Though Doctor Who's 13th Doctor still has a few more days left until she falls to earth on Oct. 7, critics in the U.K. have already seen her debut episode. The embargo on "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" has lifted, and the episode (written by new showrunner Chris Chibnall and directed by Jamie Childs) is now receiving its judgment.
Are the critics in favor of the first-ever female Doctor, or are are they left wanting? Are they giving Jodie Whittaker a big "Oh, brilliant!" or a less-than-stellar "Exterminate!"? All of the reviews below are spoiler-free save for some minor ones, but if they are to be taken seriously, then Who fans everywhere should start to really get excited.
**WARNING: There will be very minor spoilers (and opinions) about the new Doctor Who premiere after this point. If you want to go in completely unspoiled, jump in your TARDIS and get away from here as quick as you can. **
-In The Sun, Rod McPhee praises Whittaker, saying that she "delivers a sensational turn" as the character. "She may also be the breath of fresh air needed to revive a flagging franchise," he says, going on to his highest praise: that "you quickly forget you’re watching a female Doctor and just accept you’re watching THE Doctor."
-In the i paper, Stephen Kelly writes, "Every cell of this show has been broken down and renewed — from how it looks, to how it sounds, to how it feels ... the results are wonderfully promising." He goes on to write, "Whittaker sells herself as the Doctor immediately — nailing that indefinably alien core of the character, while also feeling relatable. The beauty of the Doctor as a role is that it allows actors to tap into parts of their personalities in a way they usually can’t. And this is obvious with Whittaker — whose Doctor, much like her interviews, is charming and charismatic, who crackles with warmth, wit and a subtle righteous fury."
Kelly also praises Chibnall's use of the Doctor's companions, and says, "it’s certainly the most sincere, endearing and accessible the show has been in a long time." He further admires the increased production values: "Never before has Doctor Who looked so crisp and cinematic, nor the CGI so convincing and expensive..."
-Huw Fullerton for Radio Times writes, "It’s a show that’s both easy to recognize as the Doctor Who we know and love and the fresh new take on the formula that’s been sorely needed. Frankly, from the very first frame of the episode this feels like a different sort of Who. Plenty has been written about how the series got a visual upgrade this year, with the production team bringing in new cameras, changing the series’ aspect ratio and generally trying to match the scope of its US or Netflix sci-fi rivals, and you definitely see this extra effort on screen."
Fullerton goes on to write that the "stakes feel smaller and more human than we've become used to during increasingly epic Who stories, and overall I’d say the reduced focus is a positive change — especially when the main point of the episode is in meeting one of the most exciting Doctors the series has seen in years." He goes on to praise Whittaker, writing, "From her first appearance in the story (which comes a bit later than you might expect), there’s no question — Jodie Whittaker IS the Doctor, owning the role like she’s been playing it for years..."
-Carol Midgly in The Times writes, "The best compliment I can pay Whittaker after the first episode, her casting doesn't feel remotely radical. It feels normal." She adds, "After 10 minutes, you forget her sex was ever an issue. Whittaker brings energy, fizz and modernity to the role..."
-The Guardian's Martin Belam joins in praising the new look of the show, writing that it has "taken on a more cinematic edge. The production team say they are conscious that they are making the show in the Netflix age..." He adds that new composer Segun Akinola "brings a more urgent electronic-tinged soundtrack to the show than the generally lush Murray Gold orchestrations."
Calling it "a solid start to the new era," he also praises Whittaker, writing that "viewers are left in no doubt that she is very much the Doctor. The woman who fell to earth has very much landed on her feet."
-Digital Spy's Morgan Jeffrey responds to the question of whether or not the new episode delivers: "The answer is yes. Mostly." While not perfect, he writes that it is "a promising start to a new era of Doctor Who that, if this first episode is anything to go on, is going to feel fresh and modern without losing the key components that have made the 55-year-old sci-fi show such an enduring success."
He also boards the Whittaker-love-train, writing, "Jodie Whittaker is terrific. She makes an incredibly assured debut, with a performance that's, quite literally, fizzing with energy. So much of the conversation about her casting, both positive and negative, has been about Whittaker's gender, but within seconds of her appearing on screen, it becomes clear just how little it matters. Whittaker just is the Doctor. You don't question it, even for a moment."
Mostly, the consensus seems to be that the show is back, beautiful, and still getting started. (Granted, that has pretty much been the case for almost every regime change that the show has undergone.) The most promising thing to come out of these initial reviews is the near-universal love for Jodie Whittaker. Written in different forms and in multiple ways, the critics just agree — Whittaker is the Doctor, and you'll accept it almost immediately.
How far away is Oct. 7? It cannot possibly get here fast enough.
(via The BBC)