New Doctor Who Pilot Revamps Show

Doctor Who

BBC One (

Doctor Who

Alexis Yang, Staff Writer

On October 7, the future of sci-fi show Doctor Who changed monumentally.

By the release of “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” the first episode of this season, Doctor Who has a fifty-five-year history. The show follows the Doctor, an alien who saves the universe by traveling through time and space.

Doctor Who bears more weight than the ordinary TV show. Its fifty-five year history has resulted in fans that range from children to adults, making it even harder for its producer to please all viewers. For me, Doctor Who holds a childhood nostalgia—I watched the show with my family, hiding behind the couch when the aliens resembling trash cans emerged. For die-hard fans (known as “Whovians”), Doctor Who is more than just a TV show—watching it on Saturday nights is a tradition. And since 1963, one thing has remained the same: the Doctor is a man.

Until now. The show’s producer, Steven Moffat, has stepped down, along with lead actor Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. The Doctor can completely repair his body if he suffers extreme injury or age, which means that when one actor steps down, another steps forward. Since the show’s birth, actors have switched a whopping thirteen times. This season, writer/producer Chris Chibnall has taken the helm, and Jodie Whittaker—a woman—is the Doctor.

When I sat down to watch the global simulcast of “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” I was a little skeptical for a few reasons. One, I had seen the casting photos, and I was afraid for one-dimensional characters and diversity for the sake of diversity. Two, I had seen the season trailer and was not impressed by the pop music—a stark contrast to the instrumental soundtrack from the previous seasons. And three, as a viewer in America, the time was odd: one forty-five in the afternoon.

My concerns dissolved almost instantly. “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” opens with ordinary characters in Sheffield, England, who witness strange alien arrivals. Despite my fears, they were all individual and multi-faceted.

As for the Doctor being a woman—it didn’t matter one bit. Jodie Whittaker owned the role, exploding into the episode by saving her new companions from an alien attack. Though her performance was reminiscent of David Tennant, who left the role in 2010, Whittaker brought new energy and enthusiasm to the show. Skeptics may be stuck on the fact that Whittaker is a woman, but for me, the bottom line is that it doesn’t make a difference. Her performance was enthusiastic, quirky, and inspiring; it balanced the quintessential geekiness of past Who with a breath of fresh air. When I watched Whittaker’s performance, I had no doubt that she was portraying the Doctor perfectly.

Chibnall’s goal for this season is all new. At the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con, Chibnall said that this season would have “new monsters and villains,” scrapping the decades-old monsters that popped up again and again in previous seasons. New material doesn’t stop with the monsters. The cinematography is a stark change, and it’s a good one. Doctor Who has never been particularly artful; however, in “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” a variation of camera angles, lighting, and colors were used. The soundtrack deviated from Moffat-era orchestral music, taking on a consistently suspenseful tone. However, I felt that the score was over-dramatic in some scenes.

Although “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” didn’t deviate too far from the expectations of Doctor Who fans, it still may disappoint some die-hard Whovians. The episode lacked two main things: the TARDIS, the Doctor’s time machine and a major facet of the show, did not make an appearance. Also, the episode did not contain the opening credits which, for me, is a big deal. I remember turning on the TV when I was younger to hear the electronic music. In my opinion, the opening credits are a quintessential part of Doctor Who, and they should not have been skipped over. And although there were a few references to the previous seasons peppered throughout, Whovians accustomed to Moffat’s Easter egg-laden episodes may be disappointed.

Despite small flaws, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” is an energetic revamp of the show. Chibnall has a tall order on his hands, especially with the wide breadth of viewers and the momentous change of a female doctor, but this season’s pilot is a solid one.

Photo credit: BBC One (