TThree series is the usual tenure for an actor who plays Doctor Who, so rumors abound that Jodie Whittaker is about to resign. Michaela Coel, Olly Alexander, and Richard Ayoade are among those cast in the role. But what if, instead of a new Doctor, the program really needs something that a doctor could prescribe for an exhausted patient? A break.
The current run started in 2005, and even with a format as flexible as Doctor Who, there aren’t many TV dramas that can sustain 13 series in 16 years. (Call the Midwife is probably the BBC’s best attempt in the last decade.) Soap operas can do it, but soap opera stories generally don’t revolve around catastrophic events like the destruction of the universe.
The entire television landscape has changed since Doctor Who made its return. That 2005 series wasn’t even shot in HD, and the iPlayer was still a couple of years away. The current version of the show takes on the giants of Netflix and Disney +.
It’s not just the budgets and production values of shows like The Mandalorian or Loki that are overshadowing Doctor Who, it’s the storytelling. Something like WandaVision seems in a different league. And, even taking Covid into account, with only eight episodes expected in the new season delayed, the BBC’s production pace is glacial compared to its streaming rivals. Just as’ 70s Doctor Who looked cheap and shaky next to blockbusters like Star Wars, the show now suffers compared to Marvel TV shows.Can’t keep up with Marvel … Doctor Who. Photographer: James Pardon / BBC
There is also a growing problem of story structure. When Russell T Davies revived the show, it was very clear in his speech to BBC executives that it wasn’t just television about a 900-year-old Time Lord who could change his face, it was about two friends traveling through of time and space. have adventures and correct mistakes.
Now there are 16 years of new traditions, as well as all the stories from the 60s, 70s and 80s for fans to think about whenever there is a new story. Failure to adhere to the continuity of some throwaway script from 10 years ago will send legions of fans into a frenzy, and they will head to their social media and YouTube channels to yell about “lazy writing.” Sometimes it seems that the show is being buried under the weight of its own continuity.
A gender shift to the role attracted attention and initially high ratings, but since then the audience has established itself at the same levels as under Whittaker’s predecessor, Peter Capaldi. The decision to cast a woman as the Doctor also meant that the franchise became a pawn in culture wars, further souring relationships in the fandom and making social media posts by the show’s creators and stars. toxic to get through.
The series’ finals have also gotten bigger and bigger over the years. But how many times can the Daleks be destroyed and then come back, the Master / Missy be dead and then reappear with a new face, or the Earth be invaded but still hardly anyone recognizes that the aliens are out there?
However, when showrunner Chris Chibnall tried to cool down a bit with his first series finale, which only featured a lesser-known villain returning and threatening to destroy Earth, it was widely criticized as low risk. It feels like, over the 16 years, the volume of the story arcs has gradually increased to a Spinal Tap-style 11, and now it can’t be turned down.
The glory days … David Tennant and Billie Piper as the Doctor and Rose Tyler. Photographer: BBC / PA
As someone who loved Tom Baker as the Doctor in the 70s, I have found the success of the 2005 revival wonderful to watch. But while Doctor Who looks better than ever, the sequences of the Cybermen marching through their battlecruiser towards the end of last season were worth the price of admission alone, everything around him feels tired.
The ability to travel anywhere in time and space makes Doctor Who a series that could tell a million different and brilliant stories, and Chibnall’s innovation of “The Timeless Child,” meaning there are potentially dozens from guest star doctors we have never met before. opens it to go in new directions.
But it doesn’t seem like it’s close to telling a million brilliant stories. It feels like she’s telling an increasingly self-absorbed meta-story about her own career, accompanied by a very vocal online fandom that isn’t quite sure what it wants, but knows it doesn’t want this.
Perhaps the BBC needs to try more than just continue. A break. A feature film. A co-production agreement. An anthology series featuring familiar characters from the Whoniverse other than the Doctor. Anything other than slowly polishing another couple of series formatted like it’s still 2005.
I’ve long resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never see all the Doctor Who stories, not just because some episodes from the ’60s were deleted, but because they will make Doctor Who stories in books, comics, audio, and, yes, on television. , long after my death.
At some point, television will be run by people who grew up with the excitement of first seeing Christopher Eccleston grab Billie Piper’s hand and say “Run!” in 2005, they are reminiscent of David Tennant and Matt Smith and hid behind the Weeping Angels couch as children. But, perhaps, for them to think that reviving Doctor Who would be a brilliant idea, he first needs to rest again.