A few years ago, I did a series of 47 daily posts which all looked at different questions related to the revival series of Doctor Who, focusing on stuff I like about the show. I worked out a series of questions in advance and then picked one randomly for each day. I’ve decided to revisit the series to see how my opinions may or may not have changed, and to bring two of my daughters into the discussion, since they are both big fans and have recently finished watching the revival series.
Why 47? It’s my favorite number.
Why Doctor Who? It’s my favorite show.
Why the modern day Doctor Who only? Simply because I remember it better.
Why are we looking back at this now? Because we’re on a 47 day countdown to November 23, the birthday of the show.
Check out Day #20 here.
When I first did this, it was September 2016, which means we were in between the Christmas episodes The Husbands of River Song and The Return of Dr. Mysterio, and were yet to debut Peter Capaldi’s last season on the show. Jodie Whittaker was even further away. How has the passage of time, evolution of opinions, and three further seasons of the program impacted my opinions?
Today is Day #21, and our theme is…
Best Reused Element of the Classic Series
Mostly, this means one of villains or monsters from the old show, since I’m not counting foundational elements to the core concept, like time travel, the TARDIS, regeneration or the Doctor himself. What does count? Stuff like the Daleks, the Master, the Zygons, the Sontarans, and so on. But there are other things as well, including one that had not occurred to me but which my daughter thought of.
Last time, I picked the Sontarans, who I quite liked in their main appearance back in Season 4’s The Sontaran Strategem / The Poison Sky. But they haven’t shown up since then, outside of humorous bits with Strax. So this time my thoughts go in a different direction:
The Great Intelligence
Originally from the era of the Second Doctor back in 1967, the Great Intelligence was a disembodied being who menaced the world through robotic Yeti. It made two appearances in the 1960’s, before disappearing without any resolution.
Season Seven of the Doctor Who is one of the lower points of the series, but I thought the use of the Great Intelligence was quite clever. It first showed up in the Christmas special, The Snowman, which in a last minute twist revealed itself to be an origin story for the Great Intelligence, now played by Richard E. Grant. The Intelligence showed up again in The Bells of St. John before its story culminated in The Name of the Doctor, which retconned the Intelligence’s original appearances as part of its effort to subvert every part of the Doctor’s timeline (something that it was thwarted in thanks to the sacrifice of Clara Oswald).
I thought it was a clever idea and a fun nod to the classic series.
What did my daughters say?
Johanna (16) picked the Cybermen. When pressed, she admitted that this was really the Mondasian Cybermen who showed up in World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls. She and I agree that we’ve never been big fans of the Cybermen in the revived series until that story.
Laurelle (14), on the other hand, surprised me by choosing the Sonic Screwdriver! One might argue that the Sonic is a foundational element to the show, along the same lines as the TARDIS or time travel, but this was never the case in the classic series. It did show up regularly as a tool that the Doctor used over the course of four of the original Doctors, but it wasn’t anywhere near as ubiquitous as the “magic wand” approach to the Sonic Screwdriver that we have now. Indeed, in Season 19 of the original show, it was destroyed (at behest of producer John Nathan-Turner), and didn’t show up at all for the remaining seven and a half years of the show. That makes eleven full season of the show (out of 26) that didn’t include the Sonic Screwdriver at all.
In any case, the Sonic Screwdriver was obviously an element from the original series that has been reused quite significantly.