04 January 2021 1063 Views

Saving Doctor Who. With or without Jodie, it can be done.

by James Murphy

Jodie Whittaker quits? Maybe. Sorta. But so what? Damage done..

Headlines today indicate Jodie is leaving the TARDIS. Good. She’s lovely, a solid actress and decent humanitarian. But a truly substandard Doctor Who. And no, you cannot blame the scripts.

Tennant, Eccleston and Smith had some awful stories and still shined because they had defined a character /shape /presence to their Doctor. Jodie..didn’t.

So long! Farewell! Don’t bother regenerating her, either. Just cut to the next show phase. Took 17 years to get McGann’s Timelord exit filmed..Jodie can wait. 

I wish her well.

Meantime: The show itself CAN be saved. It must be, as a bastion of British culture. Here’s how..


    • FIRE CHRIS CHIBNALL! His entire media profile was built on derivative detective shows and sitcoms that got lucky. The man has zero vision, science fiction sensibility or marketing savvy. Neither the soulful comedy of Russell T Davies nor the plot designs of Steven Moffat.

Minor caveat /qualification: Moffat has much to answer for, too. His last two series, aside from a few nice moments /standouts (more than Chibnall ever achieved..but)..started to exhibit the rot in budget, output and charm to the show. Prurient. Preachy. Pointless. And too much Jen/a Cole-person, looking vacant at a fading away Capaldi. So this latest nadir is imho on him as much as it is his mediocre successor, though Moff’ still the lesser of the two evils. Chibnall: start typing your CV. Best to omit the last 3 years, yeah?


  • DITCH THE IDENTITY POLITICS: The Doctor ALWAYS sided with the underdog (or th-under-cat??). It never needed saying that the gay/lesbian/trans/disabled/other interest group had the character’s blessing. If you do that as substitute for plot, character and tone? Then you are truly lost and I suggest trying some actual reading, research and self development. To turn the downtrodden or neglected into demographics is PRECISELY the kind of thing that our favourite Timelord opposed throughout his travels.


  • And if you MUST do identity politics, do it ‘right’. By all means feature dyspraxia: but give it to the Doctor! Of course have a gay companion but don’t write a whole episode about it. Meet oppressed figures from history, yet show them to be great through their achievement and qualities, not simply the GCSE syllabus name recognition. And yes, the next Doctor can still be a woman or a person of colour /race other than ‘WASP’. Just don’t force it. They MUST have star quality and something new to offer. And no, do not just hire Michael Sheen coz he is a mate of Tennant..


  • GET NEW BLOOD IN THE WRITING TEAM: You need writers. LOTS AND LOTS OF WRITERS!! A writers’ room, just for the show. Avoid the pool of fans (though do use some of them: nowt wrong with loving the show for which you write!). Sci-fi, fantasy, drama, courtroom drama, thriller, horror, romance..this show can be all of those and more. Make it happen.


  • REST IT FOR TWO YEARS: During which, you rebrand, regroup, relaunch, gradually. Continue making content via documentaries / retrospectives. Stoke the desire for more of the series content, whilst reminding what it’s like to not simply have it rolled out each year.


  • RESPECT THE PAST. But Do not be a slave to it: It is great when an old enemy comes back. Daleks! Cybermen! Master! Just don’t rely on them, lazily or think an occasional rebrand is substitute for a story. Equally, where are the often promised yet never delivered mash-ups (Mondas/Telos Cybermen vs the new ones? Spider-Daleks! Sutekh vs Fenric! Torchwood as an epic Men in Black style colonial power?!). It can be done, with pace and purpose, alongside original content with genuinely new content. There are generations of comic books and novels that can be adapted, too, thereby appeasing both nostalgia and novelty.


  • Multiple Doctors and Series: It is a fairly sad reflection on the dismal state of BBC Doctor Who..that Big Finish are to me, now the more attractive brand. Audio plays (which incidentally cost a great deal of money) are now providing what the BBC could and indeed SHOULD do, as part of YOUR licence fee monies. Especially in a streaming era. So let’s have that. Mini-arcs /stories/series, akin to what Star Wars did with Mandalorian. That way, one can cast an actor in the Timelord role without having to commit them forever or answer immediately, questions that can later be addressed, subject to the market demand. And yes, though it pains me to say it? You may need to park a money truck outside Tennant’s home and beg him to make a comeback, albeit in limited capacity (mini-series, with Billie Piper /John Barrowman, set on parallel earth, penned by Russell T?).


As to what actually happens with the show? It’s in the lap of the Gods of Ragnarok. 




26 November 2021

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