The State of Doctor Who

“Doctor Who” has been a huge part of my life for over thirty years.  I have now finished watching the latest episodes that have Jodie Whittaker in the lead.  After the part of the Doctor had been played by men for over half a century, a woman was cast as the wandering, trouble prone Time Lord.  I was one of the skeptics of this decision when it was first announced in 2017.  Now, there seems to be some discussion about changing the gender of James Bond although Barbara Broccoli, the head producer of that film franchise, has been clearer lately about that not being considered.  “Doctor Who” has a bit more of a possibility of working a change of gender into the narrative since the Doctor is not human and is able to regenerate into other people.  “Doctor Who” lands it self to some flexibility in many ways, however the whole thing can still come apart.

There is this thought that “Doctor Who” is about change and freedom or something along this lines.  The show is about a traveler in time and space who happens to be good at fighting off alien menaces and other such crises.  The concept of regeneration started out of necessity and a desire to keep a promising show on the air when the first lead actor, William Hartnell, got too ill to continue in the role.  In spite of the changes the show has endured over the years, some simple concepts should remain in place.  If the show was all about change, why not ditch the police box disguise for the TARDIS?

As far as I feel about the show now, I am at a bit of an emotional quandary.  I am not yet ready to stomp off and swear off new “Doctor Who” although my enthusiasm for this era has waned considerably.  I am still an avid collector the novels and Big Finish audio plays.  I think the problems with this past series that introduced Whittaker into the role are pretty deep and numerous.  I think the notion of the Doctor regenerating into a woman could have worked with a better head producer.  Then, we get into the ideas of one Chris Chibnall.  He was the head writer for a show called “Broadchurch” which had David Tennant, aka the Tenth Doctor, with Jodie Whittaker also in that cast.  I am doubtful that any real serious audition took place for the current Doctor before the announcement of Whittaker being in the role.

One of the ideas I had was it may have been a good idea to get rid of long story arcs, which Chibnall actually did, however his episodes are not all that interesting.  Other fans complain of the PC and social justice elements being so prominent.  “Doctor Who” has addressed issues such as prejudice and pollution in the classic era, however it was handled a bit more subtly and with better scripting.  “Doctor Who” is primarily a science fiction adventure series.  People tune in to escape the trappings of reality for a brief time.
Chibnall’s hiring for the role of head producer is somewhat baffling since the previous episodes he wrote in the series since it was revived in 2005 are not that widely acclaimed by the fans.  I think Nicholas Briggs would have been a much more exciting selection since the direction he has helped guide the Big Finish series in is much more to my liking.

Now the encouraging thing about “Doctor Who” is that it could get better.  It may not be all that necessary to boot Whittaker out of the role if the writing and the direction could be better implemented.  I think the TARDIS is a little crowded, however the Doctor having three companion has been done before.  I hope I can rediscover some enthusiasm for new television episodes one day soon. Fortunately, the Big Finish audios will help me through such troubling times as they have before.’

I would also like to say that some of the viciousness from other fans is a bit troubling. I think those who expressed some concern about casting a female in the lead role should not automatically be dismissed as sexist dinosaurs or whatever.  Some other commentators expressed outright hatred for the show’s current trajectory. I am not there yet, but I do think some of the harsher criticisms have some merit.

My enjoyment of the series as a whole is too deep and long for me to give up on it just yet. When the show comes back in 2020, I will be watching and commenting.  I am not satisfied with the current direction, but I remain hopeful that I will regain enthusiasm and excitement for new episodes once it returns.

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