Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Who - dream Doctor or poor poo?

An illustrator of my acquaintance sent me an email, venting his spleen about the Doctor Who xmas special. Here's my thoughts on the subject...

Personally, I think you're being a bit harsh, but perhaps that's driven by disappointment as much as it is by dislike. RTD's Doctor Who is not Doctor Who as we know it, but a new show with many of the same elements. Yes, there are adventures in time and space, but the stories in the first series were as much about exploring the characters of the Doctor and Rose. The plot first, characterisation second style of original Who is history. Since this new style is getting big ratings and critical raves, it's going to be here for a while.

Of course, the critical backlash can't be long in coming. If Ecclestone' 9th Doctor was a Holocaust survivor, haunted by the horrors of a war he alone survived, one wonders how the 10th Doctor will be defined? The Christmas Invasion addressed the question directly, the Doctor wondering out loud who he was and what he was about. It took the leader of the bad guys to define him, as the champion of Earth, fighting against enemies terrestrial and extraterrestrial.

The council estate, Mickey and Jackie - they're all anchors for the new Who. Sounds like they're a drag on the show to you. But for a lot of people they provide a human focus, rooting the show's most fantastical elements in the here and now. There's an obvious analog for this in old Who - the UNIY years when the 3rd Doctor was stuck on contemporary Earth and gradually an ersatz family formed around him: the Brig, Sgt Benton, Captain Yates and the Doctor's travelling companion. Like 'em or lathe 'em, I'm sure Jackie and Mickey will continue to be a significant part of the show into its second series and beyond. But the new series is already introduced more off-world adventures and settings, something that will only increase in the programme's future. There are only so many times contemporary London [and Cardiff, natch] can be invaded, after all...

I don't think we've seen the real 10th Doctor yet - that will emerge through the course of the new series. You're not the first to say RTD's scripts for the first series were among the weaker efforts, but he was showrunner for all 13 episodes - no small task, especially resurrecting something from the dead. To you it looked like Frankenstein's monster - recogniseable in parts, alien in others. Maybe so, but I think the success of new Who is opening a lot of doors that I, for one, hope to step through. For the first time in a long time, science fiction and fantasy are credible genres for mainstream drama in British TV. ITV's got the Eleventh Hour starting soon, plus Primeval in development, while the BBC is nurturing a clutch of other programmes for the new Who audience.

Even if RTD's Who ain't your flava, well, he's only writing five of the 13 episodes in the new series [1,2 10, 12 & 13 to be precise]. Steven "The Empty Child" Moffatt is back with a new story and there's a bunch of other scribes stepping into the breach as well.

Me, I can't wait to see Sarah Jane Smith standing beside a TARDIS once more [but I would say that, having written 4 hours of audio drama featuring the character recently] and to see the Cybermen back in action. Can you really resist either of those moments, coming soon to a TV new you?

No comments: