Across pop culture fandoms, the battle lines are drawn. Noisy online fans will tell you all the reasons why a certain TV series or movie is the pits, and not worth your time. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, equally noisy fans will tell you, that’s nonsense, that TV series or movie is the greatest thing ever, and is completely flawless.
Neither side represents a majority and, even when stacked together, they still don’t represent a majority. They seem to exist, it seems, to counterbalance each other, rather than being the absolute genuine views of the people making them. Regardless of that, for those of us in the middle – the sensible centre – who are not only the majority of fans, but also mature enough to not hate mindlessly, nor unreservedly praise content that we can see flaws in, we’ve maybe felt voiceless of late.
The thing is, however, we aren’t. Not just in relation to Doctor Who, but more broadly, I’m seeing more and more fans eschew the hate and vitriol of one side of fandom, while also steering well clear of those who espouse that everything’s perfect. This is, I believe, quite healthy and could be representing a healing that’s happening in genre fandoms.
To do my part, I’ve cleared away the Christmas decorations, turned off the Boxing Day Test Match (for an hour at least), and will now regale you with the reasons I’m looking forward to Series 12 of Doctor Who, despite only enjoying 50% of Series 11 (Rosa, Demons of the Punjab, Kerblam!, The Witchfinders, It Takes You Away if you’re interested).
New & returning writers
Returning for Series 12 are Ed Hime, Pete McTighe and Vinay Patel, who wrote three of my five favourite stories in Series 11. That’s good. Joining them are brand-new contributors Nina Métivier, Maxine Alderton and Charlene James. Now, I’ve got a few points to make here.
First – new blood is always welcome in Doctor Who. There’s often something very special about someone’s first script for the series, and I hope all three have written something extraordinary for their opening salvo. After all, when writing for a series like Doctor Who, you never know if it’s going to be a one-off or whether you’ll be invited back, so giving it everything always seems to be the smart thing to do.
Second – they’re women. Particularly during the Steven Moffat years, there was a lot of talk about getting more female writers (and directors), but it never really panned out. To his credit, Chibnall is getting a better mix of writers into his team. I can’t see how this isn’t a positive for the series. Not just new voices, but more diverse voices, are always going to cast a wider net for stories than not.
Third – don’t listen to the haters. As soon as the new writers were announced, the haters seized upon the CVs of the new writers. Métivier had been writing a kid’s show, they said. Conveniently ignoring that she script edited It Takes You Away and The Woman Who Fell to Earth in Series 11. Alderton, they scoffed, was an Emmerdale writer. A soap writer! OMG! And James? She’s a playwright! What would she know about TV or even science-fiction? Even as I mock the haters on these points, it still pains me to write these comments as they’re just so… ridiculous.
How much science-fiction had the legendary Richard Curtis penned before the beloved, Vincent and the Doctor? None. How many soap writers have also written Doctor Who? Loads. Putting that aside, how many first-timers to the series have done something extraordinary? Besides Curtis’ effort, The Mind Robber, Dalek, The Happiness Patrol, Amy’s Choice, Remembrance of the Daleks, The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, and Enlightenment were all first-timers in the classic and new eras of the series. See any half-decent stories there? I have a feeling you might.
Difficult second album syndrome
There’s a term in music, difficult second album syndrome, which is pretty much what it says on the box. Namely, that a band or solo artist will pour years of effort and hard work into their first LP, making it a smash. Then when it comes to the second, they generally have next to no time to write, and what time they do have is on the road (probably touring the first LP). As a result, music journalists are constantly surprised when a second album does as well, or better, than the first.
Well, Doctor Who isn’t the music industry. Indeed, I find that the second series of any given Doctor is better or at the very least, more comfortable, than their first. Some remarkably so. And this makes sense, doesn’t it? The actors are getting settled; production teams return; and there’s no longer the sense of being the new kid on the TV block.
I’m going to presume no differently with Whittaker’s second series. She retains all of her companions. She retains her showrunner. She’s had a go at the role, and then had a chance to go away and think about it. It would absolutely stagger me if Doctor Who returns and I don’t like at least 50% of it like Series 11 – indeed, I’m expecting to like more than 50% this time around. This is modern TV, with an award-winning, veteran showrunner at the helm. The chances of it producing “crap” are low. It might produce some stories that aren’t to everyone’s taste – and that includes mine, incidentally! – but it doesn’t mean bad TV in itself.
A return to the familiar
Finally, Series 12 will see the return of all kinds of elements that Series 11 threw away. Whether it threw them away as a self-imposed, writerly challenge for Chibnall, or whether there was some other reason, we’ll probably never know for sure. But get set for things like two-part storylines, returning adversaries (Cybermen and Judoon are promised so far), and cold openings for some episodes. When you toss elements like this into a pot with a returning, more confident cast and crew, I can’t see it not contributing to a series that might feel a little more familiar (on multiple levels), and be easier to love than Series 11.
How about you? Are you excited for Series 12? Even if you’re not excited, per se, can you at least see all the ways it can potentially build on Series 11? Why not leave a message in the comments?