Doctor Who is a series that has made a foundation on an ever-changing premise. The whole concept revolves around the fact that the protagonist must change their whole appearance and personality every few seasons. For a series which has lasted as long as Doctor Who (nearly 60 years), it's surprising that the BBC has yet to run out of ways to reinvigorate the show.
Series 11 of Doctor Who was one of the most revolutionary seasons yet. Looking through multiple lenses, the entire show switched gears after its regime change from Steven Moffat to Chris Chibnall. Now that series eleven has come and gone, its time to look back at some of the ways it changed Doctor Who forever.
10 The Role Of The Doctor
Obviously, the Doctor went through one of their most significant transformations yet. The Doctor's gender wasn't the only thing to change though. Throughout much of the revival, the Doctor has been the main protagonist. While companions have always played major roles, the main focus has always been the journey of the Doctor.
The 11th season took a bit of a different path in regard to the role of the Doctor. Instead of the hero character or madman in a box, the Doctor became more of a guide for the real protagonists: the companions. The Doctor, as a character, was less challenged and was more of an intergalactic time-traveling tour guide. This archetype was a bit more like the role some of the classic Doctors played. Although there were great moments for Jodi Whittaker's timelord, she was far less centralized than previous incarnations.
9 A More Optimistic Outlook
For a long time, Doctor Who has been obsessed with the toll that age and time travel has on an immortal individual. The idea of the cursed life of the Doctor has been key to understanding the emotional arcs for each incarnation. For the first time in a long time, that idea feels brushed aside for something more optimistic and hopeful.
Although these previous choices brought more gravitas to the character, it also brought more dower tones to a series meant to inspire. Series 11 brought audiences a version of the Doctor that is never tired of exploring the mysteries of the universe. There is so much wonder and excitement, whether it be towards dying stars or custard creams. This series made traveling through time and space look like the ultimate adventure, as it should be.
Doctor Who was one of the most progressive shows around even before Season 11. Especially in regards to LGBTQ representation, the series has been revolutionary in bringing in actors of multiple backgrounds. Series eleven took this to an unprecedented level, though. Diversity was a priority for this season.
Obviously, the TARDIS crew was one of the most inclusive ever. The Doctor's gender change was a huge moment, but the inclusion of both Yaz and Ryan, as well as much of the supporting cast, gave the audience so many different characters to identify with. Even the types of stories being told shone a light on oppressed groups, including English witch trials, the Civil Rights movement in America, and Indian Partition. Even the writing team was the most diverse in the show's history. Series 11 made a real statement that Doctor Who, and sci-fi, is for everyone.
7 The Role Of A Season Finale
Doctor Who season finales are some of the most bombastic episodes of the revival. More often than not, either the world, the galaxy, time itself or the Doctor's current form is on the brink of collapse. These stories are so massive and world-changing that they usually require at least two episodes.
Series eleven completely subverted expectations with its finale, wrapping up any loose ends with a simple bow and saving the galaxy in one episode. Some felt underwhelmed, but it offered a nice change of pace for others. The entire season told singular one episode arcs with no two-parters in sight. Although many missed multiple episode stories, this change of pace allowed for some fresh new storytelling techniques. No episode proved this more than the finale, which offered a compelling short-form arc for its episode while giving satisfying conclusions to its season-long characters too.
6 The Daleks
Although not officially part of series 11, the New Years special had to be included in this list. The one episode to bring back a classic monster, "Resolution" reintroduced the Daleks to this new TARDIS gang. It was great to get these screaming pepper shakers back on screen again but it was even better to see how they were updated.
For the first time in years, Daleks were scary again. Their constant presence has often been the butt of jokes among fans, and most of their appearances have been nothing more than short cameos. "Resolution" implemented some incredible horror elements by bringing a Dalek out of their shell. Instead of a screaming teapot, these episodes had shades of Ridley Scott's Alien. The scrap metal shell was also a fun subversion. The classic look is great for a reason, but this new design was a great change of pace. It showed the desperate nature of the Daleks' need for an exoskeleton better than anything since 2005's "Dalek."
5 Online Shopping
Doctor Who has a monopoly on turning everyday mundane things into frightening monsters. Apart from bewilderingly complicated plots, Steven Moffat's entire writing career was made off this premise. The Weeping Angels come to mind instantly, but other stories and creatures have accomplished the same task.
This season was a bit less concerned with horror aspects, but this Doctor Who tradition couldn't be kept at bay. Series eleven changed the way audiences viewed online shopping forever in the clever satire "Kerblam!" Critiquing modern society's dependence on corporate giants like Amazon, this story turned 2-day Prime shipping into a living nightmare. One of the best and most Doctor Who-ey episodes of the entire season, "Kerblam!" delivered in almost every way.
4 Historical Episodes
Historical episodes within the Doctor Who revival have never quite hit the mark. There are always a few exceptions to be sure, "Human Nature/The Family of Blood" and "The Girl in the Fireplace" to name a few. Overall, though, the historical episodes offer little more than set-dressing and a few fun gags. In contrast, season eleven's historical episodes were some of the most crucial in the entire run, always feeling intentional and reliant on real-life history.
Each historical episode, from "Rosa" and "Demons of the Punjab" to "The Witchfinders," tied their direct thematic stories to their historical eras and moments. "Rosa" told a story about defiance and duty through a real-world example. "Demons of the Punjab" focused on family and division in the same way. "The Witchfinders," meanwhile, used the fear and suspicion of its period to reflect the same upon our own. Without a doubt, series eleven altered the throwaway status of historical episodes for the better.
3 Sonic Screwdrivers
Oh yes, Sonic Screwdrivers: aka the magic wands of Doctor Who. Although these devices often get used as incredibly handy plot devices, there's no denying they are a charming icon in the history of Doctor Who. Nearly every Doctor has had one of their own, from Jon Pertwee to Peter Capaldi (who rocked some styling Sonic Shades). Something that has never been seen before is the Doctor making one from scratch.
In this newest series, Jodie Whittaker's Doctor got to make her Sonic Screwdriver from assembled parts in a Sheffield auto shop. The act of building such an iconic character prop from scratch added even more personality to an already historical tool. Jodie's Sonic felt unlike anything else audiences had seen before.
One of the biggest storytelling changes season eleven brought was the role that companions play in the show. Companions have had quite the journey since the show returned in 2005. For a while, the companions were regular folks thrown into incredible circumstances. Their journeys soon became more and more outlandish, with universe-wide ramifications.
This trend only became more and more extreme as time went on. Luckily, after Bill Potts brought the companions down to earth a bit, series 11 made the concerns of the characters much more relatable. Yaz's struggles with identity and Graham and Ryan's familial strife was a refreshing story, adding that bit of real-world emotion among the aliens and monsters. Graham alone became one of the most fascinating and beloved companions in years, almost overnight.
1 Casting The Doctor
Without a doubt, the most significant change season 11 brought to Doctor Who was the fact that the Doctor could change their gender. It had been established previously that timelords had this ability, from the Corsair to the Master, but the titular timelord had always been a man.
With the casting of Jodi Whittaker, the entire world of the show opened up. The series had always been marketed by its ability to change, but up to this point, the only major change from Doctor to Doctor was age and personality. Jodie's casting proves that anyone can be the Doctor. No matter the gender, skin tone, sexuality, body type or anything else, anyone can be this iconic character. It's a gamechanger whose echoes will be felt for years to come.