After this year’s “Doctor Who” Christmas special, “Twice Upon A Time,” I feel like this series is not simply regenerating again, but actively ending to be replaced by another series.
Am I wrong?
Am I being a stubborn, impossible-to-please and possibly story-idolatrous fan, like some (but not all) nitpicking critics of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi?
I’ve asked myself these questions, starting in yesterday’s article. So now let’s continue:
Do I tire of the sexual revolution agenda moments?
Sure, Bill’s promotion as the First Lesbian Companion™ struck me as an agenda intrusion. That’s when I put the show on probation. But because I’d already been tolerating agenda moments in the series, I held tight. It turned out Moffat had so much fun poking fun at Bill’s, ah, love interests, once by having the Doctor intrude on her flirtation, and then repeating the joke but this time involving the entire entourage of the Pope. (Moffat also subverted a burgeoning same-sex plotline in “The Pilot,” only to double-subvert that by the series’ end.)
However, Whittaker’s casting doesn’t necessarily strike me as some intentional agenda intrusion. If anything, the “Doctor Who” universe has trained us to expect weird body transformations, not at all limited to the Doctor’s own regeneration. So this does not strike me as a promotion of transgenderism—although some activists may interpret it as such.
Would I prefer the Doctor remain a man?
And no, you’re not a “hater” if you simply want women characters to stay women and men characters to stay men. No one need repent for that. I don’t want “Wonder Man” or “Avatar Kor” or “Ray” or “Black Widower.” And I don’t want a female Doctor either. It’s that simple.
That said, in theory you could cast the Doctor as a woman and it wouldn’t be stunt casting. You could want to take the Doctor to new story places. As a woman, she could think very differently than a male Doctor. She could try to solve problems differently, with different tools and skills. She could round up more than one or two companions for a fully ensemble cast aboard the TARDIS. Or she could—let’s just come right out and say it—decorate the TARDIS differently. (And then, as a wry subversion of the First Doctor’s gently parodied views in “Twice Upon A Time,” she could ask male companions to help maintain the place.)
However, and partly based on Thirteen’s quick introduction in “Twice Upon A Time,” I’m guessing “Doctor Who” will simply proceed as if the Doctor is the Doctor. Stories may not even draw a sharp contrast between this female Doctor and the previous male Doctors.
But in that case, why bother casting the Doctor as a woman at all?
It just feels like stunt casting. And unfortunately in our universe, this casting happened after years of pressure—some of it plain political pressure, not in-story pressure—for “Doctor Who” to cast a woman as The Doctor. (In 2013, I explored this pressure, especially after Capaldi’s casting, in Attack Of The ‘Cast A Woman Doctor’ Critics.) In this world of identity politics, once you’ve gone there and even seemed to let social politics run the show, instead of story needs, there will be no end to the repeated calls for particular belief systems to supersede the story.
Do I trust the new showrunner?
Finally, in a word, I’m not entirely sold on Chibnall as the new TARDIS/Time Lady architect.
Chibnall’s previous “Doctor Who” stories have been okay, but not remarkable. He wrote “42” in series 3, “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood” in series 5, and “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “The Power of Three” (probably his most lackluster story) in series 7.
I understand his work with other shows, especially “Broadchurch,” has been universally praised. He’s also a longtime fan of “Doctor Who,” so his “fan credentials” aren’t in doubt.
But it really does come down to story. And while Moffat has his “too clever” and paint-the-story-into-a-corner moments, he does boast an incredible pedigree of genuinely awesome stories for “Doctor Who.” His two-parter “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” (series 1) alone sold me on this weird series. With these stories, I introduced my future wife to the show and won her to the fandom I’d recently joined. Since then, we—like many fans—have used Moffat’s standalone “Blink” to introduce others to the series.
Moffat proved he could handle at least one captivating series-long arc in series 5, which ended with perhaps the best “Doctor Who” Christmas special (the first to feature a real magical snowfall), most recently with the fantastic story “Heaven Sent” near the end of series 9. And the recent Christmas special marks a surprisingly quiet high point for the series, and a tribute to the truth the “Doctor Who” often works best when it’s minimalist.
If Moffat had cast a female doctor, I would have still felt ambivalent about the character’s too-far reboot, and annoyed at potential stunt casting. But I would have tried the series anyway, just in case, feeling sure his stories would have fun with the change, not ignoring gender differences, but poking fun at and celebrating gender differences.
That’s all theory. And it’s based not in fact, but in feelings—legitimate feelings.
I have positive feelings, which can’t be separated from more than ten years of overall good memories of “Doctor Who” under showrunners Russel T. Davies and then Moffat, with many good stories between and under them. Unlike some fans, I haven’t felt nearly as disenchanted with Moffat’s recent stories or the Twelfth Doctor. I’m not ready for a big Change, any Change, just so “Doctor Who” will no longer be run by that scallywag Moffat.
And I have legitimate negative feelings, because I don’t know and (benignly) cannot trust the new showrunner. He hasn’t wowed me with his stories; he hasn’t provided a good reason for a female Doctor other than (paraphrasing) “it’s time and this is Progress and et cetera.” Those simply aren’t good reasons for me. I always want to put story and characters first, and with some exceptions, I’ve felt the first two showrunners did just this.
So ultimately I’m ready to suspend my “Doctor Who” viewing, not just because I don’t prefer the character turning female, and not just because I (benignly) can’t trust the new head writer—but because it’s no longer the same show.
To me, it feels like “Doctor Who” is dead; long live “Doctor Who.” And with that, it crosses the top of my “world quota”—the maximum amount of fantastic created worlds I can keep up with. With so many stories around, I can afford to be selective. And when I feel a story is being driven, or potentially driven, not (mostly) by the story itself, but by other factors such as profit or social agenda engineering, I feel content and safe to stop watching.
However, plenty of my friends, and many SpecFaith readers, are excited for the Thirteenth Doctor. I’m glad to wish the creators and those continuing fans all the best. I don’t want the series to fail. In fact, if reviews from trusted people show “Doctor Who” is excelling even with a female Doctor—perhaps doing some of the things I expected won’t happen—I’ll be happy to rejoice in its success. I may even revisit the show, and the topic here at SpecFaith.
But for now, as for me and my house … “Doctor, I let you go.”