Episode one of Doctor Who’s new era got right into the thick of things, the new version of the Doctor literally dropping right into the action not long after the episode began, and the second episode doesn’t miss a beat. Unlike the usual standard in the modern Who era of taking companions willingly along in episode two or such for a more standard adventure to ease them further into the Doctor’s world, this new series throws them all into the deep end alongside a Doctor still trying to find herself after regeneration. Without her TARDIS or any of her usual tools, the Doctor commandeered alien tech and wished her new friends goodbye last episode, only for them to end up accidentally teleported alongside her out into the middle of space far from home.
There was a lot of questions online during all the months leading up to this new series, mostly about the reports that the show might be slightly more serialized than it had been in the past. I always found these reports a bit silly to be concerned about, some were concerned, as quite a few of the modern era series of the show had a through line subplot that either could be a major or very minor part of most episodes leading up to whatever the final threat was. The last series had one of those really in the long run while still telling some sort of stand-alone stories, and so far that is what this series looks like. There is an overarching story, not just this continuing from the last, but it works so well. What really feels different about this series in a very good way, as noted last week, is the cinematic feeling. Each of these episodes so far feels like a mini-movie and it’s brilliant (to borrow the new Doctor’s first word).
As noted this episode dives right into everything and doesn’t bother to really slow down till the very end, and that’s great. Plopping the new foursome into the middle of an intergalactic race that takes them across a dangerous planet was an intriguing choice, especially because it seemingly allowed a lot of character moments. There wasn’t a dull moment as all the characters including the Doctor had moments to sort of build and grow and expose more about their personalities and thoughts. While she shakes it off at the end like most of the past incarnations, it’s always great to see the Doctor when they are in a moment where they honestly truly feel that maybe they failed those that are with them. Those humanizing moments attached to this god-like character, moments that they try to play off once things go their way but we all could see that moment and appreciate them for it.
The last episode the new alien from Tim Shaw of the warrior-hunter race known as the Stenza seemed like the typical sort of one-off villain used when the typical aliens like the Daleks or Cybermen aren’t in use. Turns out though, this is not the case at all. While Tim Shaw likely isn’t coming back (never say never in the world of Doctor Who) after his fate in the premiere, the Stenza are seemingly going to be quite a threat this series as they are name-dropped this episode as the group that caused Angstrom (Susan Lynch) to join the race because they are ethnic cleansing her planet and the ones that caused the planet featured in the episode to become a barren dangerous wasteland. Turns out they forced a bunch of scientists to create tons of dangerous weapons (including robots, viruses, and sentient wraps of some kind) which led to the planet’s destruction. How this plays into later and who this ‘Timeless Child’ is that the sentient wraps namedrop that causes the Doctor some shock is will both be interesting threads.
Beginning the series having the Doctor without her tools was a good move, as we’ve seen in the past like with Matt Smith’s first episode, because it shows that these tools are not what makes the Doctor work. The Doctor does what the Doctor does and the tools just enhance that. All that being said, I’m very glad the hunt for the TARDIS ended at the end of the episode and wasn’t dragged out. And holy crap, that new TARDIS interior is very awesome and so fitting for this new era of a Doctor. It even feeds her treats after she pulled the controls to take her companions home, the TARDIS is great! Another usual mark of the show that changed and is quite nice is the opening credits, which were absent in the premiere. With a new composer the theme gets a slight change and all the visuals are tight and sharp and fitting and the entire thing is quick and to the point which I very much appreciate. The new era of Doctor Who is slick and bright and awesome so far.
Everything about the shiny new era of Doctor Who is hitting all the correct marks so far, allowing the characters a lot of room to shine and grow even in just the second episode. Even with three of them and a lot of their pasts and other things still unknown, the new companions already are hitting the same vibes as Bill from series 10 in just being a lot more fun and fulfilling as characters than some of the companions in the past who took a bit to find their mark or sometimes never did. There is no question that Whittaker is the Doctor, as she has taken the role firmly and is running with it and making it all her own yet making it just the usual Doctor. The whole comment about liking a locked door, that was just a typical Doctor of almost any regeneration style comment. The serialization that was mentioned before is not distracting or harmful to the show at all, it’s still so far allowing some adventure just has an overarching plot simmering in the back which is not that out of place. It’s actually nice that there is a plot growing that isn’t connected (I really hope not at least) to the Daleks or the Master or Cybermen and isn’t part of some prophecy around the Doctor or a companion. It truly is a new age.
Score: 10 out of 10