Musings on a New Year of Doctor Who

It’s a new year for the world, and for Doctor Who. And with it, we have a New Year’s special (which won’t make it to my Australian shores until tomorrow).

(Daily Doctor Who #39)

And with that special we have the highly anticipated return of the Daleks–which I am completely ho-hum about, to be honest.

And we have the return of Captain Jack, which I’m also ho-hum about, having not really enjoyed the character since the first season of the show.

And we have the departure of 50% of the cast of the show, which I’m actually kind of excited about. Apparently, both Tosin Cole and Bradley Walsh are finishing their time in the TARDIS with this episode, and though I have a fondness for both characters, many people would agree that Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who has struggled to make the companions relevant and relatable. I remember re-watching Hide–an episode from Steven Moffat’s era on the show–and I remember thinking that I knew Clara better from this one average-to-good installment then I did Yaz, Graham or Ryan from two full seasons of appearances.

Generally speaking, the show struggled to make effective use of all three companions in any given episode. And in at least one instance where they worked really hard to give all three strong character moments–in last season’s Can You Hear Me?–the result was that the plot itself was disadvantaged. The whole climax of that story was severely underdeveloped, presumably so that everybody could get extensive moments of backstory.

So if the plan is, as I’ve heard, that Mandip Gill’s Yaz will travel with the Doctor as the only companion, I think that can only be good for the show. I think there is a better shot at getting some decent characterization in there that serves the story, rather than detracts from it.

Even so, I find it hard to actually look forward to new Doctor Who. On the whole, I’ve found Chris Chibnall’s take on the series to be greatly disappointing, even though I don’t dislike Jodie Whittaker or any of the actors. And there are things I even like, such as the show’s cinematography.

But the writing has consistently alternated between underwhelming and aggravating (it’s hard to tell which is worse), with stories that either don’t know how to follow through on the ideas that are set up, or are overwhelmed by their own social message.

Still, by hook or by crook, I will have hope that I will solidly enjoy this show once again.

Specifically, I hope that in the upcoming episodes of Doctor Who (both the near year special and the eventual new season)…

Less shock twists

At least, let’s not build the whole structure of episodes and season arcs around shock twists. This almost always results in disappointment, as the pacing of action can suffer greatly and the twists often do not really make sense.

The Timeless Child will feel dramatically justified

I’d like to say the Timeless Child will be erased, but I know that’s not likely. Instead, I’d like the show to use and develop the idea of the Timeless Child so well that I change my mind about it. Because so far, it’s just a bit shock-for-shocks-sake plot twist that steals the mystery of the show rather than adds to it, and was one of the worst-delivered plot twists that I have ever seen in any form of fiction, ever.

A rest from the Master

Sacha Dhawan’s Master so far has appeared in two stories of the show and both cases highlight the biggest of Chris Chibnall’s narrative plotting and pacing problems. In both cases, he interferes with existing, more interesting stories just so he can prance around and act like a lunatic.

A new, recurring villain

This has been my hope for years. Sometimes it seems possible, but then the show doesn’t go there and instead brings back the Daleks or the Master (and in this case, have the Master show up to abruptly kill a potential new recurring villain), because everyone is just so enamored with the Daleks and the Master.

Social messages that are integrated naturally into stories

I actually don’t need a lot of social messages, but given that they are a regular part of the format (from long before Chris Chibnall), I’d just like them to not be the whole justification for a story’s existence. For a story to be good, it just have a worthwhile message, it needs to be actually told well.

Villainous Sontarans

Rumor has it that they are back in the upcoming season. They haven’t been actually threatening since the days of David Tennant, so some villainous Sontarans will be nice to see again. This even seems like a real possibility.

Even better would be if the show would actually deal directly with the Sontaran-Rutan war, and not just have them invading earth again (this seems less likely).

A Clever, Heroic, Noble Doctor

There have been flashes of this in Jodie Whittaker’s 21 episodes of the show so far, but not consistently and not sufficiently. Let’s make this a priority.

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