Doctor Who - "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" Review

Since the announcement last summer of Jodie Whittaker being the new doctor, there has been a huge amount of excitement, as well as a bit of worry up until the first episode of series 11 aired last Sunday. Being part of the Doctor Who fandom means every few years, we experience fear that the show we know and love will change to something not-so-great with a new doctor. The stakes were extra high with this series. As well as a new doctor, we have new companions and Chris Chibnall had taken over the writing from Steven Moffat. I will not ignore the elephant in the room, that yes the thirteenth doctor will be our first female doctor. As a “whovian”, I wanted this to go well so I could keep enjoying the show. As a woman, I wanted it to go well because I did not have the energy to read comments online about how “pc culture” ruined Doctor Who. Reader, to my joy and relief, the first episode was excellent.

“The Women Who Fell to Earth” is set in eerie Sheffield. Until the supernatural occurs, there is a real British drama vibe. Apparently, Chibnall has a thing for making access to the TARDIS or sonic screwdriver limited in order to challenge the Doctor. He does this early on on the episode, with the Doctor falling out the TARDIS and soon discovering that her sonic is not in any of her pockets.

We are introduced to the three new companions for this series. Graham, played by Bradley Walsh, sticks out as the comic relief character, while still having some pretty serious moments in this episode. He generally does not want to get too involved in all of the alien chaos that lands on earth. “Grace, I’m going” he says to his wife as soon as the Doctor tells him she’s an alien. After witnessing companions eagerly hop into the TARDIS the last few years, it was refreshing to see someone who was not that interested in all of it.

We watch the episode through the eyes of the second companion, Ryan. He has generally been well received for portraying life with dyspraxia, demonstrated by his struggle to learn how to ride a bike at the opening of the show. Spoiler alert, even after another many attempts at cycling on the hills of Sheffield later on, he still does not learn how to ride. Many appreciated the reality of dyspraxia being shown in the episode, no magical overcoming of a disability, just someone who happens to have it and is living their life.

The one companion I thought we did not see much of was Yasmin, a young woman training in the police. Clearly, a curious and ambitious companion, but offered little to help move the plot forward this episode. I look forward to seeing what the series has in store for her. I believe she could be the biggest challenger to the Doctor’s ideas in future episodes.

As well as having a pretty decent monster, with minimal and tasteful use of CGI, there were some pretty funny moments throughout episode one. A drunk northerner chucking pieces of his kebab at an alien was definitely a highlight for me.

The person who steals the show, of course, is the Doctor. Jodie Whittaker’s performance was excellent. It only took a minute of her on screen before I felt at ease; Jodie Whittaker is the Doctor. Aware that female heroes are so often portrayed as serious and graceful, I feared that the excitement and quirkiness of the Doctor would be lost in being portrayed by a woman. Thankfully, the thirteenth Doctor continues the habit of never really having a plan but getting involved anyway. The beautiful thing was that her being a woman was completely irrelevant to everything else in the story.

“The Woman Who Fell to Earth” was a classic Doctor Who episode, one with moments of fun, adventure and some feelings too. It was a strong start to series 11, and it will be difficult to top. However, I am optimistic about the rest of the series so I will definitely keep watching. I would recommend others joining me. I have a good feeling about this.