Three sequence is the same old tenure for an actor enjoying the Physician, so rumours are rife that Jodie Whittaker is about to step down. Michaela Coel, Olly Alexander and Richard Ayoade are among those tipped for the role. However what if, as a substitute of a brand new Physician, the present really wants one thing a health care provider would possibly prescribe to an exhausted affected person – a relaxation.
The present run began in 2005, and even with such a versatile format as Doctor Who, there aren’t many TV dramas that may maintain 13 sequence in 16 years. (Name the Midwife might be the perfect BBC try at that previously decade.) Cleaning soap operas can handle it, however then cleaning soap storylines usually don’t revolve round such cataclysmic occasions because the universe being destroyed.
The entire tv panorama has modified since Physician Who made its return. That 2005 sequence wasn’t even filmed in HD, and the iPlayer was nonetheless a few years away. The present iteration of the present is up towards the giants of Netflix and Disney+.
It isn’t simply the budgets and manufacturing values of programmes corresponding to The Mandalorian or Loki which can be upstaging Physician Who, it’s the storytelling. One thing like WandaVision appears in a special league. And, even making an allowance for Covid, with solely eight episodes anticipated within the delayed new season, the BBC’s manufacturing tempo is glacial in contrast with its streaming rivals. Simply as 70s Physician Who regarded low cost and wobbly beside blockbusters corresponding to Star Wars, the present now suffers by comparability with Marvel TV exhibits.
There’s additionally an rising story-structure downside. When Russell T Davies revived the present, he was very clear in his pitch to BBC executives that this wasn’t simply TV a couple of 900-year-old Time Lord who may change their face – it was about two buddies travelling by way of time and area having adventures and righting wrongs.
There’s now 16 years of recent lore, in addition to all of the tales from the 60s, 70s and 80s for followers to consider each time there’s a new story. Failure to stick to the continuity of some throwaway line from a script 10 years in the past will ship legions of followers right into a frenzy, taking to their social media and YouTube channels to shout about “lazy writing”. Generally it feels just like the present is being buried underneath the burden of its personal continuity.
A gender-swap of the function introduced consideration and initially excessive rankings, however viewership has since settled at a lot the identical ranges as underneath Whittaker’s predecessor, Peter Capaldi. The choice to solid a lady because the Physician has additionally meant the franchise turned a pawn within the tradition wars, additional souring relationships within the fandom, and making the social media posts of the present’s creators and stars poisonous to wade by way of.
The sequence finales have additionally been getting more and more grandiose through the years. However what number of instances can the Daleks be destroyed after which return, the Grasp/Missy be lifeless then reappear with a brand new face, or the Earth be invaded however nonetheless hardly anybody acknowledge that aliens are even on the market?
But when the showrunner, Chris Chibnall, tried to decrease the temperature barely with his first series finale, which solely featured a returning lesser-known villain threatening to destroy the Earth, it was extensively panned as low stakes. It feels as if, over the 16-year run, the amount of the story arcs has progressively been turned as much as a Spinal Faucet-esque 11, and now it could actually’t be turned down.
As somebody who beloved Tom Baker because the Physician within the 70s, I’ve discovered the success of the 2005 revival fantastic to look at. However whereas Physician Who appears to be like higher than it ever has – the sequences of the Cybermen marching by way of their battle cruiser towards the end of the last season had been well worth the value of admission alone – the whole lot round it feels drained.
The flexibility to journey wherever in time and area makes Physician Who a sequence that would probably inform one million good completely different tales, and Chibnall’s innovation of “the Timeless Youngster”, that means there are probably dozens of visitor star Medical doctors Who now we have by no means met earlier than, opens it as much as go in new instructions.
But it surely doesn’t really feel as whether it is near telling one million good tales. It feels as whether it is telling an more and more self-absorbed meta-story about its personal run, accompanied by a really vocal on-line fandom that isn’t fairly certain what it desires, however is aware of it doesn’t need this.
Possibly the BBC must attempt one thing aside from carrying on. A break. A characteristic movie. A co-production deal. An anthology sequence that includes acquainted characters from the Whoniverse who aren’t the Physician. Something aside from slowly grinding out one other couple of sequence formatted as if it had been nonetheless 2005.
I’ve lengthy resigned myself to the truth that I’ll by no means see each Physician Who story ever, not simply because some episodes from the 60s had been wiped, however as a result of they may make Physician Who tales in books, comics, audio, and, sure, tv, lengthy after I’m lifeless.
Sooner or later, TV will probably be run by individuals who grew up with the joy of first seeing Christopher Eccleston seize Billie Piper’s hand and inform her to “Run!” in 2005, who bear in mind David Tennant and Matt Smith and hiding behind the couch from the Weeping Angels once they had been youngsters. However, possibly, to ensure that them to assume reviving Physician Who could be an excellent thought, it must have one other relaxation first.