TV Review: Doctor Who – Series 11

Even in its 55th year, Doctor Who proves that it still possesses the magic formula to keep things fresh, exciting and extremely watchable. With a vibe that’s equal parts classic and modern, this is everything Doctor Who should be.

“I can safely say I am in no way disappointed”

First, a slight disclaimer. I love Doctor Who. Obsessively. I always have. In my opinion it’s easily the finest show that’s ever graced the medium of television, and anything else is dwarfed in comparison. So to say that I had high expectations for this series should be considered in a somewhat unique context – I always have high expectations for Doctor Who. So three episodes down, I can safely say I am in no way disappointed.

“This outing sees the formula stripped right back to its fundamental themes”

Chris Chibnall seemed an interesting choice when announced as the new showrunner early last year. Way back in 2010, Steven Moffat felt like a perfectly natural fit for the position – all of his episodes up until that point (including fan-favourite Blink) had felt like bonafide classics. Chibnall, on the other hand, had written only a handful of fairly average contributions, as well as a similarly hit-and-miss career on the spin-off series Torchwood.

But Chibnall’s approach to Series 11 is inspired. Rather than filling each episode with constant callbacks to the show’s lengthy history, this outing sees the formula stripped right back to its fundamental themes. As a result, it allows countless new audiences to discover Who for the very first time, and reminds regular viewers exactly what they loved about the show in the first place.

“By the second episode Whittaker hits a rhythm”

And all of this is without having said a word on the Doctor herself. In one of the most talked-about casting decisions in recent memory, Jodie Whittaker no doubt bore the weight of expectation for the show. As soon as Whittaker walks (sorry, falls) onto screen, all of the fear and trepidation of a female lead dissipated – she IS the Doctor.

Of the 12 previous actors to portray the Doctor, not one has had the character down from the very first episode (although Matt Smith did come very close), and by the same token the 13th Doctor’s first hour is not perfect. Occasionally some moments of comedy don’t land as well as they can, but by the second episode Whittaker hits a rhythm, and seeing her strut her stuff is nothing short of delightful. It’s always fun to imagine how each Doctor will change as their tenure continues, and if Thirteen continues at the rate she has been going at, we are no doubt in for a treat.

“Bradley Walsh is a fantastic addition to the cast, with more than his share of heartwarming moments”

Filling out the rest of the main cast are the Doctor’s new friends – Ryan, Yaz and Graham. Of the three, Tosin Cole’s Ryan seems to have been given the largest amount of material to work with. A young factory worker with dyspraxia, Ryan is very much the the figure who’s curiosity seems to get the better of him, but ultimately remains endearing throughout. Bradley Walsh is a fantastic addition to the cast, with more than his share of heartwarming moments (particularly with Ryan), and sets up an interesting dynamic for the remainder of the series.

So far, Mandip Gill’s Yaz has had a little less to do, but is probably the most grounded and rational of the group. With the promise of her family and home life being explored in future episodes, she will hopefully rise to the same prominence as her co-stars.

If one aspect of the series is lacking, it would be the villains. Aside from some of the more regular threats, Who villains have a tendency to look decent on paper, but come off as a bit pants when they’re realised on-screen. While some of these were genuinely spooky or skin-crawling (in particular Episode One’s Tzim-Sha), none have yet have felt threatening enough to raise the stakes as high as the plot perhaps needs. Chibnall has promised that no new villains will be included in this series, but you can’t help but wonder at this stage if an appearance from a more established threat might inject a little more urgency into some plot lines.

Nevertheless, Doctor Who’s return his is triumphant. Indeed, it’s the closest that the modern revival has come to resembling the very first series of 1963/64 – a brand new Doctor, 3 companions, and a plethora of new planets and time periods to explore. Rather than having run out of ideas, the success of Series 11 proves that Doctor Who is not only capable of regenerating as successfully as its lead, but also completely and utterly timeless.


Francis Simmons

Featured images courtesy of BBC One Official Facebook Page

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