Doctor Who is back

Aractus 31, December, 2018

And this review is going to be mixed. I think what this show needs is some hard criticism, and that’s what it’s getting from me today. This post is a review of the entire Series 11, followed by comparisons to Series 1-2. Don’t let the size of the post worry you, you don’t need to read the thoughts on individual episodes or earlier seasons they are simply presented for comparison.

The show has had a tumultuous past, to put it lightly, ever since it first appeared in 1963. It is not a show that would have stood in the modern world of endless entertainment options. You can pick just about any of the show’s classic 26 seasons and there are stories that should never have made it to camera. Several times the show has lost its way. But of course there’s lots and lots of great stories as well and that is what everyone loves about the show.

Review of Series 11

This series is filled with aggressive in-your face ideological bullshit. Now I get it – both sides have been complaining about the show’s portrayal of gender, sexuality, and even ageism for a while now. Some complain it’s too PC and following a SJW agenda. Other’s complain that there isn’t enough. This reviewer found the image of an older man (Peter Capaldi) holding the hand of a younger woman (Jenna Coleman) gazing at him as so offensive she swore off ever watching the show again. Which FYI is the most ageist bullshit I’ve ever heard. But this series has no doubt for me crossed the line into pure ideology and hate for anyone who holds to any conservative social norms. And the straight white male is the stereotypical image they use to attack. The entire season was all about social justice issues. Bare with me though, this is not the only criticism for this series.

Showing one-sided hate towards a single group of people – straight white men – is both prejudiced, and exactly what Chris Chibnall is known for. You only have to look at Broadchurch to see how much he hates straight white men – and no one else. I quite enjoyed Broadchurch, but if you look back on the series you can see just how one-sided it is with the gender bias. Literally every male character is portrayed in a negative light – all of them from kids to the town’s adult men, to DI Hardy himself. Hardly at all is a female character portrayed negatively.

(SPOILERS) Straight while men are the baddies in almost every episode. Starting from episode 2, we have two aliens, that look human, competing in a race. The ethnically diverse looking butch female is the “good” character, and the quintessentially masculine white male is the “bad” character. In episode 3 the bad guy is a young straight white male who has time-travelled just to cause anarchy. In episode 4 the bad guy is an over-the-top straight white American businessman that owns a chain of hotels and is thinking of running for Presidency. And just to make sure that the audience understands, at the end of the episode we have Doctor Who chastise him in front of everyone for an act of cruelty against another living being. Episode 5 doesn’t have a bad guy, but it does nevertheless portray a father-to-be as weak and pathetic, and a female pilot as strong and courageous. In episode 6 the bad guy is a religiously intolerant Hindu – although he isn’t white he is portrayed as a straight man who is zealously against inter-religious marriage; and this is an historic event tied to British colonialism. In episode 7 the bad guy is a straight white man. In  episode 8 the bad guy is King James – a straight white man. And finally in the penultimate episode, the bad guy is another straight white man who happens to also be a single father who is sadistic, negligent, and emotionally abusive to his child.

Oh my god. Usually in Doctor Who the baddie is an alien or something – sometimes it’s a person. This season the baddie has been a human* male in SEVEN out of the nine episodes that had a baddie (*human-looking in one episode). The baddie has been a woman in zero episodes so far. It’s been an alien male twice. In this series the role of aliens has been reduced to that of interesting fauna. It’s fair to say at minimum the overarching theme of this series is that men are the real monsters in our universe.

And that’s not the only thing Chibnall ruthlessly attacks. Episodes 8-9 are a two-part direct attack on Christianity. Now don’t get me wrong, I am an iconoclast. I don’t care if I offend people because their beliefs are unintelligible to me, and I see attacking certain dogmas and idols as fair game. But that doesn’t meant that I think people should be chastised for their beliefs. I don’t hate people, I’m a humanist. This is what SJW’s and militant third-wave feminists just don’t get – you still need to be able to show tolerance and respect for your fellow man. Episode 8 shows an over-the-top Christian zeal for enforcing their beliefs upon others and their dogmatic belief that anything they don’t understand comes from Satan. Episode 9 shows there is no room in our universe for God – who it turns out is a psychopathic toad and a fraud.

Jesus Christ that’s brutal. In fact it’s so brutal I feel obliged to defend Christians here – there are just so many problems with this. Starting with the fact that Doctor Who is supposed to be a child-friendly sci-fi show, not a platform for preaching your agenda and virtue signalling. At the very least if you’re going to relentlessly attack people’s culture, heritage, identity, creeds, and ideologies –  attack them all equally like South Park does (well used to in its heyday). OR better still, don’t. You can still get your point across while being respectful to others – RTD did this well. I and lots of other Christians of the time were worried he would make Doctor Who too political and anti-Christian, but he didn’t. He didn’t chastise people with beliefs incompatible with his own. I think about the way he worked in the Cat character in Gridlock saying he’s “old fashioned”/traditionalist when it comes to marriage (and he’s in an inter-species marriage). Brilliant, and respectfully done. Chibnall on the other hand is relentless, he twists the knife into Christianity over multiple unrelated episodes. While episode 8’s depiction of Christian-guided contempt for anyone that doesn’t completely belong and adhere to their orthodoxy, that is used as justification for atrocious persecution, is somewhat accurate – it’s not unique to Christianity or even to religion itself. Any strongly held world-view can have this effect. In Indonesia, a Muslim country, they publicly shame and beat homosexuals. People have been and are today persecuted in the name of colonialism, communism, anti-communism, democracy, and even in the name of science (eg. Eugenics). For most of human history, slavery has been an accepted way of life – that’s a persecution that existed cross-culturally and didn’t depend on any religious belief. You have to realise that an idea as ugly and vile as it might be is earnestly carried by people who are simply adhering to social norms. Adherence and non-adherence to social norms can cause good or bad outcomes – but in most cases adherence is a lot easier. Even if it means going along with prejudice against prostitutes, or witches, or those who have other beliefs.

Being at the leading edge of progressive social change may indeed be virtuous. But that virtue does not mean that the 95% of society who are not there yet at any one given point in human history are immoral animals worthy of contempt. They are still human beings with value and positive things to contribute to their cultures. It’s absolutely not a justification to be condescending to people just because they go along with social norms you disagree with. The biggest problem is the way these characters are portrayed, they’re portrayed as vile, ignorant, hateful human beings rather than people who are trying to follow good principles but are misguided. Because the show is so ideological, it doesn’t at all present a balanced picture – yes Christianity is responsible for many horrors, but it has also had a positive role in civilisation as well.

One of the most offensive lines to well-meaning Christians and Jews alike is when Doctor Who dismisses “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Ex. 22:18) as “in the Old Testament. There’s a twist in the sequel – love thy neighbour”. The command to “love your neighbour as yourself” is in Leviticus 19:18 (the Old Testament). And it dismisses the Old Testament as a wholly negative text, something which leading Jewish theologians would well argue against, in particular I find Marc Zvi Brettler’s approach to be very well moderated. In other words, Jews and Christians don’t need to be lectured to by atheists – they have well meaning theologians already who are more than capable of guiding and informing them not to blindly follow the bible, which the majority of theologians regard as a human document, not a divine one. Even some mainstream access journalists have recognised the clear self-righteous agenda-pushing bias of this series.

Now I could suffer through all of that. That political, preachy, self-righteous, random ideological crap peddled by Chibnall, and it could still end up being a good series like Broadchurch. Although I would still criticise it like Broadchurch for being filled with this bitter divisive bullshit. But this series has no redeeming features – it’s a show that’s lost it’s way. The writing is terrible, the characters are mostly terrible, and all episodes feature generic forgettable throwaway villains. The show is dumbed-down to the Nth degree. There is too much dialogue. There has been no character development for Doctor Who or her companions. The cinematography is fucking awful (why it is filmed in a 2:1 aspect ratio I don’t know, but the overuse of close-ups is what I really hate the most). The sonic screwdriver is overused. There are no consequences in the episodes, and as such there’s never any sense of danger for our main characters to face. The excitement has been sucked out of the show. Jodie’s performance as Doctor Who is lacklustre. Her companions often have little or nothing to do in the episodes and are disjointed from the narrative drive. There is quite a bit of plot-blocking and wheel-spinning. There’s no sci-fi in our sci-fi show. It’s been turned into nothing more than a drama that happens (or could happen) on earth that barely involves aliens or alien technology. The episode plots are paper thin – generic recycled ideas non-specific to the genre, written by a team of writers with little to no experience in sci-fi. Most of the episodes do not feel like lived-in worlds, and we don’t get to know most of the story-specific characters. Often the plots are tacked together to create unimaginably bad stories. Only access journalists are defending this series, and even they can’t hide the mediocrity or defend the worst of the episodes to-date. Worst of all, the comedic aspect of the show is all but gone. And finally, there are no good villains/monsters/aliens in this series – at all.

The Doctor Who character is terrible in this series. One of the themes of this series has been Doctor Who’s hapless stupidity where she’s shown to be completely oblivious to danger or consequence. Past doctors have been portrayed this way from time to time, but when they haven’t they don’t carry the commanding respect of their companions. Throughout this series it has been Doctor Who recklessly putting her companions into danger – the death of Grace wouldn’t have happened in the first episode for example if she had just paid more attention to her companions, she then accidentally materialises her companions into the vacuum of deep space, she interferes with an intergalactic space race nearly costing both the contestants their lives as well as putting her companions in unnecessary danger. She takes her companions to a segregated Alabama completely oblivious of the dangers to her companions, she uses them as spider bait, she takes them scavenging in a junk yard without considering the dangers and sets off a sonic mine while they’re there that should kill them all instantly. She let’s a pilot needlessly sacrifice herself when her brother could have piloted the craft safely instead. She steals the Thijarians’ sacred capsule without knowing what it is, then she finds out that Pram dies and she can safely let history unfold by leaving immediately but instead stays just so there’s a chance her companions can cock things up ala Father’s Day (a story where Rose’s intervention in history almost ends up costing many innocent lives). She takes her companions with her through a magic mirror and into unnecessary danger, and in the final episode she threatens to destroy an entire innocent planet all the while lecturing people about not killing. In short she’s an incompetent mess and definitely not fit to be in charge of her “team”.

The companions, well what can I say about the companions? In this series there are three companions. Which makes it an ensemble and very difficult for them to have something to do in each episode, and to contribute to each story. In fact it’s a tried and known recipe for failure. All the great Doctor Who episodes have strong story-specific characters. My god, Harriet Jones and Cassandra were such strong characters they were brought back for Series 2. And the Doctor giving her a dressing down in The Christmas Invasion didn’t at all diminish her powerful feminine personality. The problem with having too many companions is that you don’t give each story the space to explore their own characters, instead giving meaningless screen time to characters that have little to nothing to do with the plot, and don’t develop over the season. But probably the biggest negative is that Graham has been the most popular with the audience of the regular cast – even more popular than Doctor Who herself! And the reason why is because episode after episode he shows nothing but unconditional love for his adoptive grandson, who starts out rejecting him. Over the series he earns his adopted grandson’s love, and lots of people connected to that.

But comparatively Doctor Who never earns her companion’s trust. That’s why it felt so artificial and forced in Arachnids in the UK when her companions all affirm her leadership. It seems to me, that hey, maybe that Doctor Who should have been the one painstakingly earning the trust of her companions, rather than Graham. The shallow nature of the new doctor shows that the series producers put their own agendas well ahead of quality story telling and character development. Their ideological way to show women as strong and independent came across completely wrong anyway, where they consistently show the women to be incapable victims who don’t take responsibility for their own actions.

The way the show is produced is a recipe for disaster. Even since the shows return it has been run by a “showrunner” – but what does that mean? Well it means someone who is both the lead writer and the senior producer. Somehow this worked quite well for Russell T Davies. But the Moffat era shows exactly why you need a producer independent of your lead writer – they’re the ones that put their foot down and provide the final checks and balances. Without that we got poorly thought out convoluted story arcs with poorly thought-out underdeveloped conclusions. Much like all the open-ended story arcs that JJ Abrams left for “The Last Jedi” writers to conjure up answers for, resulting in by the way a film that was much better than JJ’s crap but ultimately left everyone unsatisfied when they learned that all these ideas in the first movie – “who is Snoke”, “who are Rey’s parents”, etc. never had any substance to them. You need a producer that is able to facilitate the creative process, but who can put down their foot and say “that’s a fucking stupid idea”. Instead you’ve got a situation where the lead writer is accountable to no one but himself!

So in summary, the show is suffering from a crisis. It’s meant to be a child-friendly sci-fi drama show with comedic relief and elements of horror, but what we’re getting is a generic agenda-pushing drama show. Good storytellers can inform the audience through the advancement of the plot, and gives the viewer a much more satisfying experience to work things out on their own. But instead they’ve Americanised the show by dumbing it down and explaining everything by dialogue. Below are thoughts on the individual episodes.

S11E01 “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”

Overall this is a real clunker. It’s on-par with Tennant’s first story “The Christmas Invasion”. It’s lifeless. Doctor Who should be a light, funny, and fun show that doesn’t take itself too seriously – and this episode is none of that. For comparison think of 2005-S01E01 “Rose”. That had all of those elements, and it got a bit silly and lost believability here and there but those are far lesser sins. The episode was barely redemptive – and 5 years from now will not be re-viewable the way that “Rose” and “An Unearthly Child” are. It’ll be much like Tennant’s debut episode – best left forgotten.

The Good

The companions are all introduced well, and their part in this story is solid. Jodie is terrific as well in her first outing. It was nice not to have the TARDIS in this episode… not since Tom Baker’s debut season have they been bold enough to have an entire season without it though. Jonny Dixon’s character did a good job overall but was a bit overused.

The Bad

The episode is MUCH too long – this is an episode that should have been kept to 42-48 minutes. Yet it runs a full 62 minutes, which is 20 minutes too long – there is easily a good 25 minutes that could be removed without anyone missing it. S01E01 “Rose” proves this point.

The cliffhanger from the end of the last series isn’t even addressed – we just have Dr. Who land in a train at exactly the moment she’s needed as if she’s invincible. As a result this is a show completely without consequences. To make matters worse it ends with a similar “cliffhanger”.

No titles. I mean, SERIOUSLY – what the fuck?? The opening titles set the mood for the show, and although I said that series 1-4 were the only solid ones so far of the revised era, it’s Capaldi’s titles from the past 3 series designed by Billy Hanshaw that were by far the best of the revised era.

Bad guys should die. We have good guys die in this episode, but no baddies die… that’s unbalanced. Yes you could balance it out later in the series, but this is the introductory episode to the Chibnall era of the show and should set the precedent.

The ending was rubbish. Yes I said I loved the fact that they didn’t have the TARDIS in this episode – and I would love it much more if they leave it out of the series entirely and bring it back in the next series – however the right moment to end the episode was when they all vanished. Not showing them materialise in space, it ruined the whole moment by breaking the suspension of belief with them surviving in the vacuum of space. It’s not the vacuum of space itself that will kill you instantly (as has been studied on dogs), it’s the fact that you are exposed to one or two extreme temperatures – if you were in orbit around Earth and you could see the sun, the side of you facing the sun would be exposed to temperatures of about 260°C. You would burn, cook, and boil extremely quickly especially due to there being no air pressure. The side of you facing away from the sun, depending on light coming from other objects (the moon, the earth, etc) would face a temperature between −270°C (just 3 degrees above absolute zero) and -100°C. Oh joy, I can just imagine all the parents having to explain this to their kids – there’s a reason why scenes involving the unprotected human body in space are typically confined to horror movies.

S11Eo2 “The Ghost Monument”

This is a much better episode than the first. One of the best of this series. It struck the right balance of humour and fun with plot development, suspense, and action. It had a cast of strong characters. It could have been better with more action scenes and less dialogue. There were no genuine surprises in this episode, and the series complaints remain in place – the audience were not given the chance to work out things for themselves. The villains, if you can call them that, were one-dimensional and Ryan’s “Call of Duty” scene fell flat.

S11E03 “Rosa”

For me this is a very borderline episode. There are some really great parts to it, but there are some major drawbacks as well.

The Good

The Rosa Parks character and storyline for the most part was handled well. Although I would have preferred to have seen a flawed more realistic character, reading about the actual history of this event it appears her motivation for civil disobedience wasn’t because she didn’t “know her place” in society, but in protest of the brutal lynching of a 14 year old.

The Bad

I would have preferred that this episode start by informing me about the historic incident that I knew nothing about. This episode perhaps could have started with Rosa Parks retelling her story in a television interview before flashing-back to 1943. It would have prevented the problem later on in the episode where the characters are explaining the history to the audience by dialogue instead.

The cinematography let’s the episode down, especially with its overuse of close-ups. Also the song played at the end of the episode (Rise Up by Andra Day) was out of place, ruining what should have been an emotional scene. Cutting straight to Doctor Who explaining history was also out of place as the logical ending was with Rosa being arrested.

There were no aliens/monsters. The baddie was a random white guy. And his storyline felt tacked on and unimaginative. The companions don’t have a lot to do other than clog up the story, and highlights the writer’s inability to effectively make use of the ensemble. The story was filled with plot-blocking. For example, Doctor Who or any of the companions could have shot the baddie to send him back in time earlier in the episode, but didn’t and Ryan does it later anyway.

Finally there was no story to tell in this episode. The doctor and her companions don’t do anything. They don’t grow as people either. This episode was put together as a way to tell a historic story, but in doing so it was impossible for them to heave a meaningful role because Rosa acts ultimately of her own agency. It would have been much stronger to show a failed plan by the doctor and her hapless crew being overcome by Rosa herself adapting to the new circumstance. Or by having them defeat the enemy at arms-length with Rosa never knowing how close she came to history changing. That could have even been suspenseful. But the execution was horrible. There was no suspense whatsoever in this episode. Having them on the bus changed the situation to one where Rosa was surrounded by her supportive friends whether that was intentional or not, and that completely diminishes the courage that it took for the historic Rosa Parks to choose to act.

The very worst part of the episode though was doctor who mansplaining it to the audience at the end – breaking the fourth wall – because she’s clearly not explaining it to her companions that all already know about the history anyway. That could have been left out entirely and the logical ending of the episode would prompt those who felt moved by the story to look it up on their own. Or, the following events could have been depicted visually.

S11E04 “Arachnids in the UK”

This episode is a real clunker. Some mad scientists made some mutant spiders, and there’s an arrogant billionaire American who owns a chain of hotels and is thinking of running for the US Presidency. The story begins with the promise of a classic Doctor Who mystery, but it quickly disappoints by almost immediately resolving the mystery and never being even the slightest bit scary or suspensful. The remainder of the episode is just Chibnall making a political swipe against the current President of the United States. Hijacking the entire episode just to make a political point (there’s no precedent in the show for that either – !! -). The Trump-like character doesn’t even have any real purpose in the plot, the same story would have unfolded without him. The result is a total disaster. Inconsistent pacing, plot-blocking, one dimensional characters, no plot development, and illogical plot holes to boot. So one dimensional are the characters, that Yaz who is supposedly a police officer, never alerts the authorities or says anything when she sees handguns being waved about – including when one is pointed at her near the beginning of the episode.

S11E05 “The Tsuranga Conundrum”

Another clunker. More typical Chibnall plot blocking. Instead of simply ejecting the alien out of an airlock and in to space when they had they chance, Yaz simply throws it down the hallway so they can do that later. Ryan and Graham don’t have much to do this episode. Very poor pacing, the triptych feels underdeveloped with the sub plots contributing little more than wheel-spinning. The pilot’s sacrifice feels emotionless due to it contributing nothing but plot-blocking to the story, compare to “Father’s Day”. The episode features a generic plot stolen straight out of Alien 1979 only with more survivors at the end, and no sense of danger.

S11E06 “Demons of the Punjab”

This episode misses the mark and falls completely flat. It should be an emotional journey, a tale of lost love and self-sacrifice. Only it isn’t, and the way it ends is wholly unsatisfying. We basically have the protagonist of the story lay down his life simply so the plot can advance – his character has no motivation to do so, at least not in the way depicted. The antagonist is one-dimensional, and is disconnected from most of the plot. The ending is therefore both predictable, but also feels out of place and forced.

S11E07 “Kerblam!”

This is a decent episode, one of the best of the season. It is still missing those key Doctor Who genre elements, but as an episode overall it works quite well. The antagonist is one-dimensional, motivated by god knows what reasons, and the ending could be improved. Why would Doctor Who instruct the Kerblam postmen to detonate the explosives when she could just instruct them leave it all to detonate later resulting in much less property damage?

Also it has a massive, unexplained, plot-hole. I know you’re thinking “Daniel you fucking hate dumbed-down shit don’t you”, and yes that’s exactly what I hate more than anything. But let me ask you this. The Kerblam AI sends a message for help to Doctor Who. Lots of unanswered questions about why her but not a plot hole. But after she arrives the AI picks out and kills an innocent worker – why? There’s no reason nor justification. If the point was “well it tried but failed” that is also lost because what was it trying to achieve with this action? And doesn’t that action show it to be capable of acts of pure unfettered evil? That’s something never addressed in the episode. My point is that Doctor Who’s intervention is incomplete there if there’s an awry AI capable of evil. She’s simply seen that an AI can kill a young woman she knew just to make a point and doesn’t at all care because it wasn’t part of the main plot.

S11E08 “The Witchfinders”

Although there are some good points to this episode (really good points actually), it’s really just a thinly-veiled direct attack on Christianity and the plot is terrible. The aliens are an afterthought, their imprisonment in a tree on Earth makes no sense plot-wise, and the fully-possessed Savage looks ridiculous. Aliens can look ridiculous, but that has to be worked into the plot – you don’t make them look ridiculous if they’re meant to be a threat. Basically it’s a story about Witch trials with aliens tacked onto it. The result is a poor attempt at a zombie episode, with no real tension or fear. On the plus side the characters are decent in this episode, but it isn’t enough to be redeeming. The episode’s a clunker.

S11E09 “It Takes You Away”

Another clunker. A story that doesn’t make sense, even though it’s painstakingly explained inch by inch, this episode is really just an attack on men and on anyone who believes in God as this episode’s central message is that there’s no room in our universe for God – which is probably a good thing because she’s psychotic anyway.

S11E10 “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”

This episode isn’t completely terrible, but it features a ridiculous plot, aliens who would be interesting but we don’t get to learn anything about them except that they’re humanoids and like Timelords live for millennia, and the return of “Tzim-Sha” one of the worst baddies of the entire season. It also has Doctor Who lecturing one of her companions about revenge. The entire plot makes no sense at all, and there’s no suspension or tension in this episode. The worst point is when Doctor Who threatens to the throwaway villain that she will destroy an entire innocent world. Overall it’s a mediocre episode really.

The point where Doctor Who tells Graham he can’t kill the villain falls flat. There’s no alternative offered, and subsequently his fate is underwhelming because the last time he escaped he kidnapped and very nearly destroyed 5 planets – leaving him alive and free is nothing short of reckless, and there’s no guarantee that his confinement has any permanency or would have a rehabilitative effect, or anything really other than allow him much like Davros (who was killed actually – TWICE!) to return to create more chaos and mayhem.

Series 1 and 2

Since 2005, we have had a total of FOUR solid series, and a few solid specials. That’s it. We’ve had now SIX mediocre series. And now we have had a truly terrible series. Ever since series 5 the quality of the show has tanked. Moffat’s era did improve a bit towards the end, but not enough to deliver a great memorable series. I want to put this into context for everyone, so I recently watched series 1 and 2 for the first time in a long time and I’ll share a very quick overview. In Series 1 we had Christopher Eccleston as Doctor Who and he did a fucking brilliant job. In fact I would even say he has been the best actor to play Doctor Who since the series revival. Here’s a quick breakdown:

S01E01 “Rose”

Great introductory episode. Doesn’t take itself seriously, gets a bit silly (eg. even living plastic shouldn’t be making bullets) and a little too much exposition here and there but overall it does very good at brining Doctor Who back to the small screen and in setting the tone for the series. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s well filmed and edited – the music and the pacing are spot on – and pretty much all the main characters are great. The TARDIS was also well designed inside and out.

S01E02 “The End of the World”

A simple but solid episode in space. It’s not as exciting as the previous episode, but it still has some suspense, it’s a good story, lots of great characters, and it starts introducing to the audience more who this new Doctor Who is.

S01E03 “The Unquiet Dead”

Ghosts! YAY! This episode set up exactly what Doctor Who is all about at its core, and that is constructing good mysteries to be solved involving creative solutions, and taking the viewer on that journey. Well executed and enjoyable.

S01E04-5 “Aliens of London”/”World War Three”

This is the first multi-part episode. I like the story, but I think this would have been better as a single episode.

S01E06 “Dalek”

Probably my least favourite episode of series 1. This is a polarising episode, and some people love it, I don’t think it’s anywhere near as bad as some of the Moffat era episodes like “Victory of the Daleks”, but it’s a fundamentally flawed and crude episode. Every good episode starts with a good story to tell. Sure there are some good points to this one, but lots of faults starting with the fact that Henry van Statten claims to “own” the internet. Doctor Who typically plays better with history, you could at least educate the audience that the internet was invented by Tim Berners-Lee. Then you have a dalek rejuvenated by a time traveller, then absorbing the “entire internet” in a matter of seconds and later willingly self-terminating… it’s just not at all how a dalek should be portrayed. All in all this is the worst episode of series 1. In a behind the scenes show (Dr Who Confidential?), RTD and others talked about what a good job they did on this episode – they made a classic just like Genesis of the Daleks they claimed, completely missing what it was that made that 4th doctor serial so special. It wasn’t that they gave those daleks emotions – they didn’t – they instead brought a character in (Davros) to have the ability to direct his own moral compass with the creation of the dalek race, and told a story about a species literally born out of war. At the end of “Dalek” what story were they trying to tell?

S01E07 “The Long Game”

This episode is pretty basic. I’d say this is the second worst episode after “Dalek”. It shows why you shouldn’t start with an ideology to drive an episode’s plot – this episode is basically a social statement about the media, and to a lesser degree a story about a “failed companion”. The alien monster is basically a metaphor for the most powerful media moguls, but the execution and the result is not great.

S01E08 “Father’s Day”

It seems this episode exists purely to answer the question of what happens if you create a grandfather paradox by going back on your own timeline. It introduced the concept that time could be damaged and need repairing. It’s just a filler episode really, parts of the story feel like unnecessary wheel-spinning, but this episode features one of the strongest endings in the series. Pete’s sacrifice in particular is absolutely gut-wrenching. Although I find it difficult to identify with Rose, Pete’s sacrifice comes across as brave, and selfless motivated out of love. Those scenes with their raw emotion are truly tear-jerking.

S01E09-10 “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances”

This is my favourite story of series 1. Great characters throughout. A really great creepy mystery along with a good plot twist. And this actually goes to show that you can have a good story without an actual villain or for that matter aliens.

S01E11 “Boom Town”

Okay this episode is pure filler, most would probably say it’s the worst in series 1. A third part to a story that didn’t need to be in two parts to begin with. But I actually do like this episode, it is still a fun episode, and I actually like the way it ends.

S01E12-13 “Bad Wolf”/”The Parting of the Ways”

S01E12 “Bad Wolf”

This is quite a fun episode, basically a satire of the audience’s obsession with reality TV. It’s also a sequel or follow-up to “The Long Game”. Unlike that episode, this one is much more effective in prosecuting the social statement – and it shows that you can make an episode out of a social statement if you really want, and make it really good. Actors and writers alike hate reality TV because it steals their viewership and airtime – that’s fair enough, but the way this social statement is executed is pretty respectful and it’s hilarious. This episode is lively and funny.

On the negative side, too much effort is spent in building up the prologue to the series finale. Also we find out towards the end that most of the events of the episode (hiding Doctor Who and his companions as reality TV contestants) was unnecessary as the controller had brought the TARDIS to her floor anyway. Therefore that makes the first 3/4 of the episode unnecessary wheel-spinning. It would have been a stronger episode as a standalone story with its own conclusion.

S01E13 “The Parting of the Ways”

Overall this is a rather mediocre episode, and a let down as a series finale. There are some good points to it, but its biggest failure is its terrible ending. Looking into the Eye of the TARDIS to destroy all the Daleks – if that could be done the Timelords could have won the Time War at any time by just getting one selfless Timelord to absorb the energy of a Time Travel Capsule, sacrificing just one of their regeneration cycles. Captain Jack’s speech isn’t great either. Sending Rose home was little more than a plot-blocking device to allow room for wheel spinning. Doctor Who does nothing but wheel-spin by building a weapon he knows he isn’t going to use. Sure there are good episodes where the Doctor fails, but this failure feels completely manufactured and artificial. There are no other options for attacking the Daleks explored even though Earth with billions of people well outnumbers the mere 500,000 Daleks estimated by the Doctor. A few nuclear weapons, should be able to take out their entire fleet. The stakes never feel real because it’s part of one big bluff by the writers. And David Tennant’s introduction had everyone worried about the next series as he looked totally incompetent to play the character. Most of us were in horror until the Christmas special.

Series 1 Summary

This was a hugely successful series – it brought Doctor Who back to a new generation. Most of the plots were good, although several episodes had weak conclusions. There was a good variety of villains, simple easy to follow stories, and the worlds they visit felt lived-in and real, and the audience had a chance to get to know and connect with some really great characters across the series as well. Christopher Eccleston brought great positive energy to the character, and he absolutely nailed the role.

S02E00 “The Christmas Invasion”

This episode is billed officially as “Series 2 Episode X” and was filmed along with the rest of series 2, and it has a preview of the entire series 2 at the end of it. Since “Episode X” is synonymous with “Episode 10” I have labelled it 2×00.

A mediocre episode. Forgettable throwaway enemies, plot ideas that don’t make sense (like attacking Christmas trees), plot-blocking and wheel-spinning. I mean for god’s sake Rose literally puts the Sonic Screwdriver into Doctor Who’s hand while he’s unconscious and when he wakes up he points it at the Christmas tree and stops it. It’s a sonic screwdriver – it has ONE button, Rose could have pointed it at the tree and pressed it herself. Doctor Who spending the entire episode dressed in “Howard’s” pyjamas was also a low point, there was nothing worse than seeing him sword-fighting in slippers and PJs. The Doctor describing who he is was also poor form. I liked seeing the out of control TARDIS and new Doctor pop out. Jackie, Rose, and Harriet Jones are all great and at least help to ground the episode.

Tennant’s performance wasn’t great – it was enough I think to reassure fans, but having Rose overtly “legitimise” him was a bad move.

S02E01 “New Earth”

Overall this is a good episode, I like it. It’s not a great episode, but it’s good – a good simple story with a mystery, and the right amount of humour. The only real negatives is that Face of Boe is a throwaway character that didn’t need to be there and had nothing to do with the plot, and it lacks suspense. Cassandra’s closing scene was powerful and emotive.

S02E02 “Tooth and Claw”

This is a very good episode. Great characters, good humour, decent mystery, and suspenseful. I loved how Rose keeps trying to make the Queen say she’s not amused. Tennant delivers his best performance yet being not so over-top.

S02E03 “School Reunion”

A great episode. I loved seeing Sarah Jane Smith (RIP Elisabeth Sladen) return, as well as K9. The major negative for me is the domestics between Rose and Sarah, although the initial encounter where Sarah calls Rose the doctor’s “assistant” is hilarious. The reunion and farewell scenes between Doctor Who and Sarah Jane Smith are absolutely fantastic and both Tennant and Sladen nailed it.

The plot itself was fairly thin with forgettable enemies, but the execution was done well.

S02E04 “The Girl in the Fireplace”

A fantastic episode. Without a doubt the best single episode of the series. This is a character-driven episode, it’s very emotive truly tear-jerking, really great characters, and a very good mystery and plot twist in the end. Some really funny scenes too. And I love that the doctor fails to figure it out at the end, bringing him down to our level by showing that he is a mere mortal. I just love the clockwork androids which felt fresh, and what’s interesting is that this is another really great episode that doesn’t have a baddie.

It’s also interesting to say that the Doctor’s actions were completely irrelevant to the story. An interesting plot decision, but it works for this story.

Also interesting is that even though Mickey’s character was unnecessary plot-wise in this episode and has nothing to do, he does contribute to the character development of Rose and in her scenes. So I think his hapless presence in this episode is actually quite good – and it also sets up his character well for the next episode.

This episode clearly highlights Chibnall’s shortcomings. It shows you don’t need a villain to create a good story, well Moffat doesn’t anyway since he’s the one that wrote both this and the Empty Child 2-part episode in the previous series. It shows you can have really strong female characters, something Chibnall tried to have but utterly failed at. And it shows you can make a really great conclusion to a story as well – this has one of the best thought out conclusions of all the episodes in the RTD era, something Moffat struggled at as a show runner and Chibnall failed to deliver even just once in his first series as show runner. And finally what we can learn from this episode is that Moffat’s scripts were better when he was writing under a different producer – he never delivered another story of this quality under his own tenure.

S02E05-06 “Rise of the Cybermen”/”The Age of Steel”

Parallel earth to bring back Pete. Again, what can I say – great characters. Strong story arc. Good use of humour. It has a social commentary element to it, again showing you can make social statements and do it well. Well placed cliffhanger as an homage to classic Who. Mickey’s character is well used and the return of the Cybermen, unlike that of the Daleks in the previous series, is spectacular.

S02E07 “The Idiot’s Lantern”

This is a decent episode. It’s far from great, but it has some great characters (with the exceptions of Mr Magpie and The Wire), and a good simple plot to follow. The Connolly family were great, and their conclusion was well done.

S02E08-09 “The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit”

This is a mixed story for me. There are some great parts to it, and some not so great. The introduction with the Ood repeating “we must feed” is really great. Also the Ood are great too. The story’s characters aren’t that good – I fail to connect with them – and the villains are two-dimensional. The MacGuffin is poorly resolved (that is the TARDIS being lost is found “by chance”). The logic of the pit itself doesn’t hold up (for example it was designed billions of years ago, so why would it have an atmosphere breathable by humans/timelords instead of one breathable by the creatures that made it?) This story definitely didn’t deserve or need two parts.

S02E10 “Love & Monsters”

This episode barely features Doctor Who or Rose. I think it’s a decent episode, but I can understand why other’s don’t. This episode has some great humour in it if nothing else, Doctor Who’s line “Elton, fetch a spade” is hilarious (so is Elton talking about his love life with a paver). The plot is paper thin, but the characters are entertaining. The villain reminds me of Fat Bastard (in a good way).

S02E11 “Fear Her”

This episode is a clunker. The scribble monster was the low point (how do you not recognise graphite while holding it – also how does it not break apart?) The episode’s characters aren’t great.

S02E12-13 “Army of Ghosts”/”Doomsday”

This is a great episode. Oh my goodness, I just loved it when it first came out and watched it repeatedly, and it’s aged well.  It’s not perfect, the drawn-out farewell and Rose foreshadowing her “death” were the negative points. But it was such an improvement over the Series 1 finale, and is still the best finale of New Who to-date. The fact that it happens on Earth rather than Satellite 5 was a major improvement. It really felt like RTD was trying to make up for the previous finale that I felt fell flat.

Great humour, great story, some solid characters (Jackie, Pete, Mickey, etc), and of course we get the Daleks and Cybermen. It’s fun and exciting. Not afraid to be a bit cheesy. The reunion scene between Jackie and Pete was terrific. Pete saving Rose was to die for. The use of the red-blue 3D glasses was well done. Doctor Who slipping the button on to Rose, fantastic. Although this story has its flaws, it really is a great episode and one of my favourites.

Final Thoughts

I find it quite appalling when actors, writers, or others attack fans for not loving the new series of a show. Evan Rachel Wood did this (by the way, Westworld Season 2 sucked and your character contributed nothing to that season – just accept it). The audience score on Rotten Tomatoes has plummeted to 25%, and is still falling. It’s anyone’s guess right now how low it will go. It’s also disheartening to see they can’t even admit they did wrong – I mean for goodness sake Chibs has just defended the social agenda he put in the series by saying “it’s fundemental”. Really it was fundamental to the series to attack the US president, Christianity, and straight white men like me? I would hope that Chibnall, Whittaker, and the others involved in this series would have the common decency to admit they made a terrible series and commit to learn from their mistake. If not they’re driving this show directly to cancellation.

2 comments on “Doctor Who is back”

  • Aractus says:

    Today I received this “feedback” in a private message on Reddit. Probably not in response to the blog post, but in response to a couple of comments I left over there:

    I made these posts with people like you in mind

    from Maleficent_Possible sent 6 hours ago

    I read your comments criticizing series 11 and I could read was ‘blah blah blah, I hate women! Blah blah blah I hate you if you like series 11, you get the idea, OH MY GOD!!! JUST ACCEPT THAT THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR IS A WOMAN ALREADY!!!!! God I pray every day that people like you die horrible painful deaths!!! Thirteenth doctor haters are SOCIOPATHS AND YOU ARE BO EXCEPTION!!!! I hate all thirteenth doctor haters like the plague!!! Thirteenth doctor haters are PARASITES!!! I swear to god if I read ONE MORE NEGATIVE OPINION ON SERIES 11, I WILL SLIT MY WRISTS!!! So please I ask you, Will you please die before series 12 starts? The whole fandom will celebrate that there’s one less hateful mysoginist person in the world!!!! We REAL FANS will enjoy the thirteenth doctor whether you or any other hateful person want us to or not!!!! I hope Jodie Whittaker slits your throat in your sleep! Now if you need me I’ll be enjoying series 11 on blu ray LIKE A TEAL FAN WOULD!!!!

    So, what can I say about this? The original draft of this blog post was made directly after S11E01. I put the entire review on the back-burner at the time, but I can reveal that in the original draft I said “Jodie will make a fine Doctor”. Notice that I even left in “Jodie is terrific as well in her first outing” in the review above, even though it became clear later on in the series that she was miscast. Note I said more than a year earlier that Matt Smith and David Bradley were miscast too in a blog post discussing the casting of Jodie. Nowhere did I say a woman shouldn’t be cast – I was sceptical of Jodie, but clearly willing to give her a chance.

    I will be talking a little more soon about toxic fandom. Please dear god don’t confuse me with a toxic fan – unlike 95% of fans I realise that shows and films have a use-by date and that churning out more and more instalments in a franchise with no end-goal in sight is the real problem. The kind of hate that you see in the message above has no place on the internet.

  • […] I haven’t done a full series review, you may want to read my Series 11 review to understand my overall gripes with the Chibnall era. Spoilers are […]

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