Three episodes in, it's becoming clear that Doctor Who season 11 is fixing a lot of long-term problems with the franchise. The BBC's longest-running science-fiction series started in 1963, after all, and each regeneration effectively serves as something of a relaunch.
In the case of season 11, the relaunch is all the more dramatic. New showrunner Chris Chibnall seems determined to breathe a new breath of life into Doctor Who, and he's done that by turning the series on its head. The most visible change of all is, of course, the first female Doctor. The idea of a female Doctor was really first introduced when Tom Baker was stepping down back in the '80s. Speaking in a press conference announcing his departure, Baker quipped that he wished the new Doctor - "whoever he or she may be" - the very best of luck. What began as a joke has turned into reality, and Doctor Who is all the better for it.
But after three episodes of Doctor Who season 11, it's clear that the changes Chibnall is making aren't just cosmetic. He's identified some major background issues with Doctor Who and is carefully adjusting them - and in doing so, transforming the series for the better. Let's take a look at some major examples.
The Doctor's Characterisation Is The Most Faithful Of Nu-Who
Let's start with the Doctor herself. In the classic Doctor Who, the Renegade Time Lord was essentially a maverick, a sort of cosmic do-gooder who wandered from crisis to crisis. Although the Doctor always had an ego, he tended to keep his head down and took pleasure in the fact nobody really knew who he was. Stories would frequently feature lengthy plots in which the Doctor attempted to earn people's trust, and he was often underestimated by his enemies. It's true that return villains like the Daleks soon gained a healthy amount of respect (and even fear) for the Doctor, but to the rest of the universe he was just a random stranger who turned up when mayhem ensued and vanished afterwards.
The Doctor Who relaunch, however, lost that element. In part it was for story purposes; because this new series didn't feature as many multi-episode stories, it needed certain plot devices to speed things up. One major plot device that helped was the idea that the Doctor had built up something of a reputation, meaning he could just say who he was and take charge. Over the years, that reputation has grown to the point the very word "Doctor" was inspired by him, that the sound of that battered blue police box materializing has inspired hope to countless worlds. From the end of the David Tennant era, through Matt Smith's run and on into Peter Capaldi's, the Doctor has been able to stride into a situation and explain himself by simply saying, "I'm the Doctor." Matt Smith's first episode even had him scare the Atraxi into leaving Earth alone forever simply by identifying himself.
But this approach risks stripping the Doctor of his/her complexity as a character. The Doctor becomes a cosmic force of nature, an "Oncoming Storm" as the Daleks call him/her. So Chibnall has chosen to step back from this approach. He's deliberately introducing brand new villains like the Stenza, alien races who have never crossed paths with the Doctor before and so have no idea what to make of her. When the Doctor does encounter beings who could reasonably know who she is, she avoids giving her name at all; "Rosa" featured a time-traveler who knew a lot about Time Lords, even recognizing the TARDIS for what it is, and as a result the Doctor avoided introducing herself. She preferred to be underestimated.
It's a return to Doctor Who's roots, an approach that allows the series to explore smaller-scale adventures without it feeling as though these villains couldn't possibly be a threat to such a powerful, potent being as the Doctor. After all, so far the series has featured a lone alien hunting a random human in Sheffield, and a rogue white supremacist time-traveler attempting to rewrite history by making sure Rosa Parks doesn't get arrested. The scale is very different to what audiences become used to through the Smith and Capaldi runs.