Series Review: Doctor Who Season 11

The new season of Doctor Who premiered today. For the first time in the show’s long history, a woman, actress Jodie Whittaker, assumed the role of The Doctor.

I have eagerly anticipated the return of Doctor Who AND this momentous episode when New Who is made even more…new.

Series Review Doctor Who Season 11

Doctor Who?

As a recap, Doctor Who chronicles the adventures of a time traveling alien who routinely saves the universe. He is particularly fond of Earth and his traveling companions are typically humans. The Doctor, whose name is never revealed, explores time and space in a TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) that appears as a blue police box. Looks are deceiving though. This box is a spaceship that is much bigger on the inside.

Peter Capaldi recently stepped down as the 12th Doctor in the rebooted series known as New Who. However this alien with two hearts doesn’t die. He regenerates when he’s near the end of life, assuming a new body and personality while retaining memories. Thus various actors have portrayed the Doctor and continued the series over decades. With Capaldi’s exit, it was time for Doctor number 13.

Series Review Doctor Who Season 11

New Who Has a New Gender

Season 11 opened today with “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”. Episode 1 starred Jodie Whittaker, Sharon D. Clarke, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill and Bradley Walsh. Jamie Childs directed the debut by new show runner Chris Chibnall.

Doctor Who airs on Sunday evenings on BBC America, at 8:00 PM Central Standard Time.

In South Yorkshire, mysterious things are occurring. Ryan Sinclair (Cole) discovers a peculiar vessel in the woods. Police officer Yaz Khan (Gill), who responds to his call, happens to be an old school friend. As the two examine the strange craft, Ryan receives a frantic call from his grandmother, Grace (Clarke).

A menacing intruder has boarded the train that Grace and her husband Graham (Walsh) were journeying home in. Locked into the train car, injury or death seems certain…until a woman falls through the ceiling, landing in front of them. Unsure of her name, and dressed in a man’s rumpled suit, the woman (Whittaker) nonetheless quickly takes charge of the situation.

Yaz and Ryan arrive at the stalled train. And an unexpected adventure unfolds that involves not one but two aliens, a newly formed group of allies and a woman who fights to save others while desperately attempting to remember exactly who she is.

Series Review Doctor Who Season 11

The Woman Who Fell to Earth

I watched episode 1 three times today. Rather than reveal much about the story, I’d rather share a few thoughts about this new era in Who and encourage readers to become viewers.

First, well done Chris Chibnall, cast and crew on creating an engaging story as Doctor Who heads in fresh new directions. I enjoyed the cinematic look and feel of this episode. Chris sets the stage for future episodes that will focus a great deal on the human companions who accompany The Doctor. They have interesting stories of their own, these three companions, and the development of their characters is something to look forward to.

Jodie stepped into the role of Doctor and quickly made it hers. Regeneration episodes are always a bit tricky. A beloved actor has just left. A new person assumes the role. It usually takes me several episodes to get in sync with the new Doctor. I caught glimpses of Calpadi’s Doctor in the words and mannerisms of this fresh personality, and that eased the transition for me.

Series Review Doctor Who Season 11

My Doctor Who

Jodie became my Doctor today. Confused initially about who she is, she asks Yaz why she keeps calling her “madam”. When Yaz shares it’s because she’s a woman, The Doctor whirls around and asks, earnestly, “Does it suit me?”

She didn’t asked if it suited the others or if it was okay if she was female. I loved that distinction. It was brilliant.

Jodie was brilliant. By the end of episode one I had embraced the change. I await further episodes and look forward to getting to know all of these new characters. What a great group of companions The Doctor has.

My favorite quote of the night was spoken by The Doctor, as she created her own sonic screwdriver:

“There’s this moment when you are sure you are about to die and then…you are born. It’s terrifying. There are echoes of who I was and this call toward who I am, and I have to hold my nerve and trust all these new instincts and shape myself towards them.”

What a tremendous place to exist in. We can grow into the person we are becoming, without losing who we are. Echoes and a call. Trust.

It’s going to be an amazing season.

Series Review Doctor Who Season 11

Doctor…Who?

I am a huge fan of the long running British television series, Doctor Who. This show, spanning decades, is so much more than a sci-fi or fantasy series. Doctor Who stretches my mind, touches my heart, engages my imagination and broadens my beliefs while delivering consistently good episodes about humanity.

At the heart of this show is an alien from the planet Gallifrey known simply as The Doctor. He serves as a protector and defender of peoples from across the universe, although he has a particular fondness for humans. What has made the longevity of this series possible is a unique characteristic of The Doctor. Rather than dying, he regenerates, taking on a new appearance and personality when he does so. This cleverness has allowed various actors to play The Doctor over a span of more than 50 years.

At the encouragement of my grandson Dayan, I began watching the episodes dubbed as "New Who", featuring the 9th Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston). I have faithfully followed along through the regenerations of three doctors, which is tough on me! I came to love Doctors 10, 11 and 12, as portrayed by different actors. Each brought fresh perspectives and charm to the character. I was sad when each one stepped away from the show so that another could fill the role…and yet I quickly came to appreciate the new actor and the new Doctor.

It is time for the 12th Doctor, played by the wonderful Peter Capaldi, to regenerate into Doctor 13. The Christmas special in December will be Twelve's last appearance as he becomes Thirteen. During the last few months there has been a great deal of secrecy and speculation about who the new Doctor will be.


Doctors 9, 10, 11 & 12.

Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor.

During the rampant speculations about Capaldi's successor, the rumors began that the next doctor could be female. This would be a first, as all the other incarnations have been male. Some felt it was time for a woman to play the lead role, rather than that of the Doctor's traveling companion. And some felt changing the Doctor's gender, even though other Time Lords have been shown to do so, should not be done. It has been a hotly debated topic.

Honestly, I had mixed feelings. I like the male actors who have played the heroic Time Lord. I was especially fond of Scottish actor David Tennant, who played the 10th Doctor. And I have grown quite fond of Capaldi's older, sassier version. I wasn't sure if a female actor could capture the essence of The Doctor as well as these fine male actors.

As the time for the reveal approached, scheduled for last Sunday afternoon, I was sure I didn't want 13 to be female. The BBC planned to release which actor was assuming the role by way of a brief video shown during Wimbledon. I found myself fervently thinking, Don't be a woman…please don't be a woman.

Actress Jodie Whittaker was selected as the 13th Doctor, amid a furor of reactions. She is a fine actress, best known for her current role in BBC's crime drama, Broadchurch. I like that series. I like Jodie. I embrace change in my own life. So why my strong reaction to this change?

I have thought about that question all week. I am still sorting through my feelings about it. This is my concise answer to a complicated assortment of realizations.

I discovered that I have an appreciation, and perhaps even a need, for a powerful male lead as a father figure. As a child of divorced parents and the resulting consequence of seeing my dad on weekends and then less and less frequently as I grew up, I have longed for that strong male presence in my life. I have been drawn to characters such as Captain Kirk in Star Trek and a whole hosts of super heroes such as Ironman and Batman for that reason. The Doctor, who comes across as very fatherly with his wisdom and deeper understanding of the universe, satisfies that need as well.

But my goodness…I am no longer a child. I stepped up into my identity years ago. I learned to fill in any self perceived gaps in the parenting I had, by becoming the mother and the father to my inner child that I wished I had had. I have understood this week that I no longer need to look outside of myself for anything that seems lacking.

And with those thoughts, my attitude about the new Doctor, about 13, completely shifted. I am excited to see what Jodie brings to the role. I am a loyal Whovian. And I accept this change, just as I ultimately have which each previous regeneration. Yeah, it is just a television show. I know that. And yeah, it is more than that as it helps me to grow and expand my awareness and see life in bigger ways.

If I needed any other persuasion on embracing the first female Doctor, I received it yesterday. I asked my granddaughter Aubrey, who is a Doctor Who fan as well, if she had heard about who the new Doctor was going to be. She had not. Aubrey's favorite Doctor is David Tennant as well, as Ten. I was curious to see her reaction to Thirteen.

Holding her on my lap, I pulled up the video on my phone that the BBC used for the reveal. I watched Aubrey, as she watched the short clip. As the 13th Doctor's eye and forehead were shown, Aubrey turned wide blue eyes to me and whispered, "Is it a girl?!" I just smiled. As Jodie removed the hood covering her head and her face was fully revealed, my granddaughter squealed with delight and yelled, "It IS a girl! The Doctor is a GIRL! She just became my new favorite Doctor."

I still tear up when I think about Aubrey's response. It means so much to her that the Doctor is at last a woman. What a strong role model Jodie is going to be, for girls and for boys…and for me. I can imagine how many little girls will be wielding sonic screw drivers and dressing as The Doctor for Halloween in the years to come. Aubrey could be among those pretending to be a Time Lady. I hope so.

Throughout the day, yesterday, Aubrey would turn shining eyes toward me and ask, "The new Doctor really is a girl?" I was proud to answer that she was. And touched to my core by Aubrey's happy grin.

Welcome to the Whoniverse, Jodie Whittaker. I am so glad you are here. Take us all to new places, in the show…and in time and space…and within our hearts.

Watch the reveal video HERE.