ACBob's ZimZam - Blog

A look at Doctor Who, during Whittaker's Series 11

2022-10-19 ◦ 17 Minute read

This article was, at the start, written with the energy of several parts, one for each season the 13th Doctor was in. The later half, during & after kerblam, that energy dwindles quickly as it was written half a season later, as I was in Series 12. There probably won't be a second part, as it turns out I actually have very little to comment on with the 13th Doctor, aside from some very bad episodes (*cough* Orphan 55).

I'm going to be honest. I was never a real fan of the idea of the 13th Doctor, although my reasons have changed. At her announcement in 2017, I was a very, very different person to who I am now. The reasons of then, I can only comment as being close-minded and downright bigoted, although that was most definitely environmental. It's been almost 6 years1 since then, and I'd like to think I've grown, at-least partially. The only gripe I have with her from the get-go is her accent.

She had a Christmas special, and I did watch it at the time - although I still disliked it. A similar parallel might be with the 10th to 11th Doctor, at his announcement, I was very displeased and from memory, swore Matt Smith's name to hell. Almost all of that however was the change itself, I was a diehard fan of the 10th Doctor during his tenure. I still very much am a fan, just not as much anymore. I can see the 11th Doctor now without the searing hatred I once did, and I can confidently say he was a bit... meh2.

However, recently I've decided to come back to the 13th Doctor. Again, it's been 4 years since I'd last tried anything with her. Considering Ncuti Gatwa3 (possibly) makes his debut in October, I really need to step up the pace if I'm to know what's been going on. What I know going in is that her time is coming to an end, and the show-runner wrote some of the weakest episodes of previous doctors4. Over-all, trying to be neutral towards Jodie herself, I'm still not the most interested by the season. Regardless, I've heard good things about her in general, So I'm willing to give her a shot as best I can - I'm hopeful.

The Woman Who Fell to Earth

The woman who fell to earth serves as the first episode to feature Jodie Whittaker in the guise of the Doctor. I'd first watched it the day it came out, wayyy back in 2018. I didn't like it at the time. Re-watching it now, I still don't like it.

It's not out of actors, I think it's most to do with the writing. You have your generic villain-of-the-week, T'zim-Sha, a tooth-covered new-species5 alien. ..He's about average, as Doctor Who aliens go. Not great, not bad, his reason for being bad is a simple trophy hunt on a random planet, and yeah, that's about as developed most Doctor Who villains are, especially for NuWho.

We're introduced to the new companions, Constable Yasmin Khan, Ryan Sinclair, and one of the 'The Chase' Presenters. There's also Ryan's mother grandmother, G... ...G Something. ...Kidding, of-course, She's Grace Sinclair, but her introduction and subsequent death happened so quickly there's barely time to learn her and grow attached to her, but don't worry, the show won't let you forget she was there once. Seriously, if I could only have one gripe with this episode, it would be the handling of Grace's character, who dies in the same breath6 as she's introduced. And then the season goes on to have Graham continuously feel bad about her, and everyone around feel bad, which is fine... ...But the viewer don't know Grace, and they never will.

I don't have a lot of comment about the episode itself actually, it's all pretty standard Doctor Who, but that might be what the issue with it is. It's not a significant episode, nothing happens, It's written like another episodic weekly serial - there's nothing special, it's just another Doctor Who episode.

I do have comment about Bradley Walsh, or Graham O'Brien. I do not think he was a good choice for Doctor Who at all, considering how chiefly British the show is, and just how well known 'The Chase' is in Britain. At-least, I personally can't get much out his performance on Doctor Who, I can only see him as Bradley Walsh, The Chase presenter. As some trivia when I was researching for this article, he actually appeared in Doctor Who canon before, as a shape-shifting evil space clown...

Bradley Walsh in clown makeup

The Ghost Monument

I really enjoy the concept of the TARDIS becoming runaway to some degree, being lost to the doctor. It's not so much a convenient reason the Doctor cannot just TARDIS their way out of things, it's more that it's such an interesting concept - What happens when a device as powerful as the TARDIS has the potential to be used by another? This episode, like most TARDIS missing episodes of NuWho, squanders the potential by having the Doctor immediately7 find the TARDIS and get back to it. The hope for another Paradox Machine grows ever weaker...

The episode is, again, pretty standard for Doctor Who, for the most part. However quality of the episode itself seems all over the place. You have fancy effects of them in space, which aren't easy to achieve, and then minutes later you have a piss-yellow Mexico filter applied to the screen... A yellow filter, and then fancy effects of a ship crashing, accompanied by a simple camera shake and actors jostling around their chairs. This bizarre mix of quality lends the episode a sheen of 'Experimental College Arts Project' more than it does '60 year-old BBC Show'. The shadows also never, ever, in a single scene, match the visuals of the 3 suns8.

The Doctor and 'Team TARDIS' staring out into the horizon, commenting on the sun despite the incorrect shadows.

The episode is also filled with an above-average amount 'of-course it woulds', The planet with the TARDIS is part of a race, The companions have been injected with Universal Translators9, The TARDIS is the ghost monument10, the planet's water is filled with flesh eating microbes, there's evil cloth, this random logograph on the floor has a paragraph of text that only the Doctor can translate (despite the Universal Translators!!), etc.

I got distracted while I was watching the episode and did not pay very much attention to it during the 'climatic' scene with the robot fight. I don't have the energy to return to it, it has all the chemical components of a skippable filler episode, just with a tacked on reason for finding the TARDIS.


I was worried to my core about this episode. Terrified that it could be any millions of things, all revolving around Rosa Parks. It did not turn out as bad as I feared, but that doesn't make it much better.

Rosa takes the cast to 1955s America, Alabama. We have interactions that reinforce just how bad America was for the racism, and it generally creates a sense of hopelessness for humanity. However, it hinges the entirety of racism in America on Rosa Parks. That somehow, racism would continue ad infinitum should Rosa Parks not sit in the whites only seat on a specific day. I can't comment how much Rosa actually did for civil rights, I'm sure it was a serious amount, but I don't buy that Rosa couldn't've sat on the whites only seat some other day.

The villain of the episode is the space racist from the future. That's his only character, his motivation is racism. He's from the future, so he has future tech, ...that he doesn't use. Chibnall's sure to make him the scum of the earth, proud that he murdered an indefinite (>2000) amount of people, and that he's racist, and all that.

I'm under-equipped to talk about this episode in great detail. I can only surmise it as "Space racist comes to kill Rosa Parks to keep racism", and not comment on other parts - I'm not a person of colour, and I haven't done my research! It's by no means an awful episode, but I'm not sure it will be remembered very fondly. Racism only ended because of The Doctor (a white woman) saving Rosa Parks, canonically. Fucking English people.

Arachnids in the UK

Giant spiders, because Capitalism. Trump analogue owns a Hotel and tonnes of companies that also do toxic waste disposal, and naturally that means the two go together and spider carcasses get filled with toxic waste, or something. Looking past the fact most mutations lead to Cancer and wouldn't make the spiders grow in size so much as grow tumors, giant spiders just... isn't interesting. The business man running for president is the most painful parallel to Trump you could make, it sticks out like a sore thumb. No need to colour him orange, as long as he's American.

Again it's the most bog-standard villain-of-the-week Doctor Who episode. Giant spiders to terrify the arachnophobes and kiddies. Modern rap music because the BBC could afford it and a helpful handing of Doctor hates guns.

Chibnall makes sure to push it as far down our throats as he can, that the business man is going to run for president. We have got to know, every second sentence since the initial reveal, that the business man is going to be president. It's super essential that the business man is president.

He shoots a spider and that's the end of the spiders. Seriously. They hype up the spiders, get to the climax, and then there's... nothing. Big spider dies and business man is evil, that's the end of the spiders, let's move on to the next episode.

There's other parts of the episode that call back to Grace's character, Graham hallucinates Grace and that's sort-of just that. It tries to show Graham coping with Grace's death, and I can at-least respect it. Graham seems a lot more affected by Grace's death than Ryan, and I don't really understand why Ryan doesn't show anything about the death. Maybe they're building up for a breakdown or something. I can only comment on my experiences, but when my Great-Great-Grandmother passed, It ruined me for a week.

The Tsuranga Conundrum

Goblin eats energy. Another new species called the Pting (a ridiculous name) threatens the Doctor and crew on a space hospital spaceship. The Pting checks all the boxes for the 'Ultimate death kill bad monster' that it can, it's functionally immortal, its skin is the most toxic thing evarrr!!!. It feels like a lazy alien, but then again, we've had the Abzorbaloff, so NuWho's not exactly unknown for lazy aliens.

There's also what feels like a Trans allegory, a pregnant male character, but it was ruined the second it was just an alien with male pregnant species. Without the trans backing, it just feels like Mr. Chibnall's poorly disguised fetish, especially given how far they go with it... I am not very comfortable with the pregnant male character. Chibnall feels like a chaser.

This is a very Star-Trek episode, the environment feels like it was pulled right out of Galaxy Quest. It's not a bad environment, it's kind-of cool, I'm just not a big fan of ultra-pristine white space-ships. In-universe and lore-wise, it does make sense however, the ship is medical in nature, which means it would understandably be pretty clean. I just don't like clean ships, I'm much more a fan of grunge, show me ships that look seconds away from rotting into nothing! Further on Star Trek, the Ronan character is clearly a bad copy of Data from Star Trek.

The Sonic Screwdriver is taken from the Doctor by the Pting, but come the climax of the episode, the Doctor's sonic magically re-boots. The screwdriver does not create any sense of urgency, the Doctor uses the ship's computers without it, and she gets it back the moment she needs it. Keep in mind, the screwdriver is still treated by the Doctor as if she'd gotten it from the TARDIS, but she built it herself, which she seems to conveniently forget. The TARDIS is also taken from the Doctor, although there would be little difference if the TARDIS wasn't taken from the Doctor. I'm not a big fan of the Doctor so far either, she lacks... Something, I can't put my finger on it though - and she seems far too reckless with her companions, the first thing she does in the episode is get them blown up!

Demons of the Punjab

What a name. The Doctor breaks a rule she established in this episode within seconds, 'Family History and Time Travel do not mix', and waaay too hastily in my opinion. They are tackling history, we're taken to the partition of India, August 17th 1947. Granted, I don't know much about the history, I can't comment a great deal on this episode.

This episode was nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form at the 2019 Hugo Awards. The writer received Best Scriptwriter. The episode must be worth its weight for something, even if I don't get it or particularly enjoy it. Of any of it, I can comment most on the new species syndrome, Thijarian, an apparently 'ancient' race that evolved perfect assassins. They come from the planet of Thijar, much like how us Earthians come from Earth11.


Amazon by any other name. We have big mega corp, so big it's an entire planet. There's a cute little nod to the fez, whatever. I think the episode has the wrong message, at-least, what I assume to be the message. Kerblam's whole shtick is that the workforce is (almost) fully robotic. I'd call that an absolute utopia!

Robotic workforce? Uhh, yes please? I don't see what the issue is if all of the bad (read: capitalist hellscape) jobs are taken. ...But, this episode seems to spin it as a bad thing, a thing that could lead to Terrorism. The episode's conclusion implies that the entire infrastructure of Kerblam would be replaced with a majority human workforce. Absolutely abysmal.

The Witchfinders

King James I doesn't have the right accent, immersion ruined. I really can't remember much about this episode in reflection, it was wholly unmemorable. Something about mud people, Jenifar says.

It Takes You Away

Norway! I'm glad at the very least they did have a Scandinavian actor or two for this episode. The episode is... weird, to say the least. We have something called an 'anti-zone' between N-Space and the... solitract. I don't think the Doctor calls it N-Space though, I've just been watching a lot of 4th doctor between episodes. The Solitract is a new creation.. thing... It doesn't fit with pre-existing stuff about the formation of the universe, I really don't know how it fits in.

Regardless, it's a sentient universe that fulfills the desires of people around itself because it's lonely from the creation thing mentioned earlier. It brings back whats-her-name and it brings back someone else's wife. Something about death moths? It doesn't really work, there's no sense of urgency in the slightest.

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

Man the Doctor used to be cool, a lot more fine with guns and just generally violence. Now she's the ugly kind of pacifist, the no-exceptions kind, bleh.

We're immediately introduced to this planet of something, and it has this 'scary' neural destabilizing effect, and like the worst Chekov's gun, it does absolutely nothing. It serves as a bad transition into an amnesiac pilot, and then a neural balancer does it, and the destabilizing effect is never brough up again and serves nothing to the story. Something about two super powerful deified lifeforms?

Something I'll criticize chibnall for is that his entire era is plauged with 'No guys this was all really old!' and 'This is the super super ultra mega super powerful creature!!!'. It happens far too much for my liking, the entire era is plagued with new species syndrome.

Oh yeah, Battle of Rapeseed Of Colours or whatever, we have shrunken planets and nonsense... Really, I can't remember much about this episode beyond the Chekov gun, annoying pacifist Doctor, and Tzim-shaw is back for some reason.

Between the writing of the first two thirds of the review, and the last third-or-so, I watched basically the entire next season. The last 4 or so episodes I've written about are retrospective, where-as the rest were mostly right after or during me watching it. Having watched the rest of the doctor, sans the last season, I have to say... I do not like the 13th Doctor. She is a fine enough actor and gives fine performances, but Chibnall era's writing has not been Sci-Fi, or at-least not the kind you'd expect for Doctor Who. It's a different direction for the show! And I'm sure it's good for some people, if not me.

Talking from the perspective of late series 12, the show gets very preachy about how the Earth is dying. I completely agree, we're fucking over the Earth and have 15 years tops, but I don't watch Doctor Who to find out about the human crisis, I watch it to see the gay little Timelord fly through space and save planets.

I'm interested to see the last season, I caught the last (Pirate?) episode of it when it aired, wasn't a fan then, but maybe the rest of the season has some gems? The 13th Doctor is an odd one, to some (me) I could probably tell them to skip her entirely. But on another level, I can't tell anyone to skip, because she's too notable for being the first woman, and honestly, her episodes aren't actually that bad, all things considered. They're just not good episodes. But hey, if Doctor Who survived Steven Moffat, I think they'll survive Chibnall.

  1. Jesus christ.

  2. This is mostly due to his writing, he had some interesting episodes (See The Doctor's Wife, Day of the Doctor, etc.) but it usually wasn't that great (See Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, A Good man goes to war, Literally anything with what Amy Pond was doing to her relationship).

  3. I'm excited to see what he does with the Doctor. Rumors of gay, although the Doctor's always been (mostly) Bisexual coded. Look at the 3rd Doctor and just try to tell me how he's straight!

  4. 11th: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, Power of three, 10th: 42. He'd also written several specials that I'd never heard of until researching for this article.

  5. This is a critique of Doctor Who in general, they create new species like there's no tomorrow. Rarely do they return to old species, only pulling out notable classic ones. I know that Chibnall had a goal of writing a season with 'no classic returning villains', however we all know how that turned out.

  6. Metaphorically. She has at-least half-an-hour of living screen-time.

  7. ...Immediate in the sense of in one episode.

  8. Come on, Star Wars got this right with Tatooine decades ago! I'm not even mad about the lack of 3 shadows, I'm more focusing on the fact the shadows come from a completely different direction!

  9. Which, by-the-by, is only ever mentioned once. It would be interesting if there was an episode where they are revealed to interfere with the TARDIS' translator matrix, so the companions cannot understand what a villain's saying, or something. Just a thought!

  10. This actually annoys me incredibly. They introduce it as 'The Ghost Monument', and you'd think considering that the Episode was named after it, it'd have massive implications. Nope, just the TARDIS in phase on a desolate uninhabited planet. Some off-hand comment about it taking 1,000 years to phase or something.

  11. This is something I see a lot of sci-fi doing. Need an alien species? Call them XYZ-ian!