DOCTOR WHO SEASON 11 – Rough But Astounding Debut
With just two episodes left before a powerful finale, the twelfth season to the revival of Doctor Who, and 38th overall, has certainly given us many surprises. From a new version of the Master, to a mysterious incarnation of the Doctor, and the revelation of the Timeless Child coupled with the destruction of Gallifrey, this season has definitely given us a lot to think about.
But before that, let’s take a lot at the previous season and the debut of Jodie Whittaker’s newly regenerated Thirteenth Doctor and Chris Chibnall’s start as the head writer. Keep in mind, that this review will consider aspects from the current season.
Falling From the Sky
The premiere, The Woman Who Fell to Earth, first introduces the new companions: former cancer patient Graham O’Brien, his step-grandson Ryan Sinclair, and probationary cop Yasmin Khan. After a train is attacked, the Doctor falls from the sky and must face off against an alien hunter, though with deadly consequences.
The followup, The Ghost Monument, has the four take part in an intergalactic race to find the TARDIS. Rosa sees the TARDIS land in 1955 Montgomery, Alabama. The Doctor and her companions get caught up with Rosa Parks and a time traveling criminal who wants to change history. Back to the present, Arachnids in the UK sees the companions reunite with friends and families while dealing with giant spiders.
The Tsuranga Conundrum has Team TARDIS end up in a medical spaceship just as a small alien that eats non-organic material breaks into and starts eating the ship. With Demons of the Punjab, the TARDIS Fam travel to India just as the partition of India is occurring in 1947. Yaz wants to meet her Muslim grandfather after all of the stories from her grandmother, while getting caught up in a murder and alien assassins.
From Alien Warehouses to Witch Trials
Kerblam! has the Doctor and her companion investigate a galactic online shopping service after receiving a letter asking for help. In The Witchfinders, the TARDIS lands in 1612 Lancashire. Dealing with paranoia, fear of witchcraft, and King James I, The Doctor and her friends must keep anyone else from facing death.
Landing in Norway, It Takes You Away has the quartet help a blind girl find her missing father. Not everything is at is seems as they find a mirror that’s actually a portal to another universe that’s alive. The season finale, The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos, sees the TARDIS land on the title planet as The Doctor and her companions come upon a deadly plot instigated by an old enemy.
While there wasn’t a Christmas special, a first since the 2005 revival, there was one for New Years. Resolution, the only episode of 2019, has archeologists find the remnants of an ancient creature. When its revival alerts the TARDIS, the Doctor learns that it’s a Dalek, albeit a specially designed scout that takes control of one of the archeologists, creates a new casing, and plans to summon a fleet.
New Changes In the 11th For 13
There was a lot to think about before the 11th season of the revival aired. Not only was this the first time the Doctor regenerated into a women, but it was Chibnall’s first go after Steven Moffat left. Chibnall hired a new writing team, as well as directors, who have never worked on the show before and came from various different backgrounds and ethnicities. He also made changes for the show that call back to the original run.
For the first time since the Fifth Doctor’s tenure in the ‘80s, and revival, there are three companions. The performances from the cast are great, with the chemistry being the most important aspect between the Doctor and companions. A problem is that since this is the first time since the mid ‘80s to have three, there are times when not all of them will have significant stories in every episode and mostly there to churn out exposition.
Graham is the most relatable due to the loss of his wife, Grace, and everyman-like nature owing to his cancer remission. Yaz has a small bond with the Doctor but being a cop is hardly ever used. Ryan is the least compelling as he tends to spout the obvious, and while his coordination disorder is interesting it’s hampered by constantly mentioning it.
Many feel they’re writing is weak, though it’s more in keeping to the original run. We’ve been so used to recent companions that make a huge difference to both the universe and the Doctor, like Rose and Clara, that many have forgotten how small they were. Season 12 has shown their development and writing improving.
A Touch of Old
Besides new people, the logo and title sequence have changed. Similar to the original, the title sequence is similar but more colorful and modern. The one fault is not having the Doctor’s face or the TARDIS. Although, the number of episodes for the season have been reduced to ten, they are longer. Murray Gold, composer since 2005, stepped down and Segun Akinola hired, though the music is still dynamic.
The new TARDIS interior has orange lighting surrounded by crystal structures, the doorway having three sides before entering the console room, and the console itself dispensing snacks for the Doctor. It’s definitely one of the most unique designs, but hampered by not enough space and too much orange. Another change is the Sonic Screwdriver, as the Doctor makes it entirely from scratch and has a more organic design than before, but gets overused to solve problems.
Much like Moffat taking over from Russell T. Davies and using digital, the cameras now have anamorphic lenses. Thus, the cinematography not only looks more modern, but given a very cinematic style.
Over 50 and Still Fresh
This season may feel a little rough, but that should have been expected with a new cast cast and a new set of writing staff. Initially, one can see the writing as not very subtle in its approach of speaking to the audience or historical figures, like Rosa Parks, Chibnall is going for an edutainment aspect that the show was originally aiming at back in 1963. While it works well for the most part, other times it feels forced. Though they have improved on this as they’ve kept going, with a few exceptions. Its focus on original enemies and monsters, besides Resolution, is a nice touch but the BBC’s mandate of always having monsters tends to hamper certain stories that didn’t need them, like the Morax from Witchfinders.
The premiere was one of the strongest introductions to a new Doctor and companions with an interesting villain, Monument was a brilliant followup, Rosa is the strongest of the season and one of the best ever, Arachnids was bogged by over exposition and is the weakest, Tsuranga was very different and fun, Demons was emotional and powerful, Kerblam! was a little slow but had an interesting conclusion, Witchfinders had a strong opening but a weak ending, It Takes was a unique mixture of old and new Who, Ranskoor was a good finale but too similar to past ones, and Resolution was an amazing special with great set pieces.
Season 11 may not be the strongest debut, but it was still powerful and fun.
You can watch this and other seasons of Doctor Who on HBO Max.