You have fundamentally misunderstood Doctor Who

by @edent | , , | 14 comments | 950 words | Read ~292 times.

This is a rambly rant because I can't be bothered responding to every troll on the #DoctorWho hashtag. I've loved Flux - the latest season - and it fits in perfectly with the ethos of Doctor Who.

So, let's knock down some common complaints, eh?

iT's To POLIticALly CorREct wItH alL ThE GENdeR EqUAliTy

The very first episode of Doctor Who had two men and two women in the lead roles. It has always strived for gender balance. Even in the Peter Davison era there were two female and one male companion.

I don't think The Doctor has ever travelled with only a male companion. The audience has always been boys and girls who want to explore the universe. This isn't new.

This complaint is just so "Urgh! Girls!" Grow up.

It's jUsT a rIP OFF of iNDiaNA JoNES!

A recent episode featured the gang dropping into buried chambers, recovering ancient artefacts, and "travelling by map".
Screenshot from the episode. A dotted red line traverses a foreign map.
The whole point of the Doctor Who show is to reflect tropes towards kids who are too young to have seen them the first time round. The classic Tom Baker story "The Invisible Enemy" is an "homage" to "Fantastic Voyage". The target audience of the time would have been unlikely to have seen the movie on its original run - so they get to experience it this way.

Similarly, how many of 2021's tweens have seen the original Indiana Jones' "travel by map" sequence? Precious few, I'd say. What a delight it will be for them when their parents or older siblings introduce them to it after this series.

Of course, Indiana Jones is "ripping off" a thousand old movies with this trope. But that's the point - Who isn't always about startlingly original stories. Mostly it's about retelling cool stories to a new audience.

WHY aRE THEy'Re all theSe ethnICs ON SCReEn?

Although Martha Jones was the first Black companion (shamefully late in the new era), she was preceded by (again, shamefully few) Black actors. Not least Angela Bruce who was kicking arse as Brigadier Winifred Bambera at the tail-end of the 1980s. God, were Whovians moaning about her in newsletters? I hope not!
Behind the scenes, Waris Hussein (from India) was the director of the very first serial.
The comics in the 1970s and 1980s also featured Black companions.

You know what, that's not a great record. If the next series features a Black Doctor, a Japanese companion, and a Cherokee enemy, that'd be great!

wHen DID iT bECOme so PoLItICaL?

After "The Village of the Angels", I saw someone tweeting that they were glad this episode didn't "shove politics down our throat." This is an episode which features a character saying the Angels are less terrifying than the horrors he saw when liberating Belsen Concentration Camp...

The DALEKs running around screaming "EXTERMINATE" - well, it doesn't take a genius to work out what inspired them! If you watch the 1970s "Genesis of the Daleks" they are explicitly racist fascists.

Jon Pertwee's "The Green Death" is, again, an explicitly environmental story.

Politics has always been a part of Doctor Who. But when you were 12 years old, you just absorbed it as part of the story.

thEir RewRiTIng coNtiNUiTY!

During the first Doctor's tenure, there's little to suggest that he's an alien. The Time Lord race are only mentioned at the end of Patrick Troughton's run! Regenerational limits are something which have been played about with endlessly. Romana could regenerate at will. Pertwee's Doctor said he was thousands of years old.

According to the official BBC merchandise, Daleks are the Yeti!

In a show about rewriting history, it's only natural that there should be very little "fixed" in the continuity.

alL ThEY dO IS tALK to Each OthEr BUT THeReS No CHARaCTeR DEvElopmETn

Like, have you watched any of the old serials? Endless rounds of talking because special effects are too expensive! Companions who stay as the same stock characters year after year. Exposition and monologues which go on for hours. Characters randomly deciding to do something stupid just to advance the plot.

Such is the nature of episodic TV. This most recent crop of companions have gone through such incredible emotional journeys. Something unthinkable in the olden days. It's refreshing to see characters talk about how their experiences have changed them.

Is there technobabble? Sure! But we all love a bit of polarity reversal, right?

And on and on...

I'm shameless in my love of Doctor Who. I think it is a brilliant way to introduce sci-fi to a new generation. To show them it isn't all shooting lasers at baddies and ultraviolence. To communicate that being clever is admirable and brute-force isn't the only way to save the day. To confuse them so much that they rewatch endlessly. To show everyone that there's a brighter future out there. To poke fun at pomposity, and be a beacon of hope for kids who feel a little different and a little left out. To be scary - but good scary. To save the day with a song in your heart and a mystery at your heels. To explore the infinite and still be home in time for tea.

If your main complaint is that it doesn't make you feel the same way as it did when you were twelve - then I suggest you pull your head out of your arse and rediscover your inner child.

14 thoughts on “You have fundamentally misunderstood Doctor Who

  1. “To explore the infinite and still be home in time for tea.”

    Great blog post about Doctor Who

  2. Wasn’t Micky the first black Companion? Or do we not talk about that actor any more? 😉

  3. I do very much enjoy your whoist writings, bravo!

  4. Paul says:

    "I don't think The Doctor has ever travelled with only a male companion" - Four + Adric? (Keeper of Traken, Nyssa doesn't travel in the TARDIS).

    If you include the books then the Doctor frequently travels with a sole male companion.

  5. Sure to all those points but I’ve just found the recent writing and unresolved plot points deeply disappointing. It’s all so messy and clumsy.

    1. @edent says:

      it's worth going back through previous seasons (of both classic & new) to see that has always been the case. Whether it is the Watcher, the Silence, or any of the other 1000s of throwaway plot points. They're there to make it feel epic. Because resolution destroys the mystery.

  6. mauvedeity says:

    Great blog post, and I totally agree. I mean, it is a kids' show after all, so I watch with my inner child and enjoy the heck out of it.

  7. Rob J says:

    This is very good . I totally agree.

  8. Spot on. I also argue the show should focus more on being relevant to my teenage daughter than to old fogies like me, as to stay on air for another 60 years it need to rejuvenate it’s audience. So taking on board the values of the day is something the show’s always done.

  9. Beautifully put! +1

  10. That last line? Perfection!

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