Six Questions We Have After the Doctor Who Season 11 Premiere
The first episode of Jodie Whitaker’s tenure as the Doctor has begun, and we have a few questions after the Doctor Who Season 11 Premiere.
SPOILER ALERT: Minor spoilers from the Doctor Who episode “The Woman Who Fell to the Earth.” If you haven’t watched the episode yet, come back to this article afterward.
Nearly 15 months after she was confirmed as the 13th Doctor, the Jodie Whitaker era of Doctor Who has begun. Yesterday the 11th season (or 37th depending on your point of view) kicked off with the episode “The Woman Who Fell to Earth.” The premiere was an event, broadcast in multiple countries around the world, featuring countless viewing parties and endless chatter online about it.
The reviews were generally positive across the board. Critics applauded it and most fans were very much into it, with a few exceptions that ranged from legitimate complaints which are completely fair, to slightly less compelling arguments against the show’s move toward diversity. Pro tip: If your big complaint about an entertainment property is that it is “too diverse,” take a good hard look at your life.
Again, complaints against things like pacing, tone, even performances are completely justifiable. Complaining that it is “third wave feminism and liberals have taking [sic] this too far. Let [sic] us enjoy some non PC gender view enforcing TV for a change [sic]” is more a reflection of you.
But whether you loved the episode or hated it but are willing to stick around, we have a few questions stemming from the episode. Some are specific points while others are more general. Regardless, there are a few minor spoilers below, and if you’re looking for details on the Season 11 in front of and behind the scenes, check out our Doctor Who News and Rumors page.
What Will the Intro Look Like?
With a show that has been around as long as Doctor Who – and there are very few shows that have been around as long as it has – consistency is both a blessing a curse. There are some things fans have come to expect and feel cheated when they don’t see them, but it’s also on the showrunners to mix things up to keep them feeling fresh. This includes the opening title sequence.
Since it first launched in 1963, Doctor Who has featured an opening sequence comprising of a stylized intro and the iconic theme. It has changed many, many times over the years – both the music and the visuals – but it remains a staple of the show. And when a new Doctor is introduced it usually (but not always) changes. When a new Doctor is brought in, along with a new showrunner, producer, cast, tone, composer, etc., a new title is pretty much a given.
In a surprise for fans of the show, however, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” did not feature an opening title sequence. That may have given the episode more of a cinematic feel to it, but it left fans wondering what to expect. Next week’s episode, “The Ghost Monument,” will give us our first look at the visuals, but the new theme did make a partial debut during the “coming soon” portion and the end credits.
One fan managed to isolate and record the updated theme from new DW composer Segun Akinola, and you can take a listen below.
What Will the Relationships on the TARDIS be like?
With four brand new characters all introduced in a single hour-long episode, it’s difficult to tell what the relationships will be like between the new TARDIS team. Showrunner Chris Chibnall has stated that they will be friends more than the traditional Doctor and her companions motif, but that’s easier said than done when there’s such an imbalance of power. Three of the characters are worried about their next paychecks while the fourth is more concerned with upholding the natural order of the universe and stopping the odd full-scale invasion.
Still, the premiere episode struck a good balance but we probably won’t see that relationship in full bloom for a few episodes yet. There’s also a question of how the writers will handle the relationship between non-Doctor characters, including Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yas (Mandip Gill).
It’s not like the two were showing much romantic interest in the first episode, but TV show writers have almost pathological need to romantically connect two single characters that are constantly in each other’s orbit. And when they are in a closed environment – like the TARDIS – that increases exponentially. Is it lazy writing? Yes. Is it one of the most common tropes in TV history? Absolutely.
One of the two characters may come out as gay, which would fit with the show’s pledge to increase its sense of inclusion, and it would also be a nice nod to the LGBTQ community that saw the show’s first full-time gay character debut in 2017 with Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie). As long as it’s not an afterthought by the writers, it could give another interesting layer to the show and further Doctor Who’s sense of inclusion.
It will also be interesting to see how the characters deal with the consequences from the end of the first episode. Will they be haunted by it all season – which would make sense logically but may not make for the most entertaining TV – or will they move past it? Will they be fun-loving or at each other’s throats? There are definite linger questions between Ryan and Graham (Bradley Walsh), and there’s history between Ryan and Yas, so there is more to learn.
There’s also what may be a huge spoiler in the image above, which could answer a few of those questions…
Will the Tone Remain?
The first episode was generally well received, but one of the frequent minor complaints was that it was fairly dark and lacked a lot of the humor the show is well-known for. Part of that is probably down to the need to introduce four new, main characters – including the Doctor – while setting up a new storyline and simultaneously doing a soft relaunch of the show. The tone and feel of the first episode may be a thing of necessity, or it might be a sign that season 11 will take a slightly more serious tone throughout.
With only one episode down it’s tough to say which direction the show will go, and Chibnall’s previous works aren’t really much help. He wrote the very serious Broadchurch and contributed several episodes to the mature Doctor Who-spinoff Torchwood, but he also wrote episodes for DW like “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “The Power of Three,” both of which had plenty of humor in them.
To be clear, Doctor Who doesn’t necessarily need a comedic tone to work. If the stories hold up, the tone is a result rather than a goal in itself. So we’ll see how it plays out.
Will the Music Assert Itself?
Since the show returned in 2005, composer Murray Gold has helped define its feel of it with a standout soundtrack that began with the opening theme and carried through the incidental music. If the music in “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” is any indication, new composer Segun Akinola is going in a different direction.
From what we’ve heard so far, the soundtrack is less pronounced than in previous seasons. Some of that seems to have been a direction the show was moving in under Moffat’s last few seasons, but the soundtrack of episode one was slightly muted compared to other episodes.
We also didn’t get to fully experience Akinola’s new opening theme. It did play during the closing credits and the previews (see above for a clip of it), but it meant from the start that the music didn’t have the chance to really explode into the episode.
That could change in upcoming episodes, and that may have been a deliberate choice to downplay the music in the premiere to put the focus more on the character building. Even if it isn’t, there is still a lot of season to go, so we’ll have plenty of opportunities to hear Akinola’s score in the weeks to come.
What Will Season 11 Look Like?
One of the big announcements Chibnall made about season 11 is that there won’t be a season-long story arc. He was specifically referring to a story arc in the sense that there won’t be a big bad waiting for the team at the end of the season that has been teased from the start, instead, each story will be mostly self-contained. But based on the ending of the first episode, there will be a continuity of sorts, or at least threads that push the team from one story to another. It might not build to a villain, but there will be connecting threads that continue on. The question is how will they play out?
The first big question is when will we see the TARDIS. Beyond just the curiosity factor of seeing the newly redesigned TARDIS, it will affect the story significantly. Will they find it immediately and the new TARDIS crew will decide to travel with the Doctor of their own accord, or will it be a long search for a way home, making them somewhat reluctant heroes? Either way, that’s a big part of how this season will play out.
At least one episode is set during Earth’s past (the reign of King John to be specific) so you have to assume they will see the TARDIS relatively soon, but there could be more to it. The image above seems to confirm that as well.
Chibnall has also said there won’t be any returning monsters. That could be a bit of a misdirect to keep some surprises, but even if there are a few well-known baddies waiting in the wings, there won’t be a lot of familiar foes. That makes it harder to gauge how the season will play out. Will the new TARDIS team face a new baddie every week that needs to be defeated for the good of all, or will it face more complex challenges where good and bad aren’t as clear, ala Torchwood?
Next week should tell us a lot, but we’ll have to wait several weeks to know how things are really shaking out.
What Kind of Doctor Will Whitaker Be?
“The Woman Who Fell to Earth” was a regeneration episode, which means that you can’t really get a true sense of what kind of Doctor the incoming incarnation will be – not yet. Some actors in the role – Peter Capaldi, for example – took several stories to find their groove, while others like Matt Smith hit the ground running but showed more depth as his inaugural season unfolded.
We did get a hint of what to expect from Whittaker in her debut episode, although it was just a glimpse. The second episode will give us a better sense of how she is approaching the character, but we might not feel like we have the full picture until mid-way through.
Regardless, it’s going to be fun seeing her develop as the 13th Doctor. We’ll find out more when the second episode, “The Ghost Monument,” debuts on October 14.