Doctor Who is unequivocally my favorite show on television, indeed my favorite show of all time. I discovered it while randomly flipping through channels and was hypnotized by David Tennant and the episode The Satan Pit. Since then I’ve been hooked and have even gone back to the old run of the show from 1963-1989 and enjoyed it almost as much. I absolutely adore the pure fantasy of the idea, because ultimately it’s about a man with a magic box that takes him wherever and whenever he wants. It’s pure simple fantasy that appeals to the child in me on a very basic level. Sadly it’s not quite perfect. As the new version of the show has gone on a few issues have started to emerge that are not just one time mistakes. There are patterns present in the show as it exists right now that need to be broken lest the show becomes stuck in a rut. I say all of this as a deeply devoted fan, but a fan that can admit when what I love needs a little improvement.
Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble and Amy Pond. All human females from contemporary Earth. Sure some other types have traveled in the Tardis briefly (Captain Jack and Mickey Smith come to mind) but they never last very long. The companions seem to be in a definite slump. The only one of the three that did any breaking of the mold at all was Donna, being older than the rest and not having any romantic or physical attraction to the Doctor. But even with that slight deviation she’s still a human woman from the present day.
The classic series of Doctor Who had companions of all kinds: humans, aliens, robots, people from the future, people from the past, as well as varied ages and genders. It is true that the majority of companions were somewhat young females but they didn’t always come from Earth or from our present time, some weren’t even humans (such as the fan favorite Romana who was a Time Lord like the Doctor.) The new series is overdue for a companion shake up, something new or different from the established pattern. There may be a slight deviation in the next season as it appears that Rory Williams will also be joining the Doctor on the Tardis, but he’s only there because of Amy Pond and of course she’s still around. It’s a start but it’s not the break from this newly established tradition that the show really needs.
Stop Saying the Doctor’s Age
I’ll freely admit that this is the geekiest of my complaints but it’s been nagging me for a few years now. The issue of the Doctor’s age has become a bit of a convoluted issue ever since Christopher Eccleston’s 9th Doctor told Rose Tyler that he was 900 years old. This caused an initial problem because this is younger that the Doctor had given for his age while in his seventh incarnation. The prevailing fan theory is that back then the Doctor gave his age in Gallifreyan years (his home planet) and he gave Rose his age in Earth years (which are presumably slightly longer.) The theory fits since Gallifrey is gone and the Doctor has more or less adopted Earth as the closest thing to a second home that he would continue to give his age in Earth years. Even with that issue sorted it brings us to the bigger issue, there hasn’t been any gap in years since the new series.
To explain what I mean: it was fairly standard in the original version of the show that the Doctor would state his age rather rarely and whenever he did it would always be at least 100 years older than the last time he gave it. This meant there were whole swaths of the Doctor’s life not documented by the show. Untold adventures, unseen companions, and enemies different from anything else fans could imagine. These gaps made the Doctor bigger than life, his exploits too many and over too much time to ever be fully contained by a TV show. In the new show not only does the Doctor state his age nearly every series but he’s been aging by only one year for every year the show is on.
The problem with this is that it makes the Doctor less mysterious and somehow smaller to know that we’ve been tracking nearly all of his adventures since his return. In some ways it actually makes his recent incarnations seem somewhat menial. The Doctor’s earlier incarnations clearly lived for hundreds of years each, but the 9th Doctor lived for about a year and the 10th Doctor lived about five years. This frankly makes one wonder what he’s doing wrong that his life expectancy has dropped so drastically. Two things need to happen. First the Doctor needs to stop saying his age for a while (at least two seasons.) Secondly the next time he does say it there should been a nice jump of time, let’s at least get him over 1000 years before the 11th Doctor ends his time in the Tardis.
Every Finale Uses Old Enemies
Daleks, Cybermen and Daleks, the Master, Davros and Daleks, and the Master. That’s the list of enemies the Doctor faced in each of the finales of the first four series of the current show and the 2009 special that ended David Tenant’s time as the Doctor. Each of them originated from the original run of the show (1963-1989.) Even the finale of the latest series, which dealt with repairing a disaster that wasn’t the purposeful machinations of a villain, had the Daleks shoved into it. This has become a bit of a frustrating pattern for several reasons. For one thing it’s made guessing what enemies are going to be used in the final episode of any given series easier than it should be. The list of possible enemies for the finale should be nearly limitless, instead audiences can virtually guarantee it’ll be one of the older enemies will be facing down the Doctor.
The show actually hasn’t done all that great a job at establishing new recurring villains. Only a few of the new enemies have made return appearances (there have been repeat appearances from races such as the Ood but they aren’t villains.) Of these few only the Weeping Angels have been truly memorable (most would probably prefer to forget the gassy Slitheen family.) However there’s great potential in some of the villainous races and characters who were introduced. Anthony Head was a great villain as the leader of the Krillitanes and was one of the few enemies with the gravitas to actually feel like a true match for the Doctor. Sure he was blown up but that hasn’t stopped many others from returning in the past. There’s also the Toclafane who appeared with the Master at the end of series three. This race really got under the Doctor’s skin and could probably return with some nice emotional impact. The show just really needs to establish that the new enemies have just as much long term potential as the new ones.
Stop Kissing the Companions
Yet another companion related issue but this one gets a little bit more specific. During the original run of the show it was a well established taboo that the Doctor would not get romantically involved with his companions or kiss them. Now the new series wasn’t actually the first to break this taboo, the 1996 TV movie did it first but most fans prefer to just ignore that mess of a film. When Russell T. Davies resurrected the show in 2005 he broke the taboo in the finally. Interestingly it wasn’t strictly a romantic gesture as the Doctor was actually absorbing deadly energy from Rose Tyler. This breaking of the kiss taboo but being more coy about the romance taboo was an interesting choice and initially quite daring. Unfortunately it started to become yet another pattern that needs to be broken. There has been a kiss between the companion and the Doctor in every single season so far, all maintaining the trick of not being done with romantic intentions (at least on the part of the Doctor.) It’s no longer cute, it’s no longer surprising. It’s becoming annoying, especially with a Doctor as asexual as Matt Smith’s. If there’s ever going to be a thrill to it again it needs to stop being a regular event.