DOCTOR WHO: The Naughty Step

Tony Fyler is going to count to three. One…two…

We’ve recently heard a whisper of warning that Americans don’t like the Grinchy Doctor, and will take their eyeballs and go away unless certain conditions are met – to which the instinctive British response is undoubtedly ‘Do give our regards to the next vacuous show about pretty people. Bye now.’

It is of course vaguely laughable for anyone to claim to be the voice of a nation, or the voice of a section of fandom: if there’s one thing we know about fandom after fifty-one years it’s that if you put two fans in a room you’ll get seven different opinions, some of them from entirely different pocket universes. That’s part of the joy of Who. So to claim Americans en masse don’t like the way the show is going is invalid – as invalid as it would be to claim that Americans en masse love Steven Moffat and want to have his babies. What doesn’t like the new Doctor or the new direction is ‘some fans’. That’s it. We’re not talking about holding these truths to be self-evident here, not talking about people who loved a previous incarnation of the show breaking away and starting their own nation of sulking pilgrims with buckles on their hats and bow ties round their necks. It’s just ‘some fans’ who don’t like the new Doctor, or the new direction, or the showrunner. To which a notably less British response is simply ‘Big whoop.’

If you want to take your eyeballs and go watch Season 12 of Grimm, by all means, go. We’re not going to stop you. But nor is there any justification for a showrunner or a production team or a broadcasting corporation to listen to you. None. None at all.

Of course, breaking America was a great moment in the show’s history (notably, let’s not forget in case the logic-loops threaten to escape us, achieved under the current, now much-bemoaned showrunner). It helped a lot of people discover Doctor Who when they previously hadn’t looked its way. But let’s make one thing clear to anyone deluded enough to think they have power over the show – you don’t. The degree to which you don’t is planet-sized. If, overnight, the whole of America was to wake up retconned and forget they’d ever loved Doctor Who, the show would still be a massive worldwide success. Demands that the show favour style over substance are the demands of a spoiled five-year-old who needs some time on the Naughty Step. Threats to take your eyeballs away and then where will we be are those of a six-year-old who doesn’t want to play well with others. Or arguably those of the Defense Department. Even if the whole of America did that, the BBC wouldn’t look at that action and make the kind of changes being demanded. It sanctioned certain actions to get the American audience tuning in, certainly – stories set in America, particularly. It would not, now, change a brand new Doctor, or the most successful showrunner in recent history, who also has another hot property he could pull from them, even if it could be proved that all of America switched off because they disliked the Capaldi Doctor or the Moffat showrunning. Which of course it can’t. At the risk of sounding patronising (Me? Nooo, surely not?), America’s a great friend for any show to have, absolutely, and Whovians of older generations have been delighted to have new American friends to dissect episodes with long into the night, but America is by no means the be-all and end-all. Even in the UK, Capaldi’s first series got between 7-9 million pairs of eyes watching it (an outperformance of David Tennant’s first series – just saying).

So if we remember that ‘some fans’ does not equate to ‘Americans,’ and that, even if it did, the BBC has no obligation to subscribe to a method of ‘fixing’ the show prescribed by one sub-demographic in a complex, worldwide, overall viewing public, we come back to a point I made in a previous feature – Capaldi’s the Doctor now, Moffat’s still showrunner, you will survive. Or by all means, feel free to go away and watch something else.

Does that mean the show is beyond critisicm? No, of course not – I refer you back to the two fans in a room with seven pan-dimensional opinions. Criticise the show all you like if the criticisms are well-reasoned, well-constructed, based in fact or even based in an emotional response you can back up. The facts are these: Capaldi has signed on for at least series 9 and 10. Moffat will undoubtedly leave at some point, but no-one gets to decide that point but him, in consultation with his wife and family. No amount of ‘I feel this is wrong in my heart, therefore you must change it’ sentiment on the internet will butter any parsnips (nor indeed any sweet potatoes) with the BBC, and it is deluded to assume either that it would or that it should. Get on the naughty step, ‘some fans,’ you need a time out.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at
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