Threat versus Mystery 

Well it is no mystery anymore. At around 1am I found myself briefly awake and so reached over to my phone to find out that what everyone had probably suspected would be happening, had happened and a woman had been cast as the new Dr Who.

I imagine that some will be delighted and some will be outraged. Jodie Whittaker is a fine actress and I am sure she will do an outstanding job. I am more interested, to be honest in what new showrunner Chris Chibnell will be doing because he will be the person charged with driving the direction of the show once Moffat leaves at the end of the season and I wonder where he will take it.

I was pondering recently how the show had changed as it moved from the guardianship of Russell T Davies, who created a series with family and social drama anchoring it, to a very different direction under Moffat.  I miss the heart of Davies’ vision, which had a soap-opera type familiarity (and I do not mean that as an insult) and while Moffat is a brilliant writer – ‘Blink’ was a stand-out episode for me – I confess I have found the over investment of the series in its own lore a little frustrating.

I have also lately been getting very conscious in of the number of times that young characters in the show are shown to demonstrate agency by being prepared to stare death in the face and meet it head on. It may be that I have become more sensitized to this since the suicide of a young person I knew last year, but it worries me that in what is essentially a kids’ program there are young characters hurtling themselves into lethal situations and being shown to, ‘step up’ in doing so. This perilous role, given usually to the Dr’s Companions may allow them equal screen time and bragging rights with the Dr, but at what cost?

I don’t want young women – or men for that matter –  to think that the right decision to make is the one that puts them in danger. I want them to understand that, as Buffy The Vampire Slayer understood, that the first rule is always to stay alive. Even with her super slayer powers, Buffy occasionally had to make the decision to withdraw so she could fight another day and that made the enemy she faced no less of a threat. The theme of self-sacrifice in the Who-niverse (sorry) has been getting just a little too omnipresent lately for me.

So I wonder what this new writer will bring to the series? A female Doctor, yes that has been established but perhaps a little more mystery in place of the direct threat? A mystery is a threat of sorts and a character-driven mystery may perhaps wind us back a little towards the social conflicts that make for good drama, rather than the metaphysical ones which make for clever drama.

Whatever the result, I am sure the Dr will continue to delight, because as long as you have a programme that celebrates the power of human imagination, the magic of science to create understanding and the power of words to transform then you have something that it a little wonderful.

I look forward to seeing just how that will begin to take shape when the new series launches next year.


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