Expert Opinion

Review of Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell to Earth

Well, was it worth the wait? Was all the fuss of having a woman playing Doctor Who (I’m old fashioned) all that it was cracked up to be?

Yes. It was.

But not because of the fact that gender barriers had been broken down. I just wanted Doctor Who to be fab, and fast, and fun – like it had been before Steven Moffatt took over. You know. FUN. The programme has always relied on its past glories, but Moffatt jettisoned, tinged and flavoured the programme with unnecessarily complicated story-arcs that weren’t resolved, three very unlikeable companions, and…dare I say it… no-one could get killed. Or if they did, they weren’t really dead. Doctor Who had become fantastical – but without the fantastic.

No. This reboot, with limited publicity behind it - a female Doctor Who was enough advertisement in itself for the curious – was to be, fingers crossed, fun, exciting and engaging. The kind of programme that gets kids in the playground running around pretending they are Daleks and, of course, Doctor Who. And, I think it will.

The new incumbent to the titular role, Jodie Whittaker gave the performance we all expected her to give – a bright, breezy, and anarchic one. At last. No melancholy angst. No leaden speeches. And a daft costume.

But what really struck me about the episode? It wasn’t Jodie Whittaker. After all, the most iconic role on television can be adapted to suit anyone who has an Equity card these days. No. It was because the episode was what I hoped it would be. And it had Bradley Walsh.

The whole introductory episode was revealed at a breakneck speed. It was like meeting an old friend, catching up on their adventures, and then waiting breathlessly to see them soon. The plot was ordinary: alien visits earth seeking something, finds it, Doctor Who sorts them out. What made it all the more exciting was that not only did it look expensive, not only had Whottaker telling us that change can be scary but fun… (see what I did there?) but that Bradley Walsh was in it. Bradley Walsh.

Think about it. Bradley Walsh. And he was great. His character, Graham is a fairly happy grandfather-figure, who loses his wife Grace as she plummets to her death saving the Earth. Their on-screen chemistry was terrific, believable.

Walsh is an underrated actor, and I have a sneaky suspicion that it is he who will become the focus for many more of the adventures in this season: after all, he has to cope with Grace’s death (the funeral scene showcased his talent at portraying someone real), trying to be a grandfather, and being trapped floating in space…

Let’s be fair – Whittaker was the real reason we tuned in. The supporting cast were good. The aliens were great. The programme looked terrific. But for me… the main thing was that not only Bradley Walsh was in it (see, I can’t stop smiling as I type this)… it was three things: fun, scary and exciting.

Just how it should be.

Dr Steven Gerrard

Reader / Leeds School Of Arts

Steve is Reader in Film at Northern Film School. He loves science fiction, horror, Doctor Who, Status Quo, Tintin, Jason Statham, James Bond, Viz Magazine, Music Hall, and The Carry On Films.

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