Andrew Ellard Profile picture
Oct 8, 2018 47 tweets 18 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
New series, new Doctor, now #tweetnotes threads!

MUTE FOR SPOILERS as we delve into The Woman Who Fell To Earth. #DoctorWho
DW-TWWFTE: With so many new characters to introduce there’s neat trick here: we start with two different Who episodes - the ‘odd artefact’ mystery and the ‘dangerous creature’ seige. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: While Ryan and Yaz get sucked into one story and work to make sense of it, Graham and Grace are saved by the Doctor in the other.

And then it all links up. That’s canny. It’s a lot of what Who does, intercut and with all the new leads quickly bedded in. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: This being ten minutes longer than a normal episode, note ow the opening ten minutes are basically given to the character ‘first acts’ we won’t really need from now on.

After this we know who they are, and it’s regular episodes. No need for Act Ones. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Smart to do a few other Proper Who Things, too. The reveal of a scary masked face, a trail of bodies, a climax up high (the first time that’s been effectively tense in the modern show).

It’s no bad thing to say “this is what Doctor Who does” again. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Clever calculations evident all over. When the Doctor hunts for clothes, it’s in a charity shop.

A scene that could have been tone deaf - “first female Doctor and oh, she’s shopping” - was instead charming. Charity shop means ‘found’ more than ‘purchased’. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Also clever is the way the lead characters are connected just enough that they’ll credibly form a unit once removed from their daily situation.

It stops that weird 80s Who thing of the companions suddenly talking like siblings.
DW-TWWFTE: I’m not mad keen on the 60s thing of initially unwilling companions. I dread the TARDIS being found and now only able to go to random places.

RTD solved the randomness problem by locating it in the Doctor’s personality rather than a technical fault. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Still, for sure its nice to add ‘cliffhangers’ to that ‘list of things Doctor Who does’.

Done a lot those kind of segues to next week are gonna feel phoney. This one time? You see it coming, but the outcome - bodies in space - *is* a gasp. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: You see it coming, of course, because we already had a promotional campaign showing the Doctor and her new friends.

So it can’t be a real goodbye scene. We know that’s not where the end is going. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: As @drcgreen noted, though, it’s a shame the Doctor didn’t feel the friends were “Folk I’d love to take with me if I had me TARDIS…”

Sure, you can’t do a big goodbye, it’d feel inert. And maybe this helps them feel normal, ‘not special’. But…aren’t they? #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Also rendered predictable by the marketing: Grace.

Poor Grace. No way Graham heads off into space without her, so of course she’s doomed. Her card’s marked without the show specifically using that for tension. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Is it a fridging? Hard to say. It’s a damn shame, but that’s what character deaths should be. We can’t create some ‘only bad people die’ rule.

Her death doesn’t seem to motivate Ryan and Graham to action. But the loss surely drives them getting closer. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: (But fridging isn’t an Always Definite Wrong anyway. It’s just a trope to use with caution since female deaths to motivate men *are* too prevalent. But this ain’t nowhere near Deadpool 2’s crass use of it. Here we have a female lead, a heroic demise, etc.) #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Last shots aside, there’s not much here that’s surprising, I will say that. Everything goes where you’d expect, more or less.

We couldn’t guess the reason for the attacks until we were told it, so it’s “Like Predator? Okay, that adds up” rather than “Woh!” #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: In my head I was already second-guessing the subject of Ryan’s opening video, and the way Karl was a bit notable in his train scene. Waiting for the Doctor to literally land on the plot. For Grace to fall out of it. For the teleport to suck in the trio. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: (And don’t give me that ‘Not everyone watches with a script producer’s eye’ thing. Everyone watches shows with a bit of “I bet he did it’ or ‘Ooh, they’re gonna die!’ Did anyone *not* expect that security guard to go given his chat on the radio?) #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: So, y’know, the safety of tropes.

Otherwise, tonally, often this felt very close to soap opera for me.

Not necessarily a criticism. But, for example, Ryan’s early bike scenes felt right out of Casualty. Family established before a major injury. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Those little soap tropes - stating the issues, the statuses, no risk of misunderstanding. Nothing visual that isn’t also clarified in dialogue. An somehow remembering Karl’s name!

I am, to repeat, not down on soap. It’s vastly popular for a reason. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: I don’t think I’ve ever felt challenged by Chibnall’s writing, though. His is, for better and worse, a style where you feel secure that what you’re watching is what you expect to be watching.

It’s not ‘for me’ the way RTD and Moffat were, but I get it. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: I’m fascinated by how *wrong* it feels to show a 19 year old learning to ride a bike. Wrong in, like, a ‘was he meant to be 9?’ way.

The reveal of Ryan’s condition came later. So I lean in, curious. What’s the deal?

A rare question left to hang a moment. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: But for sure, Chib’s general clarity must be welcome here as they aim to present the show as accessible and friendly.

Seriously, a lot of good calculations. Not least in the three friends, who offer a lot of varied takes. (I’m early for Team Yaz, FWIW.) #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Yaz feels to me most like my life. My younger life, anyway. Instant connection.

And the sitcom fan in me is keen that, for all their regional/family links, Graham, Ryan and Yaz all view the world differently. Attack it their own ways. That’s good. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: I worry that the gang will struggle to keep unique perspectives, though - Torchwood & Broadchurch got a bit “all talk like the genre” - but we’ll see.

In this ep the friends come together okay, then merge kinda flatly. Individual traits subsumed to genre. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: “I’ll check social media/ask a bus driver/check police calls” seems like individuality, but it’s more ‘the same approach of “ask around” said three ways’.

By the finale, any one of those characters could have been doing any of the jobs. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: And what about this new Doctor?

I was surprised her first act was to zap an alien with a cable, before knowing its deal.

Again, genre ahead of character there. Hero moment, alien correctly assumed bad for brevity. But that’s not curiosity or compassion. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: And if I’m honest, I don’t think the wit she’s given feels new, often. More like the same schtick the last few guys fell into.

Whittaker is, for example, keen to revel in a line - which makes her ill-suited for those fast-thinking asides, throwaway gags. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: But. But but but.

She’s also the Doctor who berates a man for killing the alien that tired to kill him.

She calls people friends right away. Announces her intent. Values name over rank.

This Doctor is at her best in those moments. Lots of promise here. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: And “Tim Shaw” fucking *landed*.

That comedy, weirdly unlike what RTD and Moffat did - not clever, but rather messy - worked. Shows where best to aim to find some repeatable shtick. Jokes based around bringing the pomposity down to earth hard. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Whittaker in the part is a win. Twinkle aplenty, she’s alive and real. And humble in a way I’ve missed from the character.

When she says “I’m just a traveller”, it’s a simple truth, not any kind of self-deceit. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Still some weird missteps - “I am the Doctor” lands a lot better if not telegraphed by a load of exposition explaining why she’s able to say it now.

But I like her, actor and writing. I’m in. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: We should talk about the visuals.

It does that trendy desaturation thing - something that also happened in series 5 with the pallet getting more specific per episode yet less vibrant. 1-4 looked cheaper but brighter.

But also, wonderfully, it looks HUGE. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: I was thrilled by the scale of it. Even dull jobs have size - the cranes! - and even soap moments are shot with power - the hammer in the windshield! #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: While you get the odd “Oh, so they couldn’t afford to show him smashing that window?” moment, for the most part this feels sumptuous and supported and *planned*.

No rush to cobble together, no making do. It reeks of channel commitment. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Some of the design work felt genuinely new, innovative. The yellow glow in the air would be magical…but it’s made of square lines, so it feels mechanical instead.

After years of magic rings, potions and swirly portals, this looked like SCIENCE fiction.
DW-TWWFTE: The Coil is amazing, again fusing magic and science. Weird, intimidating.

Tim Shaw himself? Looked like a robot. Emerging from a mushroom.

Not sure those aesthetics go together at all. The coil’s mix done wrong. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: But the writing of (to name him correctly) Tzim-Sha was interesting.

He’s the first Who alien in a looooong time to imply a strong, existing culture behind him. A matter-of-fact difference in values stemming from origin.

Even if he is mostly a Predator. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Where Moffat wrote mostly in effects - the ways an alien’s power would impact human leads - and RTD went for human personalities with funny aesthetics and a single defining trait, here we’ve got something a little deeper: A background culture. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: Of course the downside of that is that the poor guy has to pause being intimidating to do his own exposition.

That was clunky. And needless - Doctor could’ve grasped the culture from data in the pod. Debated it with him rather than being told it by him. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: And there’s some clunk too around how that ‘permission’ worked.

Ryan touching the light being read as permission is daft for their species & silly to blame him for. And sillier still when you realise someone else gave permission for a kill years earlier. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: These things are meant to land like reveals, but they mostly shrug past as facts the keep the story going.

There’s no true dilemma on Ryan having touched the light. No drama there, no real blame. The visual delight resolves to a narrative shrug. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: In the end, though, there were too many smart choices here to ignore.

First episodes should be a bit basic, leave room for the new characters and Doctor to grow. That was Prisoner Zero and the Autons. (Arguably it’s where Deep Breath went a bit wrong.)
DW-TWWFTE: I don’t know that I think this was as clever a choice as Prisoner Zero or Autons - neither very unusual (big killer bad alien ain’t no shapeshifting snake convict) or very iconic (shop dummies!).

But the ‘two episodes at once’ approach was *really* smart.
DW-TWWFTE: A few weird jumps in the cut - suddenly on a rooftop fighting the Coil. Cutting from Ryan’s bike to the funeral with no sense of if the Doctor’s hung around all these days, or popped back.

So occasionally a bit choppy. Against the safe style elsewhere. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: In the end? The aesthetics and mission statements excite me.

Characters? Solid.

Storytelling and dialogue? Will do, but I’m uncertain of the rewatch value.

I’m keen for everyone to see Jodie in the part and write harder into her performance style. #tweetnotes
DW-TWWFTE: But for an hour, yep, I was excited. Properly excited. And that’s no small thing.

Doctor Who reborn. A whole new thing all its own. Working hard to be itself without the safety net of iconography folks have tired of.

I’ll take 9 more, quick as you like.

If you enjoy the #tweetnotes, please consider tipping me for the work at

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More from @ellardent

Sep 20, 2018
I’m emotional. I did not expect to be emotional.
Pondering the new Doctor Who…

- It really does feel ensemble-y. I found that wider focus hard when I first watched the early Hartnells. (And harder when it felt like padding in the 80s.) It can rob time from guest characters, OR it can enable more of them to be heard. No idea.
- Post-2005 Who has tended to fetishise the Doctor. Lonely god or cursed genius or winner of the Time War, he’s been That Huge Iconic Guy a long time. Not every era did this, in fact he’s more often the method rather than the focus. Thirteen seems lower key. Interesting. Risky.
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Time for some #tweetnotes on Marvel’s Black Panther. Mute for SPOILERS.

In short: Clicks into place by being the story of how a whole nation/culture can be a superhero.
BP: I want to be up-front about this - it took me two goes to fall in love with this movie.

The first time it was ‘a capable Marvel flick with an especially good cast and design, hampered mostly by lousy greenscreen’.

The second time, I cheered and cried.
BP: Black Panther is a movie about Wakanda having the potential to be a global superhero. And finally waking to that (oh yes) that power and responsibility. #tweetnotes
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Jan 29, 2018
Time, at last, for Tweetnotes on Star Wars: #TheLastJedi. SPOILERS

In short: Wonderful, deliberate storytelling done with careful measures of drama, thrills and wit. So why all the fuss?

SW-TLJ: Oh boy is it exciting watching Johnson unpick the things that happen just cos genre expects it.
SW-TLJ: Rey is living through your expectations. Haunted by them. She’s struck the same way by the reveal.

Rey was always the girl who had seen Star Wars as kid. Pilot dolls and heroic myths. Of course she thought she was a secret Skywalker. Didn’t we all?
Read 43 tweets
Jan 25, 2018
So, here’s something I’ve wanted to tweet about for a while.

Even if you ignore all the political and social reasons for diversity in the creative arts, here’s the thing:

Diversity *makes content better*.
I inevitably start with comedy. Watch this little scene from Fresh off the Boat:
Then have a look at this gag and its follow-up from ITV2’s Timewasters - should start at 1:25:
Read 23 tweets

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