Great fun, overall! There were plenty of strange creatures, spellbinding mysteries and exciting adventures in time. Jodie Whittaker was on top form as an increasingly frustrated and reserved Doctor, without losing her natural warmth and bubbliness from the previous series. Chris Chibnall stepped up and delivered on really interesting overarching story elements which were only subtly present in the previous series. I did find that there were no standout episodes quite like Rosa and Demons of the Punjab this time. While I have some issues with the current show, such as the lack of character development for the companions, and many episodes ending with endless explanations, I think its heart is in the right place, and I have definitely grown fond of the new TARDIS team.
The Good Stuff
Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor
Was even better than last series. Her usual peppy talkativeness was indicative of the pain and stress she was under. Plus, nothing like a good identity crisis for a character to show new sides of themselves!
Sacha Dhawan as The Master
Is already one of my favourite incarnations. He maintains a good balance between the character’s playfulness and his deep-seated anger. It’s all in the evil laugh and the manic eyes.
Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brian
Is still an adorable chap, but now he’s also pretty badass.
Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan
Had some amazing scenes revealing a more vulnerable side to Yaz (see Spyfall Part 1, Can You Hear Me and The Timeless Children)
Tosin Cole as Ryan
Is still funny and endearing, although his character felt a bit underserved this series.
Segun Akinola’s brilliant score
Was atmospheric as in the previous series, except there were more playful tunes in episodes such as The Haunting of Villa Diodati
Jo Martin as The Doctor
Was very cool, had a pretty snazzy costume, and I hope we see more of her.
Captain Jack Harkness!
Just. Captain Jack Harkness.
The series did a good job of touching on some not so simple topics, including pollution in Praxeus and mental health in Can You Hear Me
The Timeless Child
This opens up so many doors in terms of exploring the doctor and her relationship to Gallifrey – is this why she always felt so “out of place”, even on her home planet? Could she bump into previous versions of herself she does not remember? Who was she before she was The Doctor? What kind of missions did Gallifrey assign to her when she worked for them?
The Less Good Stuff
The Timeless Child
Yes, I am putting it here too, because I am in two minds about it. While it does open some doors, it necessarily closes some too. If you are fond of The Doctor simply being “an idiot in a box”, and not a special hero with a mythical past and perhaps a heroic destiny, then this seems like it might lead down a slippery path. Could this be a way of maintaining a sense of mystery or is this going to lead to a series of revelations about the doctor that we didn’t need to know?
Many times, the companions were separated from the doctor. As a result, this was the weakest relationship of the series, perhaps also because of there being three of them. But they don’t really feel like a “family”, and there’s a very telling moment in the finale when you realize how little these characters actually affect each other. However, I did like watching the companions becoming a pretty solid team/unit unto themselves.
Story over characters
The sometimes weak development of the companions and their relationship to the Doctor relates to how a lot of the time, the story an episode was trying to tell was more important than the characters, so for example Jack’s return existed only to give us hints about the lone cyberman, and not really for the sake of exploring his relationship to the doctor.
Ranking the episodes
1) Return of the Judoon
Nice build up to the Jo Martin reveal, lovely to see Jack smooching Graham and teasing us with cryptic messages. Judoon pretty unhelpful, companions side-lined again.
2) The Timeless Children
Nice build up to the Timeless Child reveal, terrifying to see The Master manically absorbing Cyberium and leading an army to destroy life in the universe. Cyber-Timelords pretty unhelpful, companions side-lined again. Nice moment between Yaz and Graham though.
3) Spyfall Part 1
Fun twist on the spy genre, Jodie Whittaker wears a cool suit, and I did not see The Master coming. Also Stephen Fry, that is all.
4) Spyfall Part 2
Sacha Dhawan pulls off a great Master, we get to meet some really cool historical figures, and Graham O’Brian threatens to do the old soft shoe shuffle.
5) The Haunting of Villa Diodati
“The darkness had no need for them. She was the universe”. The concept of a house folding in on itself is pretty neat, and really well executed. The endless stairs, ghostly figures and self-smashing vases are chilling. Fun to meet Lord Byron and the Shelleys, except that the whole idea of it being set the night Mary Shelley writes Frankenstein served almost no purpose in the end.
6) Nicola Tesla’s Night of Terrors
A pretty entertaining historical episode. The Doctor has an interesting connection with Tesla, Graham makes a clever pun about AC/DC, and the Skithra has a pretty intimidating appearance. Yaz’s line to Tesla, “just because you’re a genius doesn’t mean you have to figure it all out on your own”, relates pretty well to her relationship with The Doctor.
A scary premise with an uncomfortable connection to reality, like Kerblam! last series which was written by the same writer. The secondary characters are compelling, especially the policeman and astronaut couple. The “villain” reveal at the end felt a bit forced, incidentally also like in Kerblam!
8) Ascension of the Cybermen
A good episode with some great moments of tension, but it is mostly set-dressing for the grand finale, including a retrospectively clever story involving the adoption of a child who re-lives after death. The lone cyberman has the terrific line “the death of everything is within me”. Chilling.
9) Can You Hear Me?
An exceptionally creepy villain with exceptionally creepy music, courtesy of Segun Akinola. The first half is better than the second half, where it loses its way and concludes rather unsatisfyingly. I felt the theme of mental health was better explored in Vincent and the Doctor. Still, the companions had some very touching moments in this one, including Yaz.
10) Orphan 55
A timely episode, with some fun characters and eerie monsters. I mostly remember that goofy “Benny!” lady and the slightly clunky message at the conclusion of the episode.
Written by Leah Smith