Jodie Whittaker’s final episode of Doctor Who just aired. Now I have no real interest in the 21st century version of Doctor Who anymore. As a lifelong fan of the classic era, I feel that the revival in all honesty, never really tried to be a proper sequel to the original series. It was written more like a remake, that now and again would make a reference to the original for nostalgia bait, but otherwise didn’t care much about it.
Worse in the last ten or so years the revival has gone out of its way to demolish and vandalise as much of the classic series lore and history and the Doctors character as it could, to the point where the Doctor has no key characterisation any more.
The Hartnell Doctor is no longer the original Doctor now, the Master and the Doctor are now gay lovers, the Doctor isn’t a Time Lord, etc, etc.
All of these terrible, ill fitting retcons were defended by the likes of the BBC themselves, writers like Paul Cornell, Chris Chibnall, and obnoxious fans like the youtuber Samuel Davis (who personally called me a sexist in a youtube video.) As well as forums like Gallifrey Base, Doctor Who Reddit etc. They all claimed that saddos obsessed with continuity like me just didn’t get the show, because “Doctor Who is all about change. If you object to this change, you’re the type of person who would have objected to a previously successful change like William Hartnell changing into Patrick Troughton. You have to be able to learn how to move on.”
With this in mind can someone explain to me why the makers of the revival who are so obsessed with change, have just done a special that’s entire appeal was built on member berries? Why they have for the first time ever, degenerated the Doctor and actually brought a previous actor back as the current Doctor?
Yes, SPOILERS for those who haven’t seen it yet. The rumours are true. David Tennant is the 14th Doctor now.
Personally I think degenerating the Doctor is as bad a move as changing the characters sex. I’m not quite as pissed off about it however, only because it’s hard to care about the show after all the damage that has been done in the last few years. Still it sticks in my throat because of all the abuse I received over “not being able to accept change” in Doctor Who.
Ironically at the end of the day, I actually was the one pushing for change, but it was in a way that would have actually taken the Doctor forward into the 21st century rather than tearing him down. To me the all about change argument has been proven once and for all by Tennant’s casting to be a lie used by the clique of writers who took over the Doctor Who franchise in the 1990s to justify their own inability, or lack of desire to actually write Doctor Who.
This clique is nicknamed the Fitzroy clique, as they used to congregate at the Fitzroy Pub. They include the likes of Paul Cornell, Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, Chris Chibnall, Nicholas Briggs, Mark Gatiss etc.
This quote from Lawrence Miles I think sums up how obnoxious and cliquey they could be.
But if all this monkey-posturing sounds absurd, then let’s put in the context of the late ’90s / early 2000s. You may remember a time, in the days before “Doctor Who fans” meant thirteen-year-olds, when the Virgin / BBC novels actually seemed important. The authors certainly thought they were important, and pride was their most valued possession. After all, the reason I gained a reputation as an unhealthy influence was that I broke what Keith Topping called “the unspoken code”, the Omerta-like law which held that New Adventures writers should all stick together in the face of fandom and not publicly criticise each others’ work. I say “Omerta”, but in practice, they behaved more like Medieval overlords than mafiosa: the elite have to form a united front, because otherwise, they’ll be revealed as weak, flabby individuals and the peasants will get ideas above their station. Oh, and you’re the peasants, by the way. When the new series began, those authors who were promoted to scriptwriter-level went from “overlords” to “royalty”, which is why my heartless attack on Mark Gatiss was received with the same shock as if a small-time landowner in the Middle Ages had just referred to the Prince of the Realm as a big spaz.
You think I’m exaggerating…? Then consider this. When Paul Cornell took me to task for the social faux-pas of having opinions, he seemed appalled that I was incapable of respecting the natural hierarchy, and asked whether there was anybody I ‘bent the knee’ to. Bent the knee…? What is this, geek feudalism? When I told him that I had no interest in serving or reigning, he asked me: ‘Do your followers know that?’ I found it horrifying that anyone could even think that way, and I still do.”
Meanwhile this quote from Russell T Davies himself backs it up.
I do worry about being surrounded by yes-men. You’re right, it happens. […] I don’t think it’s happened to me yet. In the end, just as good writers are hard to find, so are good script editors, good producers and good execs. When you find good people like Julie and Phil, their sheer talent cancels out the risk of them yes-ing. I suppose the danger is not RTD And The Yes-Men, but a triumverate of people who are so similar that contrary opinions don’t get a look-in.”
–Russell T Davies
Finally here is an extract from an interview with Paul Cornell and Steven Moffat, which again supports Miles assertion.
Paul: The defining factor for our critics seems to be ‘how like bad television is it?’ It really pisses me off. There was a review in TV Zone recently of Kate Orman’s new book which was entirely based on that premise, how like bad television is this book?
David: And it failed.
Paul: Well of course it failed.
David: Set Piece is not bad television.
Steven: But that’s not what you want. My memories of Doctor Who are based on bad television that I enjoyed at the time. It could get me really burned saying this, but Doctor Who is actually aimed at 11-year-olds. Don’t overstress it, but it’s true. Now what the New Adventures have done, sometimes successfully, is to try and reinterpret that for adults, which has involved a completely radical revision of the Seventh Doctor that never appeared on television. That is brilliant.
Paul: There are big sections of fandom that I appreciate and love… Female fandom in all its forms has been consistently more intelligent than male fandom across the globe. Gay fandom in all its forms has, again, been consistently more intelligent than straight fandom. There’s a liberal, American, college-based fandom too. When you come down to it, our central audience doesn’t read. And that’s a major problem for us… how do we address a new series of books to an audience who don’t know what good books should be like?
Essentially Doctor Who from the 90s on, in all its forms became a playhouse for this cabal of writers, and the fandom was either bullied or duped into going along with everything they said, including the Doctor Who is all about change argument, which was never even close to the truth.
As I have said before many times, in the classic era, the Doctor was NEVER portrayed as being able to turn into absolutely anybody. All of the different incarnations of the Doctor were still meant to be the same person under the new face. This isn’t just my interpretation, all of the actors who played it said as much, as did the most prominent writers and producers involved in the classic era, from Terry Nation, to Terrance Dicks, to Robert Holmes to John Nathan Turner.
Essentially in the classic era, regeneration was an advanced form of healing. The Doctors body broke down, and then it repaired itself, and in the process, it changed its appearance. It basically rebuilt itself from scratch, and as a result the Doctors outer personality shifted somewhat. However his core personality was exactly the same from incarnation to incarnation in a number of ways. (I have already ran through the similarities in previous articles, I won’t be doing so again as it would take too much time.)
Playing and writing the Doctor was about finding the right balance of getting someone who could make it their own, but not so much you could never imagine it still being William Hartnell under the new face.
This was a good thing as it really allowed Doctor Who to have the best of all worlds. From a practical point of view it could change the lead actor, but unlike other series where the lead actor leaves, such as Primeval, and their characters story arcs have to be abandoned. In Doctor Who they could keep all of the previous actors story arcs and relationships like the Doctors feud with the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master, his friendships with characters like the Brigadier, his status as an outlaw to his people etc. The change in outer personality could also allow a new actor to reinterpret the role in HIS own way, but at the same time there was enough of a characterisation to the character overall, that the Doctor still remained a character, not just a title passed on to otherwise unrelated characters. It also meant that writers could develop the Doctor as a whole over the course of 26 years. There are many examples of story arcs and character development spanning multiple Doctors, such as most notably the Davros story arc, where we see the Doctor cope with his guilt over not having finished Davros and the Daleks.
Meanwhile the argument that Classic Who had no continuity and was constantly rewriting itself is a lie that tries to back itself up by taking changes in classic who completely out of context. There is a difference between filling in a gap and changing something that is established. For instance in the case of Batman, originally he was just a crime fighter, but then it was revealed that he fought crime because his parents were killed. That was a change technically, but it wasn’t contradicting anything as we didn’t know anything about Batman’s back story or why he fought crime before that. However if another writer were to come along after and have it that Batman’s parents were alive without any explanation and reveal that his brothers murder is what inspired him. That obviously wouldn’t work.
With Doctor Who it is exactly the same. For instance, Hartnell morphing into Troughton happened when we knew nothing about the Doctors people, or his alien biology. Whilst yes, it was convenient, it wasn’t actually contradicting anything. Similarly finding out that the Doctors people were called the Time Lords, wasn’t a change, as we didn’t know anything about them before hand. The little information we did know, that the Doctor was on the run from them and was scared to go back, was still adhered to in The War Games. Finding out that his people could only change 12 times was not a change either as we were never told know many times they could. Furthermore notice how once all of these changes were implemented, much like Batman’s parents murder inspiring him to fight crime, they were never contradicted? The 12 regenerations limit remained right until the very end of the classic run. The Doctors people were always the time lords etc.
Now it’s true that there were a few retcons in the classic era’s history and a few continuity blips, but that still does not mean there is no continuity or consistency at all. Every single work of fiction will have continuity blips at some point. Similarly retcons are not pretending there is no continuity. Retcons are where you add something to an existing story, via a loophole, IE we didn’t see this part of the story, so lets show how it really went.
Alan Moore who provided something of a retcon to the Jokers origins in the classic story, The Killing Joke, brilliantly sums up how to use retcons here.
“[ The Joker has ] a kind of muddy kind of origin. They’d said that he’d been the leader of a criminal gang called the Red Hood Mob and that while trying to escape from Batman he’d swum across this river of chemicals…That was about it and this was from a story from, like, the late ’50s or something and so I thought “Okay, I won’t contradict that,” because I kind of believe in working by the rules of the material as it already exists but I can put a lot of spin on that.”
Genesis of the Daleks, which is one of the very few actual retcons in the history of the show, follows Moore’s formula perfectly. We never actually saw the origin of the Daleks in the first story, we only heard a very vague second hand account of it, written centuries later, which is why Terry Nation who wrote both stories felt he could in Moore’s words, put some spin on their origins. He repeatedly stated this in interviews, and I might add that the contradictions between them aren’t even that big anyway.
Both the first Dalek story and Genesis reveal that the Daleks, came from Skaro, were once a humanoid race who engaged in a war with another race called the Thals, which eventually went atomic and destroyed the surface of Skaro. In both cases the Daleks humanoid ancestors degenerated into psychotic, xenophobic octopus monsters, who housed themselves in robot like armour. The only difference is that Genesis reveals that Davros accelerated the Daleks mutation and in essence created them. Both are still compatible though, it’s not like one says the Daleks are complete robot creatures who live on Venus, and another states they came from earth. It’s just that in one, an important figure, Davros was edited out of history, which could have happened in the ensuing years for all sorts of reasons. Maybe the Daleks didn’t want people to know they were the creation of a lesser race? Maybe the Thals themselves didn’t want anyone to know their role in helping him? Either way it does not mean the show has no canon. I might add that once that loophole was exploited and we saw the Daleks origin up front, then that was that. There could be no third origin story of the Daleks as their origins were shown and from then on Davros is their creator.
There is a terror among Doctor Who fans, that continuity of any kind will lead to the show becoming something that only anoraks watch, which will in turn lead to it being cancelled and us going back to the wilderness years again.
Continuity however is not simply referencing the past. It is not a nerd obsession. It is a foundation of story telling. Without it you can’t do the following things, characterisation, character development, relationships, story arcs, world building, you know all the things that you expect from a drama of any kind? Classic Who had baseline continuity like any drama because it had too. The Fitzroy Clique and their commandants will single out the few continuity blips, and ignore the hundreds of other examples of tight continuity to back their claim up, like the Davros story arc, Mondas always being the Cybermen’s home planet, Skaro always being the Daleks home planet, the Doctor being exiled, him first meeting the Brig against the Yeti, Ace’s story arc, Hartnell trying to get Ian and Barbara home, Vicki knowing about the Daleks because she is from after their invasion, Daleks having time travel after The Chase, the Master having no lives left, the Sontarans and the Rutans being at war with each other, the Ice Warriors coming from Mars, Peladon, companions crossing one Doctor to another etc.
New Who from the start threw out most of the Doctors key characterisation and most of the story arcs from the original series, due to the Fitzroy Clique’s lack of interest in them. This naturally provoked a backlash from classic era fans who were instantly dismissed as sad old Dinosaurs unable to live in the present and accept change by the Fitzroy Crowd. Sadly the majority of fandom agreed with that assertion for many reasons. First of all as Miles himself pointed out, the Fitzroy Crowd often do their best to silence critics, (with the largest Doctor Who forums such as Gallifrye Base and the magazine being run by close friends of people like Steven Moffat.) Beyond that many were just thrilled to have Doctor Who back after a long absence, and the revival in all fairness was a good solid show on its own merits for the first 7 or so years. (Though its success was NOT entirely down to its own quality. It did ride high on nostalgia and also got by mostly on characters, concepts created by the original series like the Daleks, the Cybermen, regeneration, which won round the young fans.)
Still sadly as soon as the political side of fandom started to make their desire for a female Doctor known towards the end of Matt Smith’s time, that coupled with the hype from their own success, caused Steven Moffat, and later Chris Chibnall to go further than even other members of the clique. Before the “all about change” mantra was only trotted out now and again by Russell T Davies to silence “the sad anoraks” for things like having the Doctor fall in love with Rose, which was bad enough, but now it became something the Fitzroy Crowd actually believed was the only the way to keep Doctor Who fresh. Lenin once said that a lie repeated enough times eventually becomes accepted as the truth. In this case it was told enough times that even the perpetrators came to believe it!
Now to be clear I do not hate all of the political or for lack of a better term SJW fans of Doctor Who. On the contrary, Claudia Boleyn, a self admitted SJW fan, I have found to be one of the most intelligent, sweet, and lovely people in all of Doctor Who fandom. I regret some of my previous assertions of her on this blog of wanting to undermine male role models in the genre, and have learned not to be too quick to judge others in fandom as a result of my dealings with Claudia.
Still at the end of the day I don’t think that Claudia and others like her had a very positive influence on the show, only in that by their own admission they cared more about their agenda.
They wanted a female Doctor Who, simply because they thought it would be a positive step for female representation. It’s understandable and admirable of people like Claudia to want to see more strong roles for women, but ultimately a female Doctor was never a good way to do it.
As I have pointed out, if you actually DO want to carry on the original series story, then you have to maintain some kind of core identity for the character of the Doctor. Sadly I think a sex change would disrupt that core identity. That’s not to say a woman couldn’t play another hero like the Doctor, but in terms of following on from that specific characters storyline, a woman to me would be too jarring. I personally would have a hard time accepting that it was still William Hartnell under there if the Doctor were played even by an actress I really like, such as Morgana Robinson. Of course for saying this I was smeared as a sexist on sites like Gallifrey Base, but I have been consistent about not changing the Doctors personality too much right the way through in a number of ways. I objected to a romantic Doctor like Tennant, a flirty Doctor talking about his companions skirts being too tight like Matt Smith in his later years, for the same reason of trying to imagine that being Hartnell under there was too much of a stretch. (Well to be fair the last one was just crass anyway.)
The same absolutely would apply in reverse, if you suddenly turned Romana into a man, it would jar. This is not transphobic to say this. On the contrary I’d argue that it is the opposite. Trans people suffer from gender dysphoria where they feel mental anguish at being trapped in the wrong body and go through a long, painful, costly operation and process to become the gender they feel comfortable with. Making out that gender changing is like getting a hair cut, and that as soon as the Doctor physically becomes a woman, he is okay with it mentally after being a man for 100000 years, I’d argue represents a more old fashioned, dated view of gender being an entirely physical process. Hilariously enough Joss Whedon tried to mock those against a female Doctor by stating that the show never revolved around his “big old throbbing dick.” Which is an outright insult to most trans women who keep their male genitals!
The only way a female Doctor would work for me is if it were a remake and the Doctor was written as either female or gender neutral from the start. From a practical point of view there would be absolutely no problem with that, but even then ironically I actually don’t think that would be a good idea from the point of view of female representation.
To me the best form of representation is to use original female characters, as that way women have their own characters, history, stories etc, than hand me downs of male versions.
Sadly however all of these points were ignored I feel by the Claudia Boleyn mob, simply because they saw a female Doctor as too big a chance for representation due to the characters worldwide fame. Also I do think that a lot of SJWs incorrectly believe that the sci fi fandom is something of a little boys only club that needed taken down a peg or too, and again a female Doctor seemed like a great chance to stick it to these guys. (Hence why so many articles when Jodie was announced were just gloating, and why so many SJWs tend to ignore great, original female heroes like Xena, Kelly Maxwell etc who being original can’t make manbabies heads explode. I suppose just like I did with Claudia, then a lot of people on the other side were to quick to lump everyone together as just being sexist manbabies.)
Still it’s not fair to say that the SJWs caused the entire downfall of the show. Whilst I think that the focus on politics and the female Doctor were bad ideas, ultimately they did not need to lead to the vandalisation of the shows past.
IE a female Doctor doesn’t have to lead to William Hartnell no longer being the first Doctor, or the Doctor not being a time lord or anything like that.
To me it was a combination of the politics and the “Doctor Who is all about change” lie and finally the Fitzroy clique’s hold over the franchise and its fandom that collectively have brought us to where we are now. An unprecedented state of desperation where we are actually going backwards in terms of casting the Doctor.
Like I said when the push for a female Doctor really started to become great, and Moffat caved (as unlike the smelly old anorak fans, he actually cared about what the feminists like Claudia Boleyn thought as in his mind they represented the younger generation he wanted to win round.) The all about change mantra was once again used to justify the gender swap, but then I think because Moffat and others saw themselves as “on the right side of history” with having a female Doctor vs the supposedly sexist old traditionalists like yours truly. That subsequently led to Moffat and later Chibnall using the all change is good idea as their main inspiration for keeping Doctor Who fresh (and annoying the sexists) hence the hybrid story, Missy, the Hartnell Doctor being reimagined as a sexual braggard, etc.
In the end they went too far with the Timeless Children. That was a retcon a retcon so ill fitting, so poorly thought out that it pissed off everyone, as it destroyed the identity of both the original and the revived series. Even Elizabeth Sandifier despised the Timeless Children. Sandifier is a truly vile SJW fan, who told me to go kill myself. (Knowing full well I have struggled with mental health problems in the past and have actually tried to kill myself.)
Whilst the revival was always different to the original, it did maintain its own identity from Eccelston to Capaldi, with the Doctor overall in those eras being portrayed as a more romantic, tortured character. Again whilst this was always jarring for classic era fans, since the revival had been a whole generation of fans first introduction to the show, then that was the character of the Doctor for them. I also think that Matt Smith, in spite of some Moffatisms, and Peter Capaldi did help bridge the gap somewhat between old and new fans, by incorporating elements from the classic Doctors into their performances too, like in Matt’s case playing the Doctor as an old man in a young man’s body.
Jodie’s Doctor however first broke even the new who template simply by being a woman, for both male and female new who viewers. Young boys had come to see Doctors like David Tennant as more accessible role models, because they were smart and geeky, and not action men, whilst young girls had come to see the Doctor as a more attractive character. (I’m not having a go at the fangirls for that by the way. Fanboys are the same for female characters like Xena and Buffy. I don’t think the Doctor should have been made into a pin up however, same way I wouldn’t want Miss Marple to be made into a pin up for boys, and I think that both young boys and girls are capable of liking characters that aren’t presented as pin ups as well. Still I blame Russell T Davies for that mindset, rather than the fan girls who simply responded to a character that was meant to be attractive to them.)
Still the gender change already helped disassociate Jodie from both the original and the revival template, but the Timeless Children destroyed and undermined both. Russell T Davies’ last of the time lords story arc was completely undermined by it as he was no longer a Time Lord, as was Matt Smith being the last incarnation as the Doctor now had infinite regenerations, whilst the Doctors rescuing Gallifrey was undermined as it was destroyed yet again etc. New Who fans were every bit as outraged as fans like me, showing that even wit the revival, you still had to have a basic continuity and identity for the Doctor of some kind.
The Timeless Children led to the shows viewers dropping off a cliff, with one Jodie episode pulling in barely above 2 million viewers, the lowest the show has ever received in its 60 year history.
In order to get the fans and even casual viewers back on track, the likes of Chris Chibnall and Russell T Davies were forced to not only completely overshadow Jodie Whittaker in her last ever episode with a shit ton of references and cameos of old Doctors to appeal to nostalgia, but they were forced for the first time in the shows history to actually bring back a previous actor as the current Doctor.
Hilariously enough, Doctor Who has now become the very thing that the commandants of fandoms like Benjamin Cook, youtubers like Samuel Davis and the shills that ran Gallifrey Base always said fans like me who were frightened of change would turn it into.
A continuity obsessed show, constantly harking back to the past, unable to move on, and wallowing in its own mythology to the point where it looks stale, tired and appealing to nostalgia just to get by.
Doctor Who is all about a change. A ming mong, sad, smelly, anorak like me just can’t accept that and is stuck living in the past, not like Chris Chibnall or Russell T Davies who have brought back actors from 1963, crowbarred six old Doctors into a last Doctors episode, and are bringing their lead actor from 2005 back to recapture their glory days.
It’s hilarious and annoying to think that if in hindsight they had only listened to people like me, then they wouldn’t be in this mess.
My and I’d wager most classic era fans ideal version of Doctor Who isn’t one that brings back dozens of characters from the original series in pointless cameos like The Power of The Doctor. I want a Doctor Who series, where the Doctor is written in character. IE where he is an eccentric alien professor, wanting to explore the universe, played by an eccentric character actor, is a renegade time lord, is asexual, dresses in eccentric, over the top, Victorian, Edwardian era clothing etc, and the focus is on adventures, new worlds, monsters, rather than on soap opera and shallow identity politics. That’s it! Whilst I obviously want to see old villains and yes maybe occasionally old characters return, like the Daleks, Cybermen and Master, as I do love those characters, I don’t need to have them back every year. All I do ask is that when they return, you write them in character. You don’t turn the Master into either a Joker knock off like Russell T Davies and Chris Chibnall did, or a River Song/Irene Adler/Tasha Lem knock off like Moffat did. You don’t dick about with their history just for the sake of it, like Moffat did with both the Daleks and the Cybermen. You try and keep some continuity with them, see what kind of story you can write with them that you can’t with other villains etc. The Daleks and the Cybermen’s appearance in The Power of the Doctor was interchangeable. You could remove any of them and it would make no difference.
Had the Fitzroy Clique just done the bare minimum of maintaining the Doctors character and the most basic continuity, then there would have been no need to even reference the past like they have done, other than perhaps in the odd Dalek story every few years. They wouldn’t need to bring back a past Doctor to remind people that “hey this is Doctor Who.”
That’s what always happens when you deviate too far from the identity of something, eventually in order to win people back, you’ll have to remind them again and again that “don’t worry this is the same thing you liked.” How do you do that? With nostalgia and continuity porn and pointless return appearances of old characters. The exact same thing happened with Ghostbusters, that similarly went out of its way to be completely different, only to then do the most unoriginal, nostalgia driven movie with Afterlife to win audiences back.
Ironically my way was better for actually moving Doctor Who forward. Tennant’s return has set an awful precedent for any old Doctor to come back. Hey why even bother taking a risk now when you can just rely on old favourites? Even when the older actors pass on, why not just get someone to impersonate them, like David Bradley as a redux first Doctor? I doubt all the people on forums and sites like Gallifrey Base or Anoraks, or Planet Skaro or Big Glasgow Comic Con, or people like Samuel Davis who hurled abuse at me for daring to suggest that fucking about with the Doctors past for a political agenda was a bad idea, will maybe see that I was right?
Fat chance. The Fitzroy Clique it seems will have a hold over this franchise forever. It made me laugh when I saw Russell T Davies say in an interview he hopes to inspire people who see the show now as children to make it when they are older. He or one of his friends from the tavern will still be making the show in about twenty years, assuming it’s still on.
That’s a large part of why I gave up on the revival, as I realised that the people making it will use any excuse they can not to write proper fucking Doctor Who. At first during the new adventure days as the above quote from Paul Cornell shows, we just weren’t well read and too stupid to get his books. Then we were just stuck in the past, then all change was good, and that by not making it like Doctor Who they were actually making it like Doctor Who, then we were sexist manbabies. I wonder what lie they will come up with next? At the very least hopefully by doing the most unoriginal thing imaginable in bringing back Tennant as the 14th Doctor, the all about change excuse and lie can finally be put to rest.
Thank you. You write about important things. It’s a shame what happened with Doctor Who.