How to reboot Doctor Who

Sam Michael plays showrunner.

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It’s Christmas, which means another Steven Moffat-produced Christmas special and another step closer to 2017: the final series in the Moffat era.

Now, before you cry, “Oh, here comes another Moffat-bashing Wholigan”, let’s have some straight talk. Yes, Doctor Who is still one of the BBC’s flagship series and remains a mainstream success, both over the pond and across the world. However, it’s foolish to ignore the fact that ratings (regardless of how differently we consume television) have fallen considerably since the Tennant days and that the show has fallen out of favour with both the casual Saturday night viewer and hardcore Doctor Who fan. (Allegedly, the BBC has called for the incoming Chris Chibnall era to bring back ‘the dashing Doctor and his glamorous sidekick’ dynamic that was made so memorable by Sir David Tennant and Dame Billie of Piper.)

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Sir David Tennant and Dame Billie of Piper

It always seemed the case to me that the general public blamed the casting of P-Cap on the downfall of the show, whereas ‘Whooligans’ have laid the blame on Steven Moffat, the showrunner. I was surprised, then, to see from a few thinkpieces and vlogs that it’s the online fan community seem to have given up on Capaldi. Many seem to be under the impression that Capaldi must step down to make way for a brand new era of the show.

Billy from FiveWhoFans puts the case forward in this vlog:

First of all, I want to say that I have no argument against opinions such as these; however, I’d like to put forward a quick case for Peter staying.

I think it would be a tragedy for the show if Capaldi steps down. Through no fault of his own, his tenure as The Doctor has been a damp patch in 21st Century Who. Therefore, instead of sweeping these last few years under the carpet, along with a whole incarnation of The Doctor; why don’t we let a fresh show-runner execute a fantastic series and an era that allows Capaldi – who let’s not forget is a fucking gift to the show – flourish and live up to his full potential.

How can this be done? Well,if you’re familiar with WhatCulture’s “How They Should Have Made…” series, this is:

“What direction I would take Doctor Who in 2018 if I was Chris Chibnall and Peter Capaldi stays and how I would do it and that by Sam Michael and… yeah”  

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It’s not Chibbers, it’s ME!

So, this is the direction I would take “Season 11” to enable a fresh start for the Twelfth Doctor, whilst fulfilling the BBC’s (alleged) brief that Doctor Who needs to emulate the success and dynamic of Tennant’s time as The Doctor, bringing back its mainstream appeal without alienating hard-core Whooligans.

First of all, let’s start with basic production changes. The titles need to change, the music definitely needs to change, members of the production team need to change and, in my opinion, members of the writing staff. I would bring in Gareth Roberts, Paul Abbot, Marc Platt and Ben Aaronovitch, and use a writers’ room to develop stories and scripts. Anyway…

I would like to see the conclusion of Steven Moffat’s stewardship end with a neat and tidy transition, with a clean break in the following respects (as was done in 2009 between RTD and Moffat): No unnecessary baggage or unresolved story-arcs must be left with the Twelfth Doctor, no handover companions (Sorry, Pearl Mackie), and a brand spanking new TARDIS set.

For the Twelfth Doctor to be ‘reborn’, the character needs to lose everything and be left in a situation similar as the Eleventh Doctor’s following Amy and Rory’s departure. Moffat’s era needs to end on a cliffhanger with no certainties or familiar hangovers from the outgoing regime.

So it’s now 2018, here comes the hypothetical fanwank…

The show returns for a new series with the hook: “What’s happened to The Doctor? Where is the Doctor? Is he even ‘The Doctor’ anymore?”

The new titles start, the new music hits and we’re in to a fresh new era of Doctor Who. The show opens with an introduction to a new companion, who we’ll call Eva.  Eva, the new female lead must be played by an actress who’s up and coming whilst being familiar to the average viewer – an actress such as Emily Head. Familiar from her ‘Inbetweeners’ fame, she is still at the start of what looks to be a long and successful career.

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Emily Head.

So here’s the big thing about our new female companion – she’s NOT from modern day Earth. Eva’s from the 1950s, complete with a vintage style and appearance. The USP of Eva is that she has the attitude and morals of a 21st century woman but she’s alienated in the male-dominant world of the 1950s – until she meets the Doctor, that is.

“But wait!” I hear the BBC shouting, “We need a modern-day woman to reflect the thoughts of the viewer, to represent them! We also said we wanted Tennant-era-mush!”

That’s where our second companion comes in, Vinnie; a twentysomething red-blooded male from contemporary Brighton. Stuck in a dead-end office job slap-bang in one of one of the most vibrant cities in the UK; making him feel like he’s viewing the world trapped behind a sheet of thick glass. Casting for this character? Nathan Stewart-Jarrett; already a face among sci-fi fans from his role in ‘Misfits’, he’s a superb versatile actor with experience in theatre, television and cinema.

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Nathan Stewart-Jarrett.

The “will they/won’t they?” dynamic is fulfilled by the 1950s pinup and a heart-throb from 2018. The clash of cultures and social politics becomes both a hindrance and an aphrodisiac between the two.

The Doctor takes Eva under his wing, becoming less ‘Doctor-Disco’ and more wise grandfather (sound familiar?). As for Vinnie, there’s a similar bond but a comedic double act as The Doctor attempts to compete with Vinnie’s strutting heroics. They have a relationship not too dissimilar to the Second Doctor and Jamie, with any disagreements or arguments being petty ones instead of the rather dark nature of the Twelfth Doctor and Danny Pink, which felt a bit… a bit racially charged, dare I say?

The new TARDIS team are exactly that, a team. No more irritating questions as Vinnie and Eva are left to fend for themselves in alien worlds, while the Doctor relies on them to help fix himself and become “The Doctor” again.

As events unfold, Series 11 must be a journey to rediscovering Doctor Who as a show and a character for the viewer and the new companions. There was an exciting anxiety in The Christmas Invasion where we found companions lost without The Doctor and this was a very clever ploy by RTD for us to welcome the Tenth Doctor and make sure he wasn’t rejected on his first appearance while helping us accept and welcome a new incarnation.

I use that same holding back of the Doctor and build anxiety in the first few episodes to induce a cry of “Come on, BE the Doctor! Save them!” from viewers – a tried-and-tested post-regeneration ploy from beyond The Christmas Invasion, going back as far as Spearhead From Space or Castrovalva.

Series 11 must be an emotional and character-changing journey for the Doctor, one where he realises, thanks to his companions, exactly who he is, not unlike the rehabilitated Sixth Doctor alongside Evelyn with Big Finish, or the PTSD Ninth with Rose. The Doctor is grumpy, irascible and is sometimes cold, but he’s made to see what effects those negative traits have on those around him, similar to Hartnell Doctor’s thawing. Like Hartnell, the Twelfth Doctor will soften thanks to the impact of Vinnie and Eva, with the realisation that he is both loved and needed by them. No guitar- strumming power chords though… Oh, OK, maybe once or twice!

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The format of the series must also change. I would discard one-part episodes; instead having five stories, each with two parts, and a three-part series finale. As for story-arcs – I think it’s time to drop them. In 2005, many of us were not aware of the Bad Wolf story arc (it was wonderfully subtle) and yet the final two episodes with the Daleks were still built up massively thanks to forward planning and publicity!  Well-written stories, the development of well-written companions and the Doctor slowly recovering from the events that ‘reset’ his character are enough to keep people tuning in each week.

Series 11 must aim to be the pinnacle of Doctor Who, so unnecessary references to the previous and classic series must be exterminated!

There have been too many backwards references during the Moffat era to things only ‘Whooligans’ will get and that just alienate the casual viewer. Mentions of the Tenth or Eleventh Doctor will only make fangirls/boys/otherkin think, “Oh yeah, them… they were great! Fuck Capaldi!” and the same goes for awful flashback images and videos of the classic series. It always cracked me up how in The Name of the Doctor, the footage from The Doctor’s ‘time-stream’ included black and white footage… Wow, REALLY?! Or when Matt Smith head-butted his memories into James Corden during The Lodger, images of Hartnell and Troughton were in B&W while the other were in colour… again, really?! It just breaks down the walls of reality. Do what 2005’s series 1 did – make the references to the history of Doctor Who subtle background colour, and concentrate on the here and the now. Constant kisses to the past make it feel too much like the show’s saying “Remember the good old days?” Of course, it’s important to remain loyal to continuity but quit with the fan-service.

This is only a rough outline, but that’s the direction I would take Doctor Who and Peter Capaldi’s Doctor in 2018.

What do YOU think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, or on Facebook or Twitter!


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2 Comments

  1. The main thing the Beeb should do is stop the endless retconning and fanboy crap and make a decent series without the clever/clever bilge that is so much matchbox back philosophy. I think Peter Capaldi has been excellent and far better than the twee nonsense of some of the David Tennant and Matt Smith series. It’s not the actor’s fault that the show-runner’s head is half a mile up his own backside

    • yes I agree completely I feel Capaldi and Matt Smith were both poorly served by Moffatt being far less clever than he thinks he is ….

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