I have been a huge fan of Doctor Who for many years. I first saw the show in the 1970s on PBS whenever the local station managed to get enough sci-fi pledges to show it. Like so many Americans of my age group, the first Dr. Who I saw was Tom Baker. I was hooked and from then on I tried to watch whenever the show was available. For those younger readers, it is important to remember that in the 1970s and 1980s you had to be in an area where there was a PBS station, and that PBS station had to agree to show Dr. Who and this made following the show rather difficult. When I went to college the local station did not show Dr. Who at all and I suffered through 4 years of enforced withdrawal.
Around the time of my senior year, VCRs became mainstream. Unfortunately, as many of us remember, VCRs were designed to set civilization back at least 100 years because they could NEVER be programmed correctly and whatever you wanted to record got cut short regardless of how many different ways you tried to get it right.
After college, I joined the Navy and was once again without my Dr. Who fix. I was then beginning to realize that this was the time frame in which the show had been canceled by the BBC. It is amazing how isolated we were before the internet. In the meantime, I had found the old series of Target paperbacks that were developed from the stories that had already been on TV. I found endless hours of enjoyment with these books. I was introduced to the rest of the incarnations of the Doctor through these books, from William Hartnell to Sylvester McCoy.
During this time, stores like Suncoast Video made their appearance in malls around the country. Fortunately, the BBC decided to release most of the old episodes via VHS. Once again, I was buying and watching as many episodes of Dr. Who as I could get my hands on. I had actually completed the entire series of 155 Target books and the only thing that was missing was the show itself being on the BBC and available here in the US.
When the Sci-Fi channel premiered on cable tv, they showed Dr. Who, especially the Tom Baker episodes that I had grown up with. Sadly, Sci-Fi became SyFy and terribly lame and stopped showing Dr. Who. Then along came BBC America and with it the chance to once again see Dr. Who.
I was ecstatic when I learned that the BBC was going to bring Dr. Who back to TV and that we would be able to see it here in America at almost the same time. Finally, after all the years, Dr. Who was back and available!
The reboot has been excellent. Christopher Eccleston set a modern tone for the Doctor in his 1 year, and it was a shame to see him leave after only one year. Next came David Tennant, and he clearly defined the role in his own image, as had all the actors before him. The storytelling became much more complex, and with the internet, viewers were able to provide more inputs and began to affect the ways that the story were developed. I was really sorry to see David leave the show, but it fit the pattern that was historically established for an actor staying no more than three years.
During Tennant’s time the companions were very good. I thought that the rotation of companions was handled very well. Rose was replaced by Martha and a new dynamic was established. Donna became a joy to watch during her time with the Doctor. Eventually, the companions left and Tennant ended his time as the Doctor alone.
This set the tone for Matt Smith. His interpretation of the Doctor was a departure from Tennant, and once again the show was just as enjoyable for different reasons. Sadly, I thought that the Amy Pond first season was rather dull, it wasn’t until the dynamic changed with the inclusion of Rory that the show really took off again. When River Song arrived, things really went into high gear. The ensemble was brilliant together. Once again, the cast changed with the introduction of Clara.
Clara was a fine companion for Matt Smith. She also filled the transition to Peter Capaldi. Capaldi was a radical departure from Matt Smith. Aside from being older, Capaldi brings a much darker interpretation of the Doctor. This is a refreshing change from the era of Tennant and Smith. Here is where I begin to have a problem. I think that Clara should be gone, in fact, she should have been gone before the end of last season. I understand the role of the companion in bridging the gap between different Doctors, but they have seldom made it through more than one season before the new Doctor really takes over.
Clara as a character was written to complement Matt Smith. I don’t feel any connection between her and Capaldi. Once again the stories are to blame for this. Rather than allowing Capaldi to grow into the role, the stories have been too focused on Clara. I believe that this has to be changed. Clara has done her time, and it is almost too late for her to leave before the show deteriorates because of the stories.
This is NOT any critique of Jenna Coleman or her acting. She plays the part that is written for her. I simply believe that it is time for her character to move on and for Capaldi to either travel alone for a change, or to acquire a new companion. If I could suggest a compromise, it would to bring back RIver SOng to travel with Capaldi for a while. I think that the sparks would be electric. I picture the following dialogue when they first meet:
River “Oh my, you’ve changed. I was expecting someone younger.”
Capaldi “Quite frankly, so was I”.
This would be followed by a classic SLAP.
That’s my solution. I’m sure that there are others that we have not considered. I just hope that Clara gets a dignified exit, and that Capaldi is able to truly make the role his own.