We’re halfway through Jodie Whittaker’s first Doctor Who series, and so far we’ve travelled to the depths of space, the wilds of Desolation and the haunting memories of humanity’s past, with plenty of fun, scares and exciting new baddies along the way.
But how is the series looking at this midway point? Five episodes into showrunner Chris Chibnall’s new take on the mythos we must be getting a pretty good idea of how it’s supposed to feel, so we took the opportunity to canvas Radio Times critics and Who fans to see how they thought Doctor Who was settling in for the Jodie Whittaker era.
In wide-ranging responses people praised Whittaker’s performance, new Tardis team Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole and moving historical episode Rosa, while noting that some storytelling, character development and monster designs still feel a little thin as the series continues.
But don’t take our word for it – check out the full collection of responses good and bad (some of which have been edited for brevity) below.
Her initial, gnasher-faced adversary was forgettable, but what I remember most from that first episode is how Whittaker made us, the viewers and fans, feel: that we were in safe hands. She’s channelled the best elements of recent Doctors (Matt Smith’s whimsy, David Tennant’s frenetic energy, Peter Capaldi’s wry humour…), but above all she’s made the role her own. Now all that’s needed to make me happy is that Rose Tyler reunion.
The main thing to say about the new series of Doctor Who is that, from her first appearance, Jodie Whittaker just is the Doctor. Five episodes in and I’ve mostly forgotten that there was ever anything unusual about having a female Doctor – but every time I remember I get a thrill.
Of the rest of the Tardis team, Bradley Walsh as Graham is the stand-out, a really believable and likeable character and able to convey such a range of emotion in just a few looks. From a slightly stilted start, Tosin Cole’s Ryan is growing on me but, despite having met her family, I still don’t feel like I really know Mandip Gill’s Yaz.
After the era of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who, which featured often high-concept, complicated plots, showrunner Chris Chibnall has made it clear he’s keen for the show to be more easily accessible family viewing, and for it to educate children in the way it was originally intended to, which is laudable.
But it’s almost impossible to create a show that does that while appealing equally to adults and children and Chibnall’s attempts give his new historical, and futuristic, stories present-day context can sometimes feel a bit staged and can slow down the action.
Jodie’s Doctor is a whirlwind of likeability and energy, a tour de force that has relaunched the show with panache. That said, the family vibe of Team Tardis is perhaps the biggest selling point.
It must be hard to keep all the character plates spinning, but the writers have managed it – Graham and co’s hurts and flaws have been painted with a touching inclusivity. Even the Tardis got a spine-tingling comeback.
The stories themselves may be varied in quality (from marvellous to meh) but the fact is my wife and kids have come back to the show after years away – and that speaks volumes.
With Chris Chibnall at the helm, Doctor Who has turned its back on the angst-ridden days of Steven Moffat and returned to the show’s lighter-hearted, wise-cracking best that I first fell in love with back in 2005.
That’s not to say it’s without its more emotional moments; Bradley Walsh’s turn as Graham O’Brien has stunned pretty much everyone as he balances comedy with more tender scenes – reminding us that he actually is a proper actor and not just the host of The Chase.
Then again, there have been some episodes that have left me feeling a little flat. Arachnids in the UK (pictured) was a bit too B-movie cheesy for my sugary tastes, and Nibbler-impersonator the Pting is not a Who monster that will go down in history by any chalk.
But the crack team of Chibnall and first female Doctor Jodie Whittaker have breathed fresh life into a show that in my mind had long gone stale – long may their reign continue.
Jodie Whittaker IS the Doctor. She inhabits the role more naturally than Peter Capaldi did at the start, perhaps because she’s channeling the excited puppy mannerisms of Tennant and Smith.
She is so assured and a joy to watch, but one criticism could be she’s TOO assured – there’s been no doubts/concerns from the character herself about her regeneration which feels odd, especially as this is such a significant one. Perhaps it’s deliberate to make us warm to the new Doctor quicker. Is there more fun to be had in the Doctor changing gender, or would that be drawing more attention to it?
Not all the stories have hit, the guest cast have been patchy, but generally the show feels fresher and despite Chris Chibnall’s insistence that this is all new, all different, all standalone, there is a sense of bigger picture and a grand plan coming together with subtle callbacks and consistencies, reminiscent of David Tennant’s glory days.
This series has had its ups and downs, but so far I’m excited to watch every new episode and I absolutely love that Doctor Who has become appointment TV again.
I feel like so much has been said about the brilliant cast (especially Jodie Whittaker) that I don’t need to add much about them, other than that Sadley Walsh – aka Graham in his near-weekly tearjerking scenes – has been the surprise emotional powerhouse of the new series, and I regret any doubt I ever may have had about Chris Chibnall hiring the guy from the Chase.
Really, the adventures of the Thirteenth Doctor are just getting started…
The fan verdict
Doctor Who has certainly returned with a bang, all thanks to Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall. With strong stories such as the marvellous Rosa, new terrifying threats such as the Stenza, and three great companions, the news series has certainly hit the ground running.
The onscreen chemistry between the principal cast is brilliant, and they have all settled into their respective roles nicely. I don’t even have to think about Jodie being the first female Doctor, as she has nailed the part, and in my mind she is the Doctor! I’m looking forward to seeing what is in store for the Thirteenth Doctor and her four amazing companions.
I’m finding it a hard adjustment. Love Jodie and all the others but there’s something flat about the show. With such a fantastic cast it’s like waiting for a taadaa moment that doesn’t come – but in saying all that, it’s still a great show.
Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who: The Tsuranga Conundrum (BBC)
I’m still adjusting to the dramatic changes, but I really have been enjoying Jodie Whittaker’s take on the titular role, regardless the gender swap. The first four episodes are rather unique and original, not including the latest (wasn’t that good, to be honest), and I feel that Chris Chibnall has done a splendid job with going back to the original roots of what the show had intended to be: educational and exciting. Let’s see what the remaining five episodes will deliver…
Jed Teriss Ernst Rhodes:
Jodie Whittaker is good, but unfortunately, the series as a whole has so far been terrible, with bland writing, poor characterisation, and abysmal antagonists that don’t challenge Jodie’s character at all. She can be good, but the writing has to let her. The lack of good antagonists especially is troublesome, since Who is built on strong villains.
I think Jodie and the companions have settled in nicely, I go to Huddersfield Uni so there’s an added patriotism there. I think it’s refreshing, vibrant, and fun, but I wish there were more aliens!! There have been a few, but the past few episodes have focused more on human error than intergalactic mayhem, which is one of the best things about Doctor Who.
The last episode (The Tsurunga Conundrum) was pretty mediocre, it kind of felt like a filler episode, it didn’t have that wow factor. On the whole the new series is good, hopefully there’s more panache later on in the series.
Doctor Who cast (Richard Grassie)
It’s not joined up Doctor Who yet. Jodie, like Peter Capaldi and others has great range and screen presence but the writing isn’t clever. The endings aren’t resolved, which is pretty much a prerequisite for a series of standalones and Ryan and Yaz are very one-dimensional so far. Graham is providing much needed comic relief.
On the whole it’s an improvement on Capaldi’s last series, it has reached new audiences but they’re not essentially Whovian audiences. My fiancée loathes Doctor Who but has watched every episode of Jodie’s which makes me happy – but it does raise the question whether the core fanbase will stay on board.
Jodie is well liked in my house and we are loving her as the new Doctor. What we are not loving are the storylines. Not that they are terrible, but they aren’t quite what we feel was promised. We were hoping for better writing and we’re still not quite there.
The villains have been anything but villainous. The one from the Rosa Parks story seemed more as an afterthought then someone actually meant to be there. And the way he was handled seemed rather like lazy storytelling. We’ll continue watching and hoping for improvements in storytelling.
Jodie Whittaker has grown into the role over the first few episodes, but now is undeniably owning the role. Foes are imaginative and plot lines plausible, given the context, of course.
At one level, we want to see the transition to a female doctor as absolutely seamless, but at another, surely it gives a wide new spectrum of opportunities to explore? Ratings frankly say it all, very well done to all.
I accepted Jodie Whittaker like all the previous Doctors, and I’ve enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm she’s putting into the role. It’s also good to have three companions again, like there were in the very beginning, making the show more of an ensemble piece with each character well fleshed-out, although Ryan’s dyspraxia seems to have been pushed into the background for now!
It was a good move to bring historical stories back into the mix, and Rosa is one of the best stories in any era of the show. If there’s a fault it’s that some endings are a bit rushed – the giant spiders seemed to be here one moment, gone the next!
I feel like this season hasn’t hit the “wow factor” that the new Showrunner was looking for with this new era. While the character development is well paced, the actual science-fiction element of the show is really lacking in interest, and the same can be said for the new monsters of the series.
They don’t feel very original or even interesting compared to some of the other original monsters in new Who. Jodie Whitaker herself plays the Doctor fairly well, other than the occasional over-acting when it comes to the more quirky moments.
I think Jodie is doing a wonderful job as the Doctor and I’m really enjoying the stories this season. It feels much more true to the classic style than the last few years have. The reintroduction of showing actual historical facts mixed into the fun of the show is marvellous.
On the bad side, I’m a bit disappointed in the music. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t have the same impact as what we got with the ninth and tenth Doctors.
Speaking as an American, I think that she is truly a breath of fresh air. My only complaint had been her accent during the first episode and I was considering putting on closed captioning so I could understand her. But as the episodes continued whether it be on her part or my ears, I could understand her better.
As the Doctor, however about 5 minutes in she stopped being female and just became the character. Big thumbs up over here!
Doctor Who Episode 8 (BBC)
After absolutely loathing the costume and sonic screwdriver (I really hate that curved lump of metal!) I doubted that this series was going to be as good as series one to four (which I think were Doctor Who at its strongest), but it’s really subverted my expectations.
The companions? I think they’re amazing! Best Tardis team since the Tenth Doctor and Donna. Bradley Walsh is brilliant as well always throwing in the comedic line. I can’t believe he hasn’t said: ” Get away or I’ll set the chasers on you!” Also, guess what? DOCTOR WHO IS POPULAR AGAIN!
It’s got very good viewing figures, the cinematography has really upped its game and Jodie Whittaker has become The Doctor.
Overall I give the new series (from what I’ve seen so far) an 8/10. Not as good as the Russell T Davies and David Tennant era but even so, still amazing.
But what do you think about the new Doctor Who series so far? Let us know on the Radio Times Facebook page or @RadioTimes on Twitter.
This article was originally published on Wednesday 7th November.