Unless you’ve been living in a Dalek shell, you’ve heard the news that Steven Moffat is leaving Doctor Who after Series 10. After that bomb dropped, executive meddling kicked in right away; apparently, BBC chiefs think it ought to be Peter Capaldi’s last year as well.
With so much change on the horizon, the time seemed right to hop into my TARDIS and take a quick trip into the future – England, 2018, to be specific. And I’ve got to tell you, it doesn’t look good. The decisions made in recent weeks, and the general direction the show appears to be pointed in, could be taking us down a dark path.
On the bright side, the future is littered with paradoxes and potentialities. So in addition to providing you with my vision of Doctor Who‘s lackluster future, I’ll lay out the alternate scenario that may occur if things break the right way – you know, like the issue of Orson Pink’s existence (pretty sure Danny and Clara never ended up having kids, since he’s dead and she’s a time zombie, but nevermindaboutthat). Here we go!
1) The Next Doctor Won’t Be As Good As Peter Capaldi
Look, I’ve spent enough time singing Capaldi’s praises, so you know my position on the issue and why I might like him to play the role until he literally dies in it and we get the most tasteless regeneration scene ever. But let’s not miss the fact that the alleged idea to dump the lead actor after three seasons isn’t something that anybody on the creative side of things conceived. This isn’t like when David Tennant or Matt Smith felt it was appropriate to move on; this is a business decision.
In their haste to fix what isn’t broken, it appears the higher-ups have forgotten that there will be humongous shoes to fill after Capaldi leaves, and nobody has any reasonable idea who should try. WatchMojo.com’s #1 entry on their wish list of actors to play The Doctor was – wait for it – Martin Friggin’ Freeman.
That isn’t his actual middle name, of course. The real one is too dirty to print.
That’s right; they want the man who’s made a career out of playing average Joes (well, he’s British, so… average Alfies?) to take over as one of the most extraordinary central characters in all of fiction. That’s like asking for Keanu Reeves as Batman. I get that there is a historical precedent for relatively nondescript Doctors, but nobody has those guys on their list of favorites!
There’s also a push for diversity in the lead role. Now that it’s officially canon that Time Lords can traverse race and gender, a subset of the fan base is hungry for a non-white and/or non-male Doctor. Which is all fine and dandy, until those in charge declare that as a requirement (a realistic scenario). So we need, what? A Pacific Islander Doctor? A Transgender Doctor? A Little Person Doctor?
Actually, that last one sounds awesome.
I’m not at all saying that a minority performer should be barred from being The Doctor. Moffat would certainly be happy to give his blessing on the way out, considering he’s been behind many of the socially progressive moves the show’s made. But it shouldn’t happen if we’re not getting the best possible person for the role (you know, like the one they’re about to shoo out the door). And the second the show becomes less about existing in its own world and more about sending a message in ours, it’s not going to be as much fun to watch.
Why It Might Not Matter:
Nobody has ever been happy with a new Doctor right away, no matter how good they were. I didn’t realize how amazing Capaldi or Tennant were until their second seasons. There’s always going to be that “who’s the new guy?” vibe after a change, and every new actor is going to bring something we haven’t seen to the role – it’s a staple of the show that shouldn’t be shied away from.
One very important thing to note is that we’ve never had a “bad” Doctor. Even the gentleman who consistently makes the bottom of the power rankings, Colin Baker, usually comes with the qualification that he gets a bad rap that’s influenced by poor writing and our old friend executive meddling. And at this point, the show is too high-profile (and valuable) to cast somebody who is truly wrong for the role. Plus, the notion of a non-white, non-male Doctor is actually a pretty exciting one that could give the show some fresh material.
2) This Is Practically A Series Reboot
It can’t be business as usual with a major change at the helm, but a complete reset isn’t a good look for anybody. Davies and Moffat knew this, using a companion holdover for two out of our three changes of Doctor (Rose for 9-10, Clara for 11-12). There has to be someone around from the old days who the audience already has a connection with.
Most fans of the show will remain with it no matter what. However, is it necessary to go through this complete flush of everything we’ve come to love about it so quickly? The Davies-to-Moffat transition was the most jarring one we’ve seen so far, but even that had some consistency because of the fact that Moffat was an OG to Nu Who and had been exercising a degree of creative control for a while.
Moffat’s writing dictated that we would get at least 27 more River Song stories.
There’s no evidence to suggest that new showrunner Chris Chibnall is going to have increased involvement during Series 10 – in fact, it’s more likely it’ll be all Moffat, all the time, as everything from executive producer to catering coordinator – so it’s entirely plausible that Series 11 will feel like a completely different show. Which, if you’re keeping score, isn’t something that anybody wants.
Why It Might Not Matter:
Steven Moffat is a polarizing figure, and he’s leaving the show because he’s creatively tapped. For as much as I’ve praised him for writing some of the best episodes in Who‘s history, he’s also been criticized for occasional clunker stories, lazy hand waves, and plot holes.
I’m just going to leave this here.
If he thinks it’s time to go, then it’s time. The last two reboots in the show’s history (Series 1 and Series 5) are both considered to have done great things for the Doctor Who mythos. And both of our two most recent Doctors have stayed for three series – those didn’t feel like they left with any unfinished business, so this time shouldn’t be any different, right?
3) Chris Chibnall Is Not Right For The Job
Maybe I wouldn’t be so worried about the future if I had more trust in the man taking over. Doctor Who is a precious cultural touchstone, in addition to being one of the best shows out there right now, and it’s important that the person in charge can handle the big decisions correctly.
I’m not convinced that this bloke can handle selecting an outfit correctly.
Chibnall is one of the least successful repeat writers for Who, with a track record that includes “The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood”, “42”, and “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”, as well as some forgettable Torchwood turns. He doesn’t have much experience writing momentous scenes for the show, and you’d better believe he’s going to be writing the finales (at the very least) once he’s the boss.
Furthermore, it’s likely that as Moffat’s hand-picked successor, Chibnall is going to feel pressure to continue the themes that Moffat developed, even if they aren’t in his wheelhouse. Moffat and Davies were contemporaries; Chibnall is not their peer when it comes to Doctor Who, but rather a fan. I’m reminded of what happened when the fans started growing up and developing Silent Hill games, and I don’t want that fate for this show.
Why It Might Not Matter:
First of all, Chibnall’s main show, Broadchurch, is awesome. Even the second season, which changes pace from a slow boil murder mystery to an even slower, boilier courtroom drama, is filled to the brim with believable, layered characters and an excellent story. There’s a hopeful possibility that Chibnall brings his character insight (a must-have) and dark themes to Doctor Who and takes the show places it’s never been before, in a good way.
In Series 12, The Doctor murders a companion for eating his Jelly Babies.
Even in the midst of a not-so-great story, Chibnall was responsible for the ending of “Cold Blood”, a tearjerker where Rory was sucked into a crack in the universe and erased from everyone’s memory. Multiple characters were Killed Off For Real in his episodes of Torchwood. This suggests that not only can he affect our emotions when necessary, he might actually allow for meaningful consequences in Who like Moffat (and yes, even Davies) rarely could.
Like it or not, the future is coming. We get to have our final journey with Moffat (and probably Capaldi) next year, and then we’ll see what kind of future it will be. I only hope that the proverbial shark can remain unjumped… At least for another billion years or so.