You may disagree with me, but I truly believe Doctor Who has deteriorated in quality so greatly that it’s time for a major shake-up. Whether this can be fixed with a soft reboot (basically a straightforward regeneration) or a hard one (cancel and brought back, or a new show entirely) is anyone’s guess.
In this article, I’ll try and spell out what’s wrong with Doctor Who today, and I’ll delve into detail about what I’d do if I were given the Showrunner’s position (take notes BBC).
Check out my other Doctor Who list below, where I rank every season of modern Who:
There’s a lot to cover, so we’d better allons-y and get started …
For me, Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor just isn’t cutting it. I’m not sure whether to blame it on the writing or the actress (I’d say probably the writing), but something’s just not quite right.
Series 11’s version of the Doctor is probably the weakest variation of any Doctor we’ve ever had – the scripts were written before Whittaker was even cast, so it’s no wonder her Doctor felt bland and vanilla. I mean, how can you describe her doctor: Happy-Go-Lucky? Hopeful? Helpful? These should all be the foundations of the character, not the defining characteristics.
However, Series 12 definitely saw an improvement on the portrayal, mainly due to the darker side of Jodie’s performance (we’ll touch on that a bit more later). Her variation of the Time-Lord is still the weakest of the modern series, but at least the show took it from terrible to average.
I want the Doctor to have flaws, I want them to make mistakes and make harsh decisions if the situation calls for it. Call me controversial, but I would also like to see the Doctor return to being a male. The Doctor fundamentally has many paternal qualities, and it felt very jarring when the writers tried to conform Whittaker’s Doctor into this male archetype. If they wanted a fresh take, they should have added more maternal qualities, but since that shop has long sailed it’s time to return to the tried and tested main character.
It’s safe to say that the 3 companions we’ve had in the past couple of series really has fallen flat. There isn’t enough time to flesh out each character, so each companion feels half baked (if even that). Backstory is just ignored, like Graham’s cancer / wife dying or Yaz’s police background.
I would return to the one companion format, maybe with the occasional guest companion. Two companions might work, but I’ll use Amy and Rory as an example as to why it also might not; the two of them together had some great moments, but Rory kind of felt like a side character. This is probably due to his joining of the show later than Amy, so the Doctor-Amy connection was already well established by the time Rory came.
Companions in the Russell T. Davies era are some of my favourites – Rose is great (even if she’s a little overrated), Martha is underrated and Donna is just the best. Let’s not forget people like Captain Jack who used to join the Doctor for one-off episodes. Dynamics like that is really what the show needs right now – after all, the companion provides our insight to the Doctor and the craziness that happens on screen, so if you can’t connect with them then the whole show falls flat.
The Story Arc
Story Arc’s have always been a bit hit-or-miss is Doctor Who, but the last two seasons have definitely been flops. Series 11 didn’t even have an arc (and that’s why it’s a garbage season of television), and Series 12 culminated in an offensively unsatisfying and infuriating way.
The Russell T Davies arcs were all intriguing, with little hints sprinkled throughout the season with an explosive finale. Steven Moffat had some … strange arcs to say the least. The “Big Bang” arc was great, but got a bit confusing in the end, and literally ever finale other that season 10 disappointed massively. Moffat only really wrote “mystery boxes”, so after the 6th retreading it got a bit repetitive and dull.
A good series arc would sprinkle hints and Easter Eggs at various points in the series, and would culminate in a memorable but sensible finale (easier said than done). One of the things that excited me about Series 12 was the mid-season episode “Fugitive of the Judoon”, which seemingly set up a sic-part finale to the arc. It ended up only being a two part (probably even three) finale, but I always wondered what it would be like to have a second half of the season that all directly linked to the finale. If I was Showrunner, I’d definitely try that in one of the seasons.
A Darker Show
As I said previously, my favourite moments from the latest series was when the Doctor got all dark suddenly, like in “The Haunting of Villa Diodati”. My favourite Doctor of all time is the 10th Doctor (David Tennant), especially the moments where he lets his inner darkness consume him (think “Family of Blood” or “The Waters of Mars”).
When Doctor Who revived in 2005, Christopher Ecclestone’s 9th Doctor had to deal with the repercussions of the Time War, which created a darkness and spite to his character. The introduction of this dynamic was genius from Russell T Davies, and I only wish it had lasted longer (it sort of died out when Gallifrey returned)
My ideal show would be led by a darker figure, like Ecclestone’s Doctor. It would also have darker undertones, and I would like to see it reach a 15 rating or higher. This is unlikely to happen for the show, so a spin-off show might do the trick. Torchwood was kind of like a darker Doctor Who, but I feel this could be developed further.
To create this darker tone, you might have to create some sort of scenario like the Time War to make The Doctor an elusive, war-torn figure once more. Maybe in an alternate universe the Time War is still going on / has just happened, something of monumental importance that changes the trajectory of the show.
Spin-Offs / Alternate Ideas
There are some unique directions that the show could take to set itself apart from other Sci-Fi shows, or even develop a spin-off show to encapsulate these ideas. I’ll list them off below:
- The Master – have The Master as the main character, and include his chaotic and psychotic nature. There would be moments of hope, but generally the same as he ever was.
- Alternate Universe – have an alternate universe Doctor who is slightly darker, but still a beacon of hope in a barren, treacherous world.
- The Rani – instead of a female Doctor, why not just reintroduce the Rani as a strong female lead; she’s an evil Time Lord, and that would make for an interesting TV show.
- Doctor regenerating mid-season – not a spin off per se, but I just think it would be cool for it to happen in an episode that isn’t the Christmas special.
- More two-parters – slight gripe (because some of my favourite episodes are single parts), but more two-parters would give the writer time to flesh out the characters and make you care a bit more.
Guest Writers / Directors
A dedicated team of writers is always great, but guest writers are always much appreciated in Doctor Who. Take Neil Gaiman for example – he was a guest writer for the show and wrote the fantastic “The Doctor’s Wife”. I would want other writers to come and give their take on the iconic show. For most shows this would be jarring, but Doctor Who is episodic by nature, so other viewpoints and styles would be greatly appreciated.
As for the directing, I feel that aspect has also been downgraded as the show has gone on. People like Peter Jackson (director of Lord of the Rings) have expressed interest in directing some episodes, so why not let them? Doctor Who is arguably the best Sci-Fi show of all time, so why not get some of the best minds in Sci-Fi involved in the project.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t particularly want to offend a group of people, but I just feel that the show is playing it safe a lot of the time.
Agendas have been force-fed down our throats the past few seasons – female empowerment, the environment, racism etc. There’s nothing wrong with highlighting these issues in a subtle way, but so blatantly telling us what we should think is never going to sit well with most people.
On top of that, I wish there was more stakes in the story. Ever since Steven Moffat’s reign, you can kind of guess that no one is going to get hurt in any of the stories (not permanently anyway), and very rarely do you get a character death. This show is meant to be terrifying, people should be dying to show that the danger is very real. This would lead to great juxtaposition for when things really do go well, to make everyone feel like the Doctor has accomplished something by saving everyone (think of “The Doctor Dances” – everybody lives Rose, everybody lives!).
Aaaand those are my thoughts. Controversial maybe, but I had to get them off my chest. Check out some of my other stuff below:
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