Originally this was going to be about things that I’ve found enjoyable about the Thirteenth Doctor’s era so far. However, with the news that Jodie Whittaker is now leaving the series in 2022 with three specials to round out her time on the show, this will probably feel more like a look back on her era.
So, in no particular order here are 13 things I’ve loved about the Thirteenth Doctor’s era!
The Lone Cyberman
Series 12 was a major step up from Series 11 and a lot of that, for me, was the promise that something big was coming. The best thing about the overarching plot for Series 12 was the Lone Cyberman. Ashad made an impression right from the first trailer that was released and rarely put a foot wrong.
From the moment Jack warned the Doctor’s companions about the Lone Cyberman, we knew it was a force to be reckoned with and he certainly had the Doctor on the ropes from their first encounter at the Villa Diodati. Things got worse through Ascension of the Cybermen, though I was less than impressed by how easily he was defeated in The Timeless Children.
But from the impressive design to the strong dialogue and impressive performance from Patrick O’Kane, everything worked brilliantly in the Lone Cyberman’s favour!
The Cinematic Feel
As Series 10 came to an end, the production values felt like a step up from some of the series that came before it. However, Series 11 felt like an even greater step, with brand new cameras and loads of money thrown at the production team; it’s shown in the cinematic feel the Whittaker era has had so far.
From filming in some stunning places like Cape Town, rather than trying to make Cardiff look like it, to the sweeping shots and exciting camera angles (though the lens flares need to go). Doctor Who has had money thrown at it for the first time in ages and it’s shown just how great our favourite show can look when it’s got a decent budget!
I bet John Nathan-Turner could have made the exotic locations like Amsterdam and Lanzarote look a lot more exotic with this amount of money…
Doctor Who has always been inclusive. But perhaps it’s only been particularly inclusive with the audience rather than in its casting. How much of that might be down to production politics in the Classic era is a larger topic of conversation for another time, but when the modern era got underway, the production team made an effort to include actors from every background possible.
That trend has continued, and then some, with Series 11 giving us a number of characters and actors from all different ethnic and LGBTQ backgrounds. It’s allowed a record number of fans to see themselves in characters and companions, and has allowed them to really feel represented.
I doubt anyone thought that Bradley Walsh would be as absolutely brilliant as he was. Sure, he’s been an actor for many years but thanks to shows like The Chase, he’s made more of a name for himself as a television host, rather than the former owner of a knicker factory in Coronation Street.
But right from his opening scene, he was having a ball and that is a look that he hasn’t lost over the course of his two-series stint. While his departure might have left a lot to be desired and he did deserve more, he stole the show in Series 11; while he seemed to take more of a backseat in Series 12, he was still a welcome presence.
And from the behind the scenes footage, it’s clear just how much he loved his time on the show!
Say what you will about Chris Chibnall’s writing — I know I do — but he has given us some brilliant cliffhangers, right from the end of The Woman Who Fell to Earth with the Doctor, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz teleported into the depths of space.
They got better from there, with the reveal of the new Master on a crashing plane, stranded on an alien planet with a portal to Gallifrey and Cyberman battleship overhead, and the Doctor sent to prison, not to mention the Fugitive Doctor revelation. There have been some genuinely great ‘get-out-of-that’ moments in this era of the show that have been handled brilliantly. And hopefully that’ll continue with the upcoming Series 13.
While in the opening press chat surrounding Series 11, we were told we would be getting some pure-historical adventures, not seen since 1982’s Black Orchid, these pure-historical adventures never really happened. However, the modern era of the show has made sure that there’s plenty of historical goodness.
That’s continued here, with stories like Rosa, Demons of the Punjab, The Witchfinders, Spyfall, and The Haunting of Villa Diodati all being stand outs. Yes, we’ve got monsters involved but showing us real life people like Rosa Parks, King James I, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Ada Lovelace, and Noor Inayat Khan has allowed us to meet some fantastic and fascinating people from history and some truly amazing performances! I think we’ll always remember Alan Cummings as King James I!
Ignoring the P’ting, there have been some brilliant monsters in the last couple of series; whether they do much in the story or not, they’ve had impressive costume and prosthetic design.
From T’zim Sha (or Tim Shaw), the Kerblam Men, the Morax, the Dregs, the Skithra, and the impressive new designs for the Daleks and the Cybermen, all the monsters, villain,s and creatures in the last couple of series have had some genuinely terrific appearances.
The Thirteenth Doctor
There can be no doubt that, from the moment of her announcement, the casting of a female incarnation of the Doctor proved divisive. Some fans seemed to love the Thirteenth Doctor from the announcement promo while some took a little time to warm to her. Personally, I never had a problem with a female incarnation of the Doctor, with the Master having become Missy and even in some respects, Romana proved to us how a female Doctor could work.
From her opening scenes in The Woman Who Fell to Earth, the Thirteenth Doctor proved she was going to be a great incarnation of the Time Lord. I’ll agree, she’s had some really dull stories, but what Doctor hasn’t, and she reminds me of the Fifth Doctor a lot in that she really shines in her darker stories, whether scary ones like The Witchfinders or ones with troubling historical undertones, like Demons of the Punjab; for such a bright Doctor, she really shows how great she is in these darker adventures. And she was brilliant throughout Series 12!
We all know by now how close showrunner, Chris Chibnall, likes to keep his cards to his chest. I think that’s been one of the biggest let downs for the Whittaker era. But it has seen fans coming up with some excellent theories.
In an era when people very easily start arguments on social media (more on that in a moment), it’s been excellent to see so many fans taking to platforms, in particular Twitter, to discuss what they think is going to happen in future episodes. While I don’t think anyone’s predictions for The Timeless Children actually came true — that’s a story you definitely either love or hate — it’s been brilliant to see people coming together in their speculation and not arguing for once. Or maybe I’ve just been overlooking those arguments!
Much like the Thirteenth Doctor, her companions made in an instant impact. While I don’t think there can be much doubt that Bradley Walsh stole the show, in Series 11, it was nice to see Ryan and Yaz getting more time to shine in Series 12.
I’ll be honest, Ryan will never be a favourite companion of mine but it was nice to see him beginning to decide whether he wanted to stay with the Doctor or not after the events of Can You Hear Me? and by the time Revolution of the Daleks rolled around — or glided, depending on how you describe your Dalek movement — he sat down and had a nice speech with the Doctor, showing us how much he had changed from the young man we met in The Woman Who Fell to Earth.
Yaz has continued to develop: sadly, she had little to do in Series 11, despite being one of the main components in Demons of the Punjab, but was she even in Resolution? Series 12 saw a vast improvement. At one point, I even thought she was going to switch sides and join up with the Master! I’ll be interested to see how she continues to develop in Series 13 and, presumably, how she will leave, given how much she clearly enjoys her adventures.
Possibly one of Doctor Who‘s greatest kept secrets since the first appearance of Missy in 2014, the reveal of Sacha Dhawan’s Master was handled brilliantly. Yes, I thought he slipped up a little detail about not being a good runner, which the Doctor calls him out on, but it’s in keeping with the Master being his own worst enemy, arrogantly playing the game of cat and mouse he and the Doctor have been playing for centuries.
From the moment he reveals his identity on a crashing aeroplane, Dhawan’s Master made a real impact. Instantly likable, he’s been a great addition to the series and his even more deranged personality makes him incredibly dangerous. I still think it was a shame he wasn’t revealed to be the Timeless Child, giving him something to hold over the Doctor in the future. While I think the Master does need to go back to being a little more like Roger Delgado’s original persona for the character, the insanity with which Dhawan places the Master is nothing short of excellent. I’m hoping we get plenty more of him in Series 13 and the specials that have been announced for 2022.
Coming Together on Social Media
Don’t get me wrong, there have been some very vocal people on social media during the Jodie Whittaker era, who have expressed their dislike of the show, but it has also been amazing to see fans coming together, thanks to the Thirteenth Doctor.
Whether it’s through artwork, both traditional and digital, cosplay, or just chatting to other fans, it’s been so refreshing to see, for the most part, people coming together in their love for the show. Much like the Master, Doctor Who fans can be their own worst enemy: when they are bad, they are really bad, but when they are good, they are really great; and over the course of this era, there have been quite a few moments where I’ve been glad to say I’m a huge fan of this show!
The Fugitive Doctor
Series 12’s Fugitive of the Judoon had a number of brilliant surprises and the return of the Judoon or Captain Jack were only small ones. The other was the first appearance of a previously unknown incarnation of the Doctor, now known as the Fugitive Doctor.
It’s not the first time Doctor Who has introduced a previously unknown incarnation of the Doctor — we had no idea about John Hurt’s War Doctor until the 50th anniversary — and it proved just as exciting a second time around. Right from her first appearance as Ruth, Jo Martin made an impression. But she just got even better once she stepped out of her old home and told us she was the Doctor. While I still like the idea that she is some sort of Series 6b Doctor, fitting in-between Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee’s incarnations that the Time Lords removed memories of, she is one of the best things about Series 12, more than deserving of her own series of adventures sometime in the future. I’m hoping that we see more of her to in the upcoming Series 13.
What Have You Enjoyed About the Thirteenth Doctor Era?
So there you have it, the 13 things I’ve loved about the Whittaker era. I think for a long time to come, the Thirteenth Doctor’s time on the show will continue to divide fans. It will take time for us to really re-evaluate this time of the show.
But love it or hate it, I think there have been some genuinely great moments to come out of the Whittaker era. And I think there have been some genuinely terrible things to come out it too, but I think that about all different eras.
When Jodie Whittaker was first announced back in 2017, I wrote an article on it for my own website, and I think the ending I wrote for it still applies now, even though we know she is leaving the show in 2022; “Change my dears and not a moment too soon. She is the Doctor, whether you like it or not…”