Doctor Who Series 11: Our Half-way Verdict

Now that The Tsuranga Conundrum has hit our screens, we’re officially half way through series 11 of Doctor Who. We’ve been from Sheffield 2018 to the 67th century – with spiders, spaceships and iconic historical moments in-between. Grab a cuppa and a custard cream as we delve into the beginning of the 13th Doctor’s debut series.

The 13th Doctor – Beth

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The Doctor finds the outfit of her dreams in The Woman Who Fell To Earth.

The 13th Doctor is everything I’d hoped and dreamed that she would be. There was one thing I wanted from Jodie’s performance, and that was for her to feel like the same character I’ve loved for all this time. I wanted 13 to be Doctor-y, and Jodie absolutely hits the nail on the head. A few scenes at the beginning of the series felt slightly out of place to me, as Jodie didn’t seem to play the complicated language convincingly, but as the episodes go on she grasps it more and more. Her comedy and demeanour as the Doctor really feel spot on, and I miss her when the stories end each week. I can’t wait to find out where she’s going this series and to see Jodie play some more big, emotional moments! I’d love to see more character development and emphasis on what traits her Doctor will be remembered for – as well as more wonderful costume variants!

Companions – Kez

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The Thirteenth Doctor and her friends

So, we have 3 companions in the TARDIS, aka a TEAM! Doesn’t this feel like a long time coming? Now there are more opinions, viewpoints and life experiences that add to every story. Having the age contrast between Graham and the others adds so much more depth and breaks the 2005+ rule of what a permanent companion is: aka an attractive young woman. Having lived a very different life to the others including surviving cancer, it’s given him such a unique view on what he wants the rest of his life to look like, especially without his wife Grace. This is mirrored in Ryan too. The thing I love about Tosin Cole’s performance is the very real bravado from a 19 year old, mixed with a beautiful vulnerability. Ryan’s arguably had alot of the focus so far this series, and I’m enjoying how he’s growing as a person, as he opens up more to Graham, Yaz and most importantly, life as he sees it. He’s already speaking to a disillusioned young male audience who I hope will continue to watch his journey. Yaz is our most under-developed companion, and I’ve been massively frustrated with the lack of who she is – it’s still hanging in the air 6 episodes in! However, with Demons of the Punjab brings more Yaz, and her relationship with her family and heritage. Before series 11 started I was most excited to see the dynamic between a female Doctor and companion, and this one is still developing. I feel like the Doctor has the best on-screen bond with Yaz so far – but is that just me watching two women together? I’m not sure. I’m absolutely loving seeing the three of them react to each other and the Doctor, but I’m not fully sure we know everything about them yet… so bring on the second part of the series.

Episode Quality – Beth

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Team TARDIS in The Tsuranga Conundrum

Five episodes in, and the quality of series 11 is high. If we’re talking scripts though, the stories have been consistent in the way that they’re simple, fun Doctor Who plots. The characterisation has been outstanding, as has the acting from our main cast – propelling the episodes from average to brilliant. The general tone and look of the show this year means that this series has quickly become one of my favourites, and I’m thoroughly enjoying every minute of it. I don’t feel there is anything to dislike, but of course that all depends on what you like to get out of an episode of Doctor Who. There are off bits of course, such as awkward acting or non-resolutions to some plot points, but it’s hard to judge until the whole series has aired. Personally, I think these 5 episodes have been some of the highest quality Doctor Who ever, and I can’t wait to see where it is going!

Music – Kez

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Hearing the music from the climax of The Woman Who Fell to Earth was a highlight

Segun Akinola’s music pulses and breathes throughout each story, like it’s a living part of the plot. This is so different from Murray Gold’s scores which were beautiful and reverent, but triggered emotion foremost, rather than reflecting the atmosphere of a story. Ambient and subtle in parts, the music from the first half of series 11 has raised the collective heart beat of the UK without us even realising that this is largely down to the score. As well as this, the use of contemporary music in both the promotion of the series and within, like Rise Up by Andra Day used at the end of Rosa blends easily, and makes it feel like Doctor Who has cooly been doing it for decades. What I’m looking forward to though, is that sweeping grandeur during a ‘I am the Doctor’ moment. We’ve had that feeling in the music a couple of times in series 11 but it hasn’t quite left me feeling awe-struck and teary eyed, which is really what I want in those moments (sorry). I can hear the music of each Doctor from 2005+ in my head, and I can’t quite figure out what the Thirteenth Doctor sounds like yet. This is completely a personal opinion since I enjoy openly weeping at Rose’s theme in Doomsday, but I hope we get that feeling again.

Special Effects – Beth

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The new TARDIS interior stuns with its atmospheric lighting and smoky doorway…

The special effects this series have taken a massive step up from anything that’s come before, taking it into cinematic territory. There’s something so exciting about having such high standard effects on our little old show that is famous for its wobbly sets. A highlight is the wonderful new title sequence that stuns with its purple hues and liquidy textures. Arachnids in the UK gave the vortex a proper appearance as the TARDIS adventures through space and time and we see its true extent – every fan’s dream! the explosions and CGI work brilliantly together to create convincing moments and realistic scenes. I love how the creatures of the series stand up well, from the deadly Remnants in The Ghost Monument, to the giant spiders in Arachnids in the UK.

Storylines – Kez

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Yaz with her family in Arachnids in the UK

The stories across series 11 so far have shown a staggering range of pace, location and character. I appreciate that immensely, and no two stories have felt the same, but in the same vein it doesn’t feel that neatly wrapped package of a series I quite want (yet). Of course Doctor Who is about throwing different stories at us, but Rosa felt like a different show to The Tsuranga Conundrum. This, again is a personal opinion and has had no effect on ratings so I’ll take that as me being a perfectionist! There have been some truly beautiful, ‘first in Doctor Who’ moments: watching the Doctor take an emotional step back in Rosa, and being vulnerable with her friends at the end of The Ghost Monument… but balanced with some familiarity: watching Yaz’s relationship with her family and as always, an awful lot of running. Something that’s new as an overall feel is how educational the show is. We’re having history and science lessons each week, with every story showing a strong moral compass and lessons learned. I’m not adverse to this – it’s quite in-your-face but maybe that’s a good thing? It’s only teaching children about being kind and encouraging learning which we can’t really complain about! Character wise, what I’m really hoping for in the second half of series 11 is for our guest cast to be more fleshed out. We need to have time to get to know who they are, so we can empathise with their story. My feel so far is that in each story there have been a few too many people, and that crowding makes each character less significant as a result. More time with these characters please! Chris Chibnall’s show running has so far brought Doctor Who to the forefront of British television, and the stories have brought literally millions of new watchers in. So welcome, new fans!

Monsters and Villains – Beth

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The Pting captured the hearts of Doctor Who fans everywhere in The Tsuranga Conundrum.

We’ve had a whole host of exciting creatures and villains this series so far, and I think they’re all iconic. First up we had the deadly ‘Tim Shaw’ and his face full of teeth – terrifying! His appearance in The Woman Who Fell to Earth was perfect for a series opener and a brilliant first villain for the 13th Doctor to face. My favourite villain however has undoubtedly got to be the Pting from The Tsuranga Conundrum. The adorable creature is original, memorable and fun – something this series needed after the darker villains in Rosa and Arachnids in the UK. Both of those stories featured characters who were morally corrupt and putting others at risk with their close minded, selfish behaviours. They are written brilliantly, and I love that Doctor Who is dealing with bigger, deeper issues, but there’s nothing like a good old alien invasion. Looking forward, I have high hopes that there will be more original aliens and creatures to balance out the moral and educational storytelling that we’re seeing so often this series. Oh, and a Pting plush in time for Christmas please.

Highlights – Kez

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The Doctor asks her friends if they’re ready to become team TARDIS in Arachnids in the UK

As mentioned already, there have been some truly special moments in this series. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that watching Rosa – the whole experience, was pretty amazing. To see Doctor Who tackle these big historical moments so relevant to people’s experiences today, felt really important. Equally, the way that Grace’s death has been handled has been a tough watch but so real. Graham and Ryan’s grief has been tangible throughout the series, and it just makes them more believable. Seeing their reactions when they officially join team TARDIS was so touching, and a real milestone for all their characters, including the Doctor. This time she knows what may happen, this time she makes sure they know, and they do. It was a pillar moment for the Doctor – really challenging the feelings of companions, knowing they may say no. The smaller moments which help define this era are absolute highlights for me: Yaz’s family chat about pakora, Know Me From by Stormzy being played to scare spiders away, Graham moaning about not having time to eat, tea at Yaz’s, the Pting… I could go on. Lastly, a highlight has to be just how amazing this series looks and sounds. Doctor Who has never been so current, and doesn’t feel out of place with shows we’re all watching which have double the budget.

Keep sharing your thoughts about series 11 with us over on Twitter – @thetimeladies_

5 Replies to “Doctor Who Series 11: Our Half-way Verdict”

  1. Finally! The Tsuranga Conundrum episode is truer to the traditions of Dr Who. Everyone had an equal role to play, there was seriousness, humour, life and death. The far-flung galaxy, the prurient Pting, the sci-fi speak, the puzzlement and overall atmosphere was brilliant. Let’s hope that’s the end of clunky dialogue and my fingers are crossed that CGI characters are not used too much. The guys in suits still have appeal 🙂

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  2. I have to admit I was not enamoured by the Pting episode. But all in all it’s been a strong season for a new Doctor. I particularly LOVED the Demons of the Punjab – I cried at least three times during the episode, and it was a great conversation starter in the house afterwards with my 11 year old and partner. So glad to see such a great cast, making Fantastic Television! Thanks for your summary!

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  3. Aside from Rosa and DOTP, I don’t think the season is very good at all so far. Let me be clear, this is not Jodie’s fault but Chibnall’s, who I’ve come to realize is just an unimaginative writer and a poor showrunner. Hopefully some of the other writers can shore up the quality in the second half as that’s the only place we’ve had any quality so far. Perhaps wiser heads will prevail, kick out Chibs and get someone in there who knows what they’re doing for the next series. Chibnall’s lack of talent and leadership reflect poorly on Jodie and when Graham is the most interesting character in the Tardis crew, this is a problem.

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  4. I have heard people saying that this series is not ‘Doctor Who’ but for me is is very much ‘Doctor Who’. How could Tsuranga be any more traditional Doctor Who than what we got. The same can be said of The Ghost Monument. Rosa and Demons of the Punjab were also very similar to the Hartnell style historicals. I would say that in these first six or seven episodes we have some fantastic examples of Doctor Who.

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