When my mother was growing up in England, she like many of her generation grew up watching a strange little sci-fi show that would become a quintessential British icon. It went off the air for a couple decades, with an unsuccessful attempt at a TV movie in the 90s, but would come back in 2005 to old fans and a new generation of what would eventually be called Whovians. I am of course talking about Doctor Who. The 9th series since the shows return began a couple weeks ago, and I couldn’t help but dwell on the feelings that another series brought about. These were further explored recently by a conversation that I was having with my mother about the state of Doctor Who. In the end I was able to put a name to the emotion I was experiencing.. These days, a new series of Doctor isn’t making me excited or ecstatic, rather exhausted. Really though this was a long time coming.
A couple years ago, my mother began complaining about the direction the show was going in. I believe this was around series 6, the second one led by Stephen Moffat. At this point, we were beginning to truly figure out who River Song was, this enigmatic character we’d wondered about for years. In River’s own words I won’t go into ‘spoilers’ for those who are catching up on the show, but I could see where my mother was coming from. Here was someone who had been around from the shows inception, and while she enjoyed the first few series because of Russell T Davis’ emphasis on nostalgia, Stephen Moffat’s focus on what she would call “trying to be clever” was beginning to drag on. At time thoughm I didn’t really agree with her though and still thought it was as great as it had ever been. But at some point between series 7 and 8 it became clear that I to was beginning to feel drained by the show. The past couple weeks I’ve been trying to figure out why.
Without going into spoiler territory, I think the biggest issue I have is the finality of every big baddy in each series since Moffat took over. Series 5 and 6 were creative and interesting, but lately it’s felt like we’ve taken on new plot lines and abandoned others, not sticking to a key narrative for more than even half a season. It also feels like we’ve reset the universe so many times that even Moffat can’t keep the story straight… even by time travel standards. This constant changing of scene was what for the most part kept me excited for each new episode, but I think that in the end what I want is just a monster of the week show until the last two or three episodes where was can have a big finale. Not necessarily some season long arc that we need to keep track of and then retcon at the very end.
The two other aspects of why I think I’ve grown tired of Doctor Who are slightly more selfish reasons. First, is my issue with what I’ve perceived to be Moffat’s slightly self-inflated importance. Don’t get me wrong, I like his work. But with claims like “Clara is the best companion” and “These are the most intelligent stories we’ve come up with in the show’s running” feel rather in poor taste. This is especially the case since we have a history of truly amazing Doctors, companions, and stories that were NOT under his tenure. That and for such a “Whovian” himself his mistakes with canon or lack of regard for the show’s past irks me a bit. The second reason simply being that the show feels too American now. It’s gotten a bit better with Capaldi’s introduction, but being a purist and a slight hipster about the whole thing, having Chris Hardwick be celebrity Whovian ambassador feels so wrong to me. I like when a show is popular, but not when it loses its sensibilities.
With that said I’m still watching the new series and maybe it will renew my love for the show once we get a new companion on board at the end with Clara’s departure. It’s hard to say what I want the show to do to bring me back, but all I can say is only time will tell.