Doctor Who’s had a bit of a rough time in recent years. With falling audience numbers and fans disillusioned – we explore what we think can turn it around.
Series 9 of New Who has come and gone and I felt it was definitely the best series since my favorite and beloved Series 5. It possessed a level of consistent episode quality not seen in years, Capaldi was utterly magnificent – he was great in his debut series but in Series 9 he was on another timey-wimey level entirely. The return of the two-part structure allowed for better, more controlled pacing – supporting characters had a greater depth to them and there were none of the messy rushed final acts that plagued Series 7. ‘Heaven Sent’ has solidified itself as one of my all time favorite Doctor Who episodes. It’s fair to say I really enjoyed the latest series of Doctor Who. Moffat has come under a lot of criticism recently but I don’t hate him and I certainly don’t hate the show.
However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. A lot of room. Dimensionally transcendent levels of roominess, despite the increase of quality in this recent series. I’m no show-runner nor script-writer. You may very well be thinking this Raphael is a bit of an arrogant tosser but sod it. Here are a list of suggestions that could propel Doctor Who to the heights it has recently slipped from
For years now I’ve been saying Doctor Who should ditch the 45 minute format. It used to work for the show – providing a dynamic blast of Sci-Fi and drama – but nowadays I’d contend the 45 minutes has turned against the show. Put simply, 45 minutes is nowhere near enough time to deliver a lot of stories some writers want to tell. They’re becoming so vast and grand in scope that the current run time fails to do many concepts and characters justice. A quick glance at episode lists of recent series makes me frustrated at what could have been. Even S9’s ‘Face the Raven’, an episode which I loved should have really had more time to develop their themes and ideas.
Debut episodes for the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor’s respectively prove how much this show thrives on a 60-65 minute run-time. Creativity would flourish and we’d get more time to delve in and explore what the story has to tell. I understand the BBC is suffering from cut backs so this might not be possible but in my perfect Whovian universe this would be something I’d strive to accomplish.
Bring back the dark to Doctor Who. We have witnessed the return of some more disturbing, gritty tales so far in Capaldi’s tenure but nothing like the Moffat scripts of old such as ‘Silence in the Library/ Forest of the Dead’ and ‘ The Time of Angels/Flesh & Stone’. I’m not calling for children to be constantly traumatized but I believe the show could get a lot more macabre whilst still staying within a 12 rating. Which conveniently leads me to my next point…
Bring Back Consequence
The Ninth Doctor’s line “Everybody lives, just this once, everybody lives!” is such a touching moment. It shines a light on the fact that in an utterly dark and dangerous universe fraught with danger – sometimes people are saved and no souls perish. What a completely different sort of Doctor Who we experience now. Death has turned into a joke with no serious consequences. I can’t bear to count the amount of times a character has ‘died’ only to pop up again alive and well. It robs us, the viewer, of any sort of emotional connection we had. I’m not against characters coming back in concept, it is science-fiction after all, but the amount of times this has happened in recent years is frustrating.
Yes, Doctor Who encompasses a spectrum of story ideas and stylistic choices including whimsy and fairytale-esque approaches but that does not mean death should be treated like an irrelevance, it’s insulting.
I honestly feel Doctor Who is going through a bit of an identity crisis at the moment and it’s not quite sure what it wants to be. It’s understandable, New Who has been on the air for over a decade now but it’s time to have a deep breath and look at it again. Do you think a casual Who watcher would understand the Series 9 opener ‘The Magicians Apprentice’? Is too much mindless fan-service bogging proceedings down? Is the weight of its own continuity beginning to take its toll? Relevant questions with dwindling viewing figures. Personally, I feel a soft-reboot approach could be a sensible solution.
The episodic format of the show works on many levels and Doctor Who will always be a simple but grand tale about a Time Traveler having various adventures. However, the ‘monster-of-the-week’ format is getting ever so slightly stale and I do think they could experiment with some format choices whilst still ensuring the adventurous spirit of the show lives on . Why not try a more serialized approach? I could imagine a scenario where The Doctor is actively hunting someone or something whilst falling into different situations on the way. A series-arc that is heavily connected throughout and isn’t just largely self-contained in a few episodes like they were in Series 6. I appreciated the ambition of Series 6’s story-arc but, ultimately, it fell flat because of an adherence to a very episodic format.
Temporarily axe Daleks and Cybermen
Yes. I said it.
The combined effect of over-use and a mishandling of the iconic villains has made myself and large swathes of the Who community utterly indifferent towards them. They have both lost menace and meaning. Their brilliance has hugely declined so it’s time to create fresh, original villains and bring back other Classic Who adversaries that deserve a New Who lick of paint (like the Sea Devils). The constant use of both the Daleks and Cybermen has rendered them beings that are neither scary nor thought-provoking. I’d contend we should have a good few years without them and then bring them back in a big way. The Daleks and Cybermen are supposed to be special, epic and all manner of other things but they cease to be so if they’re always in our faces. Granted, I understand there are probably pressures from BBC Worldwide to include them but the executive producers should realize that Doctor Who would be all the better without them for now.
Explore established places
Doctor Who is all about seeing new horizons but I feel they’re missing a trick by not expanding on some of the wonderful creations the show has produced. Some would argue it would make The Doctor’s universe smaller by focusing on certain places or people. Personally I think it would bring more depth and enrich the Whoniverse mythos even further.
Yes. Let’s establish a U.N.I.T. family with Kate and the Osgoods – delving into what a secret military organisation is all about for a New Who audience that might have not seen the episodes from the Third Doctor’s era. Let’s have The Doctor occasionally dabble with the Paternoster Gang and their detective network in Victorian London solving murder mysteries. Let’s go further into the nature of the Shadow Proclamation – a galactic police force is a concept ripe with potential, the amount of political drama that could be created makes my mouth water. Let’s take another stroll through Trap Streets hidden in the heart of London, a whole world sitting upon another. An alien refugee community is an incredible concept that is just sitting here for a writer to develop further. Let’s go back to Gallifrey and peer into the enigmatic Time Lord society with philosophical tales about the nature of time or bureaucratic power struggles.
Re-establish Torchwood and bring back Jack
The biggie, the no brainer, the number one thing that I’d do if I were show-runner would be to bring back Captain Jack and along with it re-establish Torchwood as a functioning, living, breathing organisation within Doctor Who.
Captain Jack is one of the best characters to grace the Whoniverse and there’s so much they could potentially do with him. As an immortal time-traveler he’d fit into most stories. John Barrowman is passionate about the role and would return in a heartbeat if scheduling allows it. It’s a travesty that one of the best characters created in New Who has simply faded away. Furthermore, they could mop-up or retcon the Miracle Day storyline in an episode. If Torchwood is 100% a dead show it would be clever to re-incorporate the organisation.
So there we have it. Those are the TARDIS corridors I’d go down if I were to improve Doctor Who. It’s my favorite television show and I only want it to succeed – sometimes it saddens me that a show brimming with so much potential doesn’t always use it to the best of its ability. You may completely disagree with me and that’s fine but I wanted to put some ideas forward.