‘Doctor Who’: 10 Things You May Not Know About ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’

(Photo: BBC)

This is the story of how the Doctor can be thrown from her TARDIS – the vehicle that has always delivered its pilot to the place s/he needed to be – and smash through the roof of a train at exactly the right moment to meet her new best friends and fend off an alien attack. All before she even realized the person she had become after her regeneration.

Here are a few things that you should keep an eye out for, the next time you watch Jodie Whittaker's very first episode of Doctor Who:

1. To start at the very beginning, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” is the sole episode of Doctor Who since the 2005 relaunch not to feature any form of opening credits whatsoever. It’s also the only episode of Doctor Who to feature the title music in the soundtrack of the episode (when the Doctor leaps up after crashing through the train roof).

2. The title of the episode works on three levels. It’s a play on the 1963 novel The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis, which was made into a movie starring David Bowie in 1976; it’s a reference to the Doctor’s first entrance after being unceremoniously thrown out of the TARDIS (in “Twice Upon a Time”), and it’s the story of how Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) lost his grandmother.

3. Let’s talk spoons. We all know Twelve (Peter Capaldi) challenged Robin Hood to a spoon duel in “Robot of Sherwood,” and this possibly explains some of Thirteen's delight in finding a pile of spoons to melt down for her sonic screwdriver. And of course Sheffield, the location for this story, is synonymous with cutlery. In the 19th century, Thomas Boulsover found a way to coat copper with silver to create Sheffield Plate, which was followed by Harry Brearley's invention of stainless steel in 1912. This is what the Doctor is referring to when she says her sonic has been improved “with added Sheffield steel.”

4. “The Woman Fell to Earth” is the third Doctor Who regeneration story to feature no scenes in the TARDIS (the Third Doctor’s first story “Spearhead from Space” is the same, as is the Fourth Doctor’s first adventure, “Robot”). It’s also the eleventh story in which the TARDIS makes no an appearance at all, and the first story to feature two men in the Doctor’s immediate traveling group since 1967’s “The Faceless Ones.”

5. Jonathan Dixon, who plays the crane driver Karl Wright, is a veteran of two British television institutions. He played a bully in children’s school drama Grange Hill, and he had a two-year role in the soap Coronation Street (which started the year after Bradley Walsh left the show). But the most interesting Whovian fact is that he runs his own production company, called – without deliberate reference to any time-traveling TARDIS team – Isaac Who.

6. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot that Ryan’s YouTube clip has left the autoplay feature on. Some of the clips that the viewer – presumably a huge fan of blogs and blogging in general – is invited to watch next include:

  • Grumpy Office Blog - Weekly Complaining Bulletin by RWell Blog
  • Blogging with Izzy: Ep 1 Things Not to Do When Blogging by Izzy K
  • Secret Pigeon: Blogging Secrets Unbeatable Guide to Success by ????
  • Top Ten Tips for Blogging Success: Pt. 1 by Blog Tips
  • How to Make Money Through Blogging - £££ Guaranteed! by Blogging Millionaire
  • Zsof's World Part 6 of 20: Cake by Z Ekks
  • Art Blog - Selling Your Artwork Online in 4 Simple Steps by Art Online

7. Dean, the drunk man who throws his salad at Tzim-Sha, is almost certainly holding a boxful of doner kebab, a staple meal for late night British drinkers on their way home, and one that is often covered in big dollops of salad and sliced lamb on pita bread.

8. Although it’s the first time he’s appeared in Doctor Who, this is not Bradley Walsh's debut in the Whoniverse, as he played the Pied Piper in the The Sarah Jane Adventures story “The Day of the Clown” in 2008.

9. And finally, during the UK lockdown of 2020, Chris Chibnall revisited this episode, writing “Things She Thought While Falling,” the story of the Doctor’s internal monologue during the minutes before she landed in the train. These include such gems as:

“Dematerialexploding, thought the Doctor. That’s not a word, chided the Doctor. Alright, replied the Doctor, I’m only a few minutes in here — you’re lucky I’ve got any words at all. Will you two stop arguing, chimed in the Doctor. Only if you stop sub-dividing us, replied the Doctor, this is all the same brain. Don’t confuse matters.”


10. “That planet, what was it called, Fintleborxtug! Fun fact about Fintleborxtug, she told herself, the creature that named it did so when it was hiccuping and just before it was sick. Nobody knows if it was really the name or just the sound it made.” How epic is that?

What's your favorite fun fact about Jodie Whittaker's first spin as the Doctor in "The Woman Who Fell to Earth"?