We are well and truly past the half-way point for Jodie Whittaker’s freshman season of Doctor Who, and I have to say, after a mere seven episodes, I am getting tired of the trends and tropes Chris Chibnall has crafted for the series. Not to say I think that any of the episodes in Series 11’s latest run is, by any stretch of the imagination, low quality. However, fatigue is beginning to set in—and I am beginning to get worried about the future of my beloved series. After watching Doctor Who religiously for thirteen years, it is a scary prospect that I may finally be getting tired of it.
This week, The Doctor and co. get a surprise delivery from the ‘Kerblam Man,’ an Amazon-esque retail service that can, seemingly, deliver mail throughout time, space, and everything in-between. After receiving a cry for help on the back of a packing slip, our protagonists decide to check out the planet-sized warehouse for the company, slipping into its ranks masquerading as prospective workers. This was an engaging concept, and I cannot fault the amount of effort that went into the worldbuilding here. With obvious nods towards increasing unemployment rates, tensions amongst the working class, and technology-driven corporations, this was shaping up to be a good episode.
However, when the end credits rolled, I was left feeling slightly disappointed. The episode was, on the whole, quite enjoyable, but was marred by a flawed, and predictable, final act.
Our villain, once again, was a human being. Yes, we were given creepy-robots in an attempt to fill the gaping monster-shaped hole this series has left open. However, they ended up being essentially harmless, and we were left with an extreme human-employment activist who, somehow, decided that by tampering bubble-wrap to become deadly, he would force more human beings into employment. Yes, an atrocious event like that would, probably, shut a company down who, at the moment of The Doctor’s visit, employed 10,000 certified-organic human beings. In the end, the janitor did it, and it was a dull and disappointing end to an episode that was already sitting firmly on a mere satisfactory rating.
Furthermore, The Doctor does not get angry during this ordeal. It may not seem like a big gripe to have. However, every iteration of the Time Lord has a distinct intimidating quality when faced with meaningless death; they have, historically, given hundreds of seething speeches with a fire in their eyes as they lectured about true pacifism and morality. Last night, The Doctor weakly appealed for the terrorist to ‘please, stop,’ before letting him die in an explosion of her creation. It wasn’t a purposeful death either; instead, she limply asked him nicely to get away from the danger-zone where he hesitated and, well, perished in confusion.
I am left with many wishes for this season. First, I want more monsters. Sure, most Who villains are made with cheap silicone and hammy acting, but I am finding myself realising that P-Ting was the second-best villain in this entire seven-episode run. I understand why Chibnall is writing this the way he is—after creating a critically acclaimed human drama series in Broadchurch, he may feel like Doctor Who should stand a little ‘above’ other genre shows. For me, the charm of Doctor Who rests in its genre format. Secondly, and most importantly, I want a script to give Whittaker the chance to step into her role as The Doctor more fully. Species from across the universe run away at the mere mention of The Doctor’s name—I really don’t want to see her going soft.
Next week, we are heading to the witch trials. As these events, historically, were an example of human hysteria and tainted baguettes, I do not hold much hope for an interesting villain to emerge here. With three episodes left in the season, I can only hope there will be a reason for children to hide behind their sofas once more, instead of feeling like they have to engage in an ethical discussion about the fallibility of man with their parents.