Monday, October 8, 2018

The Woman Who Fell to Earth: A Review

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After all the Sturm und Drang about having The First Female Doctor, the controversy and division and name-calling, we finally have the first story with Her in the lead. The Woman Who Fell to Earth, despite the 'innovation' of The First Female Doctor, is remarkably rote and routine.

Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) is a young man with dyspraxia, a neurological disorder affecting coordination. This makes it hard for him to ride a bicycle, but his grandmother Grace (Sharon D. Clarke) and her husband Graham (Bradley Walsh) do their best to encourage him. In his anger he tosses the bike off a cliff, leading Grace to shout, "RYAN SINCLAIR, DON'T YOU DARE!"

A little poetry never hurt anyone.

As she and Graham leave on a train, Ryan goes to retrieve his bike, and there comes upon a strange set of floating figures. Touching one brings an object not unlike a genie's bottle which is cold to the touch. He calls the police and the rather disinterested Sheffield PD sends probationary police constable Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill). Ryan and Yaz know each other from when they were in school, and both are concerned about this object.

Nevertheless, there are more important things. Graham and Grace's train finds itself attacked by something, leaving them and another passenger, Karl Wright (Johnny Dixon), under threat by something. Fortunately, this is when a crazed female crashes onto the train with not a scratch. She does not remember who she is, but she knows she was less than half an hour ago a white-haired Scotsman.

Image result for the woman who fell to earthShe quickly takes charge of things while still in the fits of something physically. The object has something to do with things, but by now that object has been spirited away by Rahul (Amit Shah), who blames whatever is inside for his sister's disappearance.  A thing from another world emerges and kills Rahul.

The others find this Predator/Power Ranger-type being and also discover what attacked the train. They also find, thanks to the frantic woman with them, that the creature, Tzin-Sha (Samuel Oatley) is a Stenza Warrior.  He has been sent to Earth to perform a hunt with no weapons or help to prove himself worthy of leadership.

However, "Tim Shaw" as The Woman Who Fell to Earth keeps calling him, is essentially cheating. She also isn't about to let Karl be killed. It's a race to track Karl and save him and the human race from "Tim Shaw", a quest that will finally awake who She is. She is The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), who does not want to commit violence but will use force if needed.

The fight to save Karl and force "Tim Shaw" to return to his home-world costs many lives, including Grace.

Ryan ends his summation of his beloved Nan on his YouTube blog, and there is a crack in his dislike of his step-grandfather, who genuinely mourns his wife. His mourning is amplified by the fact that he and Grace fell in love three years earlier when she was a nurse and he was fighting against the cancer that is in remission.

The Doctor, having created a sonic screwdriver, now manages to create a device that will allow Her to search for Her spacecraft, the TARDIS, which was lost when She fell to Earth. She bids her 'Friends' goodbye, but ends up in space with them, floating to all their surprise.

Image result for the woman who fell to earthThe Woman Who Fell to Earth could easily have been The Man Who Fell to Earth (apologies to the late and much-missed David Bowie). This role could easily have been played by a man without it being anything out-of-the-ordinary.

Perhaps that is what Doctor Who showrunner/The Woman Who Fell to Earth writer Chris Chibnall wanted, to demonstrate that a Woman could play the part of The Doctor.

This whole idea about a Female Doctor is as tangled as the coils Tzim-Sha used. I don't want to get into a long speech about all this. I will say that I have never objected to a Female Doctor or ever opposed a Female Doctor. What I opposed was the reasoning behind a Female Doctor: for 'representation', for 'equality', so 'little girls can have a heroine', and worse, 'because it's TIME we had a Female Doctor'.     

If we had this change just to have a Female Doctor, if we had this change for some sense of justice, it is a weak reason.

The rationale behind a Female Doctor weakens when you look at Whittaker's performance. She did not play a Female Doctor. She didn't even play The Doctor. She played someone playing a David Tennant/Matt Smith version of The Doctor. Whittaker's debut was similar to how the Ninth Doctor played his debut story in Rose, the Tenth Doctor played his debut story in The Christmas Invasion and the Eleventh Doctor played his debut story in The Eleventh Hour.

In short, I did not see Whittaker's Doctor. I only saw a variation of a theme I've seen before.

I did not accept Whittaker as 'The Doctor', but neither did I reject her outright. I do not see Her as 'The Doctor', at least not yet, not while She is all hyperactive and goofy. She did have some good moments, particularly when at the crane facing off against "Tim Shaw". It went alright but again, nothing that really stood out.

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Part of it is not Whittaker's fault. The Woman Who Fell to Earth has so much wrong with it. There's the repeat of past debut stories: Doctor comes into present-day Britain just as Earth is facing an alien invasion with the new Companions finding themselves wrapped up in it. Curiously, only Deep Breath changed the formula somewhat by changing the time to the Victorian era, but that was to integrate the so-called Paternoster Gang into the proceedings.

There are leaps of logic. How did She survive such a massive fall onto a train with nary a scratch. "Long story," She says, then it is never mentioned again. How Rahul not only found the transport but managed to bring it is left to our imagination. The tooth-stealing looked like a rip-off from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The villain was shockingly weak and boring, again, nothing we have not seen before on Doctor Who. From the pompous pronouncements to Her dismissive "Tim Shaw" (at least I think it was meant to be dismissive), he was probably the weakest part of the story.

There are elements of other stories. Ryan's video log might be on the same channel as Elton's vlog from Love & Monsters. Yaz is the second 'policewoman' The Doctor has encountered after Amy Pond in The Eleventh Hour. Grace is not the first relative of a 'Friend' to die.

There's the 'Friends', who are not all that interesting. The scene between Gill and Tosin when they see each other for the first time in years is particularly painful. Walsh, surprisingly, was better as this retired bus driver. He seemed to have a better handle on both Graham's crankiness (constantly asking about the DNA bombs within them, a good idea left unexplored) and his genuine grief for Grace.

I think we could have done with Graham as Her only Companion, or at least him and Ryan, for Yasmin at the moment seems superfluous.

The Woman Who Fell to Earth had some positives. Segun Akinola's score was pretty consistent in making things eerie and suspenseful. More importantly, it did not overwhelm the story though perhaps having a little lightness, especially when She has a 'funny line' might have helped the mood.

Ultimately though, despite the wild praise She is getting and the applause for having The First Female Doctor, The Woman Who Fell to Earth was essentially same-old, same-old.

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It's STILL an ugly costume!


Next Episode: The Ghost Monument


  1. great review. thanks for sharing..

    the biggest question in my mind right now (before watching the episode) is why is the doctor at a shop? doesn't the tardis have a closet level?

    1. As the TARDIS is currently "lost", I can cut them some slack if She does not want to run around in her predecessor's old, burned-out clothes.


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