The Woman Who Fell to Earth (TV story)

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The Woman Who Fell to Earth was the first episode of series 11 of Doctor Who. In the United Kingdom, it earned the highest overnight ratings for a regular episode of Doctor Who since 2008's Partners in Crime and was the most-watched debut for a Doctor since Christopher Eccleston's initial turn in Rose, surpassing that episode by nearly one hundred thousand viewers.[1]

Woman was widely marketed as a landmark Doctor Who episode because it was the first to star a female Doctor, and fully introduced Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor. It was further notable for introducing an all-new regular cast — the largest since 1983's Terminus — and a new production team under show runner Chris Chibnall. As a result, this episode had the biggest crew shift since 2010's The Eleventh Hour.

Unusually, it had a global premiere, with many markets around the world having at least the same start time. Oddly, though, it was initially broadcast in an altered visual form in some markets. Although it was the first episode of the programme filmed in a 2:1 aspect ratio, its global premiere on networks like BBC America and Space was actually in the previous standard of 16:9. This had the effect of truncating some of the frame.

It did not include a title sequence and was the second episode of Doctor Who to have its title given in the end credits after Sleep No More three years earlier. As such, viewers had to wait until after the episode was over[2] to hear the new arrangement of the Doctor Who theme by incoming composer Segun Akinola.[3]

This marked Bradley Walsh's debut in Doctor Who, portraying full-time companion Graham O'Brien, having previously appeared as the Pied Piper in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode The Day of the Clown in 2008.

In 2020, Chibnall wrote and released a prequel to this story called Things She Thought While Falling on the Doctor Who website, set directly after Twice Upon a Time as a treat during "strange times" due to outbreak of COVID-19 worldwide.[4]


Ryan Sinclair, Graham O'Brien, and Yasmin Khan didn't expect their lives to change when they notice strange occurrences in Sheffield. As the terror unfolds further, they band with a mysterious amnesiac woman, who may hold the key to their survival.


Ryan Sinclair is making a YouTube video about the "greatest woman he ever met" and recounts a recent event. He recalls trying to ride a bicycle with his grandmother Grace and her husband Graham O'Brien, on a hillside in Sheffield. Ryan struggles because of his dyspraxia, and falls off the bike. Frustrated, he throws the bike into a forest. Grace and Graham comfort him, though they insist Ryan should collect the bike to try again another time while they head off to the train station. As Ryan ventures to retrieve it, he sees glowing golden lines suspended in the air. He taps one and a purple coloured, plant-like pod emerges. Ryan calls the police.

Yasmin Khan, a probation police officer, settles a petty dispute between two women, before calling a superior. She asks for more demanding opportunities, and after much pestering, her superior gives her Ryan's case. As she arrives, she and Ryan quickly realise that they knew each other at primary school. Yasmin presumes Ryan's just pulling a prank but Ryan remarks he can't even touch the entity, as it is freezing. Yasmin touches it, finding it burns her hand. Bewildered, she continues questioning Ryan.

Meanwhile, Grace and Graham are riding on a train with a man named Karl when there is a disturbance which causes the train to come to a screeching halt when the driver, Sissy Roberts, sees something fly at the cabin windows. Grace checks through the window, finding the passengers have fled the train. However, she finds the doors locked, meaning that they are unable to do the same. They call for Ryan and Yasmin, before being encroached by an erratic, electrified tentacle creature. Grace calls Ryan, who rushes to the scene with Yasmin. Graham orders Grace and Karl to the back of the carriage but finds it locked. Before the creature can reach them, they are temporarily saved as the Thirteenth Doctor comes crashing down through the ceiling and electrocutes the creature with a metal pipe. She turns to them, insisting she can help. However, she finds her pockets empty, meaning she cannot use her sonic screwdriver to open the door. The creature awakens and pins down Karl, who panics. The Doctor insists that he remain calm as it has not killed them yet, so will not kill them now. Yasmin and Ryan enter the train, standing in shock at the sight of the creature. The creature scans Karl then sends a surge of electricity through the passengers before fleeing.

The Doctor begins to take charge of the situation only for Yasmin to ask who she is. The Doctor asks why Yasmin is calling her "madam". Perplexed, Yasmin says it's because she is a woman. Surprised by this, the Doctor then remembers that she was a white haired Scotsman half an hour ago. She starts explaining as such but returns to her investigating. She enters the driver's cart only to learn that the train's driver is dead. Yasmin initially thinks the woman was murdered, but the Doctor corrects that she actually died from shock. Returning to the others, Yaz insists the Doctor should stop, claiming she will call for backup but the Doctor convinces her to hold off on such until they figure out exactly what the alien was.

Yasmin takes to questioning Karl instead, getting his phone number to keep in touch for further inquiries. The Doctor is asked after by Grace and she goes into a slight panic after remembering that her TARDIS exploded and disappeared. She presses on to other matters, though, insisting the group needs to think of ways to learn more about the alien. Graham is sceptical that it was alien in origin, though Grace and Ryan voice they believe the Doctor. Karl, siding with Graham, backs away, wanting to leave for work and just forget about the incident. Letting him go, the Doctor asks the others for information about the creature. Ryan mentions the pod he found earlier, which Yaz agrees to take the group to. However, when they get there, they find it has already been taken.

Meanwhile, Andy, who has the pod in the back of his van, is delivering it to Rahul. On arriving, he expresses some concern for Rahul's well-being before reluctantly leaving when he pays him. Rahul surrounds the pod with video cameras to record it, then sits down and watches it intently.

Elsewhere, the Doctor asks the others to figure out if anyone in town has knowledge regarding any strange alien activity. Yaz returns to her police station to ask her boss but he dismisses her, given her history of moaning for more work. Grace checks in with friends from when she was a chemotherapy nurse but similarly turns up nothing. Graham offers to go and ask some bus driver friends about it.

The Doctor gets frustrated about not knowing the answers when she suddenly loses consciousness, being caught by Ryan. While Yaz speaks to her superior, learning nothing of interest, Graham tries to ask his friends from the bus station he used to work at but one, Gabriel, just makes a joke about his wife and her friends playing bingo. Grace and Ryan take the Doctor back home; while Ryan checks on social media, Grace notices the Doctor's body coursing with and exhaling regeneration energy, intriguing them both. Grace checks the Doctor's pulse and finds to her bewilderment that she has two.

With Rahul still filming the pod, it suddenly becomes active, breaking open and exploding all of Rahul's cameras. He arms himself with a crowbar and readies himself to defend. Elsewhere, Yaz and Graham have returned to the house when the Doctor regains consciousness. She notices red, pulsating lights shining from her friends' collarbones as well as her own. She realises that the strange electric alien from the train embedded them with DNA bombs, explosive devices that melt the victim's DNA. Reformatting Ryan's phone, the Doctor manages to track the source of the disruption and they go after it.

A large, bio-mechanical creature emerges from the broken pod; Rahul demands to know about his sister, who had previously gone missing, when it kills him by freezing his face. Arriving on the scene as the alien flees, the Doctor and Yaz chase after it but lose it in the mist. The others find Rahul's body in the warehouse and the Doctor notices the absence of one of his teeth. Ryan spots the empty pod and the Doctor inspects it, identifying it as a transport pod. Ryan reveals its origins after he touched the lines in the air while retrieving his bike. The Doctor covers Rahul's corpse as a mark of respect.

While Yaz and Ryan go to investigate the warehouse, the Doctor continues to examine the pod; she then decides to build herself a new sonic screwdriver. Yaz tries to reassure Ryan that none of the deaths are on him and they both wonder whether or not the Doctor is really an alien. They then search a small room and find files of various missing people and a video on Rahul's computer titled "IF I DIE CLICK HERE". While gathering materials from around the warehouse and the transport pod, the Doctor tells Graham and Grace about her experiences with regeneration before proceeding to construct her new screwdriver. After she finishes, Ryan and Yaz show them Rahul's video in which he talks about his sister Asha's disappearance and his desire to find out the truth in the knowledge that it may kill him.

Scanning the pod again and finding the recall circuit, the Doctor infers the aliens from the train and the pod are at war and are looking to fight on Earth. Gathering some equipment, Graham gets a call from his friend Kevin, who has information about the alien's whereabouts. The alien from the pod kills a drunk male who was throwing his salad at it and takes a tooth from him as well, when it sees the electric alien discharge lightning from a tall building in the distance and goes after it. The Doctor and the others reach the electric alien first and nullify it. Scanning it again, the Doctor identifies it as a mass of gathering coils, a species which collects and correlates information, biologically engineered and augmented. She checks the data it has collected, discovering all of it is information about Karl from the train.

The pod alien arrives behind them and, removing his mask to reveal his face implanted with his victims' teeth, identifies himself as Tzim-Sha (mispronounced as "Tim Shaw" by the Doctor) of the Stenza warrior race. He had been sent to Earth on a hunt to seek out a randomly selected human without technology or assistance and bring him back home. However, the Doctor deduces he secretly sent the Gathering Coils ahead in advance and thus has broken the rules. Tzim-Sha takes the information from the Coil into himself via a physical connection and goes to hunt Karl. There, he kills the security guard and proceeds to climb the crane to reach Karl.

Chasing Tzim-Sha to Karl's job at a building yard, the Doctor sends Graham and Grace to evacuate the site while she, Yaz and Ryan make for the top of a crane to save Karl from the impending Stenza. Even with Ryan's dyspraxia causing him difficulties, the trio make it to the top. The Doctor orchestrates a plan in which Yaz and Ryan move the crane arm around to meet Karl's crane so he can jump across. Before he has a chance to do so, however, Tzim-Sha catches him and the Doctor takes a running jump over to the other crane instead.

Meanwhile, the Gathering Coil has restored itself and is attacking the other crane, so Grace tries to stop it by electrocuting it with power from the site's mains. Catching up with Tzim-Sha, the Doctor offers him an ultimatum, having taken his pod's recall circuit; he can either leave, or kill her and her friends and destroy the circuit. Making his choice, Tzim-Sha detonates the DNA bombs, but the Doctor reveals she had implanted them back into the Gathering Coil with her sonic screwdriver, so he receives the physical effects instead, having taken the bombs into himself when he absorbed the data from the Coil. Throwing the circuit back to him, Karl kicks him off the crane as he teleports away, much to the Doctor's anger.

Grace holds the pylons to the Coil as Graham opens the mains; the Coil is overloaded by the shock, but the kickback shocks Grace and throws her from the crane to the ground, severely injuring her. Knowing her injuries are too grave to recover from, she tells Graham not to be afraid and dies just as the Doctor, Yaz and Ryan arrive, leaving Ryan and Graham grief-stricken.

The episode goes back to Ryan's video, revealing he was talking about Grace the entire time. At Grace's funeral, the Doctor approaches Ryan, who had been awaiting his father's arrival for two hours but has still not appeared. Later, with the others in attendance, Graham gives a heartfelt speech about Grace. Later that evening, he reveals that he met Grace while being treated for cancer, and Yaz asks the Doctor about her own family. The Doctor explains that her own family is long gone, but she carries them with her always while she travels. This reminds her that she still needs to find the TARDIS, and tells her newfound friends that she's stayed too long and needs to be moving on. Yaz suggests that she change her clothes first.

The Doctor, ready to go out adventuring once more.

Yaz and Ryan take the Doctor to a charity clothing store. The Doctor quickly goes behind the changing curtain with some choices, while Yaz holds on to some more. Both watch in confusion as the Doctor tosses various items of clothing out of the changing room, stating "no" to each one. The Doctor then exclaims in joy, having found what she wants. In mere moments, the Doctor pulls away the curtain to reveal her new outfit, which consists of a long coat, a T-shirt with a rainbow pattern and blue trousers. Yaz sceptically asks if it what the Doctor wants, to which she confirms; she then asks Yaz to pay for the clothes as she doesn't have any money with her.

With a new outfit selected, the Doctor builds a rudimentary teleport out of Tzim-Sha's technology, which she has programmed to track the TARDIS' trail of Artron energy and prepares to leave. Saying her goodbyes to Graham, Ryan and Yaz, the Doctor sonics the devices and readies for departure, but the device teleports all four of them instead. On the other end, the Doctor is shocked to see her friends floating behind her; all of them suspended and stranded in deep space.



General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.


The Doctor[[edit]]

  • The Doctor has recently regenerated from her twelfth incarnation, noting the Twelfth Doctor's Scottish accent.
  • Before remembering her name, the Doctor states she is looking for a doctor.
  • The Doctor wonders what to call her new friends, and suggests "team", "troops", "gang" and "fam".
  • Grace discovers that the Doctor has two separate pulses.
  • Recovering from her regeneration, the Doctor needs time to recuperate. Grace and Ryan see her hands and face glow with regeneration energy. Energy also leaves through her mouth.
  • The Doctor recalls having had longer legs.
  • The Doctor has not bought women's clothes "in a while".


  • The Doctor remembers the TARDIS exploded and dematerialised.
  • The Doctor attempts to track the trail of artron energy from the TARDIS. She teleports to its approximate coordinates, but accidentally transports Ryan, Yasmin and Graham with her.




Food and beverages[[edit]]

  • Ramesh is eating a sandwich.
  • Rahul tells Andy to go have a pint on him, and gives him some money.
  • Rahul is chewing gum.
  • The Doctor is craving a fried egg sandwich, and promises they'll all have a cuppa', as well as the sandwich.
  • Dean litters by throwing his kebab's salad consisting mainly of tomato and cucumber, on the floor, and upon encountering Tzim-Sha, tosses some at him. Tzim-Sha later steps on it after killing him.
  • Advertising boards for Pukka-Pies decorate a Sheffield stadium.



  • Art Online's video has a dog in its thumbnail.
  • An advert aboard the train asks for help to care for a kitten called Daisy until she can get a new home, and lists the number 08081 570 867 to donate £3.
  • The Stenza are a warrior race and self-proclaimed conquerors of the Nine Systems.
    • When Tzim-Sha says he will soon be leader, the Doctor mocks him by asking if he's currently the office junior.
  • The gathering coil is an engineered biotech weapon, described as a "semi-species" by the Doctor.




  • The Doctor can't remember the word for her tongue until prompted by Ryan.
  • The Doctor uses her nose to time when she will lose consciousness. She notes that her new nose is far less reliable.
  • The DNA bombs appear as lights on their victims' collarbones.
  • The Stenza keep the teeth of those they kill, as trophies.


  • Graham has cancer, which is now in remission.
  • Grace suggests that the Doctor go to A&E, but the Doctor says she "never [goes] anywhere that's just initials".


Story notes[[edit]]

The title card during the end credits.
  • The episode doesn't feature an opening title sequence, but the new Doctor Who theme, composed by Segun Akinola, is partially played in the scene in which we are introduced to the Doctor, and then over the closing credits, which have returned to a scrolling sequence, not seen since TV: The Time of the Doctor.
  • This episode marks the first time since Victory of the Daleks over 8 years previously that the Doctor Who theme plays over the Next Time trailers.
  • The episode title, while at first glance appears to reference the Doctor's fall from her TARDIS, is also potentially a reference to Grace's death since the episode is framed as a story that Ryan Sinclair is telling about the greatest woman he ever knew, his grandmother Grace.
  • BBC Studios Cymru Wales was credited in the end credits underneath the Executive Producers for the final time. From The Ghost Monument, 'BBC Studios for BBC' would be credited instead, although, Doctor Who would still be filmed at Roath Lock Studios which is still owned by BBC Cymru Wales. However, on the BBC iPlayer version of this episode, BBC Studios for BBC is credited instead of Cymru Wales
  • Instead of an opening title sequence, the BBC logo was shown at the beginning of the episode instead. However, on the DVD version of this episode, this is omitted.
  • This is the first Doctor Who episode not to be scored by Murray Gold since the start of the revived era in 2005.
  • This is the third post-regeneration story to feature no scenes inside the TARDIS, following TV: Spearhead from Space and TV: Robot, and the first in which the TARDIS does not appear at all.
  • Similarly to TV: Sleep No More, the episode title, as well as the writer, producer and director credits, are shown at the beginning of the end credits instead of having a regular opening title sequence.
  • The end credits feature a preview of the remainder of the season, similar to TV: The Eleventh Hour and TV: The Pilot, including the names of several upcoming guest stars.
  • The initial two broadcasts on BBC America did not feature even the end credits. Viewers in America had to wait until the episode was available on demand to hear the full, new theme arrangement. Instead, BBCA ran a live "after party" celebrity analysis of the episode beginning immediately after the final scene.
  • This is the first non-special episode not to air on a Saturday since TV: Survival.
  • The Doctor's scream as she falls through the roof of the train is reused from TV: Twice Upon a Time.
  • At the premiere of the episode in Sheffield on the 24 September, Jodie revealed that for this episode only, she did all of her own stunts. Tosin Cole additionally added that he acted being bad at riding a bike.[5] This would prove to be because Ryan has dyspraxia.[6]
  • At the same event, Bradley Walsh revealed that he's wearing a wig for the entire series, due to his character's requirement to look older, and him not being that old, and because he's hosting The Chase too.[7]
  • This story marks the first time since TV: The Faceless Ones in which there are two male companions travelling with the Doctor on a regular basis.
  • This episode's airdate coincided with Thanksgiving Sunday in Canada.
  • This marks the first time the theme music has been used during a TV story, playing across the Doctor's entrance sequence.
  • Ben Irving, who would be credited from The Ghost Monument onwards as "Executive Producer for the BBC", was uncredited on original broadcast but is credited on the BBC iPlayer version of this episode.
  • Throughout the Thirteenth Doctor's tenure, her loss of her sonic screwdriver and sunglasses is a minor loose end that was never addressed; even if they broke in the fall, humans could still find their remains and reverse engineer the technology. Ironic, as the Doctor was quite adamant with any advanced technology being on planets like Earth; hence why she detests UNIT and Torchwood's use of it. Primarily because of the unbeatable combination of "alien technology plus human stupidity".


  • 8.2 million (UK overnight)[8][9]
  • 10.95 million (UK final)[1]
  • 1.37 million (BBC America)[10]

Filming locations[[edit]]

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.

to be added


  • There would be a funeral for Graham's son David. The funeral was for Grace, and no reference was made to Graham having a son.
  • A cat named Percy would appear and join the Doctor in her travels. No such cat featured.
  • John Barrowman and Eve Myles were to reprise the roles of Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper. This was proven false.


Home video releases[[edit]]

DVD & Blu-ray releases[[edit]]

  • This story was released as part of the Complete Eleventh Series boxsets on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1/A on 29 January 2019, in region 2/B on 14 January 2019 and in region 4/B on 6 February 2019.

Digital releases[[edit]]

  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer.

External links[[edit]]


  1. 1.0 1.1 UK final ratings
  2. Some viewers didn't get the new theme arrangement, even at the end of the episode. On the BBCA initial broadcast, an "after-party" event in which celebrities analysed the episode started immediately after the final scene. The end credit sequence wasn't available on BBCA until the episode went to its "on demand" version, later in the day.
  3. A tiny snippet of the new theme was used incidentally underneath the Doctor's initial appearance.
  8. Press Association (8 October 2018). Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker's debut is most watched launch for 10 years. The Guardian. Retrieved on 8 October 2018.
  9. Fullerton, Huw (8 October 2018). Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who debut watched by more than 8 million. RadioTimes. Retrieved on 8 October 2018.
  10. US - final ratings
  11. 11.0 11.1 Dixon, Emily (7 October 2018). Where Was 'Doctor Who' Series 11 Filmed? Sheffield Featured Heavily In The First Episode. Bustle. Retrieved on 8 October 2018.
  12. Windham, Dan (21 November 2017). This is why you may have spotted TV stars and camera crews in Sheffield yesterday. The Star. Retrieved on 8 October 2018.
  13. Burke, Darren (13 February 2018). Pictures: Tardis spotted in Sheffield as Doctor Who filming takes place in city. Doncaster Free Press. Retrieved on 8 October 2018.
  15. Windham, Dan (22 November 2017). Does this picture prove that Doctor Who is being filmed near Meadowhall?. The Star. Retrieved on 8 October 2018.
  16. Fullerton, Huw (7 October 2018). Behind the scenes on Jodie Whittaker’s very first Doctor Who episode. RadioTimes. Retrieved on 8 October 2018.