A weak and flaccid reboot – Doctor Who Series 11

At the start of the show, when my optimism was still at it’s peak, I planned to review each set of three episodes this series, with a final post for the finale and overall round ups.

Sadly after the mediocre time wasters that were “Arachnids in the UK” and “The Tsuranga ConundrumI lost all my energy, “Demons of the Punjab” being the final nail in the coffin.

All my reviews and thoughts were fairly positive at the start, as you can see from the initial review on this site, they started fairly slow and fairly safe, but at the time it was fine, I was under the assumption they were building a foundation to build up from. After seeing the incredibly empty finale I feel an utter fool.

Shame that we all knew the returning “mastermind” as early as episode two.

The Doctor

Surprisngly the Thirteenth Doctor ended up being a woman, and some people seemed to think this would end the show. While I wasn’t desperately asking for a female Doctor I was fine with the idea – assuming they did it well.

Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor. Credit: BBC

It did feel strange though, because it felt like the creation of Missy was them doing a female timelord to appease people who had been asking for a female regeneration, but I’m sure they are happy for even more of these changes.

Jodie Whittaker wishes she had the charisma of  Michelle Gomez.

Overall it’s sad to say she’s made a rather luke-warm impression as a character. She draws on the quirkyness of David Tennent and Matt Smith, but without Tennent’s charisma or Smith’s hidden tones of ancient tiredness. I think the reason we know next to nothing about her is that we have zero scenes of her alone with her own thoughts. The Doctor has always been known to put on a show for their companions, and it’s normally when they are left on their own or with strangers that you see them really be interesting.

All the Doctors before her had amazing moments and stole the screen.

Throughout the entire series Jodie gets no time alone, so you never actaully get to learn what she’s like. She doesn’t seem to be as angry as her old versions, as weary, as strict with her pascifism rules (allowing Ryan and Graham to run around with guns a fair bit). There’s nothing so far that makes her special at all. She’s a perfectly tolerable person, but at no point excites me in the show.

The Companions

The casting this series is very divisive, although I’m pretty happy with the actors themselves. The problem is that they never have anything meaningful to say. Three companions is too much, I was excited for a change after Clara and Amy’s super importance, but none of them get the right amount of time.

 Yaz (Mandip Gill), Graham (Bradley Walsh), The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Ryan (Tosin Cole) – (C) BBC / BBC Studios – Photographer: Giles Kyte

I thought to myself that Jack, Rose and Mickey worked as a trio of helpers, but they all were introduced gradually, and had time to grow. This set of three are all sort of dumped together in episode one and are then done. Graham is the only one with any real time devoted to him and emotion, dragging Ryan up a few notches just by their close relation. 

Yaz does literally nothing almost every episode, I constantly forget she exists and the show would benefit from losing her and giving proper time to Graham and Ryan.

Seeing as they bothered to make her a police officer, you’d expect her to actually show some talent for investigating, but normally her and Ryan wonder off on their own and leave Graham and the Doctor to do the real episode. It’s sad, Gwen Cooper from Torchwood, also written by Chibnall, was an amazing companion equivalent to Captain Jack, and her being a police officer was relevent to her character.

Why couldn’t he recreate the magic here?

Come on Chibnall, Torchwood series one is questionably written and it beats this.

Kerblam!” is the only episode where I feel she is used well, same with Ryan, it’s a shame they don’t have two parters anymore because these guys could really do with some extra time to flesh them out.

The Episodes

A chart of how interesting I found each episode this series as a whole.

After the mixed bag of Matt Smith episodes and the overuse of arcs during Peter Capaldi’s run I didn’t expect to miss Moffat at all, I was hoping Chibnall would be able to inject some magic from Broadchurch into the show. Sadly he’s kept up his long histroy of mediocre episodes for this franchise, I hoped him being in charge would make it feel like he cared.

I’m even wishing Clara would come back at this point just to have someone emote a little.
Credit: BBC

The stories, however, have been absolutely dire. They either have loads of ideas being thrown around poorly, or doubling down on one idea that fails to make an impact in any real way.

There are hardly any proper villains, the monster of the week from episode one being reused for the finale really shows how thing they stretched this rogues gallery.

Let’s break down the ‘classic’ villains we saw this series;
– Hunter who collects teeth.
– Empire of hunter who collects teeth.
– A racist man from the future.
– Big business.
– A hungry frog-thing.
– Racist men.
– A cleaning bloke.
– Evil mud.
– A magic frog + moths + a bad father.
– Hunter who collects teeth, again.

The side characters have on the whole been dire, only Lee Mack showing anything close to the levels we’ve got used to over the last ten series of stories. Even the bunch of weirdos from “Love and Monsters” had more charm than this lot. Even characters who are giving their dying final breaths fail to show any kind of interest during some of the episodes.

I can’t decide what the worst moment of the show is so far, this must be close.

To rank the episodes;
1. Kerblam! – Feels like an old episode of new-Who, although only a middle-tier episode old new-Who.
2. The Woman Who Fell to Earth – A safe start and a return to proper death in Who for civilians.
3. Rosa – Could have been amazing, but they didn’t tackle the time elements well. Graham should have been the bus driver.
4. The Witchfinders – Alan Cumming is great, everyone else isn’t.
5. It Takes You Away – Feels like Douglas Adams, four good ideas in an episode that doesn’t explore any of them enough.
6. Arachnids in the UK – Rubbish, but it tried.
7. The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos – Tim Shaw is no threat.
8. Demons of the Punjab – Nothing happens, but in India.
9. The Tsuranga Conundrum – Nothing happens, but in Space.
10. The Ghost Monument – Only works as a follow up from one, no real plot here on it’s own. Nothing happen in a desert. Very pretty though.

The Future

I like Jodie. I like Graham. I like Ryan, and I don’t hate Yaz’s actress, but we need a better showrunner. Daleks are back at New Years, going against his promises that there would be no returning monsters – clearly they are out of new ideas already. It’s sad to say there’s only about three good episodes in this entire series, it used to be that a series of Who was rubbish because it had three bad ones, how times change.

New Years better be great, because you’ve already lost yourself the audience from  Christmas Day who would watch it without thinking.

Published by James Sumner

Writer, reviewer & journalist. BA: Multimedia Journalism. MA: PR & Digital Comms.

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