Thursday, January 17, 2019

New Who Views: Doctor of the Future, Back to the Beginning

Important point number one:
I think Jodie Whittaker is a fantastic Doctor.
She’s clever, she’s mad, and she’s fun.

Important point number two:
I enjoyed every episode this season, the companions were engaging, and the guest stars were also fun.

But as a fan of the show for over thirty years, I can tell I am not the target audience.

Not counting the ones that can be translated as “Ick, it's a girl,” a lot of complaints I’ve seen mirror the issues I had with the series when it first returned in 2003:

The Doctor needed help or rescuing far too often and was an observer of events rather than a participant or planner

The stories spent more time on actions and activities of the companions and their interactions in their lives than crazy Doctory moments.

I liked Ecclestson’s season too, but the unleashed insanity of the later series was more me.

Without any overreaching arcs, or loopy paradoxical appearing Doctor plans, these stories are also more straight forward.

The three companions is part of it, but for other reasons there are additional similarities to the First Doctor’s time in both the companions taking point, and the educational aspect of the historical episodes.

Allowing the Rosa Parks and Punjab moments to unfold as required were a far cry from explaining to Winston Churchill why Daleks are dangerous, or protecting members of the royal family from Zygons and Werewolves.

I was expecting the Doctor to build up to a full “Oncoming Storm” moment by the end of the season, similar to what happened in that first revived season, but it never quite got there.  Jodie approached it a couple of times, and I have no doubt she’s perfectly capable of pulling it off, but the stories never went that way.

A similar drop in "in your faceness" happened between Tom Baker and Peter Davison. However, it does seem an odd choice, and playing right into critics’ hands, to move the show in a direction that has the first female Doctor be more passive. 

I think it’s because they’re completely ignoring what the critics think for now.  Eccleston worked perfectly to bring the show back because it was a basic, far less weird than it could be approach that cultivated a new base of viewers.

I realize it's a small sample size, but based on the thrilled reactions of my daughter, my nieces and my friends’ kids, the new Doctor is working her way into the collective unconscious of the younger fans.  Visiting history at moments current schooling focuses on (again, small sample size) is appealing to them as well.

That also provides an out of story explanation for one of the weirdest climaxes this season.  After weaving a terrifying combination of Evil Dead and Coraline, how else could they keep the kids from having nightmares forever but with a goofy looking frog puppet?

As for the Captain Continuity "in story" reason: The Solitract appeared as the other people’s lost loves.  The Doctor’s opinion is much like the Engineer in the punch line of the old joke, “I don't have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog is cool!” 

Very often this season, the Doctor seemed like a cool, powerful and weird satellite to the main focus of the companions.  Now that they've educated the new base, it’s time to bring back the complex story arcs and the Doctor’s -strategize her way through them with a plan that’s simultaneously made up and fifteen steps ahead of everyone else- methods.

I'm hoping I’m right, because seeing Jodie Whittaker unleash Doctorness on her foes with the same stylistic flourish she wields the sonic with will be epic.  

It's through those epic plans, convolutions, call backs and surprises that the series has given us epic emotional content in the past.


Jesse Schell said...

Good notes -- I like that they are making room for younger viewers... I think it is sort of a pendulum. Great companions this season... I wonder what will happen next?

Jeff McGinley said...

Many thanx. I think its important to let open the doors for new fans every so often, otherwise the only thing the base can do is shrink. Whatever happens I'll be there watching.