RELEASED: October 7th 2018 – December 9th 2018
SHOWRUNNER: Chris Chibnall
WRITTEN BY: Chris Chibnall, Malorie Blackman, Vinay Patel, Pete McTighe, Joy Wilkinson & Ed Hime
DIRECTED BY: Jamie Childs, Mark Tonderai, Sallie Aprahamian & Jennifer Perrott
MUSIC BY: Segun Akinola
STARRING: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Sharon D. Clarke & Samuel Oatley
I love Doctor Who, and although, like many other fans of the series, I can be a bit skeptical when a new Doctor comes on board, generally speaking, I have thus far enjoyed each Doctor more than the last (more or less – but that’s probably a post for another time – or maybe not since I essentially just said how it was going to go down). So when it was revealed that Jodie Whittaker was coming on board, with the creator of Broadchurch, no less (an excellent series), I was quite excited.
Tuning in to the first episode, I was wowed by the seemingly fresh take on the show, the beautiful new production design, the epic new score, the interesting through-line of the Doctor’s TARDIS having escaped her, and three likeable new companions – something that hasn’t really happened since Classic Who. Bradley Walsh instantly stood out, as I knew he would, as a highlight; something which continued throughout the series. Furthermore, as the series went on, I was amazed that there were seemingly no terrible episodes. No In The Forest of the Night or Kill The Moons, the likes of which had unfortunately plagued the run of my beloved Twelfth Doctor.
But then I realised, there were also no truly great episodes. No Mummy on the Orient Express, no Heaven Sent. All the episodes were serviceable, maintaining a decent level of quality, but never hitting any truly great heights. Everything seemed to be just above ‘middling’. Consistently alright, but never great.
And while that is alright, it left me with another problem. As a result, by the series finale, there were very few moments of the new series of my favourite television show of all time that I have loved since I was a little kid that had stuck with me. Like, I remember there was that one guy with teeth in his face, and that one monster that made me think the writer had just been watching Lilo & Stitch right before he wrote it. Oh, and there was also that one episode I really didn’t like where the Doctor talks to a frog that sounds like Ryan’s grandma, but somehow was like, the highest rated episode of the season. I mean, I could probably remember more details if I really tried, but I just can’t be bothered. When I’m watching my favourite show, I expect more stuff to wow me, and stick with me. I mean if I can remember the date the first ever Doctor Who aired, I should be able to remember something I watched two weeks ago.
But maybe I’m being harsh, because there were other pluses beyond what I said up top. Jodie Whittaker is good as the Doctor; very entertaining, even if she doesn’t have anything particularly distinctive about her characterisation*, and is mostly just a mesh of Tennant and Smith’s Doctors. I also appreciate that they were tackling some more important themes, like the fact time travel would be pretty shit for people of colour, or the point where the Doctor laments that she would have been granted more respect in the past if she were still a man. However, with those themes also comes another big problem with this series – the horrible mass of exposition.
I’m all for dialogue heavy episodes, but I don’t need to watch two companions sit behind a dumpster for five minutes and hammer out why racism is bad. I know racism is bad. I’m half Congolese, I have experienced racism. And even if I were white, unless I was an idiot, I would still know racism is bad. We get it… You don’t need to be so heavy-handed with your explanations. It seems in an effort to get away from Stephen Moffat’s loony science-fiction-heavy ‘timey wimey’ episodes, they’ve swung too far in the opposite direction, over-explaining the simplest things to the extent that it really takes you out of the episode. Sometimes I just want to see the Doctor fight the Daleks, you know? I don’t need nearly every episode to beat me over the head with some liberal theme.
And because of all those stand-alone, exposition-heavy, socially conscious episodes, it turns out there is no through-line. The only episodes that are connected, and I mean really connected, are the first, second and last. And speaking of the last episode, I didn’t even know it was the last episode until halfway through when a villain from earlier in the season made their return. And then it ended and that was that. No set-up, another alright but hardly great story, and then, ignoring the upcoming New Years Day episode, no more Doctor Who until 2020.
All-in-all, this series has hardly been bad. It has fewer bad episodes than previous seasons. But it’s not particularly great either. It was fun at times. Thoughtful at others. But for the most part, it was just there, and it was fine. For that, I give it:
Oh, and the monsters were pretty lacklustre. A ball of wire, some robot drones, a racist with little character, spiders, Stitch (although I didn’t mind him), Amazon, some mud and a frog. Great.
*That lack of characterisation also extends to Yas, at times. It feels like this season, Graham has been the main companion, Ryan the secondary one, and Yas sometimes interjects when she’s needed.