The 13th Doctor – Series 11, Episode 1 – “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” – Strong Character Introductions Brought Down by Pacing and the Villain

With the recent announcement of both Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall leaving “Doctor Who” after this next series and specials I wanted to go back and review the first 13th Doctor episode in preparation for the eventual first episode that the 14th Doctor will have. I also wanted to compare it to the other Doctors and their first stories, which I’ll be posting next with the updated list. This was enjoyable to go back to and has a lot going for it but it is sadly brought down by pacing and the villain. Still, this is a fun introduction to the Doctor and her companions and I do recommend checking it out.

The episode was directed by Jamie Childs and written by Chris Chibnall.

The story follows the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) when she falls into the city of Sheffield and must uncover the mystery of two alien threats without her TARDIS.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematography – This is a beautifully filmed episode and the show is the best it as ever looked. You have wide shots of landscapes and shots that capture how trapped characters feel. It helps capture the mystery of the episode really well.

The Initial Mystery – Why are two aliens in Sheffield attacking or killing people? This is a good set-up and gives a reason for all the companions something to do in both solving the mystery and fighting the threats. The premise keeps the story moving too.

Yaz – We meet Yasmin Khan who is a police officer in training who was high school friends wtih Ryan. They stumble upon the enemy transportation ship and get called to the train where the Doctor is when Ryan’s Grandma Grace calls him where she and Graham are. Yaz is the one keeping the peace between characters and she is introduced solving a parking dispute. She is quick to action as well in helping the Doctor. All in all a great introduction to her character and Mandip Gill is good in the role.

Graham – Graham and Ryan have a rough relationship at first as Graham is his step-Grandpa though their love of Grace and the Doctor’s adventure brings them together. Graham is a cancer survivor and the reluctant hero of the story as Grace is first to act and he follows her lead. In the end he and Ryan’s relationship begins to heal after Grace dies stopping the villain’s biotechnological weapon. Bradley Walsh is great.

Ryan – Tosin Cole’s Ryan frames the story as he talks about his inspiration who we learn is his Nan Grace who raised him after his dad left. He has dyspraxia so is challenging himself to ride a bike. It is doing this he discovers the signal that calls the villain to Earth to hunt. Throughout the story we see him facing his fears and he gives the eulogy for Grace for her sacrifice online in his video and at her memorial. He is good in the role and I liked how his perspective frames the story.

Grace – Sharon D Clarke’s Grace is the heart of the episode as she is first to take action and her courage saves Ryan and Yaz when she stops the biotechnological weapon. We see how she supported Ryan growing up and her love for Graham. She is a great character and hero and her death matters as her impact is felt in the series long after this episode.

The Doctor – Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor has the energy of Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor as we see her attach to Grace, Graham, Yaz and Ryan quick as she sets out to solve the mystery of the attacks and who she is. We see her invent her own screwdriver after the past one was likely destroyed and reason with the villain as she tries to send him home. She is driven by her connection to people and learning about who she is now as well as her connection to the past as at Grace’s memorial she mentions how her past family is who she carries within her now that they are long gone. It is a solid performance and a good introduction to this Doctor.

The Cons:

Pacing – This episode is slow and you feel it. It takes a long time before we even see the villain and some of that time is just showing us characters who the villain kills the moment they are shown. This episode did not need to be an hour long and would have worked better as a standard 40-45 minute episode.

The Villain Reveal – The villain has an awful name and is not good at it’s mission. His is named Tzim-Shaw and called “Tim Shaw” and is hunting a target to be the leader of the Stenza. The Stenza hunting culture sounds horrifying but Tzim-Shaw is just a cheater using advanced technology and doesn’t even neutralize the Doctor and her companions when he knows they are trying to stop him. He’s dumb and for the creepy deal of wearing teeth on his face as trophy goes nowhere as he stops being scary the moment he says his name and does nothing to stop the heroes from stopping him. He’s a terrible and wasted villain as the Stenza sound like a potentially interesting threat. We just needed a better version of them for this story.

In the end this was an enjoyable episode that is a solid introduction to the Doctor and her companions that is brought down by the pacing and the villain. If either had been fixed this episode could have been good or great. Still, I do recommend checking out the introduction to Jodie Whittaker’s first outing as the 13th Doctor. There is a lot that makes this episode fun and enjoyable.

Final Score: 7.2 / 10

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