Jodie Whittaker's Doctor Who debut was fantastic - but it made one mistake

Doctor Who has been one of the most anticipated new TV shows of the year ever since the BBC revealed that Jodie Whittaker would be taking over the role of the Time Lord and becoming the first female Doctor. The new season kicked off yesterday (October 7) with Whittaker’s very first episode, The Woman Who Fell to Earth, which saw the new Doctor meet her soon-to-be companions - and while everyone impressed, there’s one outstanding character who didn’t make the final cut. If you haven’t seen the premiere episode yet, stop reading now because there’s about to be full spoilers for Doctor Who season 11, episode 1. 

Sharon D. Clarke plays Grace O’Brien in The Woman Who Fell to Earth. A friendly and warm nurse who’s a little bit cheeky, but has some serious steel when it counts, she loves her second husband Graham (Bradley Walsh) and grandson Ryan (Tosin Cole). When an alien invades the train she and Graham are travelling home on, she’s the one who goes to investigate. When the Doctor appears and starts talking about other worlds, she barely bats an eyelid. When her grandson appears to be in danger during the finale, she’s the one who comes up with a plan and saves him. Even at the expense of her own life. Grace is an amazing character, one who feels very at home in the optimistic and sometime idealistic world of Doctor Who, and Clarke plays her to perfection. So much so, that fans are questioning why she had to die… why she’s not one of the season 11 companions… and why the ok-but-much-less-interesting Graham gets to go along for the ride. 

Don’t believe me? Just check out these tweets:

In hindsight, it was perhaps not the best idea for the BBC to advertise the other characters - Ryan, Graham, and Yasmin (Mandip Gill) - as the new companions so much before the premiere. The fact that these three appeared in all the promo material alongside Whittaker made it pretty obvious from the opening scene that something was going to happen to Grace. It took the edge off the episode for me, as I was constantly waiting for her demise, and the more I knew it was coming, the more disappointed I became. Don’t get me wrong, I really like what I’ve seen of the companions so far, but I can’t find a compelling reason why Grace couldn’t have come along for the ride too. Out of all the humans in this episode, she feels like the most likely to jump aboard the TARDIS for an alien adventure, dragging her worrisome hubby and unsure Grandson along behind her. And as one of the tweets says above, wouldn’t it have been something to see three generations of women aboard the TARDIS in Doctor Who season 11? 

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As it is, Grace’s death felt a little too shoehorned in for me, just so the season opener could have some real loss in it. Even more frustrating, it didn’t need to be this way. Her death isn’t the catalyst which causes the others to go travelling with the Doctor (as we saw in the final minutes, that’s down to a transporter accident), and in terms of interesting companions, Grace feels much more well-rounded than Graham who barely makes an impression on the episode. Plus, their roles could have easily been reversed if a death was absolutely necessary for the episode to work. Personally, I’d rather have seen all four of them go off on an adventure with the Doctor but sadly, it was not to be… or was it? Some have suggested that Grace could be back later in the season based on the fact that Clarke’s role was reported as “recurring”. While this may well have been a red herring, Doctor Who is a time-travel show and Grace is such as great character, part of me can’t help but hope for the return of the cheeky Grandmother. Fingers crossed we’ll see her again, but for now, I’m just happy to have Doctor Who back on my TV screen. 

Lauren O'Callaghan

Lauren O'Callaghan is the former Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar+. You'd typically find Lauren writing features and reviews about the latest and greatest in pop culture and entertainment, and assisting the teams at Total Film and SFX to bring their excellent content onto GamesRadar+. Lauren is now the digital marketing manager at the National Trust.