Something a little different for this post…
As long-term readers will know, I am a big fan of the BBC television series Doctor Who. Unlike other fans out there, I do not differentiate between what they refer to as “Classic Who” and “Nu-Who” – as far as I’m concerned, it’s all one series, which had a bit of a break in transmission between 1987 and 2005.
And long-term readers will also know that that I’m not afraid to express my considered opinion, even if it is variance with the general consensus of the nation.
For example, whilst I did thoroughly enjoy the Black Panther film, unlike other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seemed a little…familiar. Basically, in my opinion, Black Panther is The Lion King with a big dollop of James Bond.
And now I’ve probably ruined it for everyone…
Anyway, let’s get back to Doctor Who.
Once again, unlike the polarised views of the viewing public, I don’t give a monkey’s that the Doctor is now female. When selecting an actor to portray the Doctor, you choose the best person for the role and gender isn’t an issue. Was there a big outcry when Michelle Gomez was revealed as the Master? Of course not, because she was so bloody good in the role.
Having now watched the first two episodes of the new series with Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor and Chris Chibnall as lead writer and showrunner, I feel that I can give a considered opinion on the new series.
The first episode introducing the new incarnation of the Doctor should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect from this version – we knew what sort of Doctor we were getting with Eccleston, Tennant and Smith from the off, as we did with all the previous incarnations. Capaldi took a while to develop fully, so I didn’t immediately warm to him and it appears that Whittaker may follow a similar path…which brings me to my issue with the series so far.
Chris Chibnall is probably best known as the creator and writer of Broadchurch, which has been rightly hailed as a decent bit of television. And he is no stranger to the Whoniverse, having written five episodes of the main series, as well as eight episodes of the Torchwood spin-off.
But, whilst his particular brand of deep characterisation may work well over a complete series such as Broadchurch, it doesn’t fare so well in a series such as Doctor Who. His previous episodes for Doctor Who were the tenth Doctor episode “42”, and the eleventh Doctor episodes “The Hungry Earth”, “Cold Blood”, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “The Power of Three.” I think we can safely discount his Torchwood writing credits, as he was responsible for the most godawful episode ever -“Cyberwoman.” Trust me, if you haven’t seen this episode, count yourself very fortunate.
The thing that all these episodes share is that the focus is on the other characters in the episode, rather than “Who” it should be. The order of importance should be: The Doctor, the threat/aliens and then the companions. Chibnall puts the peripheral characters first, followed by the Doctor and the plot of the episode is almost an afterthought.
Given that his last work on Who was back in 2012 with “The Power of Three”, an episode that was all about the Ponds with a particular daft plot and nonsensical ‘villain’, and he’d been doing sterling work on Broadchurch in-between, I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and approached the new series with an open-ish mind. But having watched the first two episodes, they fall into the same category as his previous ones.
In “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” we get introduced to a bunch of characters that we know are going to end up as the Doctor’s travelling companions and don’t actually see the new incarnation of the Doctor until at least ten minutes in. Lots of backstory for these characters, but not much for us to get to know the new Doctor, who initially comes across as a slightly hyperactive Victoria Wood.
“By ‘eck, did someone say Eccles Cakes?!”
Then we get our ‘villain’ – a knock-off Predator in a rather cool suit, who disappointingly doesn’t turn out to be a multi-eyed bug under the helmet, but an intergalactic blue tooth-fairy. Called ‘Tim Shaw’…
It’s the first episode of the new series and it should have been…bigger. Louder, more dangerous, with a truly memorable villain. This felt like a mid-season episode, a filler, after the grand opening and before the big finale.
Perhaps we’ve just been spoiled over the previous years, but it was like an indoor firework – it promised so much, but the packaging didn’t match the product.
The second episode “The Ghost Monument” was an improvement, but again the characterisation of the tertiary characters seemed more important than cementing in who this Doctor actually is or the video-game like plot of the episode.
It just doesn’t feel like Doctor Who yet, which is not a good thing. Even Class, the teen spin-off that aired on BBC3 and is available on Netflix, felt more like Doctor Who after it’s first episode – and the monsters were a damn sight more imaginative, dangerous and scary than what we’ve seen so far on the new series. If you’ve got Netflix, go and watch it – it’s pretty cool.
So, currently no overly enamoured by “Chibi-Who”, and rumour has it that we shall not be seeing any of the Doctor’s classic foes. This does not bode well.
We shall have to hope it improves.