When did it stop being cool to bring up in conversation that you watch Doctor Who? For many it would be the end of David Tennant’s run as the energetic suited and impressively side burned 10th Doctor. Post-Tennant, admitting to still watching Doctor Who is usually greeted with a chuckle or a mocking smile, in my experience anyway.
Maybe it is just the inevitable taboo of being an adult and watching what is considered by many a children’s show but it feels like confessing a sin when saying you still watch Doctor Who nowadays. Often the way to deliver the bombshell is “I watch Doctor Who” followed by “but it’s not very good anymore” almost in defence, to stop the automatic judgement and preconception that comes with the words Doctor Who.
Doctor Who used to be the trendy TV show in the mid 00’s, the water cooler talk, the show that boasted an impressive cast; cemented by Christopher Ecclestone’s severely underrated performance as a haunted Doctor and the extremely likeable Billie Piper along with superb direction from head writer Russell T Davies. So, what happened? Is it just a case of growing up or is the show declining in quality?
Probably an equal amount of both, but the show seems to be struggling to pull in the seven or eight million that earlier series pulled off, instead managing a very average five to six million last year. Perhaps this is due to lack of audience interest in a show that has been around for more than 10 years, or because the shadow of David Tennant’s beloved Time Lord still looms over the show, even six years later. Episodes now seem to be very hit or miss and this may be due to Steven Moffat’s head writing duties, he seems to be a less consistent writer when he has to worry about the shape of the series as well as delivering quality episodes like he used to.
Constantly tuning in to Doctor Who every week feels like rooting for a football team that you love and have been loyal to for many years but who constantly lose and are ridiculed by everyone. Dragging this metaphor out for a bit longer, the team may have been suffering for the last few seasons but with new managements and a few transfers there still lies hope for them.
This new management includes Chris Chibnall who will be the new head writer from 2018, and he may be the answer to shaking up the stale formula but Chibnall has not had the best track record concerning Doctor Who. Let us not forget, he wrote the forgettable episode 42 which involved a man possessed by the power of the sun killing the rest of the members of his spaceship. He also reintroduced the world to the Silurians (two of the slowest episodes from Matt Smith’s debut series), penned Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (nowhere near as fun as the title suggests) and wrote The Power of Three – probably his best effort but the ending was a little anticlimactic.
Strangely enough it is his non-Who writing that is his strongest. He was the unofficial head writer of Torchwood for the first two series, and even though the first episode he wrote was about an alien who kills its victims through orgasm (yes, really) he steered it to a very emotional series two finale which displays some of his best writing to date. He also wrote the BBC’s The Great Train Robbery, penned two episodes of the fantastic Life on Mars and created the ITV juggernaut Broadchurch, the latter of which may have overstayed its welcome as it plods on to another series next year.
Is there any chance that Doctor Who can be cool again among an older generation? Not very likely, but like the loyal fan I am I will be quietly cheering my team on through relegation and management changes right until the very end.