Doctor Who: Series Eleven - How well does it hold up? Part One - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Series Eleven - How well does it hold up? Part One

Moo begins revisiting the Thirteenth Doctor’s divisive freshman year.

It’s hard to believe that it was a over a year ago that series eleven was hitting our screens.

Series Twelve is well underway now. There’s so much to process after Spyfall, with a brand new Master in the universe to cause trouble, like casually destroying Gallifrey for instance. And there’s that whole business with the Timeless Child, whatever that is. I can’t wait for that to be utterly pointless.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. How well does the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut season hold up now the dust is settled?

Join me, won’t you? Let’s revisit those episodes in brief and ask if they’re actually any good.

The Woman Who Fell to Earth
It’s a debut story for the new Doctor and one of the most viewed episodes of all time. But is it actually any good? Well… yes, technically.

The story itself is kind of secondary to the fact it has to introduce not just a new Doctor but also three new companions. Chris Chibnall wisely does this while keeping the TARDIS and title sequence at bay, to make it easier to access for the anticipated new viewers.

The storyline itself is decent enough. There’s an alien warrior tracking down an assigned target in a very Predator-like way, nothing special but a watchable story that engages while it lasts. Tzim-Sha (or Tim Shaw if you prefer) looks threatening but his character is lacking in depth or interest. Similarly the decision to kill-off Grace is a very questionable one.

But overall The Woman Who Fell To Earth is a decent story for what it is.

The Ghost Monument
Following on from a solid cliffhanger ending, the second episode gets off to a great start. The first fifteen minutes of this episode are non-stop action and adrenaline that keeps the viewer engaged.

Sadly there’s still over another half hour left. The Ghost Monument is mostly filler. Angstrom and Epzo are one-dimensional characters who we never get a reason to invest in, and the story itself is mostly non-existent. We have threats teased and arcs set-up, but none of them go anywhere and then it ends.

Nothing to see here, move along. Oh wait, I guess this is important as we’re doing the Timeless Child now. It was dull back then, and I expect it’ll be dull now. Whatever.

Chibnall wisely shifts into co-writer position for this instalment, with the main credit going to Malorie Blackman of Noughts & Crosses fame. Like that novel, she is writing a story about race. The fact it’s an episode of Doctor Who is more of a convenient excuse for the story to happen.

This episode tells the story of Rosa Parks, but handles it with care and dignity to get away with such difficult material. However it doesn’t shy away from the reality of racism, both historical and contemporary, and goes head-on into it. Ryan getting slapped in the face for no good reason is the first sign of what we’re in for here, and it goes only further from there.

I cannot praise this episode enough for how the Doctor and her companions are utilised: Rosa Parks is never at any point inspired by them to stand up for herself – it’s all her, as it should be. If there are complaints to be made, then the diminished role of other civil rights leaders is one. The way it relates to the modern world (especially the hero worship of Obama and the shoutout to Rosa Parks asteroid) feels a little tacky too, and the villain is so under-developed that one-dimensional is too generous a description. These hold it back, but Rosa is an otherwise excellent episode.

Arachnids in the UK
This episode has a mixed reputation, but I actually really enjoy it. That’s not to say it’s especially good – it’s ultimately a subpar remake of The Green Death – but I have tremendous fun with it.

Chibnall doesn’t hold back on the spider imagery. They’re under the bed, they’re crawling over doors, on the ceiling, hiding in the wall, and coming up the bathroom plug. The whole thing uses these setpieces to create a fun rompy adventure that amounts in the end to a silly runaround with a resolution that’s far too simple and under-developed to really work.

There’s also a Trump satire in it. It’s about as developed, coherent, and necessary as this sentence. But at least Arachnids in the UK is a fun watch while it lasts.

The Tsuranga Conundrum
This is where the rot sets in. Episodes like this are everything you thought we wouldn’t have to endure post-Davison era. The Tsuranga Conundrum features a series of bleach-white sets that all look the same, a supporting cast that are just there to fill time, an exposition-driven narrative, a monster that looks ridiculous, and a title that is obnoxiously unpronounceable.

From what I can tell, another writer was initially set to do this story but pulled out forcing Chris Chibnall to step in. If so, you can forgive it being a messy episode. Unfortunately you can’t forgive it being boring.

You can compare this to Arachnids in the UK for messiness, but at least that one is fun to watch. The Tsuranga Conundrum is about as fun as watching paint dry, only less eventful. It's big joke? People eat avocados and isn’t that funny to say the word avocado.

Give me strength!

And that's a good time to take a break. Make the jump here as we continue with the back-half of series eleven of Doctor Who

“Moo” is the pseudonym used by this Doctor Who fan. He can usually be found procrastinating by thinking about Doctor Who. Follow him on Twitter @z_p_moo for more of his unusual takes, but do so at your own risk.

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