The eleventh season of Doctor Who introduced the first female Doctor and her team of diverse companions. Here’s what we thought of each of the episodes.
Despite much controversy (read: misogynist nonsense), Doctor Who’s latest season, featuring the first ever female Doctor, ended on a high note. Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor debuted in the 2017 Christmas Special ‘Twice Upon A Time’, with fans eagerly awaiting her 10-episode season in Fall 2018.
Whittaker’s Doctor and her companions, Bradley Walsh’s Graham, Mandip Gill’s Yaz, and Tosin Cole’s Ryan, were incredibly fun to watch this season, giving viewers the kind of camaraderie and enthusiasm Doctor Who is popular for.
We’ve enjoyed every episode and are here to give you our definitive ranking of this season.
10 – The Tsuranga Conundrum
During a salvage operation on a garbage planet, the Doctor and her companions are hit by a sonic bomb. They are rescued by a medical facility, Tsuranga, for treatment, but the ship soon comes under attack from a mysterious, and deadly, creature called the Pting. Severely injured, the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz must enlist the help of the hospital’s patients if they are to survive the Pting’s wrath.
This incredibly quirky episode comes mid-way through the season and, despite its space setting, is all about the human (and alien) heart. Relationships are forged and strengthened as strangers band together for the greater good. It’s exciting and pacey, a little bit zany, but an absolute thrill to watch. Oh, and the Pting is quite adorable, even if it’s going to kill everyone.
9 – Arachnids in the UK
The Doctor finally manages to get her team back to Sheffield, Yorkshire, but they barely have a moment to rest before giant spiders begin to attack the city. The Doctor discovers a connection between the spiders and the hotel where Yaz’s mother, Najia (Shobna Gulati), has recently got a job. In the hotel, they find that the spider problem is much worse than they had anticipated, and there’s an obnoxious hotel owner who’s getting in the way.
You may not like spiders but you’re going to feel bad for these creepy crawlies by the time this episode is through. As so often in this season of Doctor Who, the real enemy isn’t who we think it is. For all the spiders’ horrifying actions, they are nowhere near as horrible as billionaire hotel owner Robertson, played smarmily well by Chris Noth. Human beings really are the worst!
8 – Kerblam!
One of the more sci-fi heavy episodes of this season. ‘Kerblam!’ sees Team TARDIS going undercover at the titular galaxy-wide delivery factory when they receive a call for help via a package that contains a very familiar item to Doctor Who fans. Once inside the factory, the team chafe against the harsh working conditions and uncover a conspiracy led by someone deep within.
‘Kerblam!’ starts off simple enough but takes a surprisingly dark turn toward the end. What should have been an episode about corporate espionage turns into a tale about domestic terrorism. It’s a fascinating watch, chockful of humour, but with so many twists and turns that you’re bound to be at the edge of your seat the whole way through.
7 – The Witchfinders
Team TARDIS land up in the sleepy village of Bilehurst Cragg in the 17th century, right in the middle of the witch trials. Something is very off with the town and things get further complicated when King James (Alan Cumming) himself becomes involved in village affairs. But it isn’t just witches that people have to worry about; the dead are rising up as well!
The plot is intense and packed with villains. There’s plenty of investigating to do, by the characters and the viewers, which makes it very immersive. This episode also quite brilliantly deals with sexism without being ham-handed about it. The Doctor, the smartest person around, is pushed aside by the King, as is Yaz, with Graham and Ryan being elevated, simply because of their gender. You can see how frustrated both the Doctor and Yaz become at their treatment, but nevertheless, they prevail to save the day!
6 – The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos
The season finale puts the entire universe at stake as the team answer nine distress calls, all leading them to Ranskoor Av Kolos. But there are only more mysteries to solve when they get to the planet. It doesn’t help that the planet is messing with people’s minds, leaving a ship commander suffering severe amnesia with no memory of his mission or what happened to his crew. Then, there’s the mysterious Ux, who seem to be under the sway of a powerful being intent on wreaking havoc. Team TARDIS are about to face their most formidable enemy.
The episode brings the season full circle with an enemy from the premiere episode appearing here to get his just desserts. The Doctor is, for once, at a loss, unable to comprehend such evil within a fellow living being. But, when the dust settles, the team get a happy ending and finally resolve the matters that weighed on their hearts.
5 – The Ghost Monument
The Doctor locates the last coordinates of the TARDIS, but ends up sending herself, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz, right into space. Graham and Ryan are rescued by Angstrom (Susan Lynch), while the Doctor and Yaz land up on Epzo’s (Shaun Dooley) ship. Angstrom and Epzo are completing the last leg of a race that could set them up for life, but little do they know that the planet they have to compete on is out to kill everyone.
Suspense infuses each scene of this episode especially as the Doctor and her friends are desperately looking for help to get off the planet but everyone around them is focused on their competition. There are lessons to be learned and bonds to forge, not to mention some breath-taking action scenes, making this a memorable entry for the season.
4 – It Takes You Away
Team TARDIS are enjoying a break in beautiful Norway when they come across a boarded-up house with a terrified young girl inside. Hanne (Ellie Wallwork) has been hiding from a monster she believes has taken her father. As the team investigates, the Doctor discovers that the house is attached to an inter-dimensional pathway. But, where does it lead to?
Viewers were stunned by how scary this episode was, but nothing quite prepares you for how heart-breaking it turns out to be. Not only do a number of the characters have to come face to face with their own grief, but the Doctor herself has to confront her loneliness. Being the last of your species isn’t easy.
3 – Demons of the Punjab
Yaz convinces the Doctor to take the team to 1947 India so she can find out about a wristwatch her grandmother had given her. But when aliens appear, the Doctor realises something is wrong. Little does the team know that the aliens are the least of their problems. A terrible rift is going to tear a country apart, and Yaz’s family along with it.
‘Demons of the Punjab’ was an important episode for the series because of how it examined Britain’s colonial past, something still rare in the British entertainment industry. Critics around the world applauded Doctor Who for its depiction of the effects of the Partition of India, including us, but the historical aspect of this story isn’t the only reason why its so high on this list. This episode was as beautiful as it was devastating. Watching the team get close to people who they would eventually lose was heart-breaking, as was seeing how the boundaries human beings create destroy the people we love. This really is one for the ages.
2 – The Woman Who Fell to Earth
The 13th Doctor’s debut was nothing short of ignominious. Having lost her TARDIS, the Doctor falls to Earth, smack dab in the middle of a fight between two alien species who have no right to be on the planet. With her memory in tatters from regenerating, no TARDIS, and a group of humans with no idea how to deal with aliens, the Doctor has her work cut out for her.
As debuts go, this is a very strong one. The Doctor is instantly likeable and her companions have plenty of agency and the drive to help. There’s a real sense of urgency in this episode with the threat of people being killed looming over the Doctor and her new friends. The pacing is brilliant, there’s plenty of humour, and so much suspense. And that devastating ending will make you instantly love the characters. You couldn’t ask for a better story to begin a new Doctor’s journey.
1 – Rosa
The TARDIS is acting up and lands the Doctor and her companions in 1955, Montgomery, Alabama. When the Doctor picks up traces of a fellow time-traveller, the team decide to investigate. They soon realise that someone is trying to sabotage history – particularly the moment when Rosa Parks remains in her seat on a bus. If this event doesn’t take place, human history could be destroyed.
We can’t stress the importance of this episode enough, but it’s also a stunningly well-written story. Malorie Blackman, former UK Children’s Laureate, perfectly weaves history with a suspenseful plot. It’s edge of your seat stuff as the team split up to keep history intact. The saboteur is always a step ahead of them and the team have to think on their feet throughout, making for one hell of a nail-biter. And that closing scene with the team and Rosa on the bus, set to the tune of Rise Up by Andra Day, will have you in tears.
This season of Doctor Who has been a joy to watch, with each episode giving viewers plenty of suspense, action, and sci-fi goodness, all with a helpful dollop of heart. We can’t wait to watch the New Year’s Special, and it’s going to be a torturous wait till 2020, when season two brings back our favourite characters.