So, I’d heard a lot about Jodie Whittaker’s time as the Doctor, and it was a bit controversial. Now, nothing I saw seemed to criticize Whittaker herself, saying she was actually a fine Doctor. The problem was the writing headed up by new showrunner Chis Chibnall.
Granted, that wasn’t the reason I held off on Whittaker’s time as the Doctor until now.
No, my issue was Whittaker’s time is kinda…short. Much of that is due to COVID restrictions cutting down on the number of episodes she was in. That’s not really anyone’s fault. I avoided Whittaker’s run also because, well, when it’s over, I’ll need to wait for something else to come along. I have some rough ideas for replacement shows for this slot, and there’s still other Doctor Who-related material to go with, but as for the actual show, I am just plain running out of episodes.
So, with all that in mind, how was Whittaker’s first full episode outside of her brief appearance at the end of Capaldi’s final episode?
It’s different, I’ll say that much. Different isn’t bad. It’s clear the show might be refocusing on how it handles storytelling and the sorts of stories that can be told with this Doctor. That’s not even the first time that’s happened. Even going back to the classic era, the show has always seemed to bounce back and forth between more serious sci-fi and the sillier stuff. Me? I usually like the sillier stuff.
But it’s happened before. The Third Doctor was easily a much more serious character with more straightforward sci-fi adventures than either of his predecessors. The sillier elements resurged a bit during most of Tom Baker’s run, getting more serious in his final year and arguably on through the rest of the classic era. There were resurgences of the ridiculous here and there for both the Sixth and Seventh Doctors as the producers at the time were perhaps not as enthused about the show as others had been in the past, the network itself was hoping fan interest might wane enough to finally cancel it outright, and a whole host of other things.
But even into the modern era, I did get a sense of a difference in tone between the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors and then on now to the Thirteenth. Matt Smith’s tenure was a lot sillier and crazier, dialed back a bit when Capaldi came on, but the idea was also the Doctor often came and went as he saw fit where, for him, centuries might pass before he saw his companions again. Now here’s Jodie Whittaker as the first (onscreen) female Doctor. What sticks out?
Well, for starters, she has three companions going forward. There’s Ryan Sinclair, a young man with a condition that interferes with his basic motor skills. Graham O’Brien is a retired bus driver who is overly cautious and the second husband to Ryan’s grandmother Grace. Ryan doesn’t seem to like him very much. And then there’s Yasmin “Yaz” Khan, rookie policewoman and childhood classmate to Ryan. The three, plus Grace, get involved in some aliens in and around Sheffield. Each has their own skills or knowledge pools to deal with, but when a mystery woman literally drops into the train car where an alien sphere is looking around at them and another, very timid passenger, she might be the one to save the day since she seems to be the first to check something out. She’s got this “aw cool!’ attitude towards the weird and the wonderful, quick to point out that the sphere doesn’t actually hurt anybody before it flies away. She talks about a mile a minute, says something about having until recently been a white haired Scotsman (and is still wearing his clothes, actually), but she can’t quite remember a few things, like her name.
Don’t worry. She’ll say she’s the Doctor when it’s most dramatically appropriate, but this must be the mildest form of regeneration sickness I have ever seen.
So, what kind of Doctor is the Thirteenth? Well, she’s missing her TARDIS, but she can build her own sonic screwdriver. She talks fast, but she seems to be enjoying everything she sees. She mentions briefly she hasn’t had to get women’s clothing for a while, so the Doctor has been a woman in the past. She’ll stay when Grace dies helping the Doctor defeat an alien hunter who collects teeth from his victims and apparently implants them in his face, and yes, the show is dark enough to show an elderly security guard dying off-screen after ending a pleasant call from his granddaughter.
Yeah, that was dark for this show.
Back to the Doctor, she’s also good at building things, but she will get a little miffed when the aforementioned alien hunter calls her small brained. So, the Doctor is always at least a little arrogant. Regardless, this Doctor like all modern Doctors hates violence. But this Doctor will also (perhaps intentionally) mispronounce the alien’s name as “Tim Shaw,” possibly to annoy him. Tim cheats anyway.
However, she needs the TARDIS back and her efforts to build a device to teleport herself there doesn’t quite work, but it does end with herself, Graham, Yaz, and Ryan out in the vacuum of space.
So, the show seems darker…except for the Doctor. This could be interesting.