Andrew Jero delights in the return of "traditional" Doctor Who.
There was an article here on WarpedFactor earlier in the week from one of my fellow contributors which suggested American audiences weren't impressed with series 8 of Doctor Who, and they weren't taking to Peter Capaldi and his "Grinch-y" Doctor. It went on to say that his lack of likeability in American households was in danger of harming the show, with the famous British "export at risk and in often-unworthy hands"
As an American viewer, I for one have loved Peter Capaldi throughout his first series in the role. Those of you who followed my recent “The Doctors Ranked” series of articles,
know that he places third out of twelve on my list of all the Doctors,
that's how much of an impression he's made on me in just one series.
More than that, I honestly believe he could be the best of all
the Doctors yet. He belongs on my TV set and has left a far, far
greater impression on me than Eccleston, Tennant or Smith managed to do.
While I understand some other Americans may have loved Smith and Tennant, I
couldn't connect with their time on the show. The Tennant years were all
about Rose, a very dumbed down character who never had a depth about
her in a way that past companions like Jamie or Zoë did. When I very
recently sat down and enjoyed The War Games I was in tears during their
exit because they were both so well developed, they were characters you could
give a damn about. And while the sets wobbled and there were line
mess-ups here and there you hardly notice it because you get so caught
up in the story that none of it matters. You grow attached to the
characters in a way that you never could in the revived series until Capaldi showed up.
The article included a list of series 8 episodes which held Time Heist, Mummy On The Orient Express, Robot of Sherwood and Flatline towards the top due to their “style” - which apparently is the only thing American audiences want in their TV shows! I feel that statement undermines the American populace, stating that instead of better wholesome characters and intelligent plots, all we want is the coolest special effects and something that looks shiny and nice. We only have a desire for dumbed down television and movies because, unlike fans in the UK, we don’t care about character development and elements that are essential to telling a good story.
It's true that the special effects and masses of CGI had played a part in dumbing down the revived program for the audience. But in the case of series 8, with episodes like Listen, where the only real special effects were in the pre-credits sequence (the Doctor in space and underwater), you don’t notice that the flashy effects are missing because you get caught up in the characters and the story. These are the things that actually matter when it comes down to it. THIS is Doctor Who. This is the show that survived for 27 years in it's original run.
If, as is claimed, Doctor Who is in danger because it is now "focusing on what appeals most to the older fans of more ‘traditional’ Who", then I can only say that it's important to remember that without the “older” fans of the show there wouldn’t be Doctor Who today! I understand the program needs to grow and adapt and find new viewers in a modern television environment, but the essential elements of Doctor Who should always remain the same. Doctor Who should be a well written show with character driven adventures set in time and space. It doesn't matter if it's produced on a shoestring 1960s/70s budget or a more generous 21st Century budget with glossy special effects, the stories should always be true to the spirit and legacy of the long running series. And for the first time since 2005 that is happening consistently.
It does seem that large portions of today's audience really love the stories which focus on the companions, connecting with Clara or whoever is traveling with the Doctor at that point in time. Although I've struggled with some of the modern companions, especially Rose and Donna, I do understand this as one of my all time favorite adventures is The Massacre (of St. Bartholomew's Eve) - a story that heavily features the First Doctor companion, Steven. When I was recently showing my father (who is the person responsible for my getting into the show) the reconstruction of the serial he asked me why I liked it so much when he knew I hated many of the recent companion focused stories, like Blink, Turn Left and Father’s Day. My answer was that Steven was, well, awesome! He was a well written companion who doesn’t have to ask the Doctor for permission before doing anything. And just in case someone thinks I don’t like Rose and Donna because I’m sexist, you should know that one of my favorite companions ever was also undoubtedly, at times, the strongest of any of the companions ever featured over the last 51 years. I turn to 1963 to show you Barbara Wright. She was never afraid to tell the Doctor what she thought and is responsible for creating the toned down humanized version of the Doctor we know and love today.
So is Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi in “often-unworthy hands”? No, not at all. Quite the opposite. Capaldi knows the show inside and out. He brings decades of love for the series, he draws on all incarnations because he was there watching them, and role-playing as them when he was a child. He's the most worthy set of hands I could think of to guide the TARDIS today.
Matt Smith talked about his big influence being Patrick Troughton in The
Tomb of the Cybermen. Not because he knew the show prior to being cast,
but because he'd been given a stack of DVDs to watch by the production
team! When the First Doctor, William Hartnell, said, “It’s reassuring to know that my future is in safe hands.” I don't think he was referring to someone with access to a DVD player!
Doctor Who is finally back. If it's at the expense of losing a few new viewers who don't understand the concept then I'll take that, because if the show is not Doctor Who now, I don’t think that I ever knew what Doctor Who was at all.
Andrew Jero lives in Iowa and has a very strong love of both Red Dwarf and
Doctor Who. He enjoys acting and writing plays, television scripts,
and short stories. Follow Andrew on Twitter.