Classic Film Kid: Doctor Who Series 11

Classic Film Kid: Doctor Who Series 11

Hello film buffs and fellow Whovians, it’s the Classic Film Kid here! Today, I will be looking at Doctor Who again to discuss the recent 11th series, the positives and negatives, and also a quick ranking of all 10 episodes at the end. Without any further ado, let’s get started. Now Series 11 for me was a mixed bag, but to be honest, I was kind of expecting that. After all, it’s the first series with a new showrunner in Broadchurch and Torchwood writer Chris Chibnall, and also the debut of the show’s first ever female Doctor, Jodie Whittaker.

I did enjoy the season as a whole, but to me, it felt very run-of-the-mill sometimes. Steven Moffat had his problems as a writer, but credit where it’s due, he was very ambitious, realising ideas the show has never done before and probably will never do again. Aside from the initial shock of a female Doctor, the series’ storylines have been generally by the numbers and not much experimentation. I suppose that’s maybe to avoid the flaw that a Doctor Who series often has: an inconsistent tone. However, the lack of a story arc this series really didn’t do any favours in resolving this problem either. I know that the Tim Shaw tooth guy returned in the finale, but apart from that, there wasn’t really anything connecting these episodes together.

Chris Chibnall said that there would be the growing relationship and development of the characters, and while there’s been definitely been character development, the friendships between them sway drastically. In the penultimate story, Ryan and Graham finally resolve their issues, and then in the very next episode, they’re arguing again. Even the Doctor threatens to kick Graham out of the TARDIS for him to avenge Grace’s death, which even for the Doctor’s pacifist standards felt pretty forced. I can’t be the only one who considers his/her pacifism complete baloney, considering plenty of the classic Doctors find clever and intriguing ways of killing the villains. I can’t be, can I?

Let’s get into the star of the show, Jodie Whittaker. I’m not going into the whole haters topic, because every Doctor Who fan has been through the wringer with that now and no-one can be bothered anymore. To put it simply, I wouldn’t say I loved the idea of a female Doctor to begin with, but it certainly shocked me as an interesting decision and I was on board to see what Chibnall could do with it. And before, I get into his writing, let me say this: Jodie Whittaker is BRILLIANT.  You can tell she’s giving it her all and I loved how understated her emotion was, yet so present at the same time. She sells the energy and charisma so well, but it was the downbeat moments where she really shone. But that’s the problem, there wasn’t enough of that. Chris Chibnall needed to write moments where she was allowed to take a breather and fully act. This was something I felt that the guest writers handled perfectly, yet Chibnall didn’t. In fact, the guest writers wrote better scripts than Chris Chibnall did, which doesn’t bode necessarily well.

The companions I thought were really strong this series, yet even they had a few problems. By far the best, in my opinion, was Bradley Walsh’s Graham. His great emotional acting reminded us that this guy isn’t just the one who says ‘For you, the Chase is over,’ he can pull off a really great character performance, and Graham’s character was well-written. His love for Grace was very believable, and that made her death all the more shocking and harrowing. One thing I wanted to see developed further though was the idea that he was in remission for cancer. It never really was mentioned again after episode 1, and I would have liked it if it was touched upon when we meet ‘Grace’ again in It Takes You Away.

Ryan was a really interesting character, and you could tell that him traveling with the Doctor really helped him grow and become more of an optimistic person. While Tosin Cole wasn’t the best actor in the world, he did sell it enough to make me get behind Ryan. Yaz is the weak link for me, sadly. She didn’t necessarily do much or say anything important, and that for me was a disappointment as I was really looking forward to her character. Though I won’t deny, the one episode that she featured heavily in featured some fantastic acting from Mandip.

So, with all this said, what does Series 12 (which is coming after ANOTHER FLIPPING HIATUS) need to improve? Personally, I think we need a bit more experimentation. Some more risks, more challenging sci-fi concepts. That’s the general concept of this series: the characters were spot-on, but the actual monsters and the stories felt lacking. Also, Chris Chibnall really needs to think of another way to make the series gel better. If he doesn’t like the idea of a story arc, then he needs to think of something better, because by the time episode 9 rolls around, we’d all forgotten about the Stenza race and didn’t really care what happened to them next.

The good things were really good. Brilliant characterisation and performances, great educational value, and it really felt like the show was geared for everyone again, and I feel that the really strong viewership has only proved that. So that’s my overall thoughts, but I’m not quite done yet. I thought, as a special bonus, I would rank all 10 episodes of the series from worst to best.

10. The Tsuranga Conundrum (written by Chris Chibnall)

This one was considered as the weakest by many, and I am inclined to agree. There was just so much talking and rambling on without doing anything, and while the Pting was cute, it was bordering on self-parody the way it was set-up. It was a shame, considering the really good concepts the episode had going for it, like the pregnant man, and the dying pilot, so I can’t say this was anything more than wasted potential.

9. Arachnids In The U.K (written by Chris Chibnall)

It kind of gets hard from here on in, as The Tsuranga Conundrum was the only real dud this series, but the other episodes didn’t really stand out. I won’t deny this episode was genuinely creepy and Chris Noth was fantastic, but the ending left a lot to be desired and the parallels between the businessman and Trump were so obvious you might as well have given Chris Noth a hideous blonde wig.

8. The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos (written by Chris Chibnall)

This finale was fine. Not amazing, not terrible, just depressingly average. The plot seemed very generic and the resolution of the Stenza storyline was very unnecessary. At least we got another top-notch performance from Bradley and Jodie, and the stakes did feel a bit bigger. But apart from that, this episode might as well have been any other episode in the series – there was nothing to set it apart as a finale.

7. The Woman Who Fell To Earth (written by Chris Chibnall)

I thoroughly enjoyed the season premiere when it aired, but the problem was I noticed the underdeveloped villain and simplistic plot the 1st time. Usually, my immense hype for a season premiere disguises a few flaws, but the fact that I noticed it immediately isn’t the best sign. Jodie, in her first episode, was absolutely fantastic and her characterisation bang-on.

6. The Ghost Monument (written by Chris Chibnall)

While the plot did feel a little bit scatterbrained and thin, the opening ten minutes with the two ships was one of the most nail-biting and tense sequences of the series, and the TARDIS reveal at the end was beautiful. It’s just a shame that the middle portion of the episode didn’t really have that much to offer. You see how that was the bottom of the list and every single episode that Chibnall wrote has ended up there? That’s not a good sign.

5. The Witchfinders (written by Joy Wilkinson)

To me, this episode really had a lot of interesting concepts in it, and they all had their time to shine, including the stance of women at the time and the witch trials themselves. Even though it does turn into a bit of a straight-up monster scenario at the end, they were given a really cool backstory. The problem with the episode though is that it would have really benefited from being a two-part story: there was so much going on in it.

4. Rosa (written by Malorie Blackman)

This would have ranked higher for me, if it was a purely historical story, as the setting, the characters and the struggles that people like Rosa had to go through was near flawless. But why did it have a cliched underdeveloped villain who’s in there just because we apparently need a sci-fi hook in this?

3. Kerblam! (written by Pete McTighe)

When even the misogynistic horrible haters find a reason to like this episode, you know it’s doing something right, and indeed Kerblam was the one that felt the most like a Doctor Who story this series. For the most part, it was a really fun and exciting adventure, and the unique setting of a retail warehouse did justify some of the silly and far-fetched concepts the episode threw at us (though the killer bubble wrap was absolutely hilarious)

2. Demons Of The Punjab (written by Vinay Patel)

The only Yaz-focused story this series did give her some much-needed backstory, and meeting her family in India was a really interesting trip that was made surprisingly realistic and tense by the setting of the Indian Partition. The ending of the episode really stood out though: it was well-directed, emotional and Mandip Gill did give her best performance yet.

  1. It Takes You Away (written by Ed Hime)

If you are going to make jokes about the frog, now is not the time to do it. To me, this episode was a great one, filled with brilliant ideas such as the mirror, the Anti-Zone, and the Solitract. It was also a fantastic chance for Bradley Walsh to show off his acting capabilities when faced with the ghost of his wife. However, for me this one isn’t at the top because it’s the best per se – after all of the run-of-the-mill stories, I do appreciate how this one strives for more and succeeds at it.

That about does it for this (very lengthy) overview at Series 11. I will probably do a standalone review of Resolution, but it depends on how much it actually gives me to talk about. I hope 2019 has started off really well for you and that this year will have plenty of film & TV reviews. Until then this is the Classic Film Kid, signing off!

Alex Paine

Alex Paine started reviewing films on the site IntoFilm when he was 9, but now his forte is classic films and TV on the wonderful site The Geek Show. He puts his opinions into detailed reviews with plenty of geeky banter on the side. And in terms of classic films, he has seen some of the greats. Although he still hasn't watched Citizen Kane. Or any of the Godfather films. Or The Shawshank Redemption. Or Apocalypse Now. Or - Let's just say he has a lot more work to do.

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