It's About Time: Doctor Who Series 11
The Doctor Who series 11 trailer unexpectedly dropped this morning, and I. Was. Not. Ready.
That’s right. I, Lost in a Book, am a HUGE Whovian. One who is undoubtably and unconventionally excited for Series 11 and Jodie Whittaker’s debut as the Thirteenth Doctor.
In fact, to say that I am excited is an understatement. I have been waiting since the end of December for October 7th’s series premiere. Ever since Whittaker’s debut in the 2017 Christmas Special “Twice Upon A Time,” I knew that she was a Doctor to look out for. Not only was “Twice” an absolutely fantastic episode in general (and I truly believe that the regeneration from Peter Capaldi to Whittaker is the best regeneration yet), but Whittaker’s two minutes of post-regeneration set her up for greatness in the same way that Matt Smith’s first couple of minutes did for him.
First off: the cinematography. Wow. Just WOW. Beautiful. The sparks contrasting the dark colours of the TARDIS…the crisp and clearness of the camera feed…the slow motion close-up of Capaldi’s ring falling to the grate of the TARDIS. Jodie looking at herself in the TARDIS computer and smiling. “Ah, brilliant!”. The change in score (and the recall to Tennant and Eccleston’s Doctor’s themes!). Just the attention to detail…the entire scene was absolutely flawless. Gorgeous. Perfect.
But though that one scene was written by Chris Chibnall, the new showrunner, and taped using the new cinematic cameras and never-before-seen VFX company, it was but two minutes in the grand scheme of things. So, what do we have to expect for the upcoming series - a whole 11+ hours of Chibnall content?
We’ve been told that the upcoming series will be a total reboot. A complete clean slate, a fresh start. No returning villains or monsters, no returning characters, a new showrunner, a new Doctor, new companions, new writers, a new VFX company, a new theme tune and title sequence. Is there anything returning to Doctor Who, save for its name? Doesn’t seem like it…
THAT’S NOT A BAD THING, THOUGH. Remember series 5? New showrunner, new Doctor, new companions, new cameras (it went from SD to HD, which made a HUGE cinematographic difference!). Yes, classic monsters like the Daleks and the Silurians returned, and yes, Murray Gold remained as the amazing composer, rearranging a classic soundtrack (the awesome and majestic “All the Strange, Strange Creatures”) into the Eleventh Doctor’s incredibly powerful, classic “I Am the Doctor” (by far one of the best soundtracks in the show’s history, rivalled only by Capaldi’s “A Good Man?” and Tennant’s “Doomsday”). Nonetheless, series 5 was like the show starting all over again, too - in fact, it’s actually the series where I started when I first started watching Doctor Who about a year and a half ago. It’s a fantastic series, and it was all new too.
Even the best episodes (in my opinion) are the more unique ones, the ones with all-new villains and unique plot elements. In fact, Smith’s first episode, “The Eleventh Hour,” is hands-down my favourite episode of the show - and it was the first episode with a new Doctor and new companions, the villains ‘Atraxi’ and ‘Prisoner Zero’, and an all-new showrunner. Absolutely phenomenal episode - and at its time, it was ALL NEW.
Other memorable episodes include the penultimate episode of series nine, the absolutely fantastic “Heaven Sent.” This was the first episode ever to include no real character other than the Doctor himself (other than the Veil, a once-off villain, never seen before, never seen again). This episode is so unique, so one-of-a-kind…which, though it may have been daunting in its lead-up, became undoubtably one of the most critically acclaimed episodes in Doctor Who’s history - if not THE highest-rated Doctor Who episode of all time.
Arguably, the Doctor Who episodes with the most divisive and “irregular” lead-ups and content have proven to be some of the best, whereas stereotypical Dalek- or Cybermen-centred episodes, like series 5’s “Victory of the Daleks” are more mediocre, potentially even because the villains are so overused.
So, do we have things to worry about in the upcoming series? Or are peoples’ concerns unjustified, and series 11 will be the best series yet? Here’s my take, with the five things I’m looking forward to most about the upcoming series of Doctor Who…and the five things that I am most concerned about.
CONCERN #1: Pop Music…In Doctor Who?!
Don’t get me wrong, I love Macklemore’s song “Glorious.” I love its lyrics and what it stands for. I even thought its use in the last teaser trailer, the one where Whittaker breaks the glass ceiling (BRILLIANT trailer, by the way!), was absolutely perfect. In today’s trailer, though…not so much. I would have loved to hear some of the new composer’s Doctor Who compositions, or even a call back to Murray Gold’s pieces. Anything orchestral would have done! To me, the incredible score is one of the best aspects of Doctor Who, so I really hope that having pop music in two trailers now isn’t a sign of what’s to come…
ANTICIPATION #1: Segun Akinola, Musical Genius
…buuuuut on that note, if all that’s happening is the BBC trying to keep new composer Segun Akinola’s scores under wraps until episode one, then all’s good. I’d never heard of Akinola before the BBC revealed that he would be taking over for the incredibly talented Murray Gold, but I’ve listened to some of his stuff on SoundCloud and LOVED it. Akinola’s compositions are powerful and majestic, and I CANNOT WAIT to hear what he comes up with for Doctor Who!
**side note: check out some of his pieces! I especially love “Nyamuragira,” “Dakika” and “Dalu,” though his entire “Expedition Volcano” album is absolutely fabulous! HIGHLY recommend checking him out…his previous works DEFINITELY give me high hopes for the score of series 11!**
CONCERN #2: Old Villains: Ex-ter-min-ated!
See, here’s the thing. I talked before about how some of the best episodes of Doctor Who are those with villains who have never been seen before, but there’s just something…classic about including well-known villains in at least one episode in a series. In fact, every series of New Who (except for series 6!) has included at least one episode featuring the Daleks, by far the most well-known foe of the Doctor and his companions! As for that one series without the Daleks…well, it still featured plenty of Cybermen in the fantastic James Corden-starring “Closing Time,” and brought back both series 4’s mysterious River Song and the villainous Silence, whose story arc had been introduced in the previous season. So, while it may not have featured any Daleks, it was in no way a completely clean slate when it came to characters. This time, though…it has been confirmed by Chibnall himself that there will be absolutely no returning characters, allies or villains. Is this a good thing? Probably, especially for new viewers, as it will ease their transition into the show. But is it a little concerning, especially for old fans who look forward to the continuity of the show, or those who anticipate the excitement of seeing their favourite characters pop back on screen for a two minute cameo? Absolutely. It’ll be really interesting to see how this plays out in the new series.
ANTICIPATION #2: New Faces, New Worlds
…and it seems as though there is plenty to look forward to. The world with 2 moons at 0:08 in the trailer looks gorgeous; the futuristic white hallways look SO COOL (found multiple times throughout today’s trailer, first at 0:30, then again at 0:41); the 1950’s-style neighbourhood at 0:37 looks super accurate for the time period; and the ribbon-like tendrils at 0:48 look absolutely intriguing, I can’t wait to see what they end up being! A new villain, perhaps? Even the sparking, electricity-pulsating bundle of wires at 0:53 looks AWESOME (and, correct me if I’m wrong, but appears to be part of episode 1, based on the peek of the Doctor’s white collar and black coat [Capaldi’s clothes!] in the background of the shot?! Maybe?! Hopefully?!!). AND THAT KISS IN THE WHITE ROOM AT 0:56! I’M SO INTRIGUED! AND SO HAPPY! Wow. Just…just wow. There may be no Daleks or Cybermen in sight (or Weeping Angels lurking out of sight, lol!), but that doesn’t mean that this series doesn’t have potential - because it sure looks as though it’s going to be awesome!
CONCERN #3: Chibnall’s Past and Present
See, here’s the one thing that I’m REALLY worried about. Before Steven Moffat became the showrunner in series 5, he’d written some of the BEST episodes of the Russell T. Davies era: series 1’s “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances,” series 2’s “The Girl in the Fireplace” (undoubtably the best episode of the series), series 3’s fantastic, critically acclaimed “Blink” (same sentiments as “GitF”) and series 4’s “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.” All of those episodes were considered to be some of the best of the era, and definitely all rank on my - and many other fans’ - top 15 episode lists.
Chibnall, on the other hand, does not have that kind of track record. “42,” “The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood” and “The Power of Three” were all mediocre episodes; though I really liked his last Doctor Who writing credit, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” finding it witty and fun, one good episode out of four is nothing compared to the six absolutely incredible episodes that Moffatt penned prior to stepping forward as showrunner. Definitely a cause for a little bit of concern.
ANTICIPATION #3: The Potential in Chibnall’s Future (Awesome Trailers!)
Who knows, though? Chibnall may surprise us all with absolutely spectacular episodes! I mean, his other show, “Broadchurch,” was immensely critically acclaimed, and I’d love to watch it; the first series of “Torchwood,” which he was head writer of, is known to be the best of all the series in the show…so there is hope for us yet! Besides, the glimpses of his new era that we’ve gotten so far are all looking pretty good: Whittaker’s first moments in “Twice Upon A Time,” penned by Chibnall, may just be my favourite part of the episode (it’s between that and Capaldi’s regeneration speech!), and the trailers that we’ve gotten so far look GREAT! So…fingers crossed that Chibnall’s just been saving his talent for the upcoming series!
CONCERN #4: No Title Sequence = Not Doctor Who!
The latest rumour that’s been going around is that episode one, “The Woman Who Fell To Earth,” will NOT have a title sequence, nor feature the theme tune that has been an essential element of every Doctor Who episode throughout its entire almost-55 year history. I don’t know…I just don’t think that Doctor Who is Doctor Who without its title sequence and its theme tune! What do you say?
ANTICIPATION #4: Incredible Cinematography & Stunning VFX!
What fans are assuming is that instead of the usual title sequence, episode one of the new series will feature a very cinematic opening. Though I’d still rather the Doctor Who theme tune over a cinematic introduction, there’s definitely something to be said about transforming the show from HD-quality to cinematic. I mean, COME ON. Whittaker’s post-regeneration sequence was SO cinematically different than the rest of the episode she was featured in - in a great way! I believe that these new cameras and virtual effects will bring a new aspect of creativity and design, of intricacy and excellence to the show, something that will make it seem more action-packed and detail-oriented than ever. Fantastic!
CONCERN #5: Fan-Favourite? More Like Fan-FICTION
One more minor critique, though…what do you think of the new episodes’ titles? I don’t know, they just seem more like fan-fiction to me than anything. I mean, “The Woman Who Fell To Earth?” That’s such a mouthful! And so much more self-explanatory than the witty “The Eleventh Hour” or the short, sweet and subtly descriptive “Deep Breath.” Like, yes, we know that Whittaker’s falling to Earth. We saw that at the end of “Twice Upon A Time.” Give us a cool episode title, like “Heaven Sent!” Or, if you want a more descriptive title, something more subtle like “Flesh and Stone,” the title of a Weeping Angels episode! Not the wordy, fan-fiction-esque “The Woman Who Fell To Earth.” Sorry, but yawn.
(“The Ghost Monument” is a little better, though - I’m excited to find out what that title is implying! Sounds interesting!)
ANTICIPATION #5: Girl Power: Whittaker For The Win!
Now, how can I not end this off with the most incredible thing about this upcoming series: Jodie Whittaker, a girl, playing the Doctor? Back in series 8, we were introduced to Missy, the latest incarnation of the Master (a role which Michelle Gomez absolutely slayed!), and now we have a female Doctor. As stated in every trailer that’s been released for the series to date, “it’s about time.” The world is changing - in a good way. It’s time for females to step up and take on male-dominated roles like the Doctor, especially in media. Girls need more inspirational figures, women who push boundaries and prove that they can be anything...that they can be anyone. Whittaker’s casting in the role of the Doctor is truly pivotal in the course of Doctor Who history, and I am SO excited to see where she goes with it - and what it will do for the future of female representation in male-dominated roles in the media. I'm sensing great things here - and I hope that these great things come to pass. I'll say it again and again and again - it's about time.
So, I’ll ask again. Do we have things to worry about in the upcoming series? Some long-time, die-hard fans will say yes. How can Doctor Who be Doctor Who without the Daleks? What’s the point of watching if Captain Jack Harkness and River Song will never return? Moffat’s episodes were all fantastic during the Russell T. Davies era, but Chibnall’s were never as great…will he be able to write decent, if not incredible episodes like the ones we’ve been privileged to have over the past ten series?
All of these concerns are worthy; in fact, I’ll admit that I have thought about them all at one point or another. But it’s 2018 now. It’s time for the future. The trailers look amazing; Whittaker’s post-regeneration scene was fantastic; and Doctor Who has faired really well with change in the past. Change isn’t a bad thing, it never was (and never will be!) - so I’ve got high hopes for the upcoming series. Besides, it’s a new dawn, and I’m absolutely confident that Whittaker will bring loads of spunk, talent and fun to the role of the Doctor within her first two minutes on screen.
There’s 17 days until the series premiere…and I. Cannot. Wait.
(P.S. - here’s the official series 11 trailer, released this morning, if any of you want to watch it. I highly recommend it - it looks ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. 5 stars to the BBC…October 7th cannot come soon enough!)