With the recent nomination of Doctor Who for the NTA’s (National Television Awards) and Jodie Whittaker nominated for Drama Performance I have been wondering whether Jodie Whittaker and the show have done enough in Series 11 to win? Jodie W is up against some stiff acting competition from Richard Madden (Bodyguard) and Jodie Comer (Villanelle in Killing Eve) not to also mention Cillian Murphy from Peaky Blinders. There is also the fact that both David Tennant and Matt Smith are previous winners of the NTA’S so no pressure!
Jodie Whittaker said at the preview screening for the New Year’s Day Special “Resolution” that she has proved that the Doctor can be played by a woman but I don’t think the scripts this series really helped her come across as well as she could have. Dont get me wrong I have liked her as the Doctor and there were some good one to one performances from her (I’m thinking here of “The Witchfinders” and with Alan Cummings as King James) although having three companions definitely meant she became a part of the collective team Tardis rather than striding out as the leader.
Has her characterisation been strong enough to merit her an award ? Well the critics loved her a lot but as a fan there were too many episodes she lacked the consistency, bearing and authority we’ve always expected from the Doctor. Sometimes she behaved like an Aunt Sally (of the Worzel Gummidge type) a judgemental school teacher chiding the companions or people she met such as in “The Ghost Monument “or she was just plain kooky. At times her Doctor felt a passive observer when we really needed an alpha female Ripley character, We were made to wait all series for a more forceful interpretation until New Years episode “Resolution”. Only then did we finally see her guns blazing against a powerful villain. There were some lovely moments of regret from her during the series such as the death of the passenger on the train in “The Woman… to Earth”, appealing to Charlie to stop in “Kerblam” and saying goodbye to the frog… er sorry the conscious universe able to take any form it pleases, that were really appealing, because they recognised the long life of this Time Lord. However they were brief moments in ten episodes.
Ratings wise though her debut episode did incredibly well if you compare it to previous debuts of new series Doctors. Consolidated figures for the “The Woman Who Fell to Earth “of 10.54m put it second behind ‘Rose’ in new debuts (Rose achieved 10.81m) whereas Deep Breath achieved 9.17m. The high figure could certainly be curiosity from the audience about a female doctor. The figures did go down consecutively week on week until “Battle” when they went up. Resolution” had overnight ratings of 5.15m which then consolidated to 7.13m. This is lower than the 7.92m of Capaldi’s last story “Twice Upon a Time but if you look at the consolidated ratings compared to Capaldi’s last series Series 11 was typically averaging at least 2 million more viewers. It suggests amongst the general audience Chris Chibnall has succeeded bringing the series back to the national consciousness even though for me as a fan it was a bit hit and miss. The AI figure has been slightly lower than last year at between 79-83 where Series 10 came out between 81-85 (85 or over is excellent), “Battle” scored 80 on the AI with a story with a fresh untested and unknown villain. Whether a season of unfamiliar foes would have had an impact of how people would have votes we wont know as Chris Chibnall brought back a Dalek on New Year’s Day and the nostalgia of them may resonant enough to sway people to vote Doctor Who’s way.
A “Water Cooler” moment
Chris Chibnall in an interview for Television, the in-house magazine of the Royal Television society revealed, when he was approached for the show runner role what the BBC was after was “risk and boldness” I’m not sure whether this phrase is just BBC executives speak echoing a much over-used hyperbole sentiment. But we have to acknowledge that the show is to be fair in its 11th series. But Doctor Who did do something which hasn’t happened for a while. It had a “moment” with Rosa. Doctor Who became a talking point again with historical stories such as “Rosa” and also “Punjab” pushing the much-vaunted educational aspect of this series. Maybe it is a trite statement to aim to educate people in 50 minutes of television but it goes hark back to the original aims of the programme so from my view I didn’t mind learning something more. If people are moved by something that they will then go away and read something or talk about it further with their families then that certainly is a result for the series.
There is another valid reason to think the show stands a chance of an award. Part of the reason for the rating success and general bonhomie from critics has been the move to Sundays. Moving away from Saturdays with the competition from big light entertainment, shows such as X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing and having a different evening slot has certainly helped bolster the show’s profile. This is a different era to when the BBC were actively trying to kill off the programme in the 1980’s, moving it around the schedules and setting it up against the juggernaut which is Coronation Street. Drama debuts on Sundays from The Bodyguard, The Cry, Little Drummer Girl have created an audience appetite ripe for strong stories to discuss around the water cooler on Mondays and Doctor Who has mirrored a part of that wave of interest.
In the best drama category, the show is up against Bodyguard, Peaky Blinders, Casualty and Our Girl. Casualty was a recent winner in 2017 and its been five years since Doctor Who won majorly in 2012 . The audience does go familiarity most of the time with shows such as Waterloo Road, Casualty, Downtown Abbey winning these gongs but impact TV such as Doctor Foster has swept the board previously as last year in both Drama and Drama Performance. Most of the contenders have become staples in the schedules now as is Doctor Who so my betting is it will be the new kid on the block who is the main competition, the political thriller Bodyguard. The final ratings for it were very good between 14.16m and 16.85m and the reviews were very positive. Bodyguard also picked a Golden Globe so it will be tough race to win but it is possible. Jed Mecurio is also responsible for the acclaimed Line of Duty. He has said of the show ( Bodyguard) “I like to try to do things that move the story on” and it certainly left viewers guessing with shocking twists which hasn’t been the case with many shows recently.
Whatever happens at the awards it is good to see the show and lead nominated. Bradley Walsh has also been nominated as part of “The Chase” which I’m pleased about. He was one of the great things about Series 11. Good luck to all the nominees!!