This isn’t about a specific person as such, it’s more about the BBC show as a whole.
I originally drafted this post a couple of months ago and added to the post schedule, however in light of the amazing season 10 and the frankly brilliant news about the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor I’ve made some updates.
I grew up with Sylvester McCoy and his companion Ace as my Doctor, which as Whovian’s will know is the end of the original run of ‘Who, it was failing show in terms of ratings, and it was axed. I was pretty unaware of this at the time and just used to watch whatever ‘Who was on TV (obviously this was in the olden days of yore before even Sky was a thing, so it was just the 4 normal channels and we watched whatever was on at the time).
Of the older ones -this will be blasphemous to many Who fans – I was never that much of a fan of the 4th Doctor. Sorry Mr Baker. I did really enjoy “Genesis of the Daleks” which I think was one of the best parts of his run, but I haven’t seen them all.
I mostly remember the 2nd and 3rd Doctors as standouts for me. I haven’t seen them in many years so I could be wrong, but I remember the 2nd Doctor’s run being mostly quite trippy and a bit weird, and the 3rd Doctor (who was stranded on Earth as punishment and worked for U.N.I.T for most of his run) was a more “Saturday Morning adventure” type show with him being quite an eccentric but in a sort of mad-uncle sort of way. Like I could imagine him tinkering around in a shed in the back garden, he drove a wacky old car and frequently used Venusian Aikido to subdue enemies, but he had sort of a slightly irritable serious quality that I always associate with the Doctor.
The original Doctor who series’ were famous for “cardboard sets and monsters”, and yes, that was definitely part of the charm. Early Cybermen definitely looked like they were made from washer-dryer spares and tin-foil, yet somehow they (mostly) ended up being quite menacing. It’s clear that right from the start it was always pushing the limits of its budget, yet there was still something captivating about it all.
Even in the worst episodes (of which there are plenty to pick from) they were often really creative with what they had. These days it’s pretty standard to see someone point a tube at something and it “do stuff”, we’ve got plenty of examples even from Star Trek and high-budget shows of “magic technology”, but back then it was really extraordinary to see the Doctor use the Sonic Screwdriver (which he only used occasionally in the old shows, and actually lost it in his 5th Regeneration and it didn’t really make a comeback until the new run.). It’s such a great idea to have the Doctor use a “screwdriver” as his main gadget, to be honest it’s a little bit of a shame that in Mat Smith’s run they basically made the Sonic a bit more like a gun, there were several episodes where he was firing what were essentially gun blasts from it – though I notice they’ve really cut back on that again now.
The various monsters and gadgets of Doctor Who definitely influenced the way I thought about the look and feel of props and costumes, and what you can achieve on a low budget.
Over the years my ‘Who fandom has waxed an waned, I didn’t even bother to watch the new Doctor Who when it was on, it was only a few year after that I caught a few of 9th’s episodes and really enjoyed them. Even though the special effects have definitely stepped up a gear these days there’s still times when they seem to jam a bunch of random things together into a gadget or something, and that’s brilliant. For so many sci-fi shows these days it often feels like they’re trying to blow my mind out of my skull with the effects, but really good sci-fi is ALWAYS about the characters first and the plot second, everything else is just set dressing, and if you can make it look good too that’s a great thing, but so many productions seem to think about the effects first these days. I’m looking at you 90% of Hollywood Sci-Fi films.
I really loved Capaldi’s last season, for me it’s so far been pretty much the definitive ‘Who series (I really didn’t like the last two, Coleman stayed way too long in the part and I felt like she was dragging Capaldi down with her). I loved Bill pretty much from her first line, I loved Missy from her first appearance, but even more in this season, I loved Nardole (although I didn’t think I would at first), I loved every episode, it was perfect. But, I’m thrilled that we’re finally getting a new aspect of the Doctor in Jodie Whittaker, It’s well past time, and let’s hope this opens the door to basically anyone who would be good to the part, not just any white man that would be good for the part. If possible, the direction that ‘Who has been going in this last season has made me love it even more. I can honestly say that series 10 has turned me from someone who likes Doctor Who into a full on Whovian.
Roll on 13!