I definitely think the BBC don't know what to do with Doctor Who anymore, and a big part of that is how rapidly the television landscape is changing. Doctor Who has always been a unique property, now more than ever. There was a definite attempt with S11+ to make it fall in line with what had been the biggest TV successes, 10 episodes, Sunday night, more budget for each episode. But things like Game of Thrones, His Dark Materials, Stranger Things, these are very different shows that are telling a much more focused narrative. TV and viewership has changed rapidly over the past few years and it's very hard to take a 57 year old show and adapt that to the biggest change in how we consume television, and how shows are made to suit that, ever.
As for my two cents on the Timeless Child.. I’ve taken a big step away from the Doctor Who fandom in the wake of The Timeless Children broadcasting. I just found the extremely hyperbolic reactions to it a bit much, a bit of an overreaction and it just wasn’t fun. Personally, I don’t hate it like some, I don’t really like it, I’m more or less ambivalent to the whole thing.
I’m certainly much more of a fan of the current era than most fans. I enjoyed Series 11, or rather, I really enjoyed what Series 11 set out to do - it definitely had some major execution problems! Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of the previous era. I felt like the show was getting to wrapped up in it’s own lore and history and I didn’t enjoy that. I have nothing against those aspects of the show, it’s just not the main draw for me. Series 11 was a breath of fresh air for me, and The Women Who Fell To Earth totally got me excited for the show again in a way I hadn’t been in years. I did agree with a lot of people, that this era could use to bring back some of the past, a couple of villains or characters, but I honestly feel like they went way too hard on this and the Timeless Child almost doubles down on Doctor Who’s obsession with it’s own past worse than ever before.
The whole thing feels a bit futile and a bit of a waste of time. It definitely totters a bit to close to the line of ruining the mystery of the Doc, but it doesn’t really change anything. William Hartnell is still the First Doctor, and all the events we know that happened up until now remain unchanged. There was a just a bit before, that the Doctor doesn’t really remember. I’m not really sure what the arc is setting out to achieve. And rather than just tack on this new lore at the beginning, you have the complications of Ruth, her companion and this crime, this war, Gat, the Division.. it raises a lot of questions and the way they were raised feels like they demand an answer, rather than deepening the mystery of the Doctor. They have to be addressed now, and they’re definitely going to play a part in S13. I don’t want this whole era to become about solving mysteries of the past. I want this era to tell new adventures with a wonderful Doctor.
I think the biggest flaw of it, for me, is the waste. The biggest waste is the waste of talent. Jodie Whittaker, Jo Martin and Sacha Dhawan.
Jodie is a brilliant actress, and I love her Doctor. Personally, I think 13 is the perfect Doctor to follow Capaldi, and the perfect Doctor for our times. Having 12 go through this arc of ‘am I a good man?’ And then be reborn as someone who really strives to be positive and good makes sense to me, and in the chaotic, depressing times we live in, 13 being a determined optimist in the face of things seems like the best fit for who the Doctor should be at this time.
This series, I loved seeing Jodie’s Doctor show more facets of her character, seeing more snark, bite, sadness, moments like her speech in the Haunting of Villa Diodati. I just wish the context for these moments was a bit better, and felt a bit less contrived. To develop Thirteen, it should be about challenging that optimism through her adventures, about putting her in situations that genuinely challenge her moral code. Her morals have definitely been ambiguous, but this has let to feel intentional from the viewpoint of the writer. And this development has to happen on screen. I’m sick of things being referenced like the Doctor hanging about Gallifrey alone, or for the Doctor to just become cold and distant to her friends. It harms all four main characters to have this weird contentious relationship that seemed to be bubbling in S12, and for all their moments of bonding and breaking to happen off screen. It makes the little of what we get have less impact.
Jo Martin… I think we can all agree that she’s the best thing to come from all this and that we’re instantly in love with her? Okay, good. I think she’s brilliant. I want so much more of her! But her position annoys me. If she’s a pre-Hartnell Doctor then I expect it will be down to BF to tell her story, and we won’t see much of her after this arc wraps up. If they could somehow make he the 14th Doctor, I’d love to get a full series with her. But then it makes the previous Doctor’s era focused on the next Doctor’s, and it takes the limelight away from Jodie. I’m also a bit sad that the first black Doctor isn’t a main incarnation, but rather a footnote. I love Jo Martin, I desperately want more of her, but I feel she’s wasted in this role because I can’t see Ruth Doc getting the time and spotlight she deserves.
Sacha is easily my favourite NuWho Master. He’s great. Such a talented guy, and so lovely, and brings a real depth to it. But kind of with Jodie, I just wish he’d gotten something better to do than what it boiled down to in the final! He deserves more. Anyway, I’d happily have him back for more in a heartbeat.
I think my big issue with the arc is the waste. The waste of time, the waste of these characters and the waste of opportunity. You could have told a great story about Gallifrey’s shady past that ruins the Doctor’s conceptions of her home if you wanted, not that the Doctor’s ever held Gallifrey in particularly high esteem, if you really wanted to explore Gallifrey and the past. I definitely think there’s a good arc to be had in a Doctor who is very evasive of their past and is very closed off, but is forced to deal with her past in a big way. I don’t think this is it.
The arc isn’t over, so I guess we’ll see where it takes us, but I don’t love it. It’s moving the show back to a place that I really wasn’t enjoying, and I don’t want to become apathetic to something that I loved so much again.
But if I’m being really really honest, I still think the phrase ‘timeless child’ in Ghost Monument was a simple reference to the fact that the Doctor is an incredibly old alien yet also newly reborn, hence ‘timeless child’.