Doctor Who’s strong series opener proves there’s life in The Old Doc yet

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By George Mellowship, Third Year, Geography

Being a Doctor Who (1963-) fan is not always easy. Despite the universal acclaim and excitement at Jodie Whittaker being named as the first female doctor in 2017, leading to viewing figures of the 56-year-old BBC flagship at a decade high, her first season written by Chris Chibnall was met with mixed reviews.

Most of the criticism aimed at the programme was that the series was made up of 10 stand alone stories which were simplistic, featuring unimpressive monsters and aliens, leaving the series feeling a bit of a disappointment. There were claims that the three companions: Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) were not developed enough, with the TARDIS feeling overcrowded, in turn leading to the Doctor feeling underused without really being tested against adversity.

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Much of the criticism aimed at the show sharing too much screen-time between the Doctor, Yaz, and Graham and Ryan (pictured) | Courtesy of BBC

This left me feeling sceptical about the new season and the least excited I have been for the series premiere since the reboot of 2005. Spyfall, the first episode of series 12 premiered on New Year’s Day, 10 years since the heart-breaking regeneration of David Tennant’s Doctor - still painful.

The episode which is the first of a two-parter is openly a pun on the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall, and the episode features lots of fun call backs and references to spy movies without feeling overused or gimmicky. The story follows the Doctor being summoned by the head of MI6, played wonderfully by Stephen Fry, to investigate the murder of secret agents from all over the world.

The production team seem to have listened to the criticism of the last series and made the appropriate changes

The story features Lenny Henry, proving that he is not just the bloke from the Premier Inn adverts - putting in a convincing performance as a Bond-esque villain. Whilst I will try and keep this article spoiler-free, as the episode is much better the less you know, read on with caution as spoilers may follow.

Whittaker's Doctor has been met with mixed reviews, though this may be due to the writing | Courtesy of BBC

One highlight of the episode is that the action gets going within the first five minutes. There are car chases, gun shootouts and cool gadgets: all of which are key features to a spy film, but it still retains a sense that this is a Doctor Who episode. The monsters of the episode are scarier in premise than appearance: mysterious beings that can phase through physical boundaries and can appear out of nowhere - but are mainly just glowing humanoid figures.

As this is the first half of the story, it can not be fully judged until the second half has aired on January 5. However, the real highlight of the episode is the last 5-10 minutes. The conclusion of the first part is an absolute knockout, and perhaps one of the best across the 12 series since 2005.

Doctor Who has been my favourite programme since I was 7 and the cliff-hanger was genuinely the most the programme has surprised me in years - leaving me equally shocked and delighted. It is all the more impressive that this surprise has not been leaked by Twitter or the tabloids and highlights the care at which the series has been produced. Think Gavin and Stacey (2007-) SPOILER ALERT Nessa proposing to Smithy level of shocking, it really is that good. Even casual fans that have not tuned in for a couple of years will care.

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Whilst the cliff hanger is delightful, the rest of the episode holds up as an exciting, well-paced story and is easily one of the best episodes of the Whittaker era. It looks stunning and the special effects do not look out of place or clunky, and the gorgeous range of global locations make the episode feel important and expansive.

It is really refreshing that the production team seem to have listened to the criticism of the last series and made the appropriate changes. All four of the main characters seem to have an appropriate role in the episode and are served relatively well by the script.

Lenny Henry played Daniel Barton, the James Bond-esque villain | Courtesy of BBC

Spyfall was a treat to nurse a bad New Year’s hangover and has left me counting down the hours to the second part of the story. Doctor Who has and most likely will always be one of my favourites, but this episode sets up a potentially explosive season and has reignited my love for all things TARDIS. An exciting, enjoyable, easy to watch reintroduction to travels in time and space with hopefully a Happy Who Year to follow!

Featured: Courtesy of BBC


Are you equally excited for Doctor Who's long-awaited second part tonight?

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