Book Review – Doctor Who: The Good Doctor

  • Title: The Good Doctor
  • Series: BBC Books New Series Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Juno Dawson
  • Characters: Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, Graham
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/30/2020

I found The Good Doctor to be disappointing – it’s basically a chance for the author to bash organized religion and even make lots of anti-Catholic attacks at the end of the book. And that type of bigotry is something that doesn’t belong in Doctor Who, especially the more recent years which have tried to be more accepting of diversity.

The story opens at the end of another story as the Doctor, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz are on Lobos, a planet with two races: human colonists and intelligent dogs. The two races are in a civil war, so the Doctor with help from Ryan, Yaz, and Graham, brokers a peace agreement. There’s even an interracial couple that’s a symbol of the new way, with the Humans and Lobos sharing the planet. Having “fixed things” the Doctor and company leave.

But Ryan realizes he’s lost his phone on Lobos so they return. And it’s 600 years later and someone has started a new religion – worshipping “The Good Doctor”. This religion has become the state religion of the humans and sees the Lobos enslaved. Women are also second-class citizens, forced to worship separately, not allowed out by themselves after nightfall, and basically denied their civil rights. Women are blamed for “The Fall” and a “plague” that nearly wiped out everyone on Lobos – the Lobos are also blamed for the plague, and it’s revealed they were hunted and killed. And this new religion thinks Graham is “The Good Doctor”.

The abuse and enslavement of the Lobos and lower status of women have led to a resistance movement. Unfortunately, the rebel leader has been pushed so far, especially after the death of his wife in a raid, that he wants to destroy the ruling humans completely. The entire city, especially the TARDIS-like temple rests on a network of caves and tunnels from previous mining. And the rebel leader has been expanding the tunnels, causing earthquakes. But his big plan is to literally topple the temple by tunneling under it.

Although the story moves along quickly, it’s marred by the author’s attacks on religion, which weaken the story as well. It would have been more interesting if Ryan’s lost phone had had some sort of effect on the culture of Lobos, but as it is, the phone is barely mentioned and never recovered.

The Doctor confronts the leadership of this new religion, while Yaz talks down the rebel leader from his winner-takes-all position and Ryan works with one of the Lobos. It works out, but it’s hinted that now the Thirteenth Doctor is the subject of adoration and worship. The book is OK but not great. I’m very glad that this was the last of the three Thirteenth Doctor BBC novels I read, though it may have been published first. I’d recommend only purchasing it to have a complete set.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Molten Heart

  • Title: Molten Heart
  • Series: BBC Books New Series Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Una McCormack
  • Characters: Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, Graham
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/30/2019

**Spoiler alert**

Molten Heart is an achingly beautiful book. The planet where the Doctor and her companions happen to land is beautiful, and home to a unique society of living rocks. The story opens with the Doctor and her companions, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz landing the TARDIS – they are in a bubble inside the crust of a planet. There are gemstones and semi-precious stones in abundance, but something seems off. Ryan and Graham are nearly killed by a sudden super-heated geyser of water and steam and the group meets Ash – a living rock, and one of the people who live in Diamond City, though she is more of an explorer than the very much stay at home types of her home city. It turns out her father, Basalt was a scientist – and a scientist who is very concerned about their home. He did studies and experiments in his library and workshop but the leadership of Diamond City ignored him. Finally, in desperation, he set out on a mission to find out more about the sudden cracks in the sky, the geysers, why the Ocean dried up, etc.

After learning about this from Ash and a friend of Basalt’s named Quartz, the group hides as much of Basalt’s research as possible, then sets off to follow him. Fairly early on in the trip, there’s another surprise geyser and the group is separated into two groups – the Doctor, Ryan, and Ash continue to follow Basalt’s trail whereas Quartz, Yaz and Graham return in secret to Diamond City. The Doctor manages to warn Yaz not to trust Quartz.

In Diamond City, Yaz and Graham meet a group of Basalt’s “friends” but many of them don’t quite trust the travelers and see them as proof of Basalt’s “heresy” instead, so they are turned over to the Greenwatch – the secret police directly controlled by Emerald, the leader of Diamond City. Yaz tried to explain to Emerald she was from another planet but that the Doctor was there to help, but Emerald refuses to listen and locks her up. Fortunately, one of the people at the initial meeting, Onyx, does believe Yaz and helps her and Graham get out of jail.

Meanwhile, The Doctor, Ryan, and Ash follow her father’s trail – it’s beautiful, exciting and weird, the type of fantasy-science adventure we don’t often see in Doctor Who more similar to Jules Verne or JRR Tolkein than the show, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You have canoeing on a lava river, giant mushroom forests, all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff. Eventually, they find Basalt and the remains of an extraterrestrial mining colony – which is stressing the crust of the planet and threatening the entire civilization. Basalt and his small company of companions are trying to stop the crack, because if it continues the entire world will flood, but they aren’t having much luck against such a huge problem. The Doctor goes to the surface of the planet only to discover the entire operation is automatic, and even the machines were built automatically by nanomachines. She turns off the drilling equipment but triggers a series of defense satellites, which start firing at the planet. Then she contacts the people responsible – only to discover an inexperienced staffer on his second day who has no idea what to do. The Doctor talks him through making some good decisions. Ryan also gets to play an almost video game of shooting the unarmed satellites out of the sky. Needless to say, Ryan loves it.

The Doctor also uses to alien telecom equipment first to reach Yaz and Graham, but later to address Emerald – and when she discovers Emerald had declared Basalt a heretic who’s “science” was causing the disasters (by this time an entire “colony” or suburb had been destroyed when a crack in the sky let in deadly seawater), the Doctor address all the people in Diamond City, showing them the truth about their Bubble World, the aliens who had started mining operations, and how even with shutting everything down – Basalt would need help fixing the existing damage. Emerald has a hard time admitting her mistakes – but she does, and the Doctor uses the TARDIS to transport more rock people to the crack to help fix it. Ryan also suggests reversing the nanobots to take apart machinery and fill in the miner’s tunnels, which they do.

With everything on its way to being fixed, and Basalt being rescued – as well as seeing the surface of his own planet for the first time, briefly, the Doctor and her fam leave.

Molten Heart is a beautiful story – the rock people and their city is gorgeous, their society makes sense (it’s small and insular and in general no one wants to explore – very much the small English village or even small, American town), and even though the message about how the climate is changing and it threatens everyone and everything if something isn’t done – well the message is there but I didn’t feel it was too overbearing. Emerald isn’t evil, just a bit misguided in how she approaches a challenge. Her fear of “panic” if people know the danger is overblown of course, once the Doctor tells everyone the truth and asks for help for Basalt – she gets even more help than she needs and everyone pitches in to help shore up the cracked ceiling and prevent seawater getting in and killing the rock people and destroying their city. (The salt water acts like acid and dissolves the rock people instantly.) Even the aliens who set up the mining are more lazy and inefficient than outright evil – the planet seemed uninhabited. (The guy the Doctor contacts is almost laughable and adorable at the same time – it’s his *second day* and he has no idea how to handle a crisis, much less the Doctor!) I highly recommend this novel, it’s one of the best Doctor Who stories I’ve read in a long time!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – Hidden Human History

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – Hidden Human History
  • Authors: Jody Houser
  • Artists: Roberta Ingranata (Artist), Rachael Stott (Artist),  Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colorist), Viviana Spinelli (Assistant Colorist), Sarah Jacobs (Letterer), John Roshell (Letterer)
  • Line:  13th Doctor
  • Characters: Thirteenth Doctor, Graham O’Brien, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin (“Yaz”) Khan
  • Collection Date: 2019
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/14/2019

**Spoiler Alert** The TARDIS lands in Europe in the 1500s, during the Guelder Wars, only for Yaz, Ryan, and Graham to be the ones explaining the time period instead of the Doctor. The Doctor wonders how they know so much about a rather obscure area of history, only for Ryan, Yaz, and Graham to explain they learned about it from a podcast called “Hidden Human History” or H3. According to the companions, “everyone” is listening to it. Team TARDIS runs into Magda who is running away from war and “monsters”. The Doctor and her companions discover the monsters are Stilean Flesh Eaters, an alien race that subsists on fresh blood. The Doctor remarks they were once carrion-eaters but they grew to prefer fresh blood instead. They also aren’t evil, just dangerous. In many ways, the Stileans are implied to be no worse than humans who eat meat. The Doctor finds these aliens and one bites her, although the Doctor isn’t hurt. The aliens chase the Doctor to the middle of the local village and the TARDIS Team is surrounded. But then alarm bells go off, rung by Magda. The Stileans leave.

The Doctor and her companions leave the 1500s and arrive in North Carolina in 1711 during Cary’s Rebellion – the subject of another episode of Hidden Human History. The Doctor and her team run into Schultz and Perkins who are now and have been for ten years agents of the Time Agency. Once again, the Stileans, who look closer to humans than they did in the 1500s – and somewhat owl-like are on the loose, taking advantage of the small war to find fresh blood and carrion. The Doctor tries to have a discussion with one of the Stileans, the one who bit her before, but their conversation is interrupted by the Time Agency agents. Still, Team TARDIS finds that a diet of human blood is altering the Stileans and making them more human-looking. The Doctor theorizes that one day they will be able to pass among humans.

Although the Time Agency agents suggest that the Doctor go to The Battle of Ridgeway, they find themselves instead at the funeral of William the Brave, then they travel to contemporary times to track down the woman behind Hidden Human History.

Team TARDIS tracks down Bethany Brunwine, podcaster, and meets her London flat. They enjoy tea and biscuits with the woman, who, yes, is the Stilean who bit the Doctor all those years ago. She was struck by something the Doctor said – history records names, facts, and dates but often ignores the stories of normal every day people who live through those times. Hidden Human History aims to bring the lives of normal people to, well, to life, as people whom contemporary people can emphasize with and understand. The Stilean has lived a very long life but will die soon. H3 is her way of giving back.

I enjoyed this volume of the Thirteenth Doctor by Titan Comics. It’s a fun, light adventure. and it’s a refreshing change to have a “monster” who is no more monstrous than the average carnivore. Also, one of the Stileans is inspired by the Doctor to not only “fit in” to Earth society but to teach humans about what they have missed in history, and to bring to life the stories of normal people. This is a light and enjoyable volume and I recommend it.

Cover of Titan's 13th Doctor graphic novel

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – A New Beginning

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – A New Beginning
  • Authors: Jody Houser
  • Artists: Rachael Stott (Artist), Giorgia Sposito (Artist), Valeria Favoccia (Artist), Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colorist), Viviana Spinelli (Assistant Colorist), Sarah Jacobs (Letterer), John Roshell (Letterer)
  • Line:  13th Doctor
  • Characters: Thirteenth Doctor, Graham O’Brien, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin (“Yaz”) Khan
  • Collection Date: 2019
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/22/2019

**Spoiler Alert** This is the first volume of Titan Comics Thirteenth Doctor series based on Jodie Whittaker’s portrayal of the Doctor on the BBC television series Doctor Who. The graphic novel also includes her companions, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz (Yasmin). The portal with the hand appears again and the Doctor and her companions help pull the person through. It’s Dr. Perkins who, once he’s stabilized, tells the Doctor his brand-new Vortex Manipulator malfunctioned on his first trip out. The Doctor first realizes that the Manipulator was sabotaged. she volunteers to help Perkins get back to his partner, Dr. Schulz. But Perkins, out of desperation, points a stolen gun at the Doctor and her companions and tries to steal the TARDIS. The Doctor points out what a dumb idea this is, not to mention that the TARDIS has disabled the gun. However, the Doctor agrees to help if Perkins tells her the truth.

It turns out Dr. Schulz and her assistant, Dr. Perkins were experimenting with time travel devices and developed the Vortex Manipulators. But they were captured by an alien they call the Hoarder. He forces them to steal art and jewels and such for him. But when he demands they steal alien and human children, the two put their foot down and refuse. Then the Hoarder poisons one of them and forces the other to steal so the first can get regular doses of the antidote. But Dr. Schulz sabotages Perkin’s Vortex Manipulator and traps him in a time loop.

With this background, the Doctor gets an idea, she has the Army of the Just that she and her companions had encountered earlier go after the Hoarder, who among other things, had stolen a statue of their god, the Judge. This succeeds and the Doctor cures Dr. Schulz and returns her and Perkins to their proper time. The alien children are freed and the Army of the Just even arrests the Hoarder and returns its ill-gotten gains (other than that needed for evidence). The Doctor acquires a robot.

I liked this story. It’s light and fun, and the Doctor and her companions were well-written. I would have liked the story to be longer though. Still, it’s a complete story and a good read. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Many Lives of Doctor Who

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Many Lives of Doctor Who
  • Authors: Richard Dinnick
  • Artists: Mariano LaClaustra, Giorgia Sposito, Brian Williamson, Arianna Florean, Claudia Ianniciello, Iolanda Zanfardino, Neil Edwards, Pasquale Qualano, Rachael Stott, Sarah Jacobs (Letterer), John Roshell (Letterer), Fer Centurion (Inker), Color-Ice (Colorist), Carlos Cabera (Colorist), Adele Matera (Colorist), Dijjo Lima (Colorist), Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colorist)
  • Line:  All-Doctors Crossover Special
  • Characters: First Doctor, Second Doctor, Third Doctor, Fourth Doctor, Fifth Doctor, Sixth Doctor, Seventh Doctor, Eighth Doctor, War Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, River Song, Twelfth Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Susan, Jamie, Polly, Ben, Sarah Jane Smith, Romana II, Tegan, Nyssa, Turlough, Peri, Ace, Josie Day, Jack, Rose, Alice, Bill Potts, Thirteenth Doctor
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/19/2019

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who The Many Lives of Doctor Who” is a series of vignettes and short stories, one per Doctor, plus a War Doctor Story, a story with River Song, and a few pages with the 13th Doctor. Each of the stories adds to the idea of the Doctor regenerating into who she will be, for example, the number 13 comes up several times, though in the Thirteenth Doctor’s pages she mentions she isn’t actually the 13th Doctor. The Fifth Doctor story as the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa, and Turlough in the cloisters on Gallifrey where they are supposed to be chasing down a renegade Time Lord. But when they find him, he talks the Doctor into helping him use some Gallifreyan tech so he can regenerate. The Doctor agrees, and the other Time Lord regenerates into a woman. We also see both the fourth Doctor, with Romana and the Seventh Doctor, with Ace, solving a problem by meeting someone earlier, which they will do after they did it. The graphic novel itself is very short, and some of the vignettes are only a few pages, while others are full, albeit, short stories. I enjoyed this graphic novel though, and it whetted my appetite for the next two graphic novels in Titan Comics 13th Doctor series. The only flaw in the book is it’s almost too short. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Combat Magicks

  • Title: Combat Magicks
  • Series: BBC Books New Series Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Steve Cole
  • Characters:  Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, Graham
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/18/2019

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book in the BBC Books New Doctors line, but I found Combat Magicks better than I remembered the Ninth Doctor books being. This is one of three books featuring the Thirteenth Doctor (as played by Jodie Whittaker on the BBC Series) and her companions, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham. The book opens with everyone in the TARDIS discussing where they want to go next when the TARDIS crashes into something. The TARDIS crash lands, and the Doctor and her companions find themselves in Gaul during Roman times, just before a major battle between the Huns and the Romans.

Speaking of Huns, they meet Attila (the Hun) though at first, he’s incognito as Attila’s first aide de camp. Attila says that the Doctor is a witch, but that’s OK since both he and the Roman commander have been employing witches to help them in combat.

The group is attacked and split up. The Doctor and Yaz are taken to Attila’s camp, Graham is captured by the Romans and assumed to be a wizard after he used some of the Doctor’s healing gel to heal people, and Ryan is captured by the mysterious Legion of Smoke. The Legion of Smoke is fascinating – sort of a Roman Torchwood. They investigate the supernatural but also keep alien tech hidden.

Graham tries to help the Romans where he can and discovers the Doctor’s alien healing gel is poison to the alien Tenctrama, which present as witches to the locals. And the Tenctrama also seem to be carefully avoiding giving either side an advantage. When one side is given genetically-engineered fighting animals, so is the other side, and so it is with every weapon and battle technique that the aliens give to either the Romans or the Huns. As much as they seem to want a level playing field, they also seem to be promoting as much death as possible. And both sides are using their tech to raise the dead as fighting zombie soldiers.

As often is the case, there’s a lot of running around as Graham, Ryan, Yaz, and the Doctor all learn bits and pieces of information slowly to figure out what the Tenctrama are up to, and why the Doctor’s healing gel is poison to them (and any person healed by the gel also cannot be absorbed by the Tenctrama and explodes instead).

The Tenctrama are rather inefficient genetic farmers, taking a thousand years to genetically modify their stock (all humans and animals) and then gaining energy from the animals’ deaths. With help from Liss and Vitus of the Legion of Smoke, Atilla general of the Huns, Aetius general of the Romans, and a few others, the Doctor and her companions are able to defeat the Tenctrama, but not without cost.

I enjoyed this novel. It does follow the typical Doctor Who pattern of splitting up the Doctor and her companions so everyone can discover something and then bringing them back together to trade intelligence and put together a solution, but it’s a well-written story. I liked the historical detail, and it was neat that Attila was portrayed as an intelligent leader with actual goals rather than just being a hacking and raiding barbarian. I loved the Legion of Smoke – rather than being paranoid, they were intelligent and motivated, like Torchwood. Plus, they had prior knowledge of the Doctor, which was a nice bit of continuity.

I recommend Combat Magicks and look forward to getting the other two books in the series featuring the Thirteenth Doctor.

Free Comic Book Day 2019

I have been going to Free Comic Book Day for a few years and I had a good time this year. It was a sunny and beautiful day, warm, but not too hot like last year. I wore my Doctor Who trenchcoat and a Doctor Who t-shirt and I was comfortable. The line was long, wrapped around the corner, but it moved quickly and everything was managed extremely well.

I choose three free comics.

Doctor Who The Thirteenth Doctor The Journey of a Lifetime Starts Here by Titan Comics

I love Jodie’s Doctor and I’m looking forward to her series by Titan Comics. Doctor Who The Thirteenth Doctor: A New Beginning will be released by Titan on May 7, 2019. There is also Doctor Who: The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor which I picked up today, and coming soon Doctor Who the Many Lives of the Doctor. The FCBD volume has the Doctor and her fam, Ryan, Yaz, and Graham, landing near a giant amusement park. But the Doctor and her companions’ vacation is cut short when Graham tries out a carnival game and ends up with more than he bargained for. The Doctor quickly comes to the rescue. This is a fun short story, light-hearted, and an enjoyable read.

Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez

Lady Mechanika is an independent Steampunk comic book. This book introduces the characters and world in one story, plus includes excerpts from other graphic novels in the series. There is information on the six volumes, so far, of Lady Mechanika included as well as the short story and excerpts. The first story has some sort of “monster” upsetting a small Victorian town. Lady Mechanika catches up with the “beast” and is surprised he can talk. He is scared, hungry, and hurt. Lady Mechanika offers him some food, and in return, he offers her a clue to her identity – something she desperately wants to know. But before he can offer much more, the locals show up and he is shot dead. Lady Mechanika is upset and even seeks some non-lethal revenge. The excerpts give one a real feel for this series. The art is beautiful, with sepia and mono-color pages, and detailed panels. Lady Mechanika has mechanical arms and legs and has lost all memory of who she used to be, where she’s from, her family and background, etc. She makes a new life for herself as a detective and paranormal investigator. This series sounds fascinating and I really need to pick up some of the graphic novels.

Riverdale – Archie Comics

Riverdale has both Jughead’s running monologue (which I read in Cole Sprouse’s voice) and characters who are drawn to resemble their counterparts on the CW TV series. The story involves “Picture Day” with Betty and Jughead covering the events of the day for the Blue and Gold school paper. Someone switches out the typical superlatives for the school yearbook (e.g. “Veronica Lodge Most Reformed Snob”) with terrible, but accurate, attacks on the students. However, this conflict isn’t resolved. Meanwhile, Archie and Betty meet for their annual gift exchange. Archie gives Betty a new camera case – Betty gives him a new guitar case. But Archie had sold his guitar to buy the camera case, and Betty had sold her camera to buy him a guitar case. References to O. Henry and the Gift of the Magi abound. Riverdale was cute and fun but doesn’t have the teeth of the actual CW series. Still, I don’t regret picking this one up.

Free Comic Book Day is a great event and I enjoyed attending this year. There were two girls in front of me in line dressed as Carol Danvers and Goose from the movie Captain Marvel, which was awesome! There were also additional folks in costume from local costumers guilds and from my local comic book store. Free Comic Book Day exists to promote independent comic book stores and to promote Geek Culture. Give it a try – you’ll have fun!

Doctor Who Series 11 Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Season: 11 (New Who)
  • Episodes: 10
  • Discs: 3 (Blu-Ray)
  • Network: BBC
  • Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill
  • DVD: R1, NTSC, Blu-Ray

For the first time in the 55-year history of Doctor Who, the lead character of the Doctor is played by a woman, Jodie Whittaker and it is brilliant. Also, for the first time since the series was revived by Russell T. Davies in 2005, the TARDIS has a true team of companions, with the Doctor joined by Graham, Ryan, and Yaz (Yasmin). Having a group, a true team in the TARDIS brings to mind the classic years of Doctor Who, especially the original TARDIS team of the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan. Series 11 avoids the pitfalls of having a four-person team, as well, because none of the team ever seem to be neglected or to have nothing to do. There are episodes where different characters are more to the forefront based on that particular story, but Series 11 avoids having someone take a nap for an episode, or spend the entire episode locked up. Also, each person has different talents and experiences, and the team works together with their skills meshing in the interest of good storytelling.

I enjoyed Doctor Who Series 11 very much. Jodie Whittaker plays the Doctor as someone who is full of hope and who brings hope to others – that is important. She also freely admits she doesn’t have all the answers, but that doesn’t stop her from doing her absolute best and if she makes a mistake or is wrong in her assumptions or assessment of a situation, she admits it and moves on to fix the problem. Jodie’s Doctor is never bombastic or ego-driven, she is caring and there to help. Jodie at times seems to channel David Tennent’s energy, but her performance is all her own and I just really liked her. I even like her earthy Sheffield / Yorkshire accent.

The Doctor literally falls to Earth in the first episode of the season, “The Woman Who Fell To Earth”, landing on a train that has just been attacked by an alien creature. Graham and Grace are aboard the train. Meanwhile, Ryan, Graham’s grandson by marriage has found an alien artifact in the woods and called a police officer, Yasmin Khan for help. It turns the two went to school together. “The Woman Who Fell To Earth” has the Doctor building her own sonic, including using Sheffield steel, discovering that the one alien that attacked the train was basically an information-gathering semi-organic robot and it worked for a warrior of the Stenza, on a hunt on Earth. The Doctor gets very angry at the Stenza using Earth as a hunting ground, with people being taken as trophies. With assistance from Yaz, Ryan, Graham and Grace, as well as a human who’s meant to be the next trophy, the Doctor stops the Stenza and banishes him back to his home planet. Grace, however, is killed in the crossfire. Yaz takes the Doctor shopping, where she gets her iconic outfit, including the awesome coat. But when the Doctor tries to use the Stanza teleport to get to her TARDIS, it also transports Yaz, Ryan, and Graham.

“The Woman Who Fell To Earth” flows directly into “The Ghost Monument”. The Doctor and her fam meet two competitors in a huge race with a huge prize. They discover the planet they are on was once a weapons-research facility for the Stenza, with kidnapped scientists forced to work while their families were held, hostage. One of competitors is from a world that the Stenza has captured. She’s racing so she can rescue her family and prevent them from being victims of genocide. The Doctor convinces the two to present an all-or-nothing solution to the man running the contest with the two splitting the prize. The Doctor gets her TARDIS back – and she likes the redesign.

The rest of the season does what New Who often does with a new Doctor – each story is an example of a typical type of Doctor Who story. “Rosa” and “Demons of the Punjab” are historical stories and both are extremely strong. I liked both of them very much. “Rosa” doesn’t shy away from the racism in America – and Ryan and Yaz have a frank discussion of the racism and religious bigotry they still face every day in England. But Yaz also points out that it’s because of people like Rosa Parks that she’s able to be a police officer. “Demons of the Punjab” at first it seems like aliens have invaded India in 1947 on the eve of Partition. This is the partition of India that made Pakistan a separate country and resulted in the deaths and displacement of millions of people. “Demons of the Punjab” is also a very personal story for Yaz, as not only is she Muslim and of Pakistani descent but the story is deeply entwined in her personal history, and her grandmother’s story. The alien “demons” by the way weren’t after all evil but were there to witness and honor the deaths of those who would die alone. There was a beauty to that – a sad beauty, but a beauty nonetheless. I enjoyed both “Rosa” and “Demons of the Punjab” even though both stories are very sad.

“Arachnids in the UK” is the “scary” episode of the season. I’m not afraid of spiders (they are actually useful to ecology – you just don’t want to get bit by one). I also felt like the plot for this story felt a little disjointed. The angry, arrogant, white billionaire hotel owner messed up by building his hotel on top of a toxic waste dump, and to make things worse, the researcher was sending animal and spider carcasses from “research” to the dumping ground where they were treated anything but properly. Yet the queen spider dies of asphyxiation because it’s too big to breathe, and what of the other overly-large spiders? We have no idea. The Doctor and her crew had a plan to trap them in the panic room and cut off the oxygen but who knows if it worked (and it seemed pretty cruel).

I loved “Kerblam!” – first, it has the best (or the worst) pun title ever. Second, although at first, it seems a straight-up critique of and other extremely large online retailers, the actual plot is more a critique of automation and how too much automation can cause people to lose jobs. This may seem like an out of date argument, and it is, but the story also does something Doctor Who has done throughout it’s run both Classic and New – it introduces a likable character with understandable grievances who goes to an extreme to get what he “wants” and the Doctor and her crew must stop him. Charlie isn’t all that bad a person, and he’s no doubt been informed by anti-automation rhetoric his entire life. But his plan, of sending a massive wave of bomb-carrying Kerblam! Delivery bots out to his planet is a bit extreme. The massive loss of life would be catastrophic. The Doctor is able to stop the plan, and makes an ally in the head of HR who decides to make Kerblam! a people-led company.

I also liked “The Tsuranga Conundrum”. The Doctor and her team are on a junk asteroid trying to find some needed spare parts for the TARDIS. Ryan accidentally trips a sonic mine and the TARDIS crew wakes up on an automated hospital ship with a very tiny crew and a few passengers who are also in need of medical care. It’s a good base under siege story, with several wonderful moments – the Doctor’s excitement and joy when she examines the anti-matter drive, the ending memorial service for the pilot, and yes, even the P’Ting. In the episode, a computerized database reads out a horrific description of the P’Ting, and the pilot says one went through her “entire fleet” once. Unfortunately, these descriptions were not passed on to whoever actually designed the P’Ting as a digital character because he’s as cute as an Adipose and then some. It even reacts like Gollum when the Doctor tries to get her sonic back, then throws it up drained of energy.

I mean, look at that face – Don’t you want to bring one home?

Again, this isn’t a criticism. The Adipose were also adorable!

“It Takes You Away” is a modern haunted house story with a twist. But it brings a satisfying conclusion to the story of Ryan and Graham trying to process their grief at losing Grace and becoming a family.

Technically, “The Witchfinders” is a historical, set in the time of James the First during the witch trials in England, but the episode is really the first time we see Jodie’s Doctor challenged because she’s a woman. The Doctor handles it well. The episode is also about assumptions, fears, scapegoating, and people not taking responsibility for their actions. The landowner decides that she must blame others for her mistakes – which involves freeing an alien army that was imprisoned in an ancient hill. It does feel like a traditional Doctor Who story, it’s a common story point for some sort of confrontation to occur between humans and aliens in a familiar feeling context even if it is a historical one.

The final episode, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” wraps up a few themes from the season. The TARDIS receives a series of distress calls from a planet with some serious atmospheric issues, “Tim Shaw” the Stenza Warrior shows up again, having created a truly terrifying weapon he is already using, and a new race, the Ux are introduced. The Ux are dimensional engineers and there are only ever two at a time. Unfortunately, when an injured Tim Shaw crashed on the Ux planet, they mistook him for their god, “The Creator”. The Stenza Warrior took advantage of this and used them, their talents, and Stenza technology to create a horrific weapon that literally kills planets and everything on them. The planets themselves are then taken out of orbit, shrunken down, and held in stasis pods as trophies. The Doctor is horrified by the sheer amount of death. One of the Ux is starting to question his orders, while the other argues they cannot “understand the creator’s plan”. Also on the planet is an amnesiac pilot who was a last-ditch effort by the Nine Galaxies to stop the weapon. The Doctor fits him with a Neural Inhibitor which stops the atmospheric effects of the planet that are causing his amnesia. He also has all the tools needed to rescue his own crew and others held by the Stenza. This is an episode where everyone splits up to accomplish different tasks, but it works and no one is shortchanged. At the beginning of the episode, Graham tells the Doctor that if he gets the chance to kill Tim Shaw he will – for Grace. The Doctor tells him, no, absolutely no killing, and that Grace would want him to be the better man. “The Better Man (or person)”, actually could have been the title of the episode because it becomes not only a theme of the episode but of the season – as many of the episodes deal with how to be a better person, or the better person even when confronted with prejudice or the loss of a loved one (Graham and Ryan losing Grace; Erik and Hanne losing Brine), or even incompatibility in existence (the frog in “It Takes You Away”). Anyway, Ryan argues the Doctor’s position with Graham, telling him he can’t kill Tim Shaw. In the end, Graham doesn’t kill the Stenza Warrior, though he had the chance and he and Ryan lock him in a stasis chamber. The Doctor works with the Ux and uses the TARDIS to return the planets to where they came from, though they are presumably still desolate rocks.

I loved Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor and I enjoyed her companions, her team, her “fam” as the Doctor puts it. After increasingly grim and depressing storylines in the Moffatt Era (and other issues I’m not going to get in to here), Jodie is a breath of fresh air. Not merely because she’s a woman – that really doesn’t enter into the plot all that often, but because she is kind and warm and full of hope and enthusiasm and joy. Jodie’s Doctor seems to enjoy traveling again so we can enjoy riding along with her and her crew, even with the monsters and death and destruction. Highly recommended!