Doctor Who season 11 will be memorable for including a female protagonist for the first time, and for embracing diversity. The season has converted me from a skeptic to a fan.
I’ve never watched an entire season of Doctor Who – I have barely even watched a handful of episodes (most of them to do with Captain Jack Harkness so I could watch Torchwood). But, after watching season 11’s‘ Demons of the Punjab’, I was intrigued by the direction of the show and have tuned in every week since.
As happy as I was for Jodie Whittaker to take over the role of the Doctor, I was still skeptical about the production values and general vibe of the show. With the season completed, I went back and watched the first few episodes that I had missed, and I ended up loving every one of them. Doctor Who, you’ve earned yourself a new fan!
I look back at the season and what made me fall in love with the show when I had so little interest in it. Spoilers ahead for the season!
Jodie Whittaker is a marvel as the 13th Doctor. It’s astounding that a show like Doctor Who, which has been around since 1963, only cast a woman in the lead role in 2017. What’s worse is the minority of fans who were vocally resentful of the casting, even threatening to boycott the show.
The negativity didn’t stop Whittaker from giving an outstanding performance as the Doctor. Her enthusiasm for the role is obvious, and she really gets stuck into the craziness of the part. Her energy is infectious – she’s bubbly and humorous, always on the move, and despite being the smartest person around, she tends not to be too condescending.
I love how much of a pacifist this Doctor is (I’m sure all the others were as well but I didn’t watch them) and that she always believes the best in people, even when they demonstrate otherwise. She isn’t above bringing a bully down a peg or two when they need it, and she is a fierce and loyal friend to her companions.
I also loved how much the Doctor enjoys being in her female form. The scene in ‘Demons of the Punjab’ where she is getting mehendi applied to her hands, something she never got to do as a man, put a massive smile on my face. But the show doesn’t harp on about the change in gender, instead letting the Doctor embrace her new form.
I honestly can’t wait to see more of Whittaker’s Doctor in the New Year’s Special, and I’m glad she’ll be returning for another season, even if it won’t be for another two years.
Companions can make or break a Doctor, as I’ve come to understand. The male Doctors have usually always been surrounded by pretty young things who act as audience stand-ins or eye candy. But this season gave audiences three well-rounded companions with fully-developed personalities and room to explore their respective dynamics with the Doctor.
Having come in halfway through the season, I wasn’t aware that the companions were connected to each other – Graham (Bradley Walsh) is Ryan’s (Tosin Cole) step-grandfather, and Yazmin (Mandip Gill) went to school with Ryan. They also all live in the same building. Small universe!
Graham is the heart of the show. Having lost his brave wife, Grace (Sharon D. Clarke), in the season premiere, Graham is a haunted man who finds travelling through time and space the best way to cope with his grief. He brought most of the humour to the show, but also a great deal of pathos. His relationship with Ryan was a slow-burn with a beautiful ending in the finale.
Ryan, a young man with little direction in his life, joins the Doctor to honour Grace’s bravery. Ryan is the go-getter who is least likely to look before he leaps. He grows the most under the tutelage of the Doctor, and by the end of the season, he seems to have finally found purpose in his life.
Yaz, a police-officer with dreams of one day being in charge, is the brains of the business. She is most often called upon by the Doctor to aid her and is an incredibly fast-learner. If you need something done, Yaz is the one you ask. She is also the most pragmatic and positive person on the team, and she was by far my favourite, and likely the Doctor’s, as well. The Doctor becomes incredibly close to Yaz in a very short span of time, and is constantly afraid of something happening to Yaz, even more so than the others. Hmmmm, are we meant to read into that?
I feel the show is moving towards Ryan and Yaz ending up in a relationship, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t ship the Doctor and Yaz just a little bit. Even Yaz’s mum thinks they’re together at one point, so I’m not wrong there! Of course, Yaz’s mum also thinks Yaz is with Ryan, in the very same episode no less, so she may not be the best judge of whether or not her daughter is in a relationship.
There was no over-arching season villain here but Tim Shaw (Samuel Oatley) does open and close the season, making him the only recurring baddie. I have to admit, I am glad I began watching from episode six – had I seen the season opener with Tim Shaw as the villain, I may have given up. Though the premiere was a remarkable story, Tim Shaw’s facial prosthetics severely triggered my Trypophobia (do not Google that!), and would have put me off watching the rest of the season for sure. Fortunately, I instead saw the wonderful episodes that came after, which made me love the show enough to ignore Tim Shaw’s face.
A villain, if you can call it so, who I would love to see again is the Pting. I know it’s a destructive little beast but it is quite adorable and I am certain the Doctor will find some way to befriend it.
I also feel we haven’t seen the last of billionaire businessman Robertson (Chris Noth). He tells Team TARDIS that he will be running for the US Presidency in 2020, and that’s when the second season for Whittaker’s Doctor will air, so it is likely that we will revisit this trigger-happy nuisance then.
I am most intrigued by the Solitract, as seen in ‘It Takes You Away’. A being with the power to create mirror universes who is desperate for company – even the Doctor sympathised with its loneliness and I really hope we get to meet it again.
I was only remotely interested in watching this season of Doctor Who because the show finally had a female lead, which tells you a lot about the importance of gender equality in entertainment. But, as I was watching this season, I was surprised by how diverse the casting was throughout. Not only were two of the companions people of colour, but almost every episode had diverse genders and ethnicities represented. There was even a female character in ‘The Ghost Monument’ who mentioned having a wife and, as I mentioned before, Yaz’s mum thought Yaz and the Doctor were in a relationship.
Diversity makes such a difference to the viewing experience and is a massive reason why so many people loved this season. When you see yourself portrayed in the media that you consume, you automatically enjoy it that much more. It’s what cis straight, white men have been taking for granted their entire lives, and now women and people of colour get a small slice of that.
These ten episodes of season 11 have been an exciting journey for me as a new fan. There is a lot I need to learn about Doctor Who but I never once felt alienated by the stories in this season – in fact, I felt empowered. I am so glad to be able to delve into this new universe with this group of diverse characters. If you need me, I’ll be shopping online for a 13th Doctor coat.