My ongoing obsession with the BBC classic series Doctor Who continues.
Last week the 11th season of the (new) Doctor Who began. This season features three big changes: a new Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker, a new head writer, Chris Chibnall, and three new companions.
Having seen the first episode, I can’t wait to see how the new season develops with Whittaker in the title role. Whenever an actor assumes the role he (and now she) brings a fresh take on the Doctor. Usually it takes a few episodes before they find their footing. Chris Eccleston’s loopiness sparked right away. David Tennant and Matt Smith both brought a boyishness to the role that took a little time to grow on me. I never ever warmed up to Peter Capaldi’s overly dour take on the Doctor.
Whittaker was thoroughly charming. There were some rough parts to the season opener–she’s overly giddy at times–but she has a warm confidence that telegraphs a strong future.
There’s one other change that’s more subtle but I think more important. The Doctor’s companions often serve as an audience stand-in. The companion, usually female, is full of wonder and amazement and learns and grows as she travels the universe with the Doctor, surviving one harrowing adventure after another. Danger is at every turn, but no companion in the new Who era has ever truly died.
Rose was exiled to an alternate earth (still alive).
Martha became a Torchwood soldier (still alive, I think).
Poor Donna Noble survived, though only because she had her memories of her adventures erased.
Amy Pond and Rory both survived, though they were banished to the past.
Clara Oswald, well, she died. But then the Doctor did his timey-wimey stuff and snatched her away just before the moment of her death. I didn’t get it either but I loved Clara so I was happy.
And then there’s Bill Potts. Turned into a Cyberman. That’s death, right? No. Another timey-wimey thing where she becomes an immortal puddle or something.
With each companion the danger and risk is heightened, but true consequences are denied.
Not so in this season’s first episode. We were presented with a cast of four potential companions: police officer Yasmin, determined bike rider Ryan, his grandmother Grace, and Grace’s husband Graham. While fighting the big bad tooth-faced monster with a name that sounded like Tim Shaw, one of those four potentials dies.
Like, really dies. Buried and all.
Not only that, it was the FIFTH human death shown in just this one episode.
Doctor Who is nominally a children’s show. Yes, characters die, but less often than you’d think. And never, until now, a (near) companion.
Does this mean that any of the three remaining companions could die this season?
Hopefully, and not because I want to see them die, but because I want to see stakes that matter.