13b – Specials – Jodie Whittaker

Jodie’s final season (and the same for Chris Chibnall) consisted of three specials while Russell T. Davies planned the 60th anniversary season of 2023.

Eve of the Daleks

This is a good story. You never know with Chris Chibnall what you are going to get, but this story is a riff on Groundhog Day, and Dan even notes that within the show. The TARDIS was displaying problems during the Flux that were never quite explained. Doors appearing that weren’t there before, mysterious dripping black goo, and you had the idea that something was going seriously wrong. So The Doctor decides to do the one thing every techie in the world would do in this situation, she decides to do a factory reset and see if that clears it up. But it doesn’t quite work as smoothly as she thought it would. Instead of relaxing on a beach while the TARDIS sorts itself out, they appear in a building in Manchester. And it develops that the TARDIS in its process has created some kind of time loop. The Daleks notice the energy, figure out it is the Doctor, and set out to kill her. And of course, they don’t just kill her, they kill her two companions, and the two innocent peple in the building, which turns out to be a self-storage facility. The time loop means that each time they are killed, a moment later they are back where they were and have to relive being hunted and killed by the Daleks. What gives this some tension is that each time they start over they have one minute less to work with, and if they can’t figure out how to survive and get out before midnight, their deaths will be permanent. A minor plot niggle is that the Daleks have managed to place an energy block on the front door to keep them from opening it, but have apparently completely overlooked a basement loading dock. Still, it is one of the better uses of the Groundhog Day plot device.


The Legend of the Sea Devils

This brings back an enemy introduced in 1974 when the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, encountered them, then brought back in Warriors of the Deep ten years later with the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. As an enemy, they are fine, and in general I like the idea of bringing back enemies from the original series. That said, this story has some serious problems. The plot barely makes any sense, and it looks like the reason is that the show never had the time to flesh out the story here. Things jump around with no explanation, where a little more time to to explain how you get from A to B would have made it better. The show overall is only 47 minutes, making it one of the shorter episodes, but then they wrap up the action early to make room for a couple of things that are secondary to the plot. The first, which admittedly a lot of people are interested in, is the Doctor-Yaz relationship. Now I would personally prefer that there is never a relationship involving the Doctor. But I suppose the hints dropped previously made it something you had to address. Still it took up a significant amount of time in the episode. Then there is the phone call between Dan and Di. Nice in its own way, and I suppose it sets up what happens to Dan in the final special. But you have a story here that suffers from not enough time to develop the story properly, then you take time away for extraneous subplots, then a teaser for the final special, and you have to think the writers never quite figured out how to do this story. I think if you just want the nice costumes, good special effects, and a little fun with pirates, it is an OK way to tune out and just let it play. But this is not one that anyone would want to watch twice.


The Power of the Doctor

Well, give Chibnall 90 minutes and he will probably put in 100 minutes of material. If you like action, there was plenty of it. And if you are a fan of the original Doctor Who from the previous century (and I am) it was great to see 5 of the Doctors from that era, and a couple of the previous companions, Tegan and Ace. And in the end there is something like a support group for previous companions where Ian Chesterton is surprised to find that the Doctor has become a woman. If you only watch the 21st Century Doctor Who, none of that will mean much to you, but it meant something to me. Other callbacks include the sweater with the question marks and the sprig of celery. Again, new viewers may not even notice, or if they notice, won’t know what it means. I heard that Chibnall said in an interview that he focused on the old Doctor Who people, and is leaving the New show people to the 60th anniversary specials coming up next year. But since RTD is back as the showrunner, I can’t say at this point if there are definite plans to bring back people like Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi. And Christopher Eccleston has said that he would only return if he is the only Doctor in the story, which seems to leave him out. But we know for a fact that David Tennant will be back, because he is apparently going to be the 14th Doctor, pushing Ncuti Gatwa to the 15th slot. They are emphasing that this is not the return of the 10th Doctor, just someone who happens to have the same appearance. No doubt this will be explained somewhat when the 2023 specials come out, which is now scheduled in November to coincide with the anniversary of the first Doctor Who broadcast on November 23, 1963.

Overall, I found this a good episode that hit a lot of the right notes. Bringing together the Master, the Cybermen, and the Daleks certainly ups the stakes. But when you think about it, would the Daleks really subordinate themselves to the Master? That seems a bit odd. Vinder makes an appearance, but doesn’t really contribute anything to the story. And there is no mention whatsoever of the Timeless Child. So if that particular story point is going to get tied up, it will have to be by RTD. Or maybe he will just ignore it and get on with telling stories. We’ll just have to see on that.


Final Review of Chibnall/Jodie

I think Jodie Whittaker is a fine actor who didn’t get to show what she could do in this series. There were undoubtedly some fine episodes, such as It Takes You Away, Can You Hear Me, and Demons of the Punjab. And the only out-and-out stinker for me was Orphan 55. But overall I think she was let down by a lot of bad scripts that never created an intelligible arc for the character. And I think the 3 companions was a mistake because none of them got the required character development. If Yaz had been the only companion you could have actually developed the relationship between her and the Doctor over the 3 seasons into something memorable. Finally, there didn’t seem to be anything meaningful about the Doctor being a woman. I think you could have put a man in the role and not need to change any of the scripts. That is sad, because it could have been so much more.

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