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Doctor Who Series 11 Review

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Doctor Who essentially resets in Series 11. There are a lot of changes, from theme music to the Tardis to the entire cast, and even the setting is completely new, moving away from Cardiff, and even moving abroad a bit more regularly too. All those changes make this feel like a new programme, or like it is a reboot. Essentially, it is as if following the drop in television ratings by series 10, the show made a conscious effort to transform itself so much that it could attract new viewers, and a new generation of fans.

We will discuss all of those changes in more detail later in the conclusions, including the cast, the settings and the new cameras, but for now let’s set the scene. In terms of story arcs, we get a completely clean slate in Series 11. ‘Twice Upon a Time’ tied up the Twelfth doctor’s regeneration and gave us Bill Potts, Nardole and even Clara Oswald for the final time. So, we have no overhanging questions apart from the standard, “Who is the Doctor?”, which gives us a blank canvas from which to meet the Tardis Team.

There is a complete overhaul in cast, as well as much of the background team, from this series onward. The biggest visible change in that respect is the Doctor, of course. Jodie Whittaker takes over from Peter Capaldi and becomes the Thirteenth Doctor, as well as becoming the first woman to portray the Doctor. Up to this point, Whittaker is probably best known for her roles in Broadchurch (with David Tennant) and in an episode of Black Mirror, and was a controversial choice, albeit mainly because she is female. She brings a lot of energy to the part however nonetheless, which can’t always be said for the companions. The most recognisable member of the team to many will be Graham O’Brien, played by Bradley Walsh, who is a staple of British prime-time television as host of The Chase. Tosin Cole, who plays Ryan Sinclair, and Mandip Gill, who plays Yasmin Khan (Yaz), are also no strangers to evening television either, having both been regulars at different stages on the British soap, Hollyoaks.

Regarding any further changes and developments from Series 10 as we move into Series 11, we also have changes behind the scenes. The end of Peter Capaldi also brought to a close the Steven Moffat era as well, who had been the main showrunner and head-writer of the for seven years, since Russell T. Davies moved on after Series 4. Essentially, phase two of NuWho was now complete, and now phase three would be entrusted to Chris Chibnall, who had long been a writer for the show anyway. He is responsible for Series 7’s ‘The Power of Three’, for example, as well as many episodes of cult-classic spin-off, Torchwood, so his appointment as the new main man of Doctor Who ahead of Series 11 shouldn’t have come as too big a surprise, even if it hasn’t worked out quite as well as many would have hoped. In this series, he wrote four of the opening five stories (excluding ‘Rosa’) as well as the finale. The remainder of the stories were written by the most diverse team of writers in the history of the show, as a conscious effort was made to be more inclusive, to have more female writers, directors, editors and more people involved from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

We can’t forget the music either. The long established composer, Murray Gold, left the show as well following Series 10. If you were to go back and listen to the theme tunes to the previous four Doctor’s, there are only slight variations between them. If anything the biggest changes come in the visuals of the credits and the fonts used. However, Series 11 brings about the biggest musical change the modern show has ever had. In fact, the opening episode didn’t even have a theme song, and we only heard the new rendition of the classic tune for the first time at the beginning of the second episode.

The changes continue in regards to the Tardis, sonic screwdriver, and even length and airing of the episodes. Stories were slightly longer this year, at an average of 50 minutes. However, there were only ten episodes compared to the traditional 12 or 13. The series was aired on Sunday night’s for the first time in its history, between October and December 2018 over ten successive weekends. Three weeks or so after the finale, we had the New Year’s Day special ‘Resolution’, which was also a change, as it was the first year without a Christmas Day special since the show’s return in 2005.

Before we get into the episodes, for those of you reading these reviews for the first time, they are being written in light of our upcoming Doctor Who tour of Cardiff filming locations. The Welsh capital has served as the backdrop to most of the new stories filmed this century, including parts of Series 11, be it in studios in Cardiff Bay or around the city’s streets and buildings, and a tour of those locations will become a reality later this year, once tours are possible again, of course. Series 11 is no exception, especially in, for example, ‘Kerblam!’ (Cardiff Bay Barrage), ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’ (The Police Headquarters), and ‘Arachnids in the UK’ (Celtic Manor). In the meantime, consider these reviews a light introduction into what may or may not feature on those tours in the future, and a fun look back on the individual series’ as well to get us through lockdown.

With the set up and changes all noted, finally, it’s time to dive into the stories.

The Stories

The last special was a Capaldi episode so that allows us to dive straight into the first story of the series, ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’. There was a lot going on, as we had to meet five new characters for the first time, including Graham’s wife, Grace, and a new villain as well, "Tim Shaw". It felt like an entirely different television programme compared to the previous ten series due as much to the camera