I went into yesterday’s premiere of Doctor Who with no preconceived notions, other than that I continue to believe that Peter Capaldi got the short end of the script stick and any attempts by the series’ own network to paint him as the reason for a progressive drop in viewership as grossly unfair.
As for the new series, perhaps it would do to resurrect a phrase from the 50th Anniversary special: “No More.” As in “worry no more.” With Jodie Whittaker at the helm, Doctor Who is going to be just fine.
There are plenty of Easter Eggs and references to Classic and New Who to keep viewers from staging angry coups. The Thirteenth Doctor has David Tennant’s bouncy energy and the on-the-fly ingenuity of her previous regenerations.
The only core object that was missing was the Tardis herself, having disappeared in open space during Twelve’s transition into Thirteen. Yet even while grounded, Thirteen found plenty to keep her and her new friends occupied.
Her new friends are equally charming and for the most part, easygoing. The episode opens with the youngest of the group, 19 year old Ryan Sinclair, vlogging about a woman we later learn is his nan, Grace, a retired chemo nurse who is married to Graham, who frets that Ryan will never accept him as a grandfather. The fourth companion, a Police Constable on newbie probation, is Yasmin Khan, also a former classmate of Ryan’s and eager to prove herself beyond issuing traffic tickets. None of them seem overly fazed by the Doctor being alien. Two pulses? S’alright. DNA bombs implanted in their collar bones by the episode’s monster in chief? Give the Doctor nine minutes and a bit of quiet.
The heart of this episode is absolutely grandma Grace, and sadly there is no Ninth Doctor to pop up and pronounce that just this once, everybody lives. In the end, there isn’t only one woman in Sheffield who falls to Earth. More’s the pity: I would have liked to see how the relationship between Thirteen and Grace developed over time.
Next week: “The Ghost Monument”