I had really been looking forward to seeing how Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall would interpret The Doctor. They have left me very disappointed, and a touch insulted.
In before the outrage: Nope; I have zero issue with The Doctor now being a woman. I thoroughly enjoyed Whittaker’s work in Broadchurch (the only thing I’ve seen her in), and was quite interested in seeing how she would approach the role.
From Another Time
I want to be very clear: I am not saying that the new approach to Doctor Who is, somehow, inherently “bad” or “wrong”. I’m saying that it doesn’t speak to me.
I’m guessing that Chibnall is trying to present Doctor Who as “woke”.
I’m not “woke”—because I see it as grandstanding and bragging about things that are just common sense. To quote Depeche Mode: “People are people”.
This incarnation of The Doctor is targeted at a generation that is very different from mine. They have different needs and different interests. If I’m no longer the target market, so be it. If the BBC thinks that they can get more viewers (and more fans willing to pay for merchandise) by targeting a younger, more “woke” audience, then that’s what they should do.
It should be noted, however, that despite strong initial numbers, this season lost 25% of its viewers as of a few episodes ago.
It should also be noted that a lot of the merchandising market for Doctor Who comes from the older folks.
A Very Special Episode
This is the primary issue I have with the new season of Doctor Who.
I’ve seen a lot of reviewers gush about how this season is “returning to it’s roots as an educational program” and how it’s “tackling important issues”.
I, on the other hand, keep expecting Whittaker to look at the camera and say “Listen up, kids. This is the educational part”. And then, after the credits, to appear with one of her companions to tell us the moral we should have learned from this story.
This season of Doctor Who has all the subtlety of an “After-School Special”.
In the past, we’ve seen The Doctor face a space whale, Prisoner Zero, the Weeping Angels, the Sontarans, a race of lizard people, and more Daleks and Cybermen than you can shake a stick at.
This season, she’s faced... ummmm... a car race, a half-assed racist and a bus schedule, a hotel owner, a (cute, alien) rat, a little brother and a wedding, and a disgruntled janitor.
And, each time, it took her an entire episode episode to defeat them—and that was never a given.
Let me repeat that: The Doctor had a hard time defeating a disgruntled janitor.
The Missouri Factor
Which brings me to the biggest issue I have with the new Doctor (aside from the absolutely terrible outfit she wears): She’s not strong.
For those of you not from the US, the motto of the state of Missouri is “The Show Me State”. Meaning: Show me, don’t tell me.
This season of Doctor Who has gone out of its way to keep telling us that “The Doctor is in charge”. But it has done nothing to show us that she is.
I come from a region—and a regional culture—where women and men are considered equals. We’re farmers and factory workers; women toss hay bales and operate heavy machinery no differently than men. Nobody blinks an eye at a woman who’s a CEO, an innovator, a doctor, or a scientist.
I wanted that from Whittaker’s Doctor. I wanted her (and those writing her stories) to step up and give us a Doctor to rival all the men who’ve come before her. I want a Doctor who has a thousand years of knowledge and experience to draw upon—and shows it.
I have been severely disappointed. What I have been given is a weak, confused Doctor who doesn’t take control, but rather needs those she’s with to tell everyone that she’s (supposedly) in control.
I want Whittaker to walk into a room, start giving orders, and have everyone jump to obey. Instead, I’ve been given a Doctor with the gravitas of a soggy bit of moldy bread.
- Rose was more impressive than this Doctor.
- Martha was more impressive than this Doctor.
- Donna was more impressive than this Doctor.
- Lela was more impressive than this Doctor.
- Romana was more impressive than this Doctor.
- Clara was more impressive than this Doctor.
And Sarah Jane... This Doctor would be humbled to be in the same room with Sarah Jane.
Gender is irrelevant. I just want a Doctor that could impress, and earn the respect of, Sarah Jane.
This one couldn’t.
I was first introduced to The Doctor during Pertwee’s run. Tom Baker was “my Doctor” (I have “the scarf”). I didn’t care for the 2005 resurrection until a friend suggested I watch “Blink”—then I was on board (and went back to watch earlier episodes with a new appreciation).
The new series, however, has chosen a new path. It wants to be a tool for education and social change. I’m old-school and want adventure and running (I so miss the “running theme”!)
The Doctor has changed. I’m okay with that (it’s not exactly new).
The approach to Doctor Who has changed. I’m not okay with that.
My Doctor didn’t need people to say he’s in charge. My Doctor takes charge.
My Doctor faced Daleks, Cybermen, clockwork aliens, werewolves, weeping angels, and the Panopticon; Not little brothers and disgruntled janitors.
My Doctor took me on grand adventures, laid out subtle questions of ethics, asked me to make my own choices, and did a lot of running—with appropriate music.
If The Doctor that Chibnall and Whittaker are presenting is what the audience wants, then godspeed. But...
This is not my Doctor.