Doctor Who may very well travel in time and space, what with the shocking timeliness of its latest episode, “Kerblam!” The seventh episode of season 11 delivers a sharp critique of Amazon while tossing in several fun nods to David Tennant and Matt Smith’s eras, in a story that itself plays like a spirited throwback to Doctor Who of yesteryear.
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The holidays are coming and the Doctor is in – just not for the holiday that you’d expect. After reports surfaced that the BBC had scrapped the Doctor Who Christmas special for the first time in 13 years, the network has officially announced that Jodie Whittaker‘s 13th Doctor will have a holiday special after all: on New Year’s Day. Read More »
Fifty-five years ago, Doctor Who was created as a children’s educational program: a sci-fi series that took British children on whirlwind adventures to the far reaches of time and space with the express purpose of making history sexy. Along the way, that original intention got lost as the series — like most sci-fi franchises — got bogged down by a dense mythology and cohorts of child fans who had turned into adults. As the series entered the 21st century, Doctor Who had to compete with sleek, modern sci-fi series like Battlestar Galactica or Firefly, leading it to often reimagine itself to appeal to “mature” sci-fi fans who craved complex storylines (though still keeping its signature weird, campy flair).
But Chris Chibnall and co. seem intent on bringing us back to Doctor Who‘s roots. As with this season’s “Rosa,” “Demons of the Punjab” is here to educate and enlighten its viewers about a certain time period or person, aliens be damned. Well no, there are still aliens, but they’re secondary to the all-important historical lesson that Doctor Who has to impart.
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All this season, I’ve felt like Chris Chibnall’s era of Doctor Who is trying to get on its feet, testing out new dynamics and new baddies while enthusiastically (maybe a little too enthusiastically) proving that this is the sci-fi show you know and love. “The Tsuranga Conundrum,” the Chibnall-penned fifth episode of the 11th season, is the epitome of that: leaning back on a familiar narrative while introducing whole new worlds and universes in a show that has prided itself for its kind of insular mythology. And while I’m happy for Doctor Who to leave the Daleks and the Weeping Angels be for now, I can’t help but feel a little wistful for the recognizable elements that the Chibnall era is so quick to shed.
It’s a good thing then that Jodie Whittaker gives her most delightful turn yet as the 13th Doctor in “The Tsuranga Conundrum.” Where Doctor Who is starting to feel progressively unfamiliar, Whittaker’s Doctor is steadily becoming that familiar friend who I can’t wait to hang out with each week. My ranking of favorite Doctors has already been thrown into chaos.
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Since the show’s revival in 2005, the Doctor Who Christmas specials have become a staple of the holiday season, and a chance for the BBC sci-fi series to flex a blockbuster budget for one night only. These are big event episodes where we’ve seen some of our favorite Doctors leave, and our other favorite Doctors begin their runs. In fact, the current 13th Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker, was introduced to much fanfare in the 2017 Christmas special.
But that may change this year. Reports say that showrunner Chris Chibnall has scrapped this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special altogether, which is a pretty depressing way to kick off the holiday season. But there may be a silver lining to that lump of coal we’ve just received.
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Doctor Who has never really done Halloween-themed episodes (despite the scary bent of many of its episodes, Christmas is more this show’s speed), but it seems fitting that the BBC sci-fi show’s Halloween-adjacent episode has all the hallmarks of a B-horror movie: corrupt businessmen, science gone horribly wrong, and big-ass spiders. “Arachnids in the U.K.” sees the Doctor and her companions return to Earth in an episode that recalls the classic show and gives us a creepy crawler that — in true Doctor Who fashion — made me feel more emotions than just fear.
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The Doctor has tangled with plenty of historical figures before but — as seems to be the trend with this new season of Doctor Who — “Rosa” is unlike any of those past jaunts in history. The third episode of Doctor Who season 11 takes Team TARDIS to 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, where the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham stumble into Rosa Parks on the eve of her big history-making bus protest. But contrary to what we’ve seen in Doctor Who before, “Rosa” plays it completely straight, foregoing the sci-fi show’s usual whimsy in favor of a hard-hitting, utterly empowering episode television.
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(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired or help us better understand George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition: Doctor Who.)
There’s a lot of crossover between Star Wars fans and Doctor Who fans. There’s a lot to love about both franchises, but some might not know how closely the two franchises have intertwined from the beginning. Doctor Who began in its historic run in 1963, close to fifteen years before Star Wars would ever hit the big screen. Since both franchises were filmed largely in the United Kingdom, it’s no wonder there would be some crossover in talent, but some might not realize how much crossover there really is.
For those Star Wars fans who don’t know, Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction television series of all time and it’s about a timelord who calls themselves the Doctor. They travel through all of time and space righting wrongs and saving the world. It’s exactly the sort of thing Star Wars fans might love, and after you’re done with this article, maybe you’ll love it twice as much.
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Cool Posts From Around the Web:
The Morning Watch is a recurring feature that highlights a handful of noteworthy videos from around the web. They could be video essays, fanmade productions, featurettes, short films, hilarious sketches, or just anything that has to do with our favorite movies and TV shows.
In this edition, take a dive into the visual effects and concept art of the water bears from the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Plus, get up close and personal with the new TARDIS from the 1tth season of Doctor Who, and listen to a Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle them song Jack Black wrote with Nick Jonas. Read More »
Well, I asked for something more visually impressive, and I got it. “The Ghost Monument” might be the most cinematic episode of Doctor Who yet, with the BBC likely pouring lots of money into those sweeping drone shots and the on-location shoot in South Africa. Where the charming but mostly competent season premiere felt almost suffocatingly small, the second episode of season 11 balloons out with an episode centering on an intergalactic space race. As for whether the episode’s narrative catches up with its ambitious premise, well, I’ll get to that later.
This season already feels unlike any season of Doctor Who before — but as for exactly how to describe this new era of the show, I’m kind of at a loss. Jodie Whittaker‘s debut episode as the 13th Doctor was a slow-to-unfold, character-driven drama, while “The Ghost Monument” is all rolling sand dunes and blockbuster-inspired storylines. But perhaps what new showrunner Chris Chibnall is bringing to Doctor Who is an undercurrent of scrappiness. Whittaker’s Doctor is less in control and more prone to scrambling for a solution than her predecessors — making the series more exciting and alien than ever. Welcome to the truly modern Doctor Who, replete with shaky handheld, grimy settings, and extreme close-ups. But while director Mark Tonderai piles on the lavish visuals, Chibnall’s script for “The Ghost Monument” is sadly a little lightweight.
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