51 years ago on the 23rd November 1963 a strange man in a Police Box calling himself The Doctor appeared. With him was his granddaughter, Susan, and they went on countless adventures throughout time and space in the Time And Relative Dimension In Space machine a.k.a. The TARDIS.
51 years later there have been 12 incarnations of the Doctor plus a one off ‘War-Doctor’. So maybe there are 13, but we can’t be sure any more. Two spin off films staring Peter Cushing as Doctor Who, yep, his last name was Who and they call him Doctor Who. There are comics, books, toys, and audio adventures. Doctor Who is a classic.
The idea of travelling in time and space and battling monsters and children’s nightmares sparks something incredibly imaginative inside many people. The 50th Anniversary saw the 10th, 11th, and War-Doctor join forces to change(?) the fate of their home planet of Galifray from being Time-Locked by locking it in a parallel universe. Afterwards the 11th Doctor hung out on a planet called Trenzalor in a town called Christmas where people are unable to lie. He lived there for hundreds of years battling off countless villains. Finally dying of old age he is saved by the cracks in time and space, which weren’t cause by the TARDIS exploding anymore but by Galifray trying to break through into the real universe. The TimeLords hear Clara’s plea for help and sent the Doctor more regeneration because the 11th is actually the 13th and was on his last life. Then he changes into Peter Capaldi, the 12th (13th? or 14th? Doctor) emerges.
The 8th season supposedly brought us into the new era of Doctor Who. The 50th anniversary and the 8th season were meant to help establish the next 50 years of Doctor Who. My question is, has it managed to achieve this? I’d say not quite yet.
The 50th celebrated more of the show’s revival than the shows 50 year history. Yes, there were some odd references here and there and vague use of original footage to ‘bring back’ the Doctors for a brief moment. The thrust of the episode was about what the War-Doctor, a role the 8th Doctor should have played, becomes after the fall of Galifray, or what the show becomes after it’s revival. It is fun to see Galifray thrown back into the mix, but it felt like it could always be, especially after the conclusion of The End of Time. Whether the planet is time locked or locked in a parallel universe it doesn’t matter, it can come back. So does Galifray return help push the show for another 50 years? The re-introduction to the Time-Lords is something that would throw in many new elements to the show, but the ‘search’ isn’t something that will push the show on. It’s a plot that should have been resolved in season 8.
Season 8. A season promised with proper monsters and no Master gave us unmemorable monsters and the Master turned female. It failed to deliver. Looking back series 5 gave us the cracks in time and space, Van Gogh, scarier Weeping Angels (whether seeing them move ruined it or not is beside the point), The Dream Lord, Craig, memorable duo companions in Amy and Rory, and deepened the mystery of River Song, and an epic fight to reboot the universe and a great Steampunk Dickens Christmas special. Series 6, while not offering as much, still gave us The Doctor’s Wife, The Girl Who Waited, Craig & Cybermen, and a fun adventure around the launch of Apollo 11 rocket and stopping the monsters known as the Silence.
Series 7 part 1 said goodbye to the ponds but did so in one of the sloppiest ways possible. Part 2 was hard pressed for good stories, and a good companion. Production and style just weren’t enough to make that series memorable. Series 8 continues with dull companions, monsters who aren’t monsters or memorable, and storylines that aren’t as impacting as previous series. There wasn’t strong enough stories to make series 8 memorable. It, like series 7, is one you don’t feel you will return to. The most memorable episodes are probably Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline. Both offer scary monsters and fun storylines. The return of the Master was lacklustre. No matter how good of an actress Michelle Gomez was at times The Master’s return was predicable and a huge disappointment.
Looking back over series 7 the 50th and series 8 I’m left hugely dissatisfied. There is a treasure-trove of villains from the Doctor’s past that could have easily returned. The Rani being one of them. But what does Doctor Who need to establish itself for another 50 years? Is it the return of older villains/characters? No necessarily. What Doctor Who needs to do is create the thrills it originally had. The terror the Daleks gave when they first appeared in The Dead Planet. The Horrors and chills of the Cybermen when they emerged in The Tenth Planet, and the mastery of the Great Intelligence in The Abominable Snowmen, The Zygons and their trickery with the Loch Ness Monster. What Doctor Who did was create imaginative and terrifying monsters for the Doctor and his companions to fight. This has been done in the show’s revival. Series 1, ‘The Empty Child’. Series 2 ‘Tooth and Claw’ with Queen Victoria and a werewolf, The Satan Pit. Series 3, ‘The Shakespeare Code’, ‘Human Nature’ with the Family of Blood, ‘Blink’ with the introduction of Weeping Angels. Series 4, ‘Fires of Pompeii’, ‘The Doctor’s Daughter,’ and ‘Science In The Library’ with the intro of River Song. There is lots to build upon from the revival.
While Steven Moffat thinks that you need to drastically change a show otherwise it will die, changing too much will kill it. He is correct that Capaldi saved the show. Because the stories didn’t. What series 8 did that was really good was return the Doctor to the mad old man. Capaldi feels like he could be the Hartnell to a whole new generation. The return to standalone episodes was a wise move. For series 9 and beyond Doctor Who would do well to consider it’s approach to the ‘monsters’. Perhaps leaving the Daleks and Cybermen alone for a while. Get back to a more classic companion. Calapdi was a genius for putting the flirtation to an end. Granted it would be rather awkward and a little disturbing to see Capadi and Coleman flirt. But the show needs a Susan/Sarah Jane/Donna Noble companion. One who isn’t caught up in love with the Doctor or, like Clara, caught up in her own self importance. One of the biggest mistakes Moffat has made is attempt to link Clara to all 13 Doctors. While Colemen thinks it’s somethings special, it’s something that just doesn’t work.
49 years form now I hope to see a better homage to the legacy of those first 50 years of Doctor Who than what we’ve had the past two years. Get back to great scary monsters. Not misunderstood creatures. I want to see more care and attention when it comes to bringing back old characters, but actually brining back different old characters. No reusing of Silurians, Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Weeping Angels. Let’s see them do something with Omega! Let’s see Galifray restored! Let’s dig into the Doctor’s past with Susan Foreman or any other long list of still living companions. Let’s get back to great adventures and not self importance.
What do you want to see in the next 50 years of Doctor Who? Comment below and share your thoughts.