Across Time and Space

By Tony Cross

An Unofficial Doctor Who Companion with an introduction from Daniel Hardcastle

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Ushering in a new(ish) era of Doctor Who: RTD2

- A note from Tony Cross -

So, last week the BBC announced that Russell T. Davies (hereafter RTD) would be returning to Doctor Who as showrunner. To quote the official Press Release: "Russell T. Davies will make an explosive return to screens to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who in 2023, and series beyond." This deal isn't just RTD. The BBC are working with Bad Wolf to produce these new episodes, which means the return of Julie Gardner and Jane Trantor too.

This news set Twitter alight. It seemed to mostly be received with happiness. I did see one or two concerns about bringing back an old showrunner, but I think the BBC would certainly have wanted a safe pair of hands in place for the 60th Anniversary.

The Chibnall era of Doctor Who has been...divisive, as with all eras of Doctor Who to some degree or another. Someone always loves the Doctor Who you don't love and someone always dislikes the Doctor Who you love. It's an unwritten rule of Doctor Who fandom. Some of that dislike of Chibnall's era is based on the casting of a female Doctor. Not all of it. But a chunk of it.

My personal view of Chibnall's era is that I won't really know how I feel about it as a whole until it is over and in the past. I have, mostly, enjoyed it. I have said before you have to work very hard to make a Doctor Who story I don't like. But it isn't without its flaws. There's a little too much telling not showing. The Doctor is often a passive figure: The Timeless Children being particularly guilty of this. Not always, but perhaps a little too often.

I don't have a particular issue with the idea of pre-Hartnell Doctors. I've written elsewhere about how the Doctor we know now is not the Doctor played by William Hartnell. Change is a core part of the series. But the problem is that whenever you introduce a new element of mystery to the Doctor's origins you set yourself up to fail. Because either you have to leave it in the background to keep it mysterious or you have to close it down and then it is no longer a mystery. You make a rod for your own back.

I also think Chris Chibnall made a tactical error getting rid of the Christmas Day Specials. They kept Doctor Who front and centre in the British cultural calendar. I suspect Christmas Day Specials will return under RTD.

Now, I can never know what happens behind the scenes at the BBC - I'm sure some people out there do - but I also think Chibnall made an error by being too secretive. A new season of Doctor Who would come and go then we'd hear almost nothing until a little before hand. I think to keep Doctor Who front of mind - and particularly if you are going to be forced to have longer gaps between seasons - you need to drip information out there. I don't know Chris Chibnall but I got the impression that he wasn't entirely comfortable with being the public face of Doctor Who. But in 2021 a showrunner of Doctor Who has to be out there selling Doctor Who.

Which brings me to one of RTD's key strengths. We all know he is one of the great writers of modern TV, but his love for Doctor Who shines and his personality - or the one he presents publicly* - helps sell Doctor Who. I suspect that will be one of the key differences we see. And who better to be out there front and centre for the 60th Anniversary?

The other thing is that I think RTD's Doctor Who of 2023 is not going to be a cut and paste version of his 2005 Doctor Who. TV has changed since then, Doctor Who has changed since then, British society has changed since then and RTD has changed since then. RTD is smart enough to know that. I suspect the two eras will have some things in common, but I think they will have differences too. I enjoyed RTD's era of Doctor Who a lot, but I think - to steal a joke from elsewhere - RTD2 will be different. I'm pretty confident it'll be good.

And, if nothing else, it was nice to see Doctor Who fandom having fun for a day.

*I have no idea what RTD is like in private. I've never met him. It's just that some people are good at projecting a personality in public that isn't what they're like in private.
Text was first published on Tony Cross's blog, The Patient Centurion

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John Hawley
 John Hawley says:

Please publish this pronto as you have whetted my appetite

posted 28th September 2021

Tony Cross
 Tony Cross says:

Cheers John. Fingers crossed.

posted 28th September 2021

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