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DOCTOR WHO: Breaking Down Jodie Whittaker’s First Scene

DOCTOR WHO: Breaking Down Jodie Whittaker’s First Scene

The following is a breakdown and analysis of Jodie Whittaker’s very first scene at the end of Doctor Who‘s 2017 Christmas special, “Twice Upon a Time.” This will be spoilery, obviously, since it’s literally the last two minutes of the episode. If you haven’t yet seen the special, we encourage you to watch first before reading the following. And if you’d like an equally spoilery analysis of the episode as a whole, click here! And without further adieu, some regeneration tango!

Doctor Who “Twice Upon a Time” was the exact way to end both Peter Capaldi’s tenure as the Doctor and Steven Moffat’s as head writer and showrunner. It felt very much like where the show, the character, and the writer had come since 2010, when Moffat took over. But the final two minutes gave us a very good idea of where new showrunner Chris Chibnall will take the series and the kind of Doctor Jodie Whittaker‘s Thirteenth will be, much the same way Matt Smith’s first two minutes gave us a rev-up to the Moffat years.

First, in regard to regeneration as a whole on the series, each subsequent Doctor has been a bit of a reaction to the previous. If Peter Capaldi’s time ended up being somber, resigned, and looking its age a bit (and my heavens, his hair by the end had its own gravitational pull), then Jodie Whittaker’s looks to immediately kick some life back into things, rejuvenating the proceedings. Much as when William Hartnell changed into Patrick Troughton and breathed 709 more episodes of life into a series that might have just gone away after four years, Whittaker is a sign of where the show can go, and that it will go.

Following Capaldi’s lovely final speech–simple and reverent–Rachel Talaly’s direction goes a bit more handheld, a bit woozier, a different visual palate almost immediately. We see the ring fall off Whittaker’s finger; like Smith’s bow tie, the ring was Capaldi’s signature (it was his own wedding ring) and seeing it fall off is a good visual indicator of moving on.

We see Whittaker’s eyes first, then wide shots of her from overhead.


It’s another gorgeous visual touch from Talalay and Chibnall that the first time we see her full face is in a reflection, and it’s the same moment she’s seeing herself.

David Tennant talked about new teeth, Matt Smith felt up his face and hair, and Peter Capaldi talked about the color of his kidneys; Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor takes a look at herself and upon realizing this generation is a woman simply says “Oh, brilliant!” with an exuberant and joyful smile. If anyone thought there’d be a dumb joke made about the Doctor being a woman now, it certainly didn’t happen here.

One thing we’re all going to have to get used to is Whittaker’s Yorkshire accent. We’ve got another Doctor from the North, folks, and yes lots of planets have them. We just had a Scottish one, after all, so actually the Doctor’s accent is moving south, if we’re being mighty pedantic. One surprise is that we didn’t get the Doctor talking very much. Following her one line, the rest of the scene is all about setting up the future.

The regeneration has, again, made the TARDIS go all fiery, but instead of setting up its change, the Doctor falls out the door toward the Earth below, and the TARDIS itself, seemingly exploding, disappears out of site. I think this directly sets up what series 11 will be: the Doctor without her TARDIS.

Much has been written about Chibnall’s approach to the series and that it’ll be much more serialized than the modern show has been since its return. We also know the Doctor will have a cast of three “companions” (whether any of them travel in the TARDIS is yet to be seen) and all of this points to the Doctor not traveling, but instead staying in one place and letting a larger plot unfold around her.

The Jon Pertwee years, which ran from 1970 to 1974, began with the mandate from the BBC to stave off costs by keeping the Doctor on Earth, stranded following the Time Lords exiling him and removing the TARDIS controls from his brain, allowing for more location filming and a lot less alien sets. There’s not a doubt in my mind that the same type of situation will happen here. The TARDIS is gone and the Doctor will need to find it, while helping keep the world safe from some larger, looming threat.

Whether this ends up being UNIT is another matter, since we know UNIT is still active with Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Gemma Redgrave)–who actually first appeared onscreen in a Chibnall episode–at the helm, this might be a scenario where she’s around but not a constant, but the Doctor having a field team, as it were. Or maybe it won’t be UNIT at all; it could easily be a bit like The Sarah Jane Adventures where the Doctor just has a group of humans who help her and there’s no official government body.

But, as I said, I think the TARDIS is going to be gone for awhile, even if the first official image of the Thirteenth Doctor has the TARDIS in the background. Visually, it’s far away from her. The Chibnall years will certainly be a departure–10 episodes, one hour each–but from even the first minutes of Jodie Whittaker, I know it’s going to be a fun ride.

What were your thoughts of Jodie Whittaker’s first foray as the Doctor? Let us know in the comments below! And for our full analysis of “Twice Upon a Time,” click here!

Images: BBC America

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor and the resident Whovian for Nerdist. Follow him on Twitter!

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