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I was unsure about the episode before it aired, because I just don't think grafting social issues onto Doctor Who is the best idea (I know it's been done before but many times the results have made me cringe, especially in the revival), and because there's something a bit offputting in 2018 about a white character saving the day for a historical figure, and because the scripts so far haven't exactly filled me with confidence. 

 

Overall I thought it was good - better than I thought it would be, anyway. The rightful decision to strip away goofy asides meant that Jodie Whittaker delivered what I'd say is by far her best performance as The Doctor, making the role her own with many moments of seriousness and quiet strength (and she did have a few small comedic bits, which she nailed). Beyond that, the biggest assets came from the multi-companion format, especially since two of the companions are people of color who would experience prejudice directly. Their private conversation was the highlight of the episode for me, and touched on some complicated truths that I wasn't expecting. And it's so great to see companions who, while they clearly like and respect the Doctor and are enjoying the journey together, do not exist for the Doctor.

 

I did think Bradley Walsh was terrific in this episode, and made what could have been tone deaf (the white companion devastated and outraged by racism) feel much more natural and believable, but I'm glad he wasn't the only voice. In earlier years I can imagine a lot of scenes of Rose or Donna crying in closeup about how bad racism was, which both Billie and Catherine would have acted the hell out of, but it just wouldn't have fit the tone. I'm also glad the Doctor was, while clearly disgusted by what she was seeing, more conscious of staying in the background, instead of what we have gotten with some past Doctors, which amounts to focusing too much on how awesome it is that the Doctor hates racists and putting the suffering of the actual people being discriminated against in the background. 

 

I think my biggest complaints are that I didn't really understand why Ryan didn't immediately clock that he would experience racism when they got to 1955 (he may not have known a lot of history but he would have known that, surely), I didn't know why the Doctor didn't have them return to the TARDIS (before they decided they couldn't) for more appropriate clothes, and why this needed a sci-fi element at all.

 

I get the whole idea of telling us that the future also has racism (which would have been more profound if the scene itself hadn't been so clunky), but I really, really wish this could have been a flat out historical, with the Doctor and her companions preventing natural occurrences for the time period to help make sure history happens. I think this could have been done without taking away from Rosa's fight, and would have made for a more cohesive and powerful episode. 

 

I also thought that the locals were all one-dimensional props. While I understand why they did not want to go the usual route of inserting a sympathetic and wonderful white character, as we so often get in these types of subjects (Roots, The Help, etc.) having so many different caricatures, many of whom struggled badly with their attempts at Southern accents, made the episode feel much more artificial than it needed to be. 

 

(and while I understand why they didn't want to insert all kinds of material about MLK as well, him being introduced so randomly for one short sequence made me wonder if something with Ryan's story was cut for time)

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And from a film festival in the UK:

 

"[Russell T. Davies and I] are not friends and never will be again. We fell out very badly."

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I have never found Chris Chibnall capable of producing a DW that meets the creative standards of Davies or Moffat, though they were neither without flaws. This opinion has not changed.

 

If he goes it would be very foolish of her to do so. And it's ridiculous IMO for him to suggest he can't meet the yearly standard.

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The gap year has been confirmed. I suppose BBCA better hope Killing Eve’s second season really breaks out ratingswise (a possibility) because their biggest show will be off the air for all of 2019 save for the Jan. 1 special.

 

First look at the New Year’s special.

 

 

Edited by Costello

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Oh, for fùck's sake, Chibnall.

 

I have never felt he was ready for this job and this does nothing to change that.

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29 minutes ago, Vee said:

Oh, for fùck's sake, Chibnall.

 

I have never felt he was ready for this job and this does nothing to change that.

Yeah. I wonder if Toby Whithouse was ever in contention to be showrunner. His episodes, while never my favorites, were certainly levels better than Chibnall ever produced as a writer for DW, and Being Human proved he could do rich character work with a lot of humor. But I suppose the massive success of Broadchurch trumped all of that.

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 I gave Chibnall a shot, but he has benefitted tremendously from a massive media push, the novelty of the paradigm shift of a female Doctor, and the natural change in the prior old DW order which was ready to end. Because of those factors, I think regardless of the showrunner you would've still seen a similar viewer surge as we've seen this year with a new Doctor and focus, especially a female one.

I welcomed Jodie, still do and think she deserves a lot better than the frankly bland show I feel he's putting out. Drama credentials aside, Chibnall has never been among the top tier of available Who/sci-fi talent and has given her the least creatively formidable start of any modern Doctor IMO. Even Series 2 had its highlights and took risks. I just don't feel he has. And I don't feel he will. And it's a shame, because the sooner Jodie Whittaker gets a very strong team behind her the better. This is no way to showcase the first female star of this series.

 

My personal feelings about Chibnall's run aside though, I don't think the show is in a position of weakness right now, at least not in the public eye and with its figures. I think it could very easily be, if they continue to just let the show amble along and take a ton of time off. It's not smart, IMO. Strike while the iron is hot, because this is the hottest the franchise has been in several years. (And I say that as someone who thought Capaldi and Moffat managed a minor miracle rebooting the show's tone and style in Series 8 and never got enough credit for it.) I feel this is primed for a Series 7 type of malaise, and neither Chibnall nor anyone else involved is remotely prepared to weather that IMO.

I should probably dial it back before I'm turning into one of the doomsayers who thought every new year since 2005 was 1989 all over again. We're definitely not anywhere near there - the numbers are great and it's very hot with the public atm. I just wish Jodie Whittaker was getting a better show and a better overall situation.

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I think time slot has helped a lot too. More people are at home on Sundays, so live virewing has increased, and at least in the States, it helps that TWD is in steep decline, the female-focused CW genre shows did sorta meh, Outlander isn’t as fresh, and HBO and Showtime didn’t have any big fall launches. Network programming on Sunday nights has become dismal, aside from all things NFL. Doctor Who benefits from that. Most of the new interest has come from younger women, while interest from younger men has stagnated or even decreased. They’ll need to figure out how to either get the younger men back (doubtful) or stem any losses from women, who’ve been pretty loyal this season. 

Edited by Costello

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