Doctor Who: Series 11 (2018) in review

Series 11 of Doctor Who finished on Monday, 10th December 2018. It was the first full season to feature the new Thirteenth Doctor (played by Jodie Whittaker), the first female Doctor in the show’s 55-year history. It also had fewer but longer episodes than previous seasons, and the new production team decided to change the use of the traditional story arc (instead of being a largely plot-driven arc, it was mainly character-driven).

Despite these changes, I think Series 11 generally didn’t do that well, though it definitely had its bright spots.

I liked Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, though I think she still has to bring something new and different to the role. She merely came across as a copy of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors (played by David Tennant and Matt Smith, respectively). She demonstrated limitless manic energy and sometimes phrased things in a ‘timey-wimey’ way, which were the main traits of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors.

The increased length of the episodes was a positive, because the extra time allows more time for character development and also lets the narrative/plot to flow better. But Series 11, for me, felt more like a spin-off of Doctor Who instead of an actual continuation of the show. I think it would’ve benefitted from a plot-driven story arc, though it did fine without one. I also think old villains, like the Master or the Daleks, should’ve returned at some point during the series. It would’ve been good to have villains who are familiar come back to face off against a character who has just been reinvented. Despite there being references to previous episodes and the use of old tools, like the psychic paper, the new cast and crew didn’t bridge the gap well enough. I felt like the new production team are trying to make it an entirely new (or, at least, entirely different) show, which isn’t good in Doctor Who’s case because it’s supposed to rely heavily on its past. It has worked in the past, though, such as when the show came back in 2005.

Series 11 featured a lot more diversity when compared to previous seasons. I think introducing a bit more diversity into the show is good, though it shoved racism and sexism down viewers’ throats at some points.

Series 11 also featured three new companions: Graham; Ryan (the grandson of Graham’s wife, Grace); and Yaz. Graham and Ryan received a lot of the attention. I think Yaz only really had one episode (“Demons of the Punjab”) to shine. She seems like a wasted character to me. She came across two-dimensional and wooden at times.

Below are my thoughts about every episode of Series 11.

Episode 1: The Woman Who Fell to Earth

The Woman Who Fell to Earth had a Torchwood vibe to it. This is probably because Chris Chibnall, who wrote the episode, was the head writer of Torchwood for a couple of years.

The episode follows the same basic formula as other episodes featuring a new Doctor: newly-regenerated Doctor shows up, meets new people while a villain causes havoc, but the Doctor saves the day – all the while adapting to his/her new body.

But it was a decent enough episode.

I was expecting the Doctor now in female form to be the main focus, but it actually wasn’t. It was briefly mentioned, though. Instead, the focus of the episode is stopping the villain from killing innocent people. I think this is a much better focus, because it allows the other characters to shine.

Jodie Whittaker did an outstanding job in this episode. She came across as the Doctor. Normally it takes a while for a new Doctor to settle into the role, but Jodie managed to do it straight away. This is an impressive feat, and she deserves to be applauded for that. I like how she created a new sonic screwdriver from scratch, but I don’t think the design is as good as previous designs. A sonic screwdriver is a piece of highly-advanced technology, and so it should have an elegant (or, at least, decent) design. The new design doesn’t even look good, in my eyes.

The episode did a good job introducing the new companions.

I believe the concluding part of the episode was disappointing, but I loved the cliffhanger.

Episode 2: The Ghost Monument

The Ghost Monument has a very basic plot, but the acting/performances are amazing, and the cinematography is as well. The episode had a Classic Doctor Who vibe to it.

The episode introduced a new TARDIS interior, which I don’t really like.

Episode 3: Rosa

Another episode with a Classic Doctor Who vibe to it. The episode is about Rosa Parks, someone from history I never really knew about. I learned a lot about her from this episode.

A major theme of the episode was racism. I feel as though it was shoved down our throats throughout the episode. I understand that people were more racist in the 1950s (where the episode is set), but I personally believe it should’ve been toned down a notch.

Episode 4: Arachnids in the UK

I think Arachnids in the UK was a very unremarkable and underwhelming episode, but it certainly wasn’t bad.

There’s no surprise in “Arachnids in the UK”. The title gives it all away. But episode’s pacing does a good job at building tension.

The arachnids in the episode were mutations. The cause of the mutation was toxic waste. I think the cause should’ve been more sci fi-related and unique, because it instead comes off as dull and uninspired.

The episode’s ‘bad guy’ was Robertson, a businessman who owns a chain of hotels. He’s a very unlikable person. He comes across as an analogue for Trump.

Episode 5: The Tsuranga Conundrum

The Tsuranga Conundrum was a ‘base under siege’-type episode, like those from the Classic Series.

The flow/pace of the episode is great; it’s never slow. There’s a constant sense of urgency and danger throughout the episode.

The episode featured a pregnant man. This is unique to Doctor Who, but I liked it. It never felt forced. It instead came across as normal, which, for the character, it was. Having the character question whether he’d make a good dad, and Ryan and Graham trying to convince him that he will be, helped it come across as normal, because a lot of parents, in real life, question whether they’re going to be good parents.

The TARDIS only features in the opening scene of the episode. The Doctor said early on in the episode that it could be stolen, so I would’ve liked to see the gang return to the TARDIS, just so I’d know it wasn’t. Instead, the episode’s conclusion left me wondering if it’d been stolen.

Overall, the episode wasn’t bad, but nothing really stood out either (except, maybe, for the pregnant man).

Episode 6: Demons of the Punjab

I loved this episode.

I liked how the Doctor was proved wrong about the ‘villains’, an alien species called the Thijarian.

Character was a major focus of the episode. I especially loved the emotional connections between the Yaz and her grandmother.

I think the episode reminiscent of Father’s Day from Series 1.

Episode 7: Kerblam!

I think Kerblam! was okay. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad, either. It was a bit unremarkable.

The main theme/issue of Kerblam! was technology replacing people in jobs. I feel as though this was forced. The relationships between the characters came across as cliché as well, especially the relationship between the cleaner and the warehouse worker.

The Doctor getting a fez delivered to the TARDIS was a great call-back to the Matt Smith era.

Episode 8: “The Witchfinders”

The Witchfinders featured King James I, played by Alan Cumming. Cumming’s portrayal of the king was stereotyped, though, which ruined the whole episode for me. His posh English accent is annoying, and he comes across as sexist. 

Episode 9: It Takes You Away

It Takes You Away is my favourite episode of Series 11. It reminded me of Fear Her from Series 2. I loved the scene where the Doctor and the Solitract talked about being friends. It was the highlight of the episode for me. I think Jodie Whittaker gave a great performance in this episode.

The episode’s themes include friendship, love, and family. There was a strong focus on Graham and Ryan, and the bond they share (Ryan calls Graham ‘Grandad’ for the first time).

Episode 10: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos is a really, really good series finale, in my mind. It had references to previous series finales (like Journey’s End from Series 4), which I liked. It also featured references to The Woman Who Fell to Earth, The Ghost Monument, and Rosa.

The villain from The Woman Who Fell to Earth was the villain again in The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos. I wasn’t expecting this, so I was surprised when he showed up. There was no build-up to his reveal in the episode. But I think he was the perfect villain for the series finale.

The episode guest starred Mark Addy. I thought his character’s name (Paltraki) was silly, but I think Addy himself did a good job.

The episode had a strong focus on Graham & Ryan, which I loved. It didn’t focus on Yaz too much, though, which I think is a shame. She has heaps of potential. Hopefully she’ll have more time to shine in Series 12.

Words by Callum J Jones