Doctor Who (2018)

You’d have to have spent the last 15 months living on Raxacoricofallapatorious not to know that Jodie Whittaker had been cast as the first female Doctor Who. So after all the hype, was it a risk to call her first episode The Woman Who Fell to Earth?

Not a bit of it. Whittaker may have come crashing through the roof of a train – to confront an alien in the most exciting Sunday night railway carriage stand-off since Bodyguard – but in every other respect she is out of this world. Her Doctor is a fizzing, quicksilver, lightning rod of energy – brain running at a million miles an hour, mouth talking a blue streak – who looks set to earn her place in the front rank of TV Time Lords.

Incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall has also given the franchise a wash and brush up, with ‘relatable’ very much the new watchword. He’s even gone as far as to make Sheffield the somewhat unlikely new centre of the Doctor Who universe, while casting Bradley Walsh as one of the Doctor’s companions serves notice that the show is going for the broadest, big tent audience possible, from the kids to your nan.

Sure, the actual invasion-of-the-week plot – some hooey about an alien using the Earth as a tribal hunting ground – was rather flimsy, but that’s the standard M.O. with these relaunch stories. Really, this was all about showcasing Whittaker’s funny, goofy, charming new Doctor as she got to know her new friends – and her new self.

‘We’re all capable of the most incredible change,’ our hero told the big bad monster (whose name, hilariously, she insisted on mishearing as Tim) during their climactic crane-top confrontation. ‘We can evolve while still staying true to who we are. We can honour who we’ve been, and choose who we want to be next.’

This, of course, is Chris Chibnall’s way of saying that reinvention is hardwired into Doctor Who’s DNA. It’s the reason the show has endured so long, and it’s the reason why – even after 55 years – it feels like the adventure is only just beginning. Buckle in.


TV extra:

 

Magic Numbers: Hannah Fry’s Mysterious World of Maths

There was no faulting Dr Hannah Fry’s ambition as she set out to solve ‘a mystery at the heart of the universe’ – namely, was maths discovered or invented? In the course of her research, she did a lot of wandering around and staring wistfully out to sea, Philomena Cunk-style, while asking such fascinating philosophical puzzlers as: Who invented the concept of zero, and is reality an illusion? Double maths at school was never this fun.

 

My Favourite Sketch

Barry Cryer once said that analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog: Nobody laughs and the frog dies. But this new show – a sort of Desert Island LOLs, in which Sally Phillips and guest discuss a selection box of classic comedy moments – is as good an attempt as any. And with a guest as sharp as Paul Whitehouse, singing the praises of everyone from Laurel and Hardy to Vic and Bob, it’s certainly a step up from the usual lazy clip-fests.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, October 11, 2018

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