Doctor Who: Past, Future, and Thoughts on the End of the 13th Doctor (SPOILERS!)

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
And the less said about the Cybermasters the better. Terrible name, terrible idea.
There was a way to do them right. This wasn't it.

Ideally, they wouldn't have killed off the Gallifreyans again (and for no real effect, other than a cheap gasp from the audience). Give us an Agatha Christie story on Gallifrey -- heck, bring in Agatha Christie to help the Doctor solve it! -- where Gallfreyans are vanishing, which isn't something that really should be possible.

Give us lots of shady Gallfreyan suspects. Make it look like murder or an industrial accident.

And then, in the final shot of the second episode, we see the silhouette of a Cybermaster announcing that whatever poor minor character who's stumbled on their lab has to be deleted and follow that up, after a moment of darkness, with the Master's deranged laughter.

For an era that often struggled to find a compelling idea, they sure wasted a lot of them, one after another, in the finale.
 

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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
If my smiley did not make it clear, I was joking. As much as I enjoyed Sacha Dhawan's turn as the Master, I agree that he should be added to the "embargo list" (as well as the Weeping Angels). I would love to see more small-scale stories, and new aliens/enemies.
If nothing else, there are other rogue Time Lords out there. Give us the Valeyard as the multi-season villain for the next Doctor; that'd be amazing.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Background: I've watched every episode of nuWho. I've seen a fair amount of WhoClassic. I'm not an uber-fan. I've never listened to anything by Big Finish. I haven't seen every single WhoClassic episode, nor do I ever intend to go back and watch them. I can easily identify every Doctor and have a passing knowledge of most of the canon, but the deepest cuts require me to look it up. But I'd say I'm more knowledgeable than the random person, less than the tru-Who fan.
I'm in basically the same boat, though I've made a concerted effort to go back and watch a lot of Classic Doctor Who and I've listened to some Big Finish and I've read several of the novels. Though I'd also say I'm not an uber-fan...despite by phone case being a TARDIS.
Thoughts on the Finale: It was fine. It was entertaining enough, I guess. I really enjoyed seeing the older Doctors and some of the fan service. I think Jodie Whittaker gave it her all (as she always does). The Master (played by Sacha Dawan) gave a suitably unhinged performance that harkened back to John Simm (alas, seeming to skip the nuance of Missy). And, of course ... ACE! I admit, I loved seeing Ace. And I also have to admit, I was like ... look, it's Ace, and ... uh ... dang it. Clearly, not enough of a fan. Then I was like, oh yeah, Tegan! Seriously, the show was so chock full of cameos that seeing Tennant at the end was like M. Creosote getting the wafer-thin mint- at a certain point, it's too much fan service.

Which gets to the reasons why it was just fine. Look- I talked about all that, and I haven't even gotten to the Daleks! Or the Cybermen! Or Ashad, again. Or the Master-as-Rasputin, who is different than the regular ol' clean-shaven Master, but maybe not ... eh, this is a Chibnall story, don't worry about the plot.
Basically, yeah. He's a decent enough large ensemble, family drama writer...but he's lackluster as a Doctor Who writer.
Look, I wanted to love this show, just like I wanted to love the Whittaker-era Who. Any time you get Boney M playing, that's gotta be good, right? But this show combined the worst of Doctor Who finales/specials (too much- I mean, the Daleks AND the Cybermen AND the Master AND Ashad AND new regeneration canon AND a whole bunch of other Doctors) with the worst of the last two Doctors- sidelining the star of the show! Too often, Jodie Whittaker has been sidelined in her own show, and now ... it felt like she was sidelined by the intense amounts of nonsensical plot and fan service in her own finale. I loved her performance, as I always do, but it felt like it was in the service of something hollow. In the end, people aren't talking about her in her own finale, but are instead talking about all the cameos and Tennant and the (admittedly very cool!) Companions Anonymous scene. She deserved better- it was a messy capstone to a messy run.
Both bolded bits completely true. I'd loved to have seen Whittaker stay on with Davies' return, but she's out. She deserved far better than Chibs. She was fantastic. He was mediocre at best.
Thoughts on nuWho in General: It isn't hard to read the above and see that I am starting to get a little disenchanted with nuWho. Before going into some analysis, I thought I'd go mention that maybe it's just me. I have three theories:

1. It's me. Maybe I suck.

2. It's the overall landscape. When nuWho started ... it was 2005. The Matt Smith Era ended ten years ago, before D&D 5e was even released! Look at the difference in the TV landscape. Doctor Who is, at its heart, a show that adults love, but is meant to be watched by children (families) as well. When it first started, there was no Disney+ with millions of superhero shows, or Netflix programming, or a lot of the incredible TV that we now take for granted. It's not that Doctor Who is that much worse, it's that the rest of TV is so much better in comparison.
Doctor Who is a children's program that adults watch and get really rather worked up about.
A. Specials aren't special.
As of the airing of this episode, there have been 153 "regular" (part of a season) nuWho episodes. And 22 specials. But break it down a little more.
The first three doctors (Eccleston, Tennant, Smith) appeared in 91+17 specials episodes in eight years. (13.5 episodes per year).
The next two doctors (Capaldi and Whittaker) appeared in 62+5 specials episodes in ten years. (6.7 episodes per year).

Yeah, I know, COVID didn't help. But even taking that into account, the pace has been slowing greatly, with shorter seasons and prolonged breaks. And this has a deleterious effect on the show- because holiday specials, and season opening shows, and season finales, and Doctor switchovers, tend to be way over-the-top ... and you can only do that so often. Doctor Who does not excel when every show is (or tries to be) The Stolen Earth ... over-the-top only works when it's been earned through the gradual accumulation of the little moments. When seasons get shorter, and are aired less often, and are interrupted by specials more ... it constantly becomes spectacle without a core.
Agreed. Specials are just regular episodes we have to wait two years to see. It's the same escalation problem in most serial fiction. Which is why I think Davies is fantastic to take over. His use of the companion and their family as a grounding to the Doctor works perfectly. And it's not always about the end of the world. Sometimes it's about a lost and lonely alien stranded on earth. Or a lost and lonely earthling stranded somewhere out there. Davies can do both the down to earth human stories and the grandiose spectacles.
B. Inverse Ninja Law.
We all know the inverse ninja theory. One ninja is a problem. 30 ninjas are just a bunch of mooks. Unfortunately, this problem has crept into Doctor Who to the point of absurdity. This isn't new ... but it's really bad now. At no point in the Season Finale did I even get a moment where I considered the Cybermen (Cybermasters!) or Daleks a threat.

Contrast that with the first season. Midway through Eccleston's run, we had the episode "Dalek." That was about a single Dalek, and it was legitimately chilling. Now, you might think to yourself ... well, this is in keeping with WhoClassic. Daleks could be a little silly. No big whoop with just having a ton of 'em, and having Ace beat 'em up with her baseball bat.

But the problem is with all the antagonists. They keep going to the same ponds, and overfishing them. Think about the Weeping Angels. The first appearance was a stone cold classic. The use of them in the Matt Smith era ... eh. It was fine. By the time they are used again in the Whittaker era, they are just more cannon fodder.
The 50th Anniversary. Three Doctors ("No, sir. All thirteen!") against a billion, billion Daleks. And the Doctors won with a cup a soup. Again, it's serial fiction and escalation.
C. The Writing.
And this is what we really get down to. The writing. Early nuWho had its share of clunkers. The last two Doctors had some decent episodes. But when you sit down and make a list of the stone-cold classic nuWho episodes ... what episodes are you coming up with?
Dalek? Silence in the Library? Midnight? The Girl in the Fireplace? Blink? Turn Left? Eleventh Hour? Vincent and the Doctor? The Doctor Dances?

When it comes to the last ten years, how many episodes would crack the top 50? Top 75? Probably the Heaven Sent two-parter. Perhaps Listen? From the Whittaker era .... maybe Demons of Punjab?

We are on a ten-year run of diminishing returns when it comes to the writing. And this is evident in the finale- you shouldn't need that much fan service to send off the Doctor. There should have been enough pathos and characterizations done the entire time. The episode where the Doctor leaves should be about the Doctor in such a way that it is unmistakably about this Doctor and this characterization.

And here, the show's writers did a disservice by having this all happen to the Doctor. Even ignoring the plot issues, how did this specifically apply to the characterizations of this Doctor so far ... I mean, she was like the Dom in the Fast and the Furious, in that she was about family, and she liked gadgets, but when you get right down to it ... The Master out-thought her, she was forced to regenerate not of her own accord even when she wanted to continue being the Doctor, and they ended with a poorly developed nod toward the late-developed relationship with Yaz.

Cool cool, right? So what does all of this mean for the show going forward?

Well, I am super excited for Ncuti Gatwa, but also ... not? Let me explain. In the history of show, the switch from Ecclestone to Tennant was difficult. But Tennant nailed it to the extent that, for many people, he is the Doctor. And then there was the switch to the then-unknown Matt Smith. Of course, his first episode was a classic, and he was also a great Doctor.

The last two Doctors (Capaldi and Whittaker) were both incredibly accomplished actors and I was super excited for each of them, but both of them were let down by the writing. And I think that's the lesson- I think Gatwa could be amazing (he is great in Sex Education), but all that matters is the quality of the writing. I think that RTD understands a lot about the Doctor, and I am glad to see him back ... but I hope be brings fresh energy (and new writers) to the show. His run at the end of the Tennant era was getting tired, and the issues with the show now are not necessarily what he is best at solving. While I am glad to see Tennant reprise his role for a while, and Catherine Tate (of course), the show doesn't need more spectacle.

It needs a return to basics. IMO.
Agreed. Except about Capaldi. Some of his episodes were amazing.

If you're worried about spectacle and want a return to basics, I think Davies will have your back. There will be spectacle, of course. But he's brilliant at grounding things. Look at Boom Town.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
The first Capaldi season was rough, but the Danny Pink saga -- where we see the final evolution of the NuWho look at how companions are impacted by being companions -- was an all-time Who story and having Missy as an extra companion for a season, with a deep and empathetic dive into her psychology, was great. (And the story introducing Missy was pretty darn great, too, with a great "you should have recognized that symbol we kept putting in your face" moment.)

Plus, Capaldi gave us the Doctor playing electric guitar atop a tank. If David Tennant had done it, the moment would be memorialized on a thousand t-shirts.

For Whittaker, unfortunately, we get the Rosa Parks episode, Demons of Punjab and a whole lot of wasted potential. The NYE storage unit episode was a fun bottle episode, though.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
The first Capaldi season was rough, but the Danny Pink saga -- where we see the final evolution of the NuWho look at how companions are impacted by being companions -- was an all-time Who story and having Missy as an extra companion for a season, with a deep and empathetic dive into her psychology, was great. (And the story introducing Missy was pretty darn great, too, with a great "you should have recognized that symbol we kept putting in your face" moment.)
Yeah, Capaldi's first series was tough for me. Things took a darker turn that I wasn't interested in when it was new and I really grew to hate Clara. Still some great stories.
Plus, Capaldi gave us the Doctor playing electric guitar atop a tank. If David Tennant had done it, the moment would be memorialized on a thousand t-shirts.
Capaldi is the punk-rock Doctor.
For Whittaker, unfortunately, we get the Rosa Parks episode, Demons of Punjab and a whole lot of wasted potential. The NYE storage unit episode was a fun bottle episode, though.
I can't say there are any 10/10 episodes from Whittaker's era for me. I think it comes down to Chibs refusing to embrace the children's program goofiness that is Doctor Who. It's not a serious drama. It just isn't. Trying to make it one always backfires.
 


ART!

Deluxe Unhuman
Chibnall's run had plenty of good ideas but seemed ill-equipped to stitch them together or make them resonate - which is how I run my games, so I empathize! :D
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Those episodes are plenty childish.
I really want to pull a Stephen King's "Misery" and, trapped in a remote cabin, get him to explain what he thinks "the War of Time vs. Space" means in English.

Surely there are enough Doctor Who fans in British astrophysics programs who would be happy to share with him a layman's version of actually cool science stuff that he doesn't have to insist that time is named after Planet Time and that Time can somehow go to war with Space.

Real science -- remember, this started as an educational show -- is plenty wild and this show should at least make a token effort to be science fiction instead of pure cartoon.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Real science -- remember, this started as an educational show -- is plenty wild
And that lasted how long exactly? Five minutes into the first episode of the pilot? Maybe ten?
this show should at least make a token effort to be science fiction instead of pure cartoon.
Its only ever been science fiction in the sense that science-sounding nonsense has been said and there's time travel, space travel, and aliens. It's always been pure cartoon.
 

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