"The Woman Who Fell to Earth" is the first episode of the eleventh series of the revival Doctor Who, and is the first story starring Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor. It introduces new companions Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), and Graham O'Brien (Bradley Walsh). It was written by Chris Chibnall, who is also the new show runner for the show.
When we last saw The Doctor, she had just regenerated and was falling from the sky, her TARDIS exploding behind her. This episode doesn't immediately pick up that situation, and instead introduces her new companions, normal residents of Sheffield who stumble upon two seemingly unrelated odd occurrences. While trying to ride a bicycle, Ryan Sinclair stumbles upon an alien pod, while on the way home on a train, Graham and his wife, Grace (Ryan's grandmother) are suddenly confronted with a weird tentacle monster. Along with trainee police woman Yasmin, they are all in the middle of being menaced by the weird alien monster when the Doctor drops through the roof of the train and, in normal Doctor fashion, finds herself in the middle of the mystery. Shaken and confused by the regeneration process, she still has to solve the mystery, without the TARDIS or her Sonic Screwdriver. Together with her new companions, she manages to confront the alien menace and complete her regeneration cycle, find new clothing, and start to look for her TARDIS.
The internal plot of the story seemed almost like an afterthought, compared to the external discussion that had proceeded this episode. This is the first time that the Doctor has regenerated into a woman, something that predictably caused much online debate, much of it trollish but with many people honestly wondering how Whittaker would carry out the role. In addition, Steven Moffat, who had been in charge of the show for almost eight years, and who had been contributing to the show as a writer since 2005, was replaced by Chris Chibnall. What new direction would the show take? Well, for me, the answer is that this premiere episode was a very "standard" Doctor Who story. I don't mean that in a disparaging way. Steven Moffat had the habit of writing stories faceted with surprises and paradoxes, which could be entertaining but seemed to make a point of confusing the audience. But this was a pretty linear action story: The Doctor finds herself in the middle of an alien menace, and uses a combination of pluck and technobabble to undo it, and makes a couple of speeches centering around humane values. Some recent Doctors have tended to focus on the whimsical or even twee nature of the Doctor, but Whittaker presents a Doctor that, while allowing herself a few funny moments, doesn't chew the scenery. Issues of gender aside, this episode introduced Whittaker as a Doctor who is playing the role close to the middle: not too silly, not too serious, and with the Doctor being moral without becoming overly preachy. How the character and stories will change in upcoming episodes is something I am anticipating.