The tenure of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor has been a mixed bag of triumphs and disappointments. Whittaker’s three series and five specials will be a memorable and significant chapter in Doctor Who‘s long legacy. As the first female Doctor, she shattered a longstanding glass ceiling, and both she and the show gained new fans and sparked fresh debates on the series’ direction.
The Thirteenth Doctor’s journey started impressively, with some standout episodes that really impacted the audience. I can’t talk about Whittaker’s run without highlighting a few of my favourite episodes. Firstly, The Ghost Monument, where the Doctor and her new companions find themselves stranded on a desolate planet called Desolation. This exhilarating adventure showcased Whittaker’s prowess as the Doctor.
Fugitive of the Judoon was a monumental episode in Whittaker’s era that took the series to an unexpected point. In this whirlwind instalment, the Judoon, a race of intergalactic police, descend on present-day Gloucester in search of a fugitive. Amidst the chaos, the Doctor uncovers dark secrets and meets the enigmatic Ruth Clayton, who turns out to be another incarnation of the Doctor.
This stunning revelation challenged established lore and provided a new dimension to Whittaker’s portrayal of the iconic character. Unfortunately, this episode led to the Timeless Child storyline, which was a significant letdown in storytelling and character development.
There were other outstanding episodes and thought-provoking storylines. However, the series run was plagued with some weak writing that plagued series. The quality of the stories began to dull, and the sense of urgency and excitement that had initially surged through Whittaker’s debut started to wane. Certain episodes reduced the Doctor to a mere observer, and the storylines often felt convoluted and bereft of depth. The inconsistency in the writing contributed to the struggles of Whittaker’s era to deliver on its promise to explore new grounds. The final special “The Power of the Docttor” also proved to be inconsistant in it’s storytelling and pacing.
Furthermore, the era of the Thirteenth Doctor introduced a TARDIS team filled with fascinating characters that, sadly, were underdeveloped. The dynamic between the Doctor and her companions Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Graham (Bradley Walsh) felt disjointed and needed more chemistry. The narrative struggled to provide each companion with emotional depth, and as a result, their connections to the Doctor felt shallow.
While there were glimpses of camaraderie, it seemed as if the Doctor was often talking at her companions rather than bonding with them in any meaningful way. This lack of connection robbed the series of the heartwarming and endearing moments that have been reminiscent of previous Doctor-companion relationships in the past.
Jodie Whittaker’s time as the Doctor did give us glimpses of brilliance and moments we will treasure. She is a fantastic actress and can’t be faulted for the writing and the direction the showrunners chose for the character.