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07 November 2018 @ 08:47 pm
The Woman who Fell to Earth  
I'm not sure there has ever been quite so much riding on an episode of Doctor Who since Rose back in 2005. Choosing to cast a woman as the Doctor was a risky move that could, in and of itself, alienate a large chunk of the potential audience and The Woman Who Fell to Earth needed primarily to establish that the show could work with a woman in the lead role. Interestingly, the viewing figures for the episode rather suggest that a lot of people who would not otherwise have watched Doctor Who tuned in and I think it would be foolish to suggest that was for any other reason other than curiosity about what a female Doctor would be like. We will need to wait for the viewing figures for The Ghost Monument and Rosa to find out if this story succeeded in convincing them to watch again.

From my point of view, Whittaker was one of the most successful elements of the episode. I tend to take a while to warm to a new Doctor and I certainly liked her better on her first outing than either Eccleston or Capaldi (and Tennant hardly counts since he was unconscious for most of his first story) and was relieved that a female Doctor didn't come across as jarring in any way. The interactions between the new companionsfriends was well drawn as well. They felt very familiar as a unit and I couldn't quite work out if it was because they were fitting into a well-worn ensemble pattern (many have compared them to the Sarah Jane Adventures for instance) or whether it was just that much of the pre-publicity had done its job of pre-figuring their interactions. The only slight surprise for me was that I had expected Graham to have more of the role that Grace inhabited.

In our household, as in pretty much everywhere I think, Grace was the stand out hit of the little team and there was much debate about her death. You can argue the semantics of what was going on there, but it did feel somewhat tropey and largely unnecessary in terms either of motivating the other characters or demonstrating that the stakes can be high in Doctor Who. FWIW, given the comparative youth of the actress and her billing as a returning character our money is on a re-appearance of a younger Grace later in the season. Given the deliberate ambiguities, both of Ryan's framing narrative and the episodes title itself, I wonder if Grace does re-appear as a character, if we'll be expected to view her more as a proto-Doctor than as ideal companion material (which is how I think many people reacted to her here).

To be honest, I was kind of `meh' about the actual plot. It did what it needed to do but didn't grab me in any way. However I was kind of `meh' about the early Eccleston stories which were similarly foregrounding characters against a fairly straightforward story and they were wildly popular, so what do I know. Given how colourful much of the pre-publicity for this season has been, I was disappointed that this was mostly filmed at night with an aesthetic more reminiscent of Torchwood or a police drama. One review, by Jim Smith I think, described the episode as uniquely sadistic which seems a bit strong to me (I was a baby fan during the Colin Baker years) but there was definitely a grittier vibe here than I had been expecting.

The game, of course, is to rank this story in the context of other regeneration stories. I'm not great at linear rankings but it was clearly better than The Twin Dilemma or Time and the Rani (not a high bar), The TV Movie is a bit of an oddity in some ways, though more directly comparable to this than a lot of Who, and I'd say this was better. I personally preferred it to both Deep Breath and Rose . It thus sits on a level for me with The Christmas Invasion and The Eleventh Hour (which I like less than many fans) in that it does what it needs to do without getting anything obviously wrong. I rate Castrovalva more highly because in spite of its many faults its about the Doctor getting stuck in an Escher painting. I'd personally rather see any of Power of the Daleks, Spearhead from Space and Robot but they are from an era where regeneration stories were constructed differently and my preference probably says more about my tastes as a classic Who fan than it does about the intrinsic quality of The Woman who fell to Earth.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/529020.html.
 
 
 
fredbassettfredbassett on November 9th, 2018 09:13 pm (UTC)
Fascinating, thanks. Your insights are always worth reading.

I like her in the role, and think a female doctor works fine.
louisedennis: Who:Thirteenlouisedennis on November 10th, 2018 03:09 pm (UTC)
Yes, I think she is one of the most successful things about this season of Doctor Who - she seems so completely natural in the role.
cynthia2015: pic#128961214cynthia2015 on May 7th, 2019 01:45 am (UTC)
I just watched this episode, so I'm a little late to the party. I liked the scene where the Doctor kept mispronouncing the aliens name.:)
louisedennis: Who:Thirteenlouisedennis on May 7th, 2019 10:34 am (UTC)
Yes, there was some chatter online at the time comparing this to using the dead names of trans-people and criticising it as a result which kind of missed the point, I think. The whole idea in misnaming him was to signal her dislike and contempt (which is, of course, exactly why misnaming trans people is offensive).
cynthia2015: pic#128961214cynthia2015 on May 7th, 2019 11:27 am (UTC)
Oh okay. I had no idea there was more to it. I was relieved for some humour because that predator type alien thing was not nice to look at. I probably sound superficial but it made me miss the Adipose from "Partners in Crime".

I really like Jodie as the Doctor. She reminds me of across between Eleven and Twelve.:)
louisedennis: Who:Thirteenlouisedennis on May 8th, 2019 08:49 am (UTC)
I very much doubt it was intended as a commentary on Trans issues. I was just interested in the way a certain bit of the fandom viewed it in that right without apparently realising that the whole point is that misnaming someone is a sign of contempt.

If you liked the Adipose you will probably like the Pting, later in the season.

I like Jodie as the Doctor but she's not my favourite. I had some issues with the way season 11 stories were structured and the knock-on effect I felt it had on the characters of both the Doctor and Yaz.
cynthia2015: pic#128961214cynthia2015 on May 8th, 2019 09:16 am (UTC)
I've seen the first four episodes now and I'm not too fuss with spoilers for the rest of the season. I heard the next season isn't till next year.

I was surprised that I didn't mind Jodie. Especially after all the hype/negative press that a female Doctor was getting beforehand. Maybe I'm just glad to be watching Doctor Who again.*shrugs*

There is always something I will miss of the previous incarnation. Nine is my favourite because I started watching the show with him in it.
louisedennis: Who:Thirteenlouisedennis on May 9th, 2019 03:30 pm (UTC)
Yes, next season doesn't start until January or thereabouts.

I think lots of people's favourite Doctor is their first and it makes sense. A lot of the negative stuff before Jodie debuted was obvious nonsense. A lot of the reasons I haven't really glommed onto her are also the reasons Nine isn't one of my favourites (I find them both a bit reluctant to actually act), and some of them are possibly nothing to do with her at all and in part because I wasn't that excited by a lot of the stories in series 11 (though there were also a couple I thought were truly excellent).

But as I keep saying to people, Doctor Who has to be an awful lot worse than this before I'd even consider not watching.
cynthia2015: pic#128961214cynthia2015 on May 11th, 2019 06:53 am (UTC)
Shortly after the new series started, I watched the Tom Baker era. As a kid, I didn't watch it.

Nine was abit abrasive but l liked when he connected with people besides Rose, aka Harriet Jones.

I think the acting style has to do with whatever is going on behind the scenes. I'm not sure how much direction Jodie is given or input she has. I can't really say how I really feel until I've seen the whole series.

Twelve went through a few transitions in personality. Which helped me like him more than the actual episodes. Thank you Peter Capaldi.

I heard the fanbase is divided over the writing style of this series. Political correctness getting in the way of character development for the companions it seems.

louisedennis: Who:Thirteenlouisedennis on May 11th, 2019 10:42 am (UTC)
Whenever someone claims not to like series 11 because it was "too politically correct" I tend to discount their opinion on principle.

I think, as a generalisation, people who fell in love with the show in series 1 often really liked series 11 and I think there are some definite similarities in approach. I think their strong points are similar though their flaws are rather different.

I'm not sure I'd say political correctness got in the way of character development this season, almost the opposite. In that I think the characters of Graham and Ryan were developed really well, but somewhat at the expense of the Doctor and Yaz. I'm reserving judgement until I see who gets the limelight in series 12 but I'll admit to a slight concern that the male characters fared so much better than the female characters.
cynthia2015: pic#128961214cynthia2015 on May 11th, 2019 01:28 pm (UTC)
I'm trying to understand the reasoning behind those comments. There has always been political issues in Doctor Who as a moral lesson. It's just now more specific on American culture which might feel like they are watching the news. I mean, this is just my theory and welcome any other thoughts on that.

"...people who fell in love with the show in series 1 often really liked series 11 and I think there are some definite similarities in approach..."

That's interesting. I would not have thought of the parallels between series 1 and 11. Now it makes me think of how Yaz compares to Rose in storytelling.:)

"In that I think the characters of Graham and Ryan were developed really well, but somewhat at the expense of the Doctor and Yaz".

That is really bad that the Doctor is being undermined as a woman or should I say female? I hate to think that Yaz or the actress for that matter was brought in just as a token companion. Remember Rita from "The God Complex"? I was annoyed when she was killed off. The new writers can't stuff up another character from a particular cultural background.:(

Okay, this is beginning to sound like a rant. I should just chill and watch the show.

Edited at 2019-05-11 01:30 pm (UTC)
louisedennis: Who:Thirteenlouisedennis on May 13th, 2019 05:40 pm (UTC)
I don't think Yaz is intended as "token" but with four people in the Tardis it was always inevitable that some would get more development that others. As I say, I'm reserving judgement until after series 12 - the focus is more on Yaz then I'll be happy.
cynthia2015: pic#128970731cynthia2015 on May 14th, 2019 09:15 am (UTC)
Too bad the character development was not spread out evenly throughout this series. Although Clara didn't feel like a real companion until after that whole "The Impossible Girl" mystery plot was resolved so there you go. Amy pretended to be a policewoman, so it will be nice to see how Yaz's police skills play a role in the TARDIS so to speak.