The thirteenth Doctor being a played by a woman from Skelmanthorpe (near Huddersfield) might have been a controversial one for a section of the fanbase of Doctor Who in new show-runner Chris Chibnall’s first episode.
But Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) claims her place as the Doctor after her opening performance in the role with the show moving to Sunday nights.
New regeneration stories tend to be a bit longer than average Doctor Who stories and this one clocked in at a little over an hour including a teaser trail for the rest of the series listing a large number of forthcoming guest stars.
With the advent of streaming and Netflix style longer form stories the idea of adhering to an American broadcast TV style 42 minutes (where commercials would pad out the hour) seems to be less important this time.
With the new season of Doctor Who we get only ten episodes, but each episode is a little longer at around 50 minutes apiece.
This should in theory allow for more characterisation and perhaps a bit less running around and waving of the sonic screwdriver to open the odd locked door.
When you look back at old episodes of broadcast TV in box sets – such as Star Trek: The Next Generation or The Avengers (with John Steed and Mrs Peel, not Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans) you find a less frenetic pace in the episodes which were around the 50 minute mark.
It’s more modern TV that has seen the encroachment of commercial breaks into the action and eased out the quirky side plots which were a feature of the better shows of the time.
This series of Doctor Who will be known for a switch to 18:9 aspect ratio – a wider 2:1 format meant to look more cinematic with lens flares and wide open apertures giving the show a new look.
I liked the more low-key synthesised music in the sound track to separate it from the more bombastic Doctor Who episodes of the past.
The villain of the piece for “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” is a sub-Terminator/Predator knock-off with a natty piece of contraband Matrix style technology but it’s fairly clear that he’s not really the focus of this story.
What we are here to see is that the new Doctor is the same Doctor we all know, and she has the ability to rally friends to her cause.
Friends, not companions, for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor
And that’s where this opening episode’s main strengths lie, with a good performances all round from the known future members of the TARDIS crew.
Mandip Gill (who plays Yaz, former Primary schoolmate of Tosin Cole’s Ryan Sinclair) gets a little less to do this time partly because of a stand-out performance from Sharon D Clarke (as Grace, Ryan’s grandmother).
It’s her enthusiasm for the adventure that draws us in even though the attempt to modernise Doctor Who with mentions of social media are destined to look even clunkier in the future than they look now.
Bradley Walsh also steps up as Grace’s husband, Graham, step-granddad to Ryan (and reluctant adventurer) but we’re really here to see Whittaker’s performance as the Doctor.
She channels her friend David Tennant’s scatty and brilliant tenth doctor very well, especially what few quiet moments she gets to reflect in.
We’re yet to see the switch to deadly serious Doctor that Tennant could pull off it’ll be interesting to watch the rest of the episodes of the forthcoming series.