So, here we are.
After a 10 month hiatus, DOCTOR WHO returns to broadcast this weekend - remodeled from the ground up. Even the logo is new.
Series/Season 11 will bring us our first female Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), and give rise to a significant reshuffling of behind-the-scenss talent, including: a new showrunner (Chris Chibnall), a new composer (Segun Akinola), new primary visual effects vendors, even new breeds of cameras to (supposedly) lend proceedings a fresh and more ‘cinematic’ aesthetic. Along with all of this comes an entirely reworked cast of supporting characters, and the officially stated foreknowledge that…for this Season/Series at least…the ‘classic’/‘familiar’ nemeses of DOCTOR WHO will not be present.
I’ve argued all along that DOCTOR WHO, to me at least, has always utilized a significant undercurrent of ‘change’ - and the effects of change - as its chief thematic, and I think there are some very strong arguments towards this end.
Yet, for some reason I can not put my finger on, I feel strangely apprehensive about the coming of Season 11. On the one hand, BBC & Co. have been admirably tight-lipped about what we can expect this time around. On the other hand, offering a few more bones to assuage the concerns of long time fans might’ve been in order given the depth of the evolution currently afoot. It's hard not to be concerned that The Powers That Be are 'hiding' more than merely a fresh approach. Is it, at least, feasible that this rebuild so extreme it might feel alienating to those who've followed and the loved the show for decades?
Of course, it’s also quite possible this level of silence from the network is for the best when all is said and done. With crudely photoshopped promotional artwork, and a grating flowery color palette defining the Whittaker Era’s overall branding thus far...
...it’s evident BBC still isn’t entirely in touch with this franchise - or with the fans who drive it. Multiple tone deaf teasers currently making the rounds have equally failed to instill unmitigated confidence. There's a sense of 'new' to be sure - but there's equally a vibe of the franchise facing the same network management issues which have dogged it for years, but slathered in a fresh, brighter, coat of paint.
Whatever the politics driving this fresh iteration of WHO, there's one almost comical truth which is difficult to escape: BBC revealing so little along the way may well be a better bet during this ramp up than the network saying all the wrong things, very likely in all the wrong ways. BBC's recent hammering of Peter Capaldi's era being a perfect example of this assertion. Evoking the line from James Cameron's THE ABYSS: 'Do me a favor - stay off my side.'
Which brings us to 'the elephant in the room’: the Doctor’s gender swap.
Personally, I have zero issue with the Doctor changing genders, or races. I think the show has set up this conceit, I think the show has earned this conceit, and I think…especially now…the show may need to lean into this conceit to both maintain relevance, and nurture further relevance.
This said, I don’t think it would well serve either the show, or the ‘cause,’ to unduly dwell on such changes. Clearly, one can’t have a character who has been male for over five decades never, ever acknowledge that ‘he’ is now a ‘she’ - this would be ludicrous, confusing, omissive, and overkill. But, any consideration of the matter beyond a fleeting, cursory acknowledgment targeted towards a specific narrative end? Could well seem gimmicky and disingenuous and alienating.
How efficiently, smartly, and genuinely, this gender swap is handled may well define the future perception of the Whittaker Era, and the show on the whole, for years to come. Here’s hoping Team Chibnall takes the wise, restrained, and self-confident path. Otherwise, a casting choice viewed by many as a significant step forward will ultimately ring as ‘cheesy’ - and as little more than not-entirely-demanded ‘Affirmative Action.’ In the grand scheme of things, such an unravelling would be a tragedy on a number of levels.
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Welcome to Geeklecta’s first message board dedicated to DOCTOR WHO Season/Series 11. Check back each week for a new message board, each specifically dedicated to that week’s specific episode of the show. These will usually be brought online between Wednesday and Friday of every week.
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Geeklectica’s DOCTOR WHO S11 forums are now open for business! Enjoy the discussion! And, perhaps most importantly, enjoy the show!
More next week…