11 – Series Eleven – Jodie Whittaker

The Woman Who Fell to Earth

This is the introductory episode for Jodie Whittaker, and it starts out with a major plot hole. Completely unexplained is the fact that she fell from the stratosphere into a train and is completely unharmed. She meets some people who become her companions: a young police officer, a student, and his grandfather (by marriage). An alien (Tzim-Sha, but known forever after as Tim Shaw) lands on Earth and starts killing people for no particularly good reason, and the Doctor defeats him. We’ll see him again, as it happens. Then the Doctor gets an outfit, makes her own sonic screwdriver out of bits and bobs, and transports the whole group away from Earth. An OK episode, but not particularly memorable.

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The Ghost Monument

The group was transported away from Earth at the end of the previous episode, and they are now in space without a spacesuit. But somehow two different spaceships happen to be in the area, and each one picks up two members of the group, and it turns out they are both headed to a nearby planet for the same reason, to take part in a competition for a big prize. But once you get away from the unbelievable opening, the story settles down to being a good one. The point of the story is the personal lives of everyone involved, both TARDIS team and the contestants. Since the Doctor is now travelling with three companions, you need to spend some time getting to know them, and this advances the plot of the season nicely. And the title of the episode turns out to be a reference to the TARDIS. Watch for the first mention of the “Timeless Child”. Clearly Chibnall had this plot twist in mind from the beginning. And it will build at various times throughout the Jodie Whittaker series. What Russell T. Davies will do with this, if anything, is unknown at this time.

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Rosa

This is one of the better episodes, looking at racial history in the U.S. Rosa of the title is Rosa Parks, who famously refused to give her seat to a white man. One nice thing this episode does is correct a misperception about Rosa, that she was just an ordinary person who just happened to have enough one day. In fact, she was part of the Civil Rights movement all along, and this was planned. The villain of the piece is a man from the future who is a white supremist, and wants to change this turning point. This is a kind of return to the early Doctor Who which regularly featured Historical stories and is done well. You just have to suspend disbelief at the TARDIS crew being on that crucial bus ride.

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Arachnids in the UK

Chris Noth is introduced as one of the least liked villains in Doctor Who, Jack Robertson. He is obviously meant to be a satire of Donald Trump: a hotel magnate with Presidential ambitions. The main point in this story is that spiders are scary, and giant spiders are even scarier. It is obvious that these spiders have to be killed, but the Doctor wants to do it one way, while Robertson solves the problem with a gun. Why this makes the Doctor morally superior cannot stand up to close inspection, sadly. The giant spider Robertson shot was suffocating to death at that time, so why is it better to let it suffer for while instead of a quick death? Fun fact: insects don’t have lungs, they get their oxygen by diffusion through channels from their skin to inside their bodies, and this limits how big they can get before they simply cannot get oxygen everywhere it needs to go.

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The Tsuranga Conundrum

This is a purely fun episode. While scavenging, the TARDIS crew triggers a bomb and the are injured. They are picked up by a medical ship, where they meet several people, among them a pregnant man. They discover something is headed for the ship, and it turns out to be a dangereous alien called the “pting”. It eats non-organic materials, and seems to be devouring key parts of the ship. Then they learn that the medical station that the ship is headed for will detonate a self-destruct device on the ship when they learn a pting is aboard. The Doctor manages to feed the destruct device to the pting before ejecting it into space, Ryan and Graham help the pregnant man to deliver his baby, and the medical ship arrives safely to the station.

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Demons of the Punjab

Thnis is an outstanding historical story that looks at something many people don’t know much about, the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. It was a horrible divorce with up to 2 million people murdered by their neighbors in an earlier instance of “ethnic cleansing”. And it is still relevant with tension between India and Pakistan and sectarian violence in India even in the 21st century. Yaz’s grandmother (a Muslim) was a young lady at the time, and she married a Hindu man. He does not live out the day of partition, and there is a question about some aliens in the area which of course draws the attention of the Doctor. Are they doing some of the killing? The Demons of the Punjab are clearly the people who are killing each other over religious differences.

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Kerblam!

This is clearly a satire on Amazon, but with some plot twists that make this a good story on the whole. The opening is wonderful, as Jodie gets delivery of a fez, clearly ordered by Matt Smith, but you know, traveling through time and space the Doctor can be hard to catch. Unexplained is how the Kerblam delivery robot could get into the TARDIS which is supposed to be very well-shielded. Inside the box is a message asking for help, so of course they have to investigate, and they discover a dehumanizing workplace, which is of course the Amazon parallel, and a large number of unemployed people. The story implies that the problem is providing jobs, but as Council of Geeks pointed out in their Take Two review, the real problem not addressed is why in a future with abundant automation people need to get dehumanizing jobs just to survive.

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The Witchfinders

Alan Cumings as King James I makes this story memorable. His discussion with a bound Doctor is fantastic. The plot involves a town in England that is putting people to death for witchcraft. We all know there are no such things as witches, but then what exactly is causing these various unexplained phenomena in this town? The local leader is a woman, and she has a secret. But how likely is it that a town leader in early 17th Century England would be a woman? Look for the Arthur C. Clarke quote in this story.

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It Takes You Away

This is one of the better stories of this season. The TARDIS lands in a Norwegian forest, and hears menacing animal roars. They find a house, and go in, where they find a blind girl. Thankfully, it is a portrayal by a really blind actress, which gives it a reality it would otherwise lack. She is all alone in the house, and the animal sounds imply she is in danger. She has a father, but he keeps going away. Where does he go, and why does he leave his blind daughter all alone? There is a mystery here. I really like this episode a lot. And the story of Ryan and Graham is advanced when Ryan for the first time calls Graham “grandad”.

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The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

The Doctor hears a number of distress signals from the planet Ranskoor Av Kolos, and decides to investigate. They find wrecked spaceships there, and a psychic field that alters people’s perceptions of reality. Then they meet a spaceship pilot who lost his memory, and they help him regain his memories. And then he gets a message from Tzim-Sha, the alien from the first episode, The Woman Who Fell To Earth. He blames the Earth for hte fact that he was defeated and exiled, and is seeking revenge. But Graham blames Tzim-Sha for the death of this wife Grace and has resolved to kill him if he gets the chance. The Doctor does not want this, and says so. This is the conflict within Doctor Who about whether killing is ever justified. It is interesting to consider that in the very first story arc of Doctor Who, The Unearthly Child, it was the Doctor who was about to bash in the head of a caveman and had to be stopped by Ian.

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Resolution

Interestingly, the Doctor’s reservations about killing don’t apply to Daleks, though in Tom Baker’s Genesis of the Daleks he cannot bring himself to wipe them all out. In the story, a single Dalek was defeated by 9th century warriors, cut into three pieces, and the three pieces taken to diferent locations to be buried. But one of the warriors is killed before he can complete his mission and bury his piece, and it is now discovered by archeaologists in Sheffield, England. The piece is reactivated, and summons the other pieces to become whole. Soon there is a Dalek on the loose, and all the mayhem that goes with it. But there is another story here, about Ryan and his dad, Aaron, who has been absent all along, but now wants to make amends. So in the course of this season Ryan has gained a grandfather, and regained a father. Overall, a good story to end the season.

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Series Eleven Over All

This was not the best season of all, if it is even meaningful to talk of the best, but nor is it the worst. I would call it average. The only real stinker is Arachnids In The UK, and there are some really excellent episodes like Demons Of The Punjab and It Takes You Away. And even the merely good episodes have their moments. I would give it overall a B-.

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