Wow. What a season. It’s been ten weeks since I shared my thoughts on The Woman Who Fell to Earth and in that time I have fallen even more in love with the thirteenth Doctor. (I even have an artist’s interpretation print of her on my wall). There is so much I want to say about this season so let’s jump right into it — WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD!
Let’s start with, most obviously, the Doctor. I’ve loved Doctor Who since high school, but I’ve never really had a favorite Doctor. I’ve loved them all, but Nine was too angsty, Ten was too in love with himself (tbh everyone is in love with Ten, but that’s a whole other problem), Eleven was straight up terrifying, Twelve felt like a stick in a sock at first until things loosened up, and only then overtook Ten as my favorite at the time — right up until Thirteen fell through the roof and I fell in love. And I want to point out that while I love that we have a female Doctor, that’s not why (or OK, not the only reason why) she’s my favorite. I love that she stuck around for Grace’s funeral and didn’t immediately run off to find the TARDIS once the emergency was over. I love that she acknowledges the pain she puts her companions through (re: people dying all over the place in The Woman Who Fell to Earth) while still keeping that calculating pragmatism that the Doctor always has (I’m pretty sure that Charlie didn’t have to die at the end of Kerblam! and the Doctor knew it, but that’s a dark theory of mine). I love that the Doctor has friends now, because “companion” sounds like the awkward euphemism we all know it is but hardly ever mention.
Speaking of friends, I want more Yaz! I love that Graham and Ryan are finally family (if the New Year’s Special ruins that I’ll cry a RIVER OF TEARS), I thought that their arc was very well done and they are really well rounded at this point, but I want more Yaz time goddammit. *Stamps foot angrily in imitation of a toddler*
Demons of the Punjab was easily one of my favorites and what I think was one of the strongest episodes in this season. One of the saddest also, but Doctor Who has always been a show that makes me cry, and so this is nothing new. I think my favorite thing about that episode was actually how the Doctor had her own prejudices turned on herself regarding the Thijarians, because as much as I love all the various incarnations of the Doctor, they can be a bit arrogant and sure of themselves, and so I actually kinda like it when someone makes them take a step back and reflect. I think it also makes a point that’s important to the social justice lean that the show has been going for in full force this season, which is that even people who do their best and are traditionally seen as the hero can screw up and get things wrong sometimes, in really big ways, just by trying to do what they think is right, especially when in other cases it might have been.
My other favorite episode was The Witchfinders, and for a few reasons, one of which is simply the line “Honestly! If I was still a bloke, I could get on with the job and not have to waste time DEFENDING MYSELF!” Also Alan Cumming was a (horribly sexist) comic delight. Not to mention the mud zombies were terrifying and honestly I kinda want the Morax to come back, but not in the future, in the past. Like, wouldn’t it be awesome if it turned out that it was the Doctor or one of her past companions that was the one that trapped them there in the first place? That would be so cool! But enough of my fan theories.
What’s been most intriguing for me this season hasn’t been so much the rather strawman-y villains that the Doctor and her crew have faced, but more the complex and flawed systems that they have had to work within and against throughout the season. In a Facebook discussion with a friend after the episode aired I noted that the point of most of the stories hasn’t been about one singular villain — The Ghost Monument, Rosa, Arachnids in the UK, Demons of the Punjab, Kerblam!, and even The Witchfinders to a certain extent are all about how things can go awry when people take advantage of these flawed systems, especially ones built to suppress subsets of the population. I also don’t think that It Takes You Away was about villainy at all, and while I would tend to agree about the pting in The Tsuranga Conundrum being way too cute to be a typical villain, I still kinda liked its premise because, cute or no, the idea of something that can never be satiated or negotiated with is terrifying. Tim Shaw wasn’t that complex of a villain, true, but I think he was a good counter for the Doctor’s general philosophy, even if it was a bit strawman-y, and the society of the Stenza fascinates me as much as it disturbs me on a visceral level.
There are a range of opinions on the internet, and so I know that while I am not alone in loving this season, love for it is also not a universal thing. So here’s me trying to head off some arguments at the pass:
I know that a lot of people are bothered by the slower pace, but I like that about the episodes. Sometimes I like the fast paced action, but other times it gives me a headache and I want things to just slow down so that I can enjoy the story and the characters.
Speaking of, other people don’t like how the episodes aren’t super connected, but I’ve always appreciated a good stand-alone, especially since ever since I had my first incidents of head trauma a couple years back I struggle with watching a screen for longer than an hour and a half.
And again I want to push back against Thirteen haters. Like I said, she’s my favorite and I think that this the new Doctor is fun. For one thing, she’s not trying to be flirty all the time, which is something that bothered me about many of the Doctors (Ten is dreamy and he knows it) and she’s very much focused on the saving people thing but willing to admit when she’s wrong without any unnecessary degradation.
Overall I think that the people behind Doctor Who have done a fantastic job with bringing this new era of Doctor Who to life, and I really don’t think I could be more pleased with it if I tried. That said, I know not everyone agrees with me, so feel free to comment with your thoughts and theories either on here or on the Facebook page to discuss!