Disappointed, not Surprised: Doctor Who and the BBC

So it was announced that the Doctor, the humanoid alien main character of the TV series Doctor Who, will be played by a woman beginning next season. http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-40624288

I’m a little disappointed, not in the BBC’s choice of people to play the role, but in their apparently bowing to pressure to have the character change sexes. I am also not surprised in the least, because the last two times the Time Lord regenerated, activist fans demanded that the character be played either by a minority man or by a woman. One person said she was disappointed when the current actor was cast, because the BBC “missed an opportunity” et cetera et cetera. And that’s what irks me about the decision.

A little background. I have been a Whovian since my early teens, starting with the John Pertwee episodes (Third Doctor) and following the series through Sylvester McCoy’s abrupt dismissal and the show going on hiatus. I have most of the novalizations of the original run, plus Dr. Who was the first Role Playing Game that I Game Mastered. I have the old tech manuals, the anniversary books, and a number of other tomes. My sonic screwdriver replica is in a box and the light and noise-maker still work. I have a TARDIS pin that I wear on occasion. I wrote for a fan-zine before the ‘net was around. I was part of the fight between the BBC and the American Doctor Who Fan Club.

When the show was re-started, I was ecstatic! The character who had helped me survive High School and College was back. I liked the first season, was pretty much happy with the second and third new seasons, and then started to get a funny taste in my mouth. The fun wasn’t there as much as it had been. Now, Sylvester McCoy’s incarnation was dark. Watch The Curse of Fenris and a few other episodes if you think I’ve not seen dark in the series before. But when the fun and adventure starts to drop, I get concerned. I hung in there. I mean, continuity gaps? Heh! If there was continuity in the original series, we all flagged it and wondered what was going wrong. 🙂

But I think I began sensing trouble with the introduction of Captain Jack Harkness and the spin-off of Torchwood. The then show-runner made Jack’s sexuality too important, in my opinion. Two episodes of Torchwood were enough and I didn’t go back to that series. The character himself was OK, and rather interesting once you pulled the pieces together, but how certain aspects of his personality were played up annoyed me.

Fast-forward to about two years ago, and Sherlock. There was a bit of a to-do about a major plot thing in the new season, and the BBC apparently received a goodly number of letters requesting or stating that Sherlock and Holmes would reveal a gay relationship. The management said no, that was not the relationship between the two and they were not going to break canon in that way. But the very point that fans would push for it made me wonder what was going to happen on other series.

So when Sunday’s announcement came I was disappointed, but not surprised. I wish the program well, and I hope the new writer and actress are successful. But they broke the series past repair for me. I know I won’t be able to watch it without wondering if she was truly the best person available, or if this was done to satisfy the activists and take pressure off other shows. There’s nothing in canon to say a Time Lord can’t change sexes when he or she regenerates, so that’s not a problem. In fact, the Master came back as a woman and rather successfully. But. Unfortunately, the seed of doubt has been planted in my mind.

After Marvel tried to change Thor’s sex in a side-series, after making Captain America an agent of HYDRA, after the fuss about Holmes and Watson, having a woman play the Doctor feels forced. Yet another popular series bowing to activist pressure and changing things to please the loudest group. Is this fair to the new actress and writer? No. Is it what is really behind the change? I have no idea. But I’m always going to wonder.

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11 thoughts on “Disappointed, not Surprised: Doctor Who and the BBC

    • I keep waiting for a certified letter from the BBC’s legal department demanding that I cease and desist. Seriously. But the differences are sufficient, and I am so small a fish, that no one has insisted yet.

  1. Never a Whovian, but I have pretty much quit watching all TV because it is too SJW formulistic.

    • When you know whodunnit, and why, in the first thirty seconds… When you glance at the screen and can identify stock characters as “the smart black dude, the nerdy Hispanic chick, the firm but fair and beautiful lady boss, the white guy comedy relief, and the token gay guy” without knowing the show, because that’s how all the shows set things up… It is time to go back to reading. Or gaming.

        • The season premier was last night, apparently. I don’t have HBO and the little I sampled of the first book turned me off of the series.

          Doctor Who is a bit fringe and not nearly as eye catching as GoT. No fire-breathing dragons, most of the time.

  2. I was a devoted Tom Baker fan, and I’ve watched the first few seasons of the modern incarnations. They just didn’t catch my interest. I’ll have to go back and watch from where I left off, which was right where the Doctor saved the London Olympics.

  3. Yeah, I feel basically the same way. It’s been going downhill for a while. I loved Eccleston, Tenant, and Smith, but I never really got into the Capaldi episodes. This used to be my favorite show, so I’m really disappointed they went down this path.

  4. I too wasn’t surprised and I am disappointed.

    I discovered Dr. Who in the 80’s compliments of our local PBS station. My first Doctor, and favorite, was Peter Davidson. When the station began running the older DW, I discovered William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee. (smile) I liked the show. For various reasons I only saw part of Tom Baker, hated Colin Baker, missed McCoy and the movie. When I did rediscover DW it was with Christopher. A bit dark, but I liked him. They could take the chick though. While I was sorry to see Christopher leave I love David. He rivals Peter as my fav.

    As you might have guessed looking at who I like verses disliked, I prefer the serious Doctors. The manic ones just never suited me. So Peter Capaldi was a good Doctor who has been saddled with some less than stellar scripts.

    I found Torchwood uninteresting. There was too much emphasis on sex and not enough on plot; Major turn off for me. I did give it a fair chance, most of season one, before I said enough.

    I will watch the 2017 Christmas Special, in part to say goodbye to Peter Capaldi and to see how they pull of having someone in the role of William Hartnell. But I have no intentions of watching the 2018 series. DW has gotten too messagy for my taste. At least I have the DVDs of classic Who to watch.

    • I liked John Pertwee the best. I got to meet him in Dallas. Massive fan-girl moment. 🙂 McCoy had bad-script problems, and some attempts to make the Doctor too “dark and edgy.” (My terms)

      Manic is fun in small doses, but I agree, I prefer the more sober incarnations. DVDs and novels it is. 🙂

      • A lot of the old series was cardboard and spray paint. By McCoy’s time they were probably dressing sets in whatever they found in the dumpster. It was blatantly obvious the show’s producers didn’t care about the show any more.

        But McCoy became my favorite Doctor despite the lack of support, because he had *fun*. It didn’t matter how bad the script or how stupid the Doctor’s dialogue was; McCoy gave it his best shot. Just watching him work was worth sitting through some of the worst episodes. And Ace was one of my favorites among the Companions, for that matter.

        And as far as a female Doctor… does nobody else remember Joanna Lumley as the Doctor in that Who special from 1999? Considering how far the new series has veered from the old, they can hardly declare her non-canon…

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