So why are some of you all nit-picky about Doctor Who? Chill out, please
PUBLISHED: 15:00 09 December 2018 | UPDATED: 22:58 09 December 2018
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So why were people all angsty and unsettled just after Doctor Who’s latest regeneration? It wasn’t as if “out with the old and in with the new” was an unfamiliar feature of the series. Happily, it was clear within minutes of series 11 that the twiddly wheels, egg-timer and antique chrome microphone on the restyled Tardis console were in safe hands with Jodie Whittaker and show-runner Chris Chibnall.
They materialised with the perfect game-plan: pace, and what seemed a conscious desire to avoid navel-gazing. Viewers were swept up and carried along, leaving no time to get bogged down with introspection and ruminations about the past. New team. New adventures. Hold on tight.
Good choice – it’s worked. The Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi eras never managed to escape the golden afterglow of the David Tennant/Russell T Davies & co years. But series 11 was its own person from the off, and a confident one at that: First female Doctor. Goodbye Saturday night. Goodbye (I’m sure temporarily) old aliens and old stories. Fresh start. Helped no end by the 15-month gap since the departure of Peter Capaldi (apart from the 2017 Christmas special).
Helped, too, by the absence of the episode-hopping story-arcs that made much of Steven Moffat’s tenure hard-going for many adults (let alone children) as they struggled to recall what was what and why, and where and when.
Which is not to say there aren’t flaws. The aliens have too often been muted bit-parters – virtually impotent, in the case of time-travelling criminal Krasko in “Rosa” – and the romps have been largely about things happening. We now need to do what Russell T used to talk about: “turning” the characters to see how they react in different and dangerous situations. It’s been a bit nicey-nicey so far – the death of grandma and wife Grace apart. Inject peril – real peril – and we’ll see emotional depths we hadn’t imagined.
I’m sure it will come. The 13th Doctor’s mind and memory haven’t yet settled − she’s still in a limbo-land. When they do, there will be some painful soul-searching. There always is − for one thing the Doctor can’t do is outrun the past, even with a turbo-charged Tardis.
But, overall, it’s been a good start. Jodie Whittaker brings some of the quirkiness and energy of Tennant, but her Doctor has barely a hint of the arrogance of many of her incarnations. A big tick for that. She listens to people’s opinions, too. It’s a bit like Brenda from Dinnerladies in Space − and it’s endearing.
I don’t understand complaints about the politically-correct preaching within some stories. Doctor Who always scores when the time-travellers find themselves in the midst of real and significant moments of human history. The Rosa Parks episode was powerful, and for viewers young and old did what countless history lessons couldn’t achieve: made tangible the struggle for racial equality.
Ditto the episode about Indian partition in 1947 (ambitious task but done brilliantly, cloaked in a love story), The Witchfinders (the danger of community scapegoating) and even the one about the risks of making technology our god and forgetting what it is to be human.
Verdict? Firm foundations laid. Can the team now build something to threaten the halcyon reign of Tennant and Davies? It will be fun finding out.