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.
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.