British pop culture, Science fiction, television

An Argument for the Old (Not the New) Doctor Who

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Yesterday I binge-watched Doctor Who, the early David Tennant/10th Doctor episodes. Muffin was away on a family visit, so I had time, and the DVD player, to myself, and this combination does not often occur. So I got out some healthy snacks (yes, healthy, I was good), and tissues, and began reciting the lines along with the actors, and eventually reached the point of being a complete sobbing mess.

I’d never watched Doctor Who before the series reboot in 2005, but by the end of the Christopher Eccleston/9th Doctor pilot, I was hooked.

I’ve never been much of a sci-fi fan; what I love best about the show isn’t the aliens and planets and technology. It’s the heart — the idea of the reluctant hero, who’s aching inside, but always finds a way to stay positive; of ordinary people being able to save the world; of blending humor and love with mystery and adventure.

And this is exactly why the newer seasons (even before Matt Smith/the 11th Doctor regenerated) have really, really let me down.

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I know from the reviews and the forums that I am not alone in this view. The announcement that the 12th Doctor/Peter Capaldi will be regenerating very soon has sparked a new round of debates on where the show stands right now.

Since about halfway through Matt Smith’s tenure, there has been a definite shift in the very framework, and the feel, of the program. In the early seasons, there was a conscious effort to tie in elements from the original shows of the 1960s and 70s, without which the history of the Doctor’s world and character wouldn’t make much sense. When you’re building on something that already existed in its own universe, with its own themes and rules, then just throwing that out the window and doing whatever you want just feels false.

People were so excited about the return of Doctor Who to television because of the thought of recapturing that sense of heart. The Doctor is an alien who may never completely understand the human race, but that doesn’t for a minute stop him from defending us. The companions are only human, but that doesn’t stop them trying to save the universe.

Somewhere along the way, what the fans love best got put aside.

Taking the show’s rules of space-time and declaring them null and void and making the Doctor pretty much a god is not true to the program’s premise, point, or essence. Totally ignoring previously vital elements is not okay.

A prime example is the season finale last year, “The Hybrid,” when Clara was gone/then she was back/then she’s gone/then oh, she’s actually back but the Doctor can never know she even existed. After spending weeks hyping up the “reveal” of the “hybrid”, the show did not actually explain what or who the hybrid was. And when you consider that, after establishing for literal years that the Doctor’s home planet was destroyed in the Time War, the writers decided to bring Gallifrey back and claim it had been waiting safely in some kind of stasis bubble since God knows how long — that simply invalidates the *whole* *entire* *series* up to now.

When people take someone else’s creation and run its standards into the ground, that speaks very strongly to a lack of integrity within the artistic community. This is an issue that concerns me in a number of ways.

I’ll continue to re-watch the early seasons of Doctor Who, the ones that still have a heartfelt, non-superior Doctor, that celebrates the beauty of imagination while still adhering to the constructs of its world. I’ll always love what they were and what they are.

But in terms of new seasons, I’m officially ending it. I don’t want my love of the series to get jaded and turn against me.

For the sake of the fans who are determined to stick it out, I truly hope that, with the next Doctor, the show makes that 180 it so desperately needs.

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5 thoughts on “An Argument for the Old (Not the New) Doctor Who”

  1. This post needs a round of *applause*!!! I couldn’t agree more with you here. I’ve had similar problems with Doctor Who and actually gave up halfway through Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor. I tried again with Capaldi, but the writing was still not what it used to be so I didn’t bother continuing after episode 1. You are so right that they’ve messed with the basic premise so much recently- in a way that is *not* ok. As horrible as it is that the Doctor is the last Timelord, that’s a central part of his character!! And like you said, the show used to have so much heart- for me, details like Galafrey being destroyed were a big part of that. As much as I craved the occasional connections with his own kind, like the Master, I didn’t see why they had to change things so much and make the stories so far-fetched that they became ridiculous (I know that may seem a silly complaint for a sci fi show, but there used to be an element of plausibility) Plus the writing used to be far more subtle- there is no comparison between the subtle references to Bad Wolf or the Master to Amy’s on and off pregnancy for a whole season- it was ludicrous. Sorry for this rant- this show really got me into sci fi too- I’m so sad to see that they’re currently making such a mess of it :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I’m aware that, when a show has been running for as long (in its whole history) as DW, there must be some changes to keep building the fan base and keep it going. But if that means sacrificing the integrity of what the show IS, then, no thank you.

      The WHOLE River Song arc drove me CRAZY. Once it was revealed that she was Amy and Rory’s daughter and one version of her was completely insane but the Doctor MARRIED her anyway… It was about that point that I yelled at the screen and changed the channel. When they first introduced River Song (in the Library planet one), you got the idea she was a future companion – which would’ve been fine – and I was interested in the idea of a companion crossing the Doctor’s timestream at a point when the Doctor wasn’t aware of it. But what they ultimately did with it was just STUPID. There’s no other way to put it. And so many of the aliens Matt Smith had contact/allies with didn’t do it for me, either.

      I gave #12 about one and a half episodes. Honestly don’t feel like I missed anything.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes- agree with that so much!! They could have added characters or something- not changed the concept!!
        OH GOSH!! I had the same reaction!!! Yes- she should have just been a companion. I didn’t even get why they married- they had ZERO chemistry- I can’t even remember why they did it tbh. It was just so she could be called the doctor’s wife. But that didn’t mean anything at all! Yep- the aliens just got less interesting under Matt Smith. And I don’t feel like I missed out with #12 either, even if Capaldi is a good actor

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve only seen the early Tennant seasons so far, so I don’t know a lot about all the rest of this, but I relate because it’s what I see happening with Star Wars now that it’s taken over by Disney. Throwing out the old things, taking it in a new direction, one with more darkness and less hope… Anyway, I relate. Excellent post. It’s such a shame when this sort of thing happens. :-/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I know many, many Star Wars fans are really split on the Disney takeover. Again, when you lose the actual integrity of the original work, then it becomes a loss to the artistic community and the fans.

      Liked by 1 person

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