Doctor Who Series 11 Review

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It’s been 10 weeks now since I watched the first episode of series 11 of Doctor Who, and I said that it didn’t suck. It was an average episode, at best, but I promised that I would review Doctor Who Series 11 in full to pass full judgement. Well, here we are.

The Good

Firstly, and Surprisingly, there actually have been some good aspects to this series that I have quite liked, and some of them I have mentioned in my previous post. The new title sequence and incidental music have been glorious. Murray Gold is no longer at the helm, and Segun Akinola is our music man this season. He has made the music sound sci-fi again, in a way Murray Gold never could.

Secondly, death is a thing again, with no magic resurrections; a la Moffatt and Davies. Dead people remain dead. they’re not all brought back at the end of an episode, or at the end of the series. On a technical level, the show is looking at its best and is much more cinematic.

Also, I got it wrong. Bradley Walsh was a good companion this series. He started off as quite unlikeable on my first episode, but his character has grown on me. To have companions who are ‘normal’ for once is great. Yasmin, Ryan, and Graham were all good companions this series. And another thing, no returning aliens, and no series-long arcs. All the villains and aliens featured in every episode were unique to each episode (with one exception). Not having to fill the Dalek quota is brilliant; if it exists mind.

Steampunk Doc
That Sonic Screwdriver looks bad though.

The Bad

The writing has been consistent throughout most of the series, in that it has been pretty weak. Not to say it is terribly bad; even putting this in bad is a push, though the writing hasn’t been the best. Doctor Who Series 11 has seen a new writing team, and while it’s a good shake-up, these writers have barely worked on the show. Chibnall has the most experience…all of 4 or 5 episodes pre-showrunner. Moffatt did more than him. 

Previously, I mentioned Chibnallisms in the show, and they were all there throughout the series. The Doctor kept using her sonic screwdriver, the villains had pretty unclear motivations (Tzim-Sha wanted…to hunt? The spiders…were genetic experiments and were shot by Donald Trump?). The episode I liked the most, Kerblam! and the episodes I liked most in the series were not written by Chris Chibnall or didn’t have him involved (though Arachnids in the UK was okay).

I stand by my point on the companions too, in that good characters were not given a lot to do in some episodes. Yasmin felt the hardest done by, either following The Doctor or going off with one of the guest characters. As for The Doctor? Jodie Whittaker is great. When she is given all she needs to act. Her Doctor’s portrayal felt like an amalgamation of Peter Davison, David Tennant, and the sillier Matt Smith moments. It didn’t feel like I was watching HER play The Doctor. I felt like I was watching someone else direct HER to play The Doctor.

Promo shot.
I rather liked the companions, but they lacked a role in some episodes

The Ugly

As I predicted, Ryan’s Dyspraxia was only really mentioned in some episodes,but never played a role beyond that. Some of the other reviewers of the show have complained that the new series has been done to fill race quotas, and to be ‘diverse’. I honestly don’t see a problem with them wanting more diverse characters on the show, and I don’t feel that this is an issue. If you have an issue with people from a different ethnic race being on a sci-fi show, then you’re an idiot. Same if you don’t think that women should be The Doctor. You are also an idiot if you think that.

The ugliness for this series was the historical episodes, Rosa, Demons of the Punjab, and The Witchfinders. Rosa was the worst that the series had to offer, in my opinion, as it seemed to deify Rosa Parks. They deified Rosa Parks, to the point of satire. She is important, but they made her look like the leader of the civil rights movement. I think they should have just done a straight story, with no villain, besides the racism, as that pissed me off a lot. The villain was a time-travelling racist. A TIME TRAVELLING RACIST. 

There was no need for aliens in those stories. None of them. They could have been great pure historicals, in the vein of those in the very first few series of Doctor Who from the ’60s. The aliens in Demons of the Punjab? Worthless, and not needed. The Witchfinders was probably the best, only because of Alan Cumming being camp.

Yaz and The Doctor.
I quite like Yaz.

Doctor Who Series 11 Verdict

Doctor Who Series 11 was, at best, average and watchable for me. Nothing really offended me, and the episodes were actually quite consistent in their quality. When the series was bad, it was really bad. Rosa is, controversially for some, my least favourite episode of the entire series. And I’ve watched Love and Monsters. 

I appreciate, however, with a completely new time writing this series, there’s a lot of finding footing. But this is the third change in showrunner, and it has never taken a whole series to find the show’s grounding. The change from Davies to Moffatt was seamless.

Go back to the classic series: when Philip Hinchcliffe took over from Barry Letts, there was a gradual change in mood, tone, and stories; helped by a new doctor and a familiar character; Tom Baker’s fourth and Sarah Jane Smith. Same with Hinchcliffe to Graham Williams, a gradual shift in tone with the same Doctor and the same companion. Even when John Nathan Turner took over, and there were more obvious on-screen changes (chiefly new titles, a new sombre tone, and an eventual replacement of the main cast) there was less of a whiplash from the change than what we have now. 

Chibnall, your series needs to have a fresh lick of paint, and you did that. But, I can see streaks. When Series 12 is out in 2020, the series needs to be more confident. Bring back some old writers, don’t have aliens in your historical episodes, and bring back some recurring foes. Do that, and I think it will get better. Doctor Who Series 11 wasn’t great, but I can see some potential.

About the author

Ben

Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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