The new Doctor Who season started this past weekend, on Sunday October 07, 2018. The big thing, of course, is that Jodie Whittaker makes her doctorial debut in season 11! I have some thoughts on it. But first, the official trailers:
Doctor Who: Series 11 Trailer by Doctor Who on YouTube
Doctor Who: Series 11 Trailer #2 by Doctor Who on YouTube
I get chills from both! 😀 Although the music choices for trailer 2 seem a little odd—I suspect I might be missing some cultural references here.
I haven’t seen the first episode yet, so I only have previously shared glimpses, various reports, and other people’s reactions to go by. Reading to the rescue, then! Below are quotes from some of the most interesting writeups I found.
Spoiler warning is in effect! (Also, because some quotes are quite long, I’ll pop the rest behind a cut.)
On behind-the-scenes prep for season 11 and the 13th Doctor
“Doctor Who Season 11 Marks a New Era — and It’s Been a Long Time Coming” by Maureen Ryan at TV Guide
“After his first conversations with the BBC, Chibnall says he ‘actually wrote down a list of pros and cons. There were 10 cons. And the only pro was, It’s Doctor Who!’”
LOL! 😀 I can’t even imagine how exhilarating it would be.
From the same article, on selecting a woman to play the 13th Doctor:
“’But the trajectory [of actors in famous roles] usually is “white guy, white woman, and then maybe a black man, and then other people of color.” So it felt like they were doing something new, but with me being a woman of color, a black woman, it was like, “Well, this is predictable,”’ [pop-culture writer and critic Constance] Gibbs says. ‘The Doctor could’ve remained a man — even could’ve remained a white man — but the show needed to be better both behind the scenes and with the supporting cast, in terms of inclusion for women, writing for women — and writing for women of color and characters of color in general.’
“That’s a set of concerns — many of them expressed for years by Doctor Who fans and critics — that Chibnall has addressed with the roster of writers and directors he hired for the upcoming season. For the first time in the history of the program, writers of color (Malorie Blackman and Vinay Patel) will be penning episodes of the show, in addition to Joy Wilkinson, Chibnall, Pete McTighe, and Ed Hime (all of whom are white). Two of the four directors for the 10-episode season are women, and one, Mark Tonderai, is a man of color.
“’While this is exceptionally good news, it’s hard not to feel frustrated by how limited these victories are,’ [Alyssa] Franke wrote on Whovian Feminism when these rosters were announced. ‘Two women writing and directing per season seems to be a high-water mark that Doctor Who can’t climb over. And there has still never been a [woman of color] director on Doctor Who.‘ […]
“’People of color, black people — we can tell when you don’t have any black writers on your staff, even though you have characters of color on screen,’ Gibbs says. She notes that though she is ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the upcoming season, in which Whittaker’s Doctor will be accompanied by three companions — two of them non-white — she hopes the show will not completely ignore the realities that the show’s viewers face in their day-to-day lives.”
This I can certainly understand. There’s such yearning out there for representation that reflects our real world, not an imaginary situation, but unfortunately tv and movies—and writers’ rooms and high-power business board rooms and whatnot—change too slowly.
“The ironic thing is, the first director of Doctor Who was a LGBT man of color, Waris Hussein, who went on to direct key episodes early in the show’s run, and the BBC producer most responsible for the birth of the series was a woman, Verity Lambert.”
Huh. Surprising and new to me—and at the same time, not surprising at all.
“How It Feels to Want to Watch Doctor Who Again” by Alex Brown at Tor.com
“On top of her pitch-perfect casting, Thirteen will also be joined by three new companions, one a Black man and another a woman of Indian descent. Plus, the Season 11 writers’ room has added a Black woman, white woman, and a man of Indian descent. Several women will also be directing. New showrunner Chris Chibnall proclaimed that the renovated show will tell ‘stories that resonate with the world we’re living in now,’ and will ‘be the most accessible, inclusive, diverse season’ ever produced.
“These changes go beyond tokenism and into real diversity work. The show isn’t just sticking a woman in the titular role and patting themselves on the back. Diversity can’t just be about quotas. It must be about inclusion and representation in front of and behind the camera. Marginalized people need to be able to tell our own stories and speak directly to our communities. The majority already gets to do that, and now that conversation needs to happen across the board. The show still has a lot of work to do, both in terms of undoing the status quo of harmful tropes and in laying strong groundwork for later casts and crews. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, I feel hopeful for the show’s future.
“And isn’t hope what the show is really all about? Doctor Who is a story about the hope for a better tomorrow, faith in your companions, and trust that you’re doing the right thing. It’s about a hero using their immense powers responsibly and in order to benefit those who need it the most. The Doctor creates space for the marginalized to stand up and speak out, to fight for their rights against those who would silence or sideline them. For too long, that ideal was lost to puzzle boxes, bloated mythology, and trope-y characters…but with the appearance of each new Thirteenth Doctor trailer, my hope grows a little more.”
I haven’t really been excited about Who stories after the tenth Doctor. (For me, it’s David Tennat forever!) Mostly it’s been because of lukewarm stories or selfish, uninteresting, and mean characters (referring of course to grownup Amy Pond—gahhhh!).
Season 11 might be a refreshing change, then. And although I’ve seen Chibnall’s efforts in Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Broadchurch I’ve had trouble imagining him in charge. Like Alex, I keep hoping that Chibnall et al’s efforts pay off.
“There’s no Missy, River Song or other returning characters in this year’s Doctor Who” by Huw Fullerton at RadioTimes
“[…] Chibnall revealed that the likes of Alex Kingston’s River Song, Michelle Gomez’s Missy (aka the female regeneration of longtime villain the Master) and the Paternoster Gang (including Neve McIntosh’s Madame Vastra and Dan Starkey’s Strax) won’t be included this time around […]
“Chibnall also confirmed that other recurring monsters like the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Weeping Angels had been banished for the time being, with series 11 instead focusing on new baddies and threats to be enjoyed by new and old fans alike.”
That’s a bit of a bummer—I quite liked Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. Ohwell. As for River Song, she started as an awesome, awesome character. For my headcanon, though, Moffat’s version simply doesn’t exist. I cannot forgive him for messing River’s story and personality up so phenomenally.
On reactions to Jodie Whittaker’s performance and the season’s first episode
“Because We’re Friends Now: Doctor Who, ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’” by Emily Asher-Perrin at Tor.com
“[The thirteenth Doctor is] blinding in her exuberance. She is sharp and bright at the edges and she feels like a great big hug. She is a little brilliant and a little scary, just as the Doctor should be. […]
“There are a lot of questions to be answered, particularly in how the new Doctor will break down her dynamic with this set of companions, and how or why they choose to stay on board with her. (They’re all pretty instantly likable, so I’m excited to learn more about each of them in turn.) They have yet to set a clear tone for the run of the series, so we’re not sure if we’re going to be getting a scarier feel, or a funnier one, or a longform plot to follow.”
Sounds good so far!
“’Doctor Who’ Goes Back To Basics, With A Twist” by Glen Weldon at NPR
“Much time and attention was devoted to setting up our four, then three, companions: Bus driver Graham (Bradley Walsh), police officer Yas (Mandip Gill) and young warehouse worker Ryan (Tosin Cole). Brought together by chance and united by tragedy, the three promise to bring a dynamic to the series we haven’t seen since old-school Who: A team of colleagues with different skill sets. Modern Who has defaulted to ‘companion nurtures unspoken romantic feelings for The Doctor’ so often that this should make a welcome change.”
Hear, hear. (Then again, I would like characters working together!) Change isn’t always bad, especially after a prolonged repetition of a pattern. We’ll see if these particular changes feel like just the thing or way off base.
“Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who debut is most watched launch for 10 years” by Hannah Mays at The Guardian
“Another [fan] wrote: ‘So ready to watch a woman be the thousand-year-old weird nerd genius who saves the world again and again by being clever and brave.’”
I’ve been excited since the moment I heard about Whittaker being cast, not just because she’s fantastic, but because it’s time we got more women on screen. This comment, though, hones the issue into a brilliantly sharp point. Because we’ve always been clever and brave, but we’re rarely depicted as such.
Seen the episode yet? What did you think?
In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.
Such a good debut — I am now nervous about the coming episides, can they keep it up?
One of my earliest memories is of hiding behind my chair, peeking out as the Doctor defeated some Daleks. During playtimes at school we played Doctor and Daleks. Girls always happily played the Doctor, after all he could change into anyone. Finally the BBC has caught up with us, after over 40 years,
Oh, wow! It really is high time!
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