Jodie Whittaker’s first year has come to a close and, as I’m a Doctor Who fan, it’s time to analyse it. Of course I’m going to analyse it. What else am I gonna do, talk to my family? Go outside, join a gym?
The casting of Whittaker ruffled a few feathers, when she was announced. A certain section of fandom just couldn’t accept The Doctor would now be played by a Northerner. But, it’s okay. We’ve been here before. Tom Baker, Paul McGann and, Christopher Eccleston were all from places North of Watford.
Whittaker wasn’t the only change, we also got three new companions, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz – played by Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and Mandip Gill, respectively.
We also got a new composer, a slightly different structure, a different broadcast day, a shorter episode run and, a new show runner.
Chris “The Chib” Chibnall has always been clear on his intentions for the show. He wanted to go back to basics. He wanted historicals and smaller scale character-driven stories. He wanted to bring in new villains. He wanted stand alone stories and he wanted to make it entirely accessible to new/casual viewers. So, out went The Daleks and Cybermen. In came the bubble wrap and talking frogs.
Whether you like or agree with the changes, I think we can all agree The Chib is a man of his word.
The Chib’s style varies drastically to his predecessors. In 2005, Russell T Davies brought the show back in a more American style. He was inspired by the likes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which would feature stand alone stories for the most part. But would also drop little connecting threads, to reward the dedicated viewer. These threads would join together, for a massive crescendo in the finale.
Steven Moffat mostly continued with this template, although it could be argued he concentrated too much on making the series a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, inside a puzzle box. With narratives, that were impossible for the casual viewer to track.
I imagine that’s why Chibnall wanted to focus on standalone episodes, in an attempt to course correct the show. However, these choices have lead to absence of overall narrative. The cast have all been superb, each have put in a great performance. But neither of them had the opportunity to evolve.
The closest thing to character development, was the relationship between Graham and his step-grandson, Ryan. Their relationship bookended the series, but it fell a little flat, as their closure didn’t actually include The Doctor. Ten episodes in, I still don’t know what the thirteenth Doctor is about. She just comes across as ineffective.
And poor Yaz, she’s just sort of…..there. Even in an episode about her grandmother, she was just there. She’s had no attention, served no purpose. Other than to be spoken at in exposition.
Fans have expressed their displeasure with the series now taking a break until 2020, however I’m choosing to see the break as a positive.
In October 2006, The Chib-led series Torchwood debuted. Aside from a few episodes, it’s mostly considered a dud. However, the show took a mini-break. Series 2 debuted in January 2008 and was applauded by fans and critics alike. The Chib even made Ianto, who like Yaz, was just there and turned him into a firm fan favourite, the same could happen here.