Sunday 7 October 2018

The Woman Who Fell To Earth - A Review

The following contains SPOILERS!!! so come back later once you've seen the episode...
I was reminded of two things as I watched this evening's episode. One was The Eleventh Hour - in that the Doctor is plunged into the middle of the story and has to solve the mystery / defeat the alien at a breathless rate of knots whilst they are still "cooking" following their regeneration. The other thing I was put in mind of was Torchwood, which Chibnall led on for its first two seasons. This was partly to do with the look of the episode - with sweeping aerial shots of the urban landscape and wide angle views of the city, mostly at night and in the rain. That big pod thing in the forest also gave me nasty memories of that sex-gas-alien episode.
The look of the series has obviously changed - something we were repeatedly told about in the months leading up to its debut. We are reminded several times that this is Sheffield, though it could have been any northern city.
This isn't a typical episode, lacking as it does a title sequence. Rather than have the Doctor drop into the narrative right from the off, we are introduced to the companion characters. We start with Ryan (Tosin Cole), who is a keen vlogger and who is determined to master bike riding as he suffers from Dyspraxia (a childhood condition which leads to lack of co-ordination). Presumably this will feature in subsequent stories where he's called upon to carry out some manual task needed to save the day). In his opening vlog post, he's talking about the greatest woman he has ever know, and we naturally assume this to be the Doctor... Assisting him with his bike riding is his gran Grace (Sharon D Clarke), and her husband Graham (Bradley Walsh). He is Grace's second husband, and there is something about him which Ryan is unhappy about. He refuses to call him his grandfather - a dynamic which hopefully will be explored later on. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city we have police officer Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) going about her probationary business. She links up with Ryan after he reports finding a strange object in the woods whilst looking for his bike, which he threw off a cliff in frustration.

Graham and Grace are on their way home by train when something falls out of the sky and smashes its way through the driver's cabin window. This was the scariest sequence of the episode, as the unseen alien made its way through the train towards where Graham and Grace were trapped along with a young man named Karl. Ryan is called, and so all the players come together - especially when, nearly 10 minutes into the episode, the Doctor finally makes an appearance - dropping through the roof of the train.
Jodie Whittaker then pretty much dominates the rest of the story. She has some witty lines, but nothing laugh out loud. In fact, the episode was distinctly lacking in humour. We see three people killed by another alien who turns up, nastily, though the violence is kept off screen. In two of the cases, we get a little character background before they are cut down - a young man who is desperate to find out what happened to his sister (abducted by the same aliens years before), and a security guard who is a grandfather. This second alien is the villain of the piece - with the ludicrous name of Tim Shaw. The first alien - a mass of electrically charged, writhing tentacles - belongs to Tim Shaw, and it is a pity that this couldn't have been the monster of the week, for Tim Shaw is just a poor man's rip-off of the Predator. He's come to Earth on a hunt, and he decorates his face with trophies - teeth pulled from his victims' jaws. He's the weakest part of the episode.
The person he has come to hunt down just happens to be Karl from the train, and events reach their climax at his place of work - he's the driver of one of those tall cranes.
The Doctor finally remembers who she is and the villain is defeated by some sleight of hand, but then we discover that the episode title has a double meaning. Grace destroys the tentacled alien, but at the cost of her own life - she falls to the ground after electrocuting it. This came as a complete shock to me (no pun intended) as I had assumed that Grace would be a recurring character. In many ways I am so glad that Chibnall has been so anti-spoilers.
Things fall a bit flat after this, as no-one behaves as you would expect them to after the death of a loved one. For the funeral, Ryan dresses as though he is going on to a night out with his mates afterwards, and no-one seems to blame the Doctor for having dragged them all into this. Having no sense of timescale for the last few minutes of the episode doesn't help.
The Doctor gets her new costume from a charity shop, then works out a way of reuniting herself with the AWOL TARDIS. She's only supposed to transport herself there, but accidentally takes Graham, Ryan and Yas with her...
We then had the oddest of "Coming Soon" teasers - as it went through all of the guest artists who are due to appear throughout the rest of the season. Fine if you knew who half of them were. Perhaps I don't watch enough telly, but I recognised about 6 of the dozen or more names. Hardly something which would make me want to tune in again. The implication is that this series is going to be about people, rather than monsters. The trailer for next week's episode came afterwards, comprising little we haven't already been shown before.
Overall then, a good episode, but far from a great one. The new Doctor was all of one note. No fear, no anger, no alien-ness, just "I'm the Doctor and I uphold justice" sort of thing. One thing I very much did like was the music, which has moved away from the orchestral work of Murray Gold to embrace new sounds. The title music at the end was very reminiscent of the original theme, with added percussion. Even the visuals behind the end titles were reminiscent of the old days.
As a whole, though, the jury, as they say, is still out.


  1. I agree! If you're going to build things from the ground up with all new everything, then the new stuff has to stand on its own, and this... was good?

    I'm going to rewatch it later although I do not feel compelled to do so.

  2. I will rewatch, but later in the week, maybe just before the second episode.