By all accounts, Doctor Who appeared to have lost the public interest and the interest of the BBC by the time the show had been canceled in 1989. The shoe-string budgets, which were tolerated in the 60s and 70s, seemed inexcusable in an era with blockbuster science fiction films like Star Wars, Close Encounters and even the Alien movies. The actors cast in the role during that era seemed sabotaged by the ambitions of the show-runners; Peter Davison’s goofy-older-brother take on The Doctor, Colin Baker’s psycho grandfather take and Sylvester McCoy’s hyperactive-LSD-clown take on the character all seemed to struggle to grasp an audience. In each of their cases, the screenwriters toned those aspects down by the end of their respective eras; Peter Davison stated if he had more stores like Caves Of Androzani, he would have stayed a few more years.
After the series ended, the BBC gave the show to America and suddenly a flashy continuation of the series landed on the Fox network with Paul McGann as the knight-of-space Doctor in the 1996 TV Movie. Thou the pilot failed to generate any interest in a new series until 2005, the core concepts of what a Doctor Who show in a modern era would look like; sexier companions, a bigger budget to go with the ambitious and wacky storylines while calling about the show’s past for fans of the show in previous years. Had the show simply stayed to it’s low-budget roots, none of us would have been able to argue about Jodie Whittaker stepping into the TARDIS for Series 11 next year.
I want to assure the fans who dislike the gender swapping of The Doctor, and even The Master, to remember the show’s basic concept – regeneration. If Jodie Whittaker doesn’t work out, her Doctor will die and a new Doctor will be born. Same goes for behind the scenes; folks who didn’t care for Russell T. Davies or Steven Moffat’s run will probably love Chris Chibnall’s take on the series. If you choose to sit it out, which I did after the beginning of Matt Smith’s second year as The Doctor, you can always wait a few years and see if things got better.
Franchises such as Star Trek and Star Wars carry no such ready-made mechanisms when their shows reach critical mass; when the films or tv shows don’t work in their respective worlds, a whole new show/film had to be created with newer characters (or rebooted characters in the case of the newest Star Trek films) and new universes (while referring to the old ones). Once again, Doctor Who’s ability to fix itself when the going gets tough means things consistently stay fresh – for better and for worse.
Let’s embrace Jodie Whittaker’s entrance into the TARDIS with caffeinated eyes and frantic google searches to the actress’s previous roles. Let’s wait until her first lines of dialogue at the end of Peter Capaldi’s last Christmas special. Let’s give Chris Chibnall, who had a spotty record when it came to the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, a chance to see if he can get people to get excited about Doctor Who again.
And most important, let’s f***ing relax.