Feature: Doctor Who and the 13th Doctor
So there you have it; Jodie Whittaker is going to be the first female Doctor. Cue various papers gnashing their teeth and saying what a horrible decision this was. For me personally there are other people I would’ve liked (Olivia Colman, Richard Adoyade, Tilda Swinton etc) but the principle is something I am happy to see and I have specific reasons from the perspective of a writer.
I will admit I am not a hardcore Doctor Who fan. In fact as a child the theme music and Daleks scared me, not helped by having a wardrobe that looked like the TARDIS near my bed. This meant I was hesitant but thanks to a friend grew to learn why this is a popular show.
The fact is the role had to go somewhere else. We have seen young quirky doctors, we have seen rough and ready, we have seen older, more world weary ones. This is the chance to see something from another perspective.
Furthermore as the new showrunner Chris Chibnal takes over this allows for a new take on what the character represents, who the assistant might be, how the new form interacts with older characters and so forth.
Yes there will be fans that hate this idea as well as the media but for me it hits on the level of a golden rule; unexpected but inevitable.
Unexpected but inevitable
To the BBC’s credit they managed to keep quiet and let the speculation do the work for them. However one of the reasons they needed to change was due to the lower ratings and sadly Steven Moffatt as showrunner needs to take responsibility for this.
Just to be clear I am not writing this to bash Moffatt. As a writer Steven Moffatt is brilliant. He is intelligent, perceptive and can work with grand ideas while at the same time ratcheting up the tension. Unfortunately sometimes this can work the other way as he can get caught up with ideas, introduce concepts and plot points but then not properly resolve them, meaning sometimes the stories are hard to follow especially if like me you are not a hardcore fan.
The challenge for writing Doctor Who is that it is both infinite and insular. While you have all of time, space and alternate dimensions to play with there is also the reality of TV budgets, audience expectation, teatime scheduling restrictions and a certain section of the media that will find ways to bash the corporation either way (and has nothing to do with their own particular vested interests).
It is easy to forget but there was a time when Doctor Who was cancelled and was off the air for 13 years. The producers probably saw the signs with the last series. This is harsh on Peter Capaldi, who is a fantastic actor and by all accounts the last series was very popular with fans who felt the writing had got back on track after a rocky couple of years.
The challenge now is that Doctor Who needs to find ways to invigorate the franchise and while changing the lead character is a start there are other things to consider:
- Make new monsters – Yes everyone loves the Daleks, Cybermen etc. But new creations such as the creepy gas mask zombies, the Weeping Angels and the Silence gave us whole new nightmares to deal with.
- Don’t try too hard – Emotional speeches can be very stirring but sometimes it is better to take a step back and let actors emote rather than go overboard on bombast.
- Keep it (relatively) simple – I realise this is something fans will probably disagree with but personally I would like to see the shows dial back on the more overcomplicated aspects of the show. Simpler stories told well are more likely to be engaging and bring back fans that tuned out.
- Try not to rip off other things – I know some people liked it but I was not a fan of the superhero Christmas special. I get what they were trying to do but personally I found it a bit cringey. If you really want something that deconstructs the genre I suggest watching Mystery Men, Deadpool or The Lego Batman Movie again. Yes we all have our influences and being totally original is near enough impossible but there is a limit!
- Mix it up – Single location stories can work but there needs to be a genuine source of tension. Also with the supporting cast it would be good to see someone a bit less “ordinary”. Being relatable is good but it would be nice to throw in a different type of personality to play off.
Just to be clear this is my opinion and you may well have your views on this. Are you excited by the new Doctor? Do you think this is the beginning of the end, the end of the beginning or is it somewhere in the middle of the wibbly wobbly timey wimey? Comment below!