Jodie Whittaker plays the first female Doctor… and she played it superbly well. Her character and acting are earnest, innocent, zany-cute and intelligent. Her performance was also consistent, unlike some previous Doctors who seemed to have a different personality every episode, meaning they were all but schizophrenic (if you’ll excuse the term). With such consistency, it was possible to understand, engage with and empathise with the character of the Doctor. There was an ingénue sense to her performance that was extremely endearing.
It’s in large part because of Ms Whittaker’s convincing performance that season 11 of Doctor Who has done so well in terms of size of audience. The average audience across the whole series was 7.7m viewers per episode, and that’s the largest average audience for Doctor Who since 2010.
As for the writing involved in the series, that was a very mixed bag indeed. A very mixed bag.
There were two episodes that ‘revised’ real episodes from history: an episode about Rosa Parks (the woman of colour who sparked race protests in the US) and an episode about Partition (entitled The Demons of the Punjab). The Rosa episode was retold through a White Saviour trope, which was extremely problematic, whereas the Demons episode was done with extreme sensitivity, nuance, poise and poignancy.
Then there were two satirical episodes, one spoofing Trump and one spoofing Amazon. Both episodes were reductive (inevitably so, given the shortness of the episode format), clumsy, politically partial and ultimately lacking in coherence.
Then there were a couple of ‘episodes of the week’ that required the Doctor and her companions to solve a problem in space. They were against the clock, with loud music, frantic running about, insufficient material for all the characters to do much that was meaningful and, in the end, sadly, silly to the point of frustrating and a complete waste of the viewers time. Of course the Doctor is going to use her sonic screwdriver at the end to jury-rig a macguffin and save the cosmos. The solution to the problem is mummery. It’s made up nonsense. And we know it will arrive like some inexplicable deus ex machina. Utter rot.
And then there were a few better episodes which involved the murder of Graham’s (the magnificent Bradley Walsh’s) wife. Indeed, it was this murder that effectively served as the over-arching storyline of the series. Fascinatingly, the murder brought the usually affable Graham into direct conflict with the Doctor, because Graham had an overwhelming desire for violent revenge against the evil alien responsible. And the Doctor could not condone such violence. The stand-off between them is really affecting, since the viewer can see both sides of the moral dilemma and can’t see how it can be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.
So, the positives were the acting of Jodie Whittaker and Bradley Walsh. The main negative was the inconsistent quality of the scripts. If you are going to watch some of the series and want my advice, to save yourself some time all you need to watch are the opening episode, the Demons episode and the final episode. Those are all you need. That said, the New Year’s Day special (entitled Resolution) looks like being decent! Onwards!