended!"

3. I'm not sold on the Doctor's costume. I like the coat, but the rest of it gives me a mild Colin Baker flashback.

4. After the new Doctor, I think Grace was perhaps the best thing about the episode, and I also consider her death a fridging. It was also not a surprise to me. Since it was widely known who the three companions would be, the likelihood that only main character not in the pre-season promos wouldn't make it out of the episode alive was high. It particularly bugged me because it was so unnecessary. If Grace had lived but simply been standing outside the range of the teleport when it snatched up the other four, we'd have gotten the same result except that Graham and Ryan would have actually bonded over their shared desire to return to the woman they both love rather than their shared grief over her death.

5. I have absolutely no idea what the point of the DNA bombs was. And I fear the rest of this season is going to a lot of Jodie Whittaker saving weak scripts through sheer charisma and talent.

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Citizen Alan 1 year, 1 month ago

6. I was struck by the Doctor's urgent insistence that everyone was going to live. If we still are looking for ways in which every new Doctor is a reaction to the last one, that's an interesting commentary on the fact that Capaldi's Doctor managed to get /all/ of his companions killed. (They got better.)

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Przemek 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm not sure if it's fair to say he got Nardole killed, unless the very fact that travelling with the Doctor will put you in dangerous situations counts as "getting someone killed".

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TomeDeaf 1 year, 1 month ago

I'd also say it's only really the Twelfth Doctor's fault that Bill dies. The whole point of "Face the Raven" is Clara's choice - saying that the Twelfth Doctor "got her killed" robs her of her agency in choosing that fate.

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