There’s a very good reason why the premise of the Doctor Who Season 11 premiere, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” looks and feels so familiar — it’s because the 11th Doctor already fell to the Earth at the start of the 2011 Christmas Special. So a seven-year-old episode may totally spoil how the Doctor survives such a fall in the new season. As it turns out, it’s pretty easy for a Time Lord or Lady.
The 2017 Doctor Who Christmas Special ended with Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor transforming into Jodie Whittaker’s 13th, and for reason’s unknown, the TARDIS went crazy and dumped her right out the door and into Earth’s atmosphere. For that reason, the Season 11 premiere is titled “The Woman Who Fell to Earth.” The newly-regenerated Time Lady obviously survives the fall, but the episode’s summary indicates she’ll suffer from temporary amnesia. (That’s happened before for newly regenerated Doctors.)
That image, of a Doctor falling from the atmosphere and crashing to the Earth, already happened at the start of the 2011 Christmas Special called “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe” starring Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor. Chances are high that the 13th Doctor’s fall might play out much like the 11th’s.
In fact, the last scene of the 2017 Christmas Special is eerily similar to the first scene from the 2011 Christmas Special. At the beginning of “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe,” the 11th Doctor blows up an alien spacecraft from the inside in 1938 because it’s about to destroy Earth. But because he doesn’t have the TARDIS with him, he throws on a spacesuit and crashes directly into the Earth.
Specifically, He throws on an “impact” spacesuit backward and leaves a pretty sizable impact crater in the Earth. But other than being a bit dazed, he just walks it off with the help of a woman named Madge.
Unfortunately, the rest of the episode isn’t as entertaining. The story goes on to fuse together C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with FernGully in an awkward fashion. Three years after the opening, the Doctor reunites with a newly-widowed Madge and her children. The Doctor is their madcap caretaker and takes them to a wintry planet of scary, sentient trees fighting against the monstrous machine slated to harvest the wood.
Inverse’s Ryan Britt once dubbed this episode the worst Christmas Special in Doctor Who history and maybe one of the worst episodes ever. I tend to agree.
So it’s strange that Doctor Who Season 11 would start in a place so similar to the worst Christmas Special.
How the 13th Doctor survives the same fall to Earth without an “impact suit” remains to be seen, but most Time Lords and Ladies retain some regeneration energy for a short while after each regeneration. The 10th Doctor, for instance, also suffered from temporary amnesia after regeneration and regrew an entire hand using residual energy. Weirdly enough, that was yet another Christmas Special in 2005 called “The Christmas Invasion.”
Maybe the 13th Doctor survives only because she uses up more of her regeneration energy?
The Doctor Who Season 11 premiere will air during a worldwide simulcast on Sunday, October 7 at 1:45 p.m. Eastern.