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Doctor Who Season 11 - Smile. It confuses people [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Doctor Who Season 11 [Dec. 10th, 2018|08:31 pm]
I started to write up a post about this last series of Doctor Who, but found that I was mostly repeating comments I'd been making hither and yon for the last couple of weeks. Instead I am going to make a list of all the series eleven episodes, from least to most favourite. Because this is what that series has been to me, a series of favourites; the Doctor is a woman, Jodie Whittaker is awesome, and nothing hurts.

Okay, so starting from the least best:

Arachnids in the UK

I really appreciated that Chibnall decided not to include any two parters in this series, because, lets be honest, hardly any of them are any good at all. But Arachnids in the UK commits many of the same sins as the likes of The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People, to use a particularly meh two-parter as an example, in that it feels both too long and too short at the same time. Not much seems to happen, but the plot is still mostly unresolved. There are still all those spiders running around Sheffield, and the Doctor's moral red line where it's unacceptable to shoot the giant spider but okay to let it suffocate under its own weight crumbles under the slightest scrutiny.

The best bits: A+ use of Mr. Big, Yaz's mum.

Re: the makeup of team TARDIS, I'm torn. On the one hand, Doctor & lone companion TARDIS's run the risk of becoming claustrophobic and alienating if it's not a relationship that works for you, and after a decade plus of Doctors who seem to like one (1) human and barely tolerate the rest of us it's refreshing to have a Doctor who fell to Earth and adopted the first four humans they met. On the other hand, I agree with everyone who said that introducing three new companions on top of a new Doctor and kind of a new show structure was Too Much and didn't necessarily give any of them the chance to shine.

If I had my druthers I would have kept the series run at thirteen episodes, introduced Yaz first, established Thirteen within a more traditional companion relationship, and brought in Graham and Ryan at, like, episode three.


A perfectly serviceable episode ruined by a confused balls up of an ending. The thinly veiled Amazon analogue is the baddie! Wait, the guy protesting the thinly veiled Amazon analogue is the real baddie! The thinly veiled Amazon analogue killed people though! I'm confused! We're all confused!

There was a really ugly implication that dead customers are a tragedy, whereas dead employees are the cost of doing business. I wasn't wild about the bit where shooting for fifty percent humans employed doing repetitive and robotic tasks as opposed to ten percent was considered a happy ending, it felt really conservative and ill-fitted to Doctor Who.

Also, the Doctor not destroying or at least fundamentally changing Kerblam didn't sit right with me - when the Thirteen had to sit and let injustice pass in Rosa it felt poignant, in Kerblam! it made her feel at best ineffective or at worst indifferent.

Wow, I liked this episode even less than I thought. The only reason this doesn't rate dead last is that I have strong feelings about this, while Arachnids in the UK just kind of happened.

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

There's nothing wrong with this episode, it's a perfectly adequate finale. I mean, it couldn't be worse than The Last of the Time Lords, could it? But Tim Shaw isn't exactly the villain of the century, and while for most of the season I've been surprisingly charmed by Graham and managed to forget the fact that Grace was basically fridged, Graham's subplot about wanting revenge made that very hard to continue to ignore.

I really liked the bit where the Doctor told Ryan that she'd had to lay down the rules because he was new but the rules were subject to change, I thought it was a good summary of the way this whole series had been set up to be more welcoming to new viewers. And, for what it's worth, I've found the more straightforward plots a feature rather than a bug. It's been good both for reasons of my own enjoyment, and, to be honest, comprehension, and for pitching the show to my mates who might be geeky types but aren't regular viewers; you should check out this week's episode of Doctor Who, it's about Rosa Parks, or set during the partition of India is a much easier pitch than trying to explain the saga of River Song or Lady Me.

That said, I do hope they bring a bit (a bit!) of the lore back next series. It's been lovely to have a Doctor who can introduce themselves to people without having to read through a CV ('I'm a Time Lord, I'm from the planet Gallifrey, I'm bajillionty years old...') but I really, really want to hear Jodi Whittaker call herself a Time Lord.

The Tsuranga Conundrum

Pro: Adorable monster

Pro: Graham and Ryan helping a dude deliver his baby.

You know, I was really miffed when I first heard about Bradley Walsh's casting; partly because I mostly knew him as that gurning quiz show host, and partly because I thought the show was throwing a bone to a vocal and unpleasant segment of the fanbase by going 'here's a middle aged white bloke for you to care about.' But Graham has been so lovely; it's not just the super relatable taking a cheese and pickle sandwich on TARDIS adventures, it's that this is a guy who married late in life when Ryan must have been, like, sixteen, and still threw himself wholeheartedly into being Ryan's granddad. Their relationship was a highlight of the season for me. But also, it's a relationship arc that I feel like we've seen play out and I would be okay with them not being companions next series.

Cons: There are no cons. I loved this episode, I just like everything higher on this list more.

The Woman Who Fell To Earth

The Doctor is a woman! The Doctor is a woman! I can't hear anything this episode tried to do over how happy I am that the Doctor is a woman!

Like, that the Doctor's gender shouldn't matter is a valid argument, but I would like to present this counter argument: it does matter to a lot of people, not least to all those little girls crying in YouTube videos.

I feel like this was a solid intro episode; it didn't have a dinosaur like Twelve, but it also didn't leave a nasty taste in the mouth like Ten deposing Harriet Jones. A solid B+

Also, Thirteen's outfit, which I had been supremely unimpressed with in stills, turned out to be so much better in motion, and I love how little regard the wardrobe department has for the male gaze.


This season might have had the best historical episodes of any nu who series. And the diversity of the writer's room is showing in the best of ways.

Also, Graham trolling the racist by going HAVE YOU MET MY GRANDSON, RYAN? I LOVE HIM cemented my love for him.

The Ghost Monument

What a gorgeous episode, the exteriors at least. The inside of the TARDIS is really, really badly lit, and hard to see. I wonder if the reason we didn't get many scenes in the console room this series is that it's hard to film in, and I wouldn't be surprised if it gets tweaked for next series.

But the Doctor and TARDIS reunion scene might just be one of my favourite Nu Who scenes of all time. I just wish the interior had been well enough lit that I'd been able to see the TARDIS giving her Doctor a custard cream rather than reading about it in reviews.

It Takes You Away

This one had two things that I absolutely loved

1) When Yaz suggests reversing the polarity.

I really feel like in any other series Yaz would be the main companion. I mean, part of that is that the Graham & Ryan relationship is so central to the set up that the Doctor and Yaz are often together just by default, but mostly it makes me curious about the version of the show where Yaz is the sole or at least main companion. I mean, I'm into the 'very flat team structure', but I feel like I would be into Thirteen & Yaz (or, ahem, Thirteen/Yaz) too.

2)The frog.

Look, the show got me there. It got me wondering which old companion the show might have got back to portray the Solitract, something that would have caused no end of fandom infighting, whoever it was. Instead it was a frog, and it was the best of all possible worlds. Plus, the Doctor immediately befriending a sentient universe who had nearly destroyed our universe out of loneliness was the most doctor-y thing Thirteen could have possibly done.

Demons of the Punjab

Shameful admission: I learned more about the partition of India from one episode of Doctor Who than I did from twenty odd years of formal education. That diverse cast and writers room is paying off again.

The idea of aliens who watch over people who would otherwise die alone is oddly lovely, and the episode was just as beautiful as The Ghost Monument. I wonder if there was a budget increase this year, or if the reduced episode run just frees up more money to spend per episode.

The Witchfinders

Look, it's not like I want the Doctor to talk about being a woman ad nauseam (that's what I'm for), but I want it brought up, and The Witchfinders struck the perfect balance. Add in a classic Doctor Who story and the A+ use of Alan Cumming and just *kisses fingertips*

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