The Never-Ending Story – Why Doctor Who doesn’t satisfy

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Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

What a frustrating show Doctor Who has become these days. Every week brings flashes of brilliance, but the overall effect is unsatisfying, more often than not. I think some of the problems, if not all, are structural. I’ve been reading a book by John Yorke, creator of Life On Mars and Shameless, among other hit shows – he’s now involved with the BBC Writers’ Academy and, interestingly, name-checks Stephen Moffatt, RTD and Julie Gardener in his acknowledgements.

After a first half devoted to the five act structure that is the DNA of most successful movies, Yorke turns his attention to TV writing and has some very interesting things to say. One of which is that there are fundamental differences between a TV serial and a TV series. In a series, the characters don’t change significantly between one episode and the next, but act according to a template. In its most common form, the detective drama, their function is to confront a crime, find the culprit, solve the mystery. In LoM, Sam doesn’t become all that much more intuitative, nor does Gene get more insightful, from one episode to the next. Their conflict is more or less replayed in each standalone episode.

Series are very popular. They give the viewer a sense of security; they know what to expect both from the characters and the plot structure. If actors and writers can live with the limitations of the form, they can go on more or less indefinitely. The problems begin when complexity of character and motivation is introduced. It’s a trade off; in the short term it makes the show a lot more compelling, but it is extremely difficult to sustain. Once the viewer invests  in characters, they are generally unwilling to wait indefinitely for  pay-off. They want the characters tolearn something, dammit – if it’s only to say something a bit more emotionally intelligent than, “And I suppose, Rose Tyler, since it’s my last chance to say it…”

In the format of the neverending series, otherwise known as soap opera, a different sleight of hand is usually at work. There is drama and conflict aplenty, but once the crisis has passed the characters affected, assuming they stick around, succumb to an unacknowledged amnesia, and seem totally immune to any emotional fallout. Yorke tells a lovely story about a character in Brookside:

There is an exchange between Sammy and her boyfriend which should perhaps be hung on every show-runner’s wall: ‘You remember, it was when I was in a wheelchair and you were an alcoholic.’

Into the Woods: A Five Act Journey Into Story, p 188

(proof copy)

A notorious example of this phenomenon in recent DW would be Amy’s complete failure to refer to the fact that her baby had been stolen by aliens; she and Rory just carried on travelling with the Doctor regardless. Stephen Moffatt is very much of the “reset to zero with every episode” school of thought. But even he has been unable to resist the lure of the series arc, though while RTD tended to enjoy the emotional pay-off inherent in long-range narrative, Moff prefers the intellectual aspect of keeping everyone guessing.

It seems to me that Moff is most comfortable with iconic characters who come with a ready-made suite of mannerisms and as little backstory as one can get away with. Sherlock ticks those boxes and, regardless of the efforts of legions of fanfic writers, it is possible to enjoy the episodes without paying any serious attention to the precise nature of his private life with John, or for that matter anyone else in the story. It’s the very familiarity of Sherlock’s sketched mannerisms, his quirks of intellect and dialogue, that make him so enjoyable to watch.

I think Moff would like to treat the Doctor similarly, but here he labours under a number of disadvantages. One, his immediate predecessor (and for that matter, Matt Smith’s), was master of the five-act tragedy, preferably by Shakespeare. Ten didn’t just have an inner life, he radiated it like a lethal force field. Two, with Sherlock we get far fewer, longer episodes, allowing us to immerse ourselves in a complicated narrative. Three, Sherlock doesn’t offer writers the irresistible temptation of the whole of time and space as a playground. In Sherlock, as Scotty would say, you cannae change the laws of physics. That kind of discipline often makes for good writing. Sherlock is not allowed to jump into a Rift to return to the scene of the crime. He has to make do with being a genius.

This problem of narrative arc, which Yorke examines at some length, continues to plague Doctor Who. It can’t decide whether it is working to a time span of 45 minutes, 13 episodes or, more recently, 50 years. It tries to succeed on all levels simultaneously, whilst delivering a coherent plot. In the last respect, if not the others, it usually fails.

Back in 1963 we knew very little about the Doctor. Now there’s only one thing we don’t know, and it looks like we might find even that out before long. Because the Doctor was an alien and an enigma, the companions were the point of identification, the way into the story. I would argue that in New Who the last companion that really succeeded in the narrative role s(he) was given was Rose Tyler, which is why she remains so divisive.

Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I like Rose the best. It means that the person who created her was reasonably clear in his own mind what she was there to do, and it mattered. She was Everywoman, our way in, and she was the catalyst of change and healing in the Doctor’s broken soul. Series One of New Who brought Nine to the point where he recognised this in accepting her devotion to him, sealing the bargain with a kiss that brought about his regeneration. If the show had been cancelled after that, it would have stood as a satisfying conclusion.

Chrisopher Eccleston and Billie Piper in Parting of the Ways
Chrisopher Eccleston and Billie Piper in Parting of the Ways

Series Two was concerned with whether the Doctor could have a romantic relationship and keep his identity and role as saviour of the universe within it. Even though it ended in tragedy, it was arguably a full narrative arc, ending with him opening himself up to that experience and all the joy and anguish it involved.

Things began to go awry in Series Three, however. Complete in itself, it largely concerned the Doctor’s relationship with his past and the Master as his mirror and shadow self. There were two difficulties with this, however. One was that it marginalised Martha. The other was that, by making it so clear he hadn’t got over losing Rose, it became by default the midpoint of a multi-series arc concerning their thwarted romance. It negated the closure of the finale of Series Two, and poor Martha was disposable in both relationships. No wonder she cleared off.

Series Four took this a stage further by negating Donna’s entire narrative arc, to the horror and dismay of her many fans. It is very difficult to keep faith with a story that shows such a wilful disregard for the narrative of change and personal development. It put the Doctor and his feelings centre stage, but sidelined both Donna and Rose. This lack of closure persisted throughout the Specials despite Tennant’s and RTD’s heroic attempts to wrest some kind of coherence from the overall narrative.

Dark Mirror - John Simm as The Master and David Tennant as The Tenth Doctor in The End of Time
Dark Mirror – John Simm as The Master and David Tennant as The Tenth Doctor in The End of Time

It’s all about retconning with Doctor Who. Nobody sits down and works the story out, from start to finish. Instead, the franchise gets renewed and the past rewritten (sometimes literally) to accommodate the opportunities afforded by the extended narrative. Hence the current mess.

I could blame Moff, I could blame RTD. I could complain about Moff’s characters being more symbolism than substance, or RTD setting up an epic romance and then chickening out of the only dramatically coherent way for it to finish. But in fact, I think they’re both trying to do the impossible. No TV show, not even Doctor Who, can survive for 50 years without collapsing under the weight of its own mythos and inner contradictions.

The parts of DW that we see on telly are best viewed, IMHO, as the tips of a huge iceberg. Beneath the sea lie vast tracts of story explored by fandom and the numerous spin-offs, both official and otherwise. What goes on at Big Finish, or A Teaspoon and an Open Mind, is as much DW as anything we see on TV. Arguably more so, since it flourishes under fewer constraints.

So I rather hope that after the 50th Anniversary, they retire it for a while, until we all forget what a muddle it has got itself into. Because at the moment it seems to be degenerating into an orgy of fanservice, less and less comprehensible to the uninitiated. There are some immensely talented people working on the show, as there always have been. This isn’t about Matt Smith vs David Tennant, or RTD vs Moff. It’s about a show not knowing whether it is a series or a serial, and until they sort that one out, it will just continue devouring itself and become less and less fun to watch.

And that would be a pity.

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33 thoughts on “The Never-Ending Story – Why Doctor Who doesn’t satisfy

  1. I have also just finished John Yorke’s book “Into the Woods” and found it an excellent read.

    According to John Barrowman, there were originally two possible endings planned for “Parting of the Ways.” If Doctor Who had failed to get an audience, Rose would have been mortally injured from the effects of the Time Vortex, and after being kissed by the Doctor, would have died in his arms. Alternatively, if the show had been a success, Rose’s death would have been more protracted, with the Doctor showing Rose the sights of the universe, while secretly looking for a cure, having not told Rose she was dying.

    So, whereas series one followed the trajectory of the Doctor being emotionally healed by Rose, series two would have followed the Doctor being emotionally ripped apart by Rose, with the subsequent season having the Doctor either travelling alone, or manufacturing a distance between himself and any future companion. However, Christopher Eccleston’s departure at the end of season one changed everything.

    In the new version, it’s the 9th Doctor who dies, causing Rose to become the focus of the series. Consequently, when Rose leaves, the Doctor can’t have a relationship with Martha without the audience perceiving it as a betrayal, equally, the audience are going to resent Martha, as they will see her as someone trying to replace Rose, the Doctor’s true love. That’s why Donna came along, a woman old enough to be Rose’s mother, and therefore, not seen as competition. However, even then, both the Doctor and Donna were forced to state at the beginning of almost every episode that they were not romantically involved.

    RTD’s final attempt to deal with the shadow of Rose was the horribly contrived decision to lock her up in an alternative universe with a human version of the 10th Doctor, the real world equivalent of passing your girlfriend onto your identical brother, while moving to a different country. Clearly, as RTD later admitted himself, this was a deeply unsatisfactory conclusion.

    Moffat has subsequently attempted to deal with the problem by trying to bamboozle the audience, so Rose’s last episode, “Journey’s End” disappears down a crack in time, and River Song, a woman the Doctor marries sometime in the future, but whom he hasn’t met yet, is reintroduced. This means that the audience can’t accuse the Doctor of being disloyal to the memory of Rose, because the Doctor has no idea how his marriage to River came about. Equally, as River Song is middle-aged, it again removes the suggestion that she is a direct replacement for Rose. Consequently, any future romantic relationships within the Tardis are confined to the companions, with Amy’s approaches to the Doctor being rebuffed, as 1) he knows he is destined to marry River and 2) Amy already has a stable long term relationship with Rory.

    Equally, the fact that River Song is later revealed to be Amy and Rory’s daughter, further validates the Doctor’s current position of not getting romantically involved with his companions. Indeed, “The Doctor’s Wife” suggests that the only proper relationship for the Doctor is the one between himself and the Tardis.

    Ultimately, though, the attempt to replace genuine social interaction with plot mechanics has resulted in a backlash from the very audience Moffat has been trying to placate, and so the reappearance of Rose in the series finale, is probably either another attempt to dispel her shadow, or a sign that the show is finally coming to an end.

    1. I would hope that the appearance of Rose in the 50th is a sign that the show is going to retire for a time. I agree that it is increasing weighed down by its own trappings, fan service and catch phrases. But it is also weighed down by unfinished business. Stories that are left hanging.

      When you create an epic love story for an iconic figure, which is what happened with the Doctor and Rose, you have to finish that story properly, if you expect the audience to be satisfied. Death, as Barrowman suggests they discussed, is certainly a proper ending. They could also have chosen the ride off into the sunset ending, which was completely plausible once the alternative universe traveling at a different rate than ours was introduced. The Doctor could have popped back in time for tea (or the following season)…or he could have struggled to return, blowing up the TARDIS and regenerating in the process. Or they could have gone with any type of emotional attrition.

      I believe that RTD’s statement in the Doomsday confidential, at about 21 minutes in, that there was never, ever, ever any plan to kill Rose, is as truthful as Barrowman asserting that there was such a plan. I think that in the original talks at the table it is possible they looked at ideas for killing Rose. Such ideas could have been overheard by or presented to the actors. But the main problems they have reflect RTD failing to address the proper ending to his story.

      I think RTD intended to kill Penny, the secondary love interest. And we had an aborted version of those ideas carried out with Donna. She is sacrificed in character death. Martha serves a distinct purpose as a foil, and I don’t believe that was accidental, given her overt crush. I, also, don’t think Rose’s eventual return was a fluke. I think RTD wanted to put the whole story to bed more emphatically when Ten regenerated. And had he not been talked into the specials…he might have well sent Ten to Rose. But I also think there are conflicting arguments behind the scenes, about how much change the Doctor should make. People who have a limited view of what the Doctor can or should be, no doubt, argued that he couldn’t REALLY go with Rose. Nor could she continue to travel with him, even in some off-screen, we take up the story later way.

      I think all of the destructive plot contortions come down to one bit of insight from RTD, again in the Doomsday confidential, that Doctor Who is about hope and survival. RTD tried to kill off his characters without killing them. He wanted the emotional pay-off of complete grief, without actually losing Rose or Donna or Ten. Hope lives on that one day they can return. But, the problem with taking that stand is that the audience pines for the promised return. That pining steals the thunder away from any new characters you introduce. Hence the many attempts to recreate a love story that would be acceptable to the audience. Giving us a passionate Doctor who isn’t, really, going to carry through on his passion. River, for example, has a pre-ordained end…and story, since he’s not to change anything about it.

      It is very hard to break the pattern of story, the Joseph Campbell Meta, if you will, of how things work, and have your audience accept it. Take the recent departure of Amy and Rory to a portion of space/time that was too unstable to revisit. Moff’s logic here is impeccable. Certainly such a wound in space/time could exist, given the rules of the Whoverse. But, the audience scoffs at it. Because he, Moff, has already convinced his audience that the Doctor is a Time God and has the final word on space/time manipulation.

      Similarly, a large portion of the audience was convinced that the Doctor loved Rose and that the pair of them were capable of doing almost anything to be together. But then, the audience was asked to accept that Rose would just take a hybrid substituted and the Doctor would dally around with a mysterious figure called River. And the reason we are to accept all of this…is unclear. It is something about the show going on regardless. The show resets and there is a new companion and Doctor to love.

      In other words, our acceptance of an unsatisfactory ending, is about something that isn’t really part of the story at all. The Doctor has to leave Rose behind because…well…the universe would shatter if the Doctor said “I love you” or “settled down” or whatever. But, none of those reasons ring true to the story we have been told so far. Yes, he has hesitated to say the words. But all that builds is an expectation of WHEN he will say them. So, the audience is left waiting for the “real” end of the story. And eventually, the audience writes their own ending and simply hand waves the show’s versions.

      I do hate to disagree with my buddy, Mefinx, but I don’t happen to believe that the audience is part of the show. I feel that when any writer fails to create a solid universe of rules for their story, and falls back on “It can be anything you like,” they are simply cheating the audience. I don’t think non-televised versions of Doctor Who, book canon or fan canon, are just as much a part of the story as what we see in the show that airs. Canon is canon. And the books and comics and fans and behind the scenes people often have conflicting views of things. Even if someone doesn’t believe Doctor Who has canon, it does. The television show will survive, and be unshakable fact for future writers and fans, long after fanfiction is no longer hosted and books have gone out of print.

      To make other sources canon, the show is going to have to reflect that somehow conflicting stories can co-exist with what is televised. And Lord knows New Who has tried to do that by giving us so many looping alternatives to work with, beyond and outside the show. Given alternative dimensions in the canon, almost anything can be true. And maybe that is what New Who has contributed to the long running saga.

      1. Well, that’s why I’m kind of coming around to a fork in the road solution. One mainstream version, with those narrative values, and then the whole bunch of AU fanworks out there somewhere (most likely, the Internet). The audience of DW has evolved to include fans and that in turn has fed back into a new generation working on the show…one problem with that is that they maybe see things too much from the fan POV and not enough from the standard audience. And that’s how you wind up getting so many Get Out of Jail Free cards played.

      2. “I think RTD wanted to put the whole story to bed more emphatically when Ten regenerated. And had he not been talked into the specials…he might have well sent Ten to Rose.”

        I agree, and I think “Journey’s End” was written as the Tenth Doctor’s final adventure, with the original storyline running as follows:-

        The Tenth Doctor is exterminated by a Dalek as he goes to embrace Rose. He is taken back to the Tardis where he regenerates into the eleventh Doctor. Later in the episode, the Tenth Doctor’s hand regenerates into a new Tenth Doctor, who finally remains behind in the alt-universe with Rose as the eleventh Doctor departs for our universe in the Tardis.

        This would also explain why the Christmas episode was called “The Next Doctor,” the pun being that the eleventh Doctor meets someone who he thinks might be his twelfth incarnation. Tennant’s decision to stay on, however, screws this royally, and the issue with Rose is once again left unresolved, although, having said that, as the Doctor’s love for Rose crossed from the ninth to the tenth Doctor, there would always be the nagging feeling that the eleventh Doctor should also be in love with her.

        “I think all of the destructive plot contortions come down to one bit of insight from RTD, again in the Doomsday confidential, that Doctor Who is about hope and survival. RTD tried to kill off his characters without killing them. He wanted the emotional pay-off of complete grief, without actually losing Rose or Donna or Ten. Hope lives on that one day they can return. But, the problem with taking that stand is that the audience pines for the promised return. That pining steals the thunder away from any new characters you introduce.”

        Yes, exactly. If a show continually makes reference to a character who has left, then that builds up an expectation for them to return, and every episode where the character doesn’t appear just makes the longing keener and the audience more disgruntled with the programme. Finally, you get to the point where even if the show stops mentioning the character, the viewer still remembers them, and resents the programme for not properly resolving the issue.

        “I feel that when any writer fails to create a solid universe of rules for their story, and falls back on “It can be anything you like,” they are simply cheating the audience.”

        I agree. And we have RTD to blame for this. Here’s a clip from an article I wrote on series two back in 2006:-

        ‘Perhaps the biggest problem with Doctor Who at present, however, is that it seems to be engaged in an effort to debase its own currency. Any number of powerful moments are now diminished: “Good heavens, Doctor, you just killed Cassandra in cold blood!” “Not to worry, she actually survived and is going to spend twenty-three years hiding in a hospital basement, so that’s OK then.” “Mickey’s gone forever, because the barrier between the worlds is unbreachable.” “Oh wait, turns out that it’s not that unbreachable after all; so much for the touching departure scene.” “Rose, your father’s dead, and you have to come to terms with it.” “OK (sniff), I’m coming to terms with it.” “Well, now that you’ve come to terms with it… surprise! You’ve got him back! You don’t need to come to terms with it after all!’

        The Doctor Who production team have cried BAD WOLF too many times.

        “I don’t think non-televised versions of Doctor Who, book canon or fan canon, are just as much a part of the story as what we see in the show that airs.”

        That’s correct. Doctor Who Magazine sells 4,000 issues a month. Even if we double it and say the readership is 8,000 that’s still a great deal less that 7.5 million, which is the average viewing audience for televised Doctor Who, and that’s not even taking into account the additional accumulative viewership generated by repeats and the millions of DVDs sold.

        CDs, books, comic strips and fanfic just don’t sell enough to make an impact on what is perceived to be the Doctor Who canon. Therefore, the Rose issue can only be addressed within the TV show itself, however, because the programme has continually cheated the audience by establishing and then breaking its own rules, even if they chop Rose’s head off, people are still not going to believe it.

        The only way to resolve the conflict is to have the eleventh Doctor marrying Rose, but that also means the end of the show. If you don’t do that, however, resentment against the programme is going to build and build until it finally becomes the most despised programme on television.

    2. I’m not quite sure why the Doctor getting married should signal the end of the story. It could easily be done in an AU, unseen, then he could live out a human lifespan with his partner and return, regenerated or otherwise, to further adventures.

      However, I agree that it probably wouldn’t work to have Eleven marry Rose. If they could figure out a way to reset to the last regeneration and then do it, that might be a plan. Once again, it’s the old problem of closure endlessly deferred in a show that claims to be all about change and moving on.

      1. “I’m not quite sure why the Doctor getting married should signal the end of the story. It could easily be done in an AU, unseen, then he could live out a human lifespan with his partner and return, regenerated or otherwise, to further adventures.”

        But that’s already happened. A version of the Tenth Doctor and Rose were locked away in an alternative universe where they lived out a human lifespan as partners. Meanwhile, in our universe, the Doctor regenerated and went on to have further adventures. The problem is, as a solution it didn’t work, with a large section of fandom feeling it was a cheat.

        “However, I agree that it probably wouldn’t work to have Eleven marry Rose.”

        And yet you are happy to have the Tenth Doctor marry Rose, even though it was the Ninth Doctor she fell in love with? Okay, but surely, if the Doctor’s love for Rose is strong enough to span a regeneration (as from the Ninth to the Tenth Doctor), then the Eleventh should love her as well. If he doesn’t, then clearly the Doctor’s love for Rose wasn’t that strong after all.

        “Once again, it’s the old problem of closure endlessly deferred in a show that claims to be all about change and moving on.”

        Well, only in as far as if the Tenth Doctor had married Rose then the show would have come to an end.

      2. I have to say I agree with you about the idea of Eleven marrying Rose not working. Except that it might work, given that Eleven is our proper Doctor and so it does make sense that he would still love Rose.

        Rose and Ten are not together, by the simple fact that the canon tells us that Ten 2 is part Donna, and therefore, is not the same man. He has Donna’s rough voice. He understands her humanity. He is a danger in a way that Ten is not. He will age and die. All of these things are different about him. Rose, tells us, “But he’s not you.” The Doctor argues but not effectively, that he’s pretty much the same. But, he’s not Ten.

        Had the scenario that Alan points out happened, however. Had Ten died, sharing some regenerative energy with the hand and become Eleven…and then the hand, on it’s own, without Donna involved, had become Ten again…then Handy would have been TEN for the audience. He would have been Ten simply returning to his beloved. Had the hand become a full Time Lord, by sharing in Ten’s regenerative energy, then the whole Rose idea could have been put to bed. The audience would have accept that Ten had returned to Rose, and that was sometimes possible at regeneration. But, we didn’t get that…instead we had two versions of Ten…one quite obviously NOT a Time Lord. And we, like Rose, were asked to choose between them.

        And, here, I must disagree with Alan, because I don’t think people view Rose as married to Ten, when they think of Ten2. Some people do, of course, but nobody who was listening to the canon explanation would think that. We would imagine her settling for an almost Doctor, because she has no choice. And that leads, again, to pining for the REAL Doctor to go to Rose. Or Rose to return to him. And on and on that goes in canon, until someone fixes it, somehow. Even if the show goes off the air again, if this issue isn’t fixed, some time in the future, some person who is a disgruntled child today, will bring Rose back. Because stories that are not finished, fester in the mind. Since we are asked to assume that Eleven is the REAL Doctor, it must be Eleven that settles the Rose issue by going to Rose in the AU.

        Of course, Mefinx, you are right, we don’t need to end the show. We can simply accept that the fake Doctor has died and the real Doctor has gone to the AU for Rose’s lifetime. He can return to our universe anytime after her death and continue on with the show. He need only make the most vague references to his time in the other universe. Just as he makes vague references to his past on Gallifrey.

      3. We would imagine her settling for an almost Doctor, because she has no choice

        For me, that word “settling” describes the heart of the problem. I do not watch a fantastic, epic, crazy show about a mad man in a box making people better, ie, realising their unlocked potential, just so they can settle, and Wilf can say, “Don’t we all?” I’ve got real life for that.

    3. And yet you are happy to have the Tenth Doctor marry Rose, even though it was the Ninth Doctor she fell in love with? Okay, but surely, if the Doctor’s love for Rose is strong enough to span a regeneration (as from the Ninth to the Tenth Doctor), then the Eleventh should love her as well. If he doesn’t, then clearly the Doctor’s love for Rose wasn’t that strong after all.

      No, of course Eleven could love someone every bit as much as Nine or Ten, but there’d have to be some lead-up to it. I don’t think you could take him as he is right now, after three series of chasing after River Song, and the Ponds, and now Clara, and convince the audience that Rose is still The One. It would be coming out of left-field and, for such a major shift in direction, that’s not good storytelling.

      In TCI we got precisely that – the characters’ feelings were taken into account and therefore the transition from Nine to Ten was convincing. None of that work has been done with Eleven; quite the reverse, in fact.

      1. “No, of course Eleven could love someone every bit as much as Nine or Ten, but there’d have to be some lead-up to it. I don’t think you could take him as he is right now, after three series of chasing after River Song, and the Ponds, and now Clara, and convince the audience that Rose is still The One. It would be coming out of left-field and, for such a major shift in direction, that’s not good storytelling.

        In TCI we got precisely that – the characters’ feelings were taken into account and therefore the transition from Nine to Ten was convincing. None of that work has been done with Eleven; quite the reverse, in fact.”

        So, what you’re saying is that the Eleventh Doctor has moved on from Rose, but how can you move on from someone if you love them as intensity as you’re suggesting? Clearly, if Nine and Ten loved Rose, then Eleven does as well, and his subsequent behaviour with the Ponds and River is purely displacement activity.

    4. Your point about displacement activity actually bears out my original point about the narrative confusion at the heart of the show. Series 3 and 4 and the Specials all showed the Doctor falling apart as a result of his bad decisions regarding Rose and Donna – particularly Series 3. And then along comes Eleven and he never mentions her. So where does that leave us? It would be plainly idiotic to say that after 200 years plus, the Doctor is still grieving for Rose. I’ve no problem at all with him feeling a fondness at her memory but being able to have other important relationships. But the fact that it was never properly addressed, that we plainly didn’t see Ten get over it, does rather exacerbate the issue. If we are going to have character development across regenerations, then let’s be consistent about it, at least.

      1. During Series three, the Doctor clearly misses Rose, but Rose’s absence isn’t due to any bad decision on his part. Rose being trapped in the Alt-Universe was an accident. In series 4 he appears less concerned about Rose, although he does run to embrace her when the meet in “The Stolen Earth”. At the end of “Journey’s End” he doesn’t really seem bothered about her at all, and his subsequent mental trauma appears more concerned with what happened to Donna (which, again wasn’t his fault) and the death of Adelaide Brooke, which was his fault. The fact that the Doctor bids a form of goodbye to Rose at the conclusion of “The End of Time” would imply he still has some feeling for her, but that doesn’t suggest a deep abiding love. Indeed, he never mentions her again, after his regeneration.

        The fact is though, in the RTD/Moffat version of the Doctor Who universe, literally anything can happen, and any established rule can be broken, if it in some way serves the plot. Therefore, there is no reason why, with a bit of Timey-wimey-handwavium, the Doctor couldn’t go back to a time period before Rose met Eccleston’s Doctor, introduce himself and start their love affair all over again. Yes, it rewrites time, but time is always changing in the RTD/Moffat universe.

        The reason they don’t do it is twofold. 1/ Billie Piper doesn’t want to return to the show on a permanent basis, 2/ the Doctor’s last scene with Rose in “Journey’s End” and the Eleventh Doctor’s failure even to acknowledge her existence means the Doctor got over Rose some forty episodes back and has moved on.

        The problem the producers have is that many of the fans wanted a happy ending for Rose and the Doctor, didn’t get it and now, quite naturally, feel a bit resentful. The production team’s argument, however, would be that it’s not unusual for people to fall out of love, and be quite cruel about it. After all, wasn’t it David Tennant who broke off his relationship with Sophia Myles by sending her a text message?

    5. So, the Doctor needed Rose to make him better, but now he believes he is better and is passing Rose onto someone else. A move current Doctor Who showrunner describes as “dumping the slightly clingy girlfriend.” It’s brutal, and it was not RTD’s original authorial intention, but it became his authorial intention through practical necessity.

      Nobody could read The Writer’s Tale and really believe RTD was comfortable with that solution. He sweated blood over it, rewrote it time and again, and it’s still both badly written and deeply offensive to both the Duplicate Doctor and Rose. He might have got away with it if it hadn’t been followed by an even more brutal and offensive silencing of Donna.

      And all this bears out my original point – the more you do this kind of incoherent plotting on the hoof, the more lost the show becomes. As for the Doctor believing he is better, well he might, but nobody who interacted with him in the Specials would agree, least of all Adelaide Brooke who had to commit suicide to sort out the mess he’d made.

      I wish RTD had stuck to his guns and not had Tennant back. This is exactly the point I was making when I parted company with Rae over the importance of canon. Canon is often the least authentic version of a story, because it’s the most compromised by time and budget and actor availability.

      1. If canon exists at all, it is what the current production team say it is, and when that team is replaced, canon becomes something else again entirely. Doctor Who’s history was continually being rewritten during the classic era, and now, with the idea that time can change, the facts of the Doctor Who universe are being continually shifted and redefined.

        I’m sure RTD wasn’t very comfortable with the solution he came up with regarding Rose, but as you point out, he couldn’t think of anything better. But then Nu Who is littered with poor plot logic, underdeveloped characters and disappointing story arc conclusions, so why should the Doctor/Rose relationship be any different? Indeed, disappointment appears to have been built into the DNA of the new series. As Elton from “Love and Monsters” once said:

        The Doctor might be wonderful, but thinking back… I was having such a special time. Just for a bit. I had this nice little gang, and they were destroyed. It’s not his fault. But maybe that’s what happens if you touch the Doctor. Even for a second. I keep thinking of Rose and Jackie. And how much longer before they pay the price.

  2. That really is fascinating, and I’ve never heard about it before. I think it would have worked well, since ironically knowing the relationship was doomed would have given the Doctor freedom to express his feelings fully. And certainly CE would have done a great job. But I don’t quite understand why his departure should have changed everything. Billie was around for a second series, so continuity was assured, and wouldn’t Tennant have done an equally heart-rending job?

    Certainly it would have helped to explain some of the false gaity and the feeling of something being slightly “off” in Series Two. I always wondered whether there was an aborted plan for Billie to leave at the end of Age of Steel. After that point, the romantic stakes suddenly got a lot higher.

    Couple of other caveats – in The Writer’s Tale RTD seemed very keen to have the Doctor fall in love again with Penny, who was eventually junked when Tate became available. Your analysis works best if there was always a plan to pair him with an older woman.

    Why did RTD lack the courage to kill Rose off, I wonder? He really does seem to struggle with closure. As for the show ending, I’ve heard that JLC is signed on for S8 at least. However, I rather wish that you were right.

    1. “I’ve heard that JLC is signed on for S8 at least.”

      Season 8 is not guaranteed. Christopher Eccleston was contracted for two seasons, he left the programme after his first.

      “Why did RTD lack the courage to kill Rose off, I wonder?”

      Once Doctor Who was a success RTD became extremely cautious about alienating its audience. Rose was a popular figure, indeed, for the average viewer, the regeneration had shifted the programme’s focus directly onto her character. RTD decided that Billie Piper should remain with the show for as long as possible, but, as things turned out, Billie was determined to leave at the end of season 2. RTD still, however, held on to the idea tha he could tempt her back, so killing Rose off was no longer an option.

      “I always wondered whether there was an aborted plan for Billie to leave at the end of Age of Steel.”

      Not to my knowledge. “The Satan Pit” makes reference to Rose “dying in battle,” which is clearly a last minute alteration from the original intention, and would suggest the plan was for Rose to at least make it to the end of that season. Also, originally, “Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel” didn’t take place in an alternative universe, but in a new version of 2007, caused by the death of Queen Victoria in “Tooth and Claw.” RTD dropped this idea as being “too complicated and too dark”.

      “in The Writer’s Tale RTD seemed very keen to have the Doctor fall in love again with Penny, who was eventually junked when Tate became available. Your analysis works best if there was always a plan to pair him with an older woman.”

      John Yorke’s book “Into the Woods” makes it very clear that a great deal of writing comes from the subconscious. The fact that RTD jumped at the chance of having Tate back would suggest on some level that he realised having the Doctor fall in love with another young woman was a misstep likely to alienate certain sections of the audience.

      ” I don’t quite understand why his departure should have changed everything. Billie was around for a second series, so continuity was assured, and wouldn’t Tennant have done an equally heart-rending job?”

      With the casting of Tennant, the decision was taken to make the Doctor a lighter, more goofy character, consequently, an ongoing plot about Rose slowly dying didn’t really fit with this.

      1. Thanks for that. Found the review of S1 and S2 on your website very interesting. How sad that as the show increased in popularity RTD increasingly seemed to lack the courage of his artistic convictions. Moff seems to have the opposite problem – the more difficulties a plotline creates, the more determined he becomes to push it through regardless.

  3. I miss Christopher Eccleston as Doctor Who. He was really great on there. I can’t see the show any longer because I do not get BBC America.

  4. “How sad that as the show increased in popularity RTD increasingly seemed to lack the courage of his artistic convictions.”

    On the other hand, it’s very possible that RTD’s “artistic convictions” would have led to him killing the show stone dead, with Rose as the catalyst for that destruction. In “Father’s Day” it’s established that if multiple paradoxes take place in one particular moment of space and time, the universe will end. If you apply John Yorke’s theory of fractal reduction, what then does this say about the appearance of the BAD WOLF in “Parting of the Ways”? Clearly the original intention for series two was to have the Doctor caring for a sick Rose in a dying universe, with love as the causal agent.

    O Rose, thou art sick.
    The invisible worm
    That flies in the night
    In the howling storm

    Has found out thy bed
    Of crimson joy,
    And his dark secret love
    Does thy life destroy.

    1. Oh, nicely put. That has a lovely dark Eccleston quality to it. I’m reminded of RTD in the Doomsday DW Confidential, “If the Doctor says ‘I love you,’ the Universe will explode or something.” Many a true word spoken in jest.

  5. raealaine says:

    “Rose and Ten are not together, by the simple fact that the canon tells us that Ten 2 is part Donna, and therefore, is not the same man.”

    Yes, I agree. In fact I remember Billie Piper in the Doctor Who Confidential for that episode pointing out the same thing.

    “Even if the show goes off the air again, if this issue isn’t fixed, some time in the future, some person who is a disgruntled child today, will bring Rose back.”

    That could happen. Sarah Jane Smith appeared again, after all.

    “Of course, Mefinx, you are right, we don’t need to end the show. We can simply accept that the fake Doctor has died and the real Doctor has gone to the AU for Rose’s lifetime.”

    With the deletion of “The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End” from the Timeline there is no human Tenth Doctor any more, although Rose may still be in the Alternative Universe with her family. However, has anyone ever considered the possibility that the Doctor doesn’t love Rose?

    This is what he tells her in “School Reunion”:-

    ROSE: How many of us have there been travelling with you?
    DOCTOR: Does it matter?
    ROSE: Yeah, it does, if I’m just the latest in a long line.
    DOCTOR: As opposed to what?
    ROSE: I thought you and me were… I obviously got it wrong. I’ve been to the year five billion, right, but this? Now this is really seeing the future. You just leave us behind. Is that what you’re going to do to me?
    DOCTOR: No. Not to you.
    ROSE: But Sarah Jane? You were that close to her once, and now you never even mention her. Why not?
    DOCTOR: I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone who you…
    ROSE: What, Doctor?
    DOCTOR: You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on. Alone. That’s the curse of the Time Lords.

    But surely love is something more than just how young or good looking your partner is? If you love someone, you love the whole person, not just the fact they’re under twenty. And yet in the same episode Sarah Jane says to him, “You can tell you’re getting older. Your assistants are getting younger.”

    And now look at this scene from “Army of Ghosts”:-

    YVONNE: According to the records, you’re not one for travelling alone. The Doctor and his companion. That’s a pattern isn’t it, right? There’s no point hiding anything. Not from us. So where is she?
    DOCTOR: … Yes! Sorry. Good point. She’s just a bit shy, that’s all. But here she is: Rose Tyler.
    (JACKIE TYLER APPEARS)
    DOCTOR: Hmm. She’s NOT the best I’ve ever had. Bit too blonde. Not too steady on her pins. A lot of that. And just last week, she stared into the heart of the Time Vortex and aged fifty-seven years. But she’ll do.
    JACKIE: I’m 40!
    DOCTOR: Deluded. Bless. I’ll have to trade her in. Do you need anyone? She’s very good at tea. Well, I say very good, I mean not bad. Well. I say not bad… anyway! Lead on. But not too fast. Her ankle’s going.

    The fact the Doctor feels he has to apologise for “Rose Tyler” being 40 is appalling. Furthermore, although Ten is reunited with Rose in “Journey’s End,” instead of taking her back aboard the Tardis, he instead passes her off onto a rubbish version of himself, evidently assuming that because he looks like him she’ll be happy, and ignoring the fact that Rose still loved the Doctor even when he had big flapping ears.

    40 episodes have passed now since Rose’s last appearance in “The End of Time” and the Eleventh Doctor hasn’t mentioned her once, meaning that despite the Tenth Doctor’s assurances to Rose in “School Reunion,” he’s treating her in exactly the same way he’d previously treated Sarah Jane Smith. finally, this is what Steven Moffat said about the Rose/Doctor relationship at Comic-Con 2008. “Really, you’ve got to give the Doctor credit for dumping the slightly clingy girlfriend.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P_cT9Nt5ic)

    The truth is, despite all the Doctor’s protestations about not wanting to see his human companions “wither,” he still marries River Song. So, obviously, the reason the Doctor didn’t marry Rose was because, as with Sarah, although she loved him, he never really loved her back.

    1. No, even without the abundant author intention that we have for Rose/Doctor love, it never once occured to me that he didn’t love her. The authorial intention is completely there. Even from Moff.

      “From the moment they meet, the Doctor and Rose are soul mates. They understand and complement each other.” – Russell T Davies
      “What Rose brings to the Doctor’s life is completion. It’s completing a circle – he’s male, he’s alien, he’s a traveler. Between the two of them together they complement each other and discover each other. And are in love with each other – absolutely, unashamedly, unreservedly.” – Russell T Davies
      “It’s a love story…it’s like love at first sight, in a way.” – Christopher Eccleston
      “The Doctor is literally thrown into this bizarre new circumstance before he’s properly gotten himself together after saying farewell to Rose, who was the love of his life.” – David Tennant
      “I think Rose was unique in the sense that she loved him and he loved her back. And it was more than just a hint, it was deeply emotional.” – Freema Agyeman
      “The Doctor and Rose love each other. I think it’s that simple.” – Euros Lyn
      “She’s the one woman, the one human, that can make him better – that can make him a bigger character, a better man.” – Julie Gardner
      “From first holding the Doctor’s hand to a farewell on a beach, Rose is the Doctor’s reason to fight, to endure, to ensure there’s light in the darkness. Together they can achieve anything. As Episode 9 describes it, they are the stuff of legends.” – Julie Gardner
      “If Rose is over there and she’s all you want in the universe, and you’re desparate to get to her, you want to be able to run flat out” – David Tennant
      “There they are on a Dalek ravaged street, the furthest distance apart, her with a big gun, him with the TARDIS and they run toward one another…like the biggest romance you’ve ever seen in your life.” — Russell T Davies

      “Obviously and quite overtly, really, the subtext of this show is that the Doctor is hopelessly in love with Rose.” – Steven Moffat

      That he wasn’t capable of consummating or completing that love in a way that honored it, did occur to me. Sometimes the act of love is letting go of the loved one, rather than marrying and living happily ever after. RTD tells us that he has Jackie express this for us in Army of Ghosts. The idea that Rose will be changed, made Not-Rose or inhuman, if she continues on with the Doctor. And I believe that what RTD wants us to assume at the end of JE…and again in End of Time…when Ten reiterates his love for Rose at the cafe table with Wilf. RTD believes that Ten is making a huge personal sacrifice of his own happiness when he leaves Rose behind the second time.

      In addition, we can assume via canon that the Doctor had some sort of family life, and marriages, before he met Rose. He tells us he’s had a wife and children. But he doesn’t seem to care for marriage as an institution. As it is a purely artifical construct of a culture, that makes sense with his character. Marrying River, to me, is part of her preordained storyline of giddy infatuation. The Doctor is charged by River to make no changes at all to her happy story just before she is converted in the Library. If he makes any changes, he risks altering his own timeline, once he lets her die in his place. Therefore, we know that he is simply acting out a role with her. And she seems pretty convinced that he still hates her withering. I do agree with you, though, that if he TRULY loved he could over look that. I feel this expression of the Doctor’s, while now canon, is simply a reflection of the sad state of our male writers. I believe THEY are the ones who can’t face old age. But they have laid this on a character, who, in all logic, wouldn’t feel anything like that. However, it is canon, it is done.

      The Doctor, also, expresses a dislike of marriage in canon, expressing a view that it was constricting. And it could easily be assumed for many reasons that he doesn’t associate marriage with love in any way. First, because it seems his feelings for Rose are unique. Therefore, he might never have loved before, certainly he never came close in TV canon. Secondly, he’s from an emotionally stunted and aristocratic culture with clannish ties, which means, mostly likely marriages were arranged. Third, as I said before, because marriages are often products of a culture and the Doctor would have experienced the many false arrangements that they represent.

      I think for the Doctor it came down to this, Rose could spend her lifetime with him, but he could not spend his life with her. Therefore, he knows for the start of their love affair that she will pre-decease him and that colors his emotional commitment. However, as I’ve said elsewhere, that view is not a realistic one because many people love in the face of loss. Children, the primary viewers of the show, love their parents even though those parents will pre-decease them. Also, if we honestly are to ever believe that the Doctor is in any mortal danger…ever…then we must allow that he COULD die before Rose. Finally, there is the conclusion that you draw, rather effortlessly, that if a person cannot overlook a little withering, they don’t really love their siginificant other at all. This was, clearly, not the author intent with Rose/Doctor…nor with River/Doctor…it is simply another example of how the audience will instinctively react to their own truth. That is, most audience members will assume that if a character abandons a “loved one” to wither and die, that the character doesn’t really love anyone but themselves.

      1. “No, even without the abundant author intention that we have for Rose/Doctor love, it never once occurred to me that he didn’t love her. The authorial intention is completely there. Even from Moff.”

        It was there, definitely, and it was certainly Russell T Davies’ original intent that the Doctor loved Rose. In fact, RTD has also stated that the Doctor/Rose storyline for series two was to have been greatly influenced by the 1970 film “Love Story,” so the final episode of season two would have ended tragically, and probably in a very similar vein to the alternative ending written for “Parting of the Ways” if the show had failed to achieve an audience for its first season. Rose would have died in the Doctor’s arms, and the Doctor would have been bereft.

        However, all that changed when Doctor Who became a mainstream ratings winner. Billie Piper’s contract was for two seasons, and although RTD gave her the option, Billie didn’t want to stay on for a third. Equally, RTD knew that part of the success story of season one was down to the intensity of the Doctor/Rose relationship, and so he tried to hold on to that as long as he could. Consequently, Rose does not die, but is instead locked up in an alternative universe, with the Doctor subsequently unable to form any new relationships as he is still thinking about Rose. Finally, it would be all resolved in “Journey’s End” where the Tenth Doctor would regenerate into the Eleventh and the hand would fully regenerate into the Tenth Doctor. Ten would then live in the alternative universe (which doesn’t have a Doctor of its own) with Rose, and Eleven would give them a piece of the Tardis that will grow into a new space/time ship.

        Unfortunately, RTD then agreed to do a series of specials and David Tennant agreed to stay on as the Doctor for them. This meant that “Journey’s End” had to be rewritten. Now, instead of professing his love for Rose, the Doctor and Rose have the following exchange:-

        ROSE: Hold on, this is the parallel universe, right?
        DOCTOR: You’re back home.
        DONNA: And the walls of the world are closing again, now that the Reality Bomb never happened. It’s dimensional retroclosure. See, I really get that stuff now.
        ROSE: No, but I spent all that time trying to find you. I’m not going back now.
        DOCTOR: But you’ve got to. Because we saved the universe, but at a cost. And the cost is him. He destroyed the Daleks. He committed genocide. He’s too dangerous to be left on his own.
        NEW DOCTOR: You made me.
        DOCTOR: Exactly. You were born in battle, full of blood and anger and revenge. Remind you of someone? That’s me, when we first met. And you made me better. Now you can do the same for him.
        ROSE: But he’s not you.
        DOCTOR: He needs you. That’s very me.

        So, the Doctor needed Rose to make him better, but now he believes he is better and is passing Rose onto someone else. A move current Doctor Who showrunner describes as “dumping the slightly clingy girlfriend.” It’s brutal, and it was not RTD’s original authorial intention, but it became his authorial intention through practical necessity.

  6. If they’d really wanted to go with that story, they had many opportunities to do so. They could have stopped dragging Rose up all the time in Series 3. They could have avoided the scene where he’s crying at the end of Doomsday. They could have had him not run down the street grinning like a loon straight into the path of a Dalek in TSE. And they could have had sensible, adult closure in Journey’s End. They did none of those things, and they easily could have. You can’t have it both ways. Either the Doctor can fall in love or he’s asexual. I have no problem with asexual Doctor as a concept, but if Ten was asexual then Hamlet didn’t have parent issues.

    As for the mother-in-law banter in AOG and elsewhere, the Tenth Doctor is established as being in complete emotional denial most, if not all, of the time. And people often joke crudely about what they fear the most. I’d rather RTD hadn’t put in all that Les Dawson routine about Jackie, but I don’t think it’s a true reflection of Ten’s feelings. I’m sure Ten was terrified of tying himself down to someone who’d get old and die. But, as one of the earlier incarnations once said, courage consists of being frightened of something and doing it just the same. That’s what fully developed, grown-up characters do.

    The Doctor as played now is an under-developed character, and eventually they lose the audience’s sympathy.

    1. Then again, perhaps it’s a classic case of wanting someone when they’re not available, but then changing your mind when they show up again. Therefore, in that regard, maybe in “Journey’s End,” we did get “sensible, adult closure,” in that every romance doesn’t automatically end in a fairy tale wedding, and as Billie Piper didn’t want to come back as a regular companion, the Tenth Doctor dumping the “clingy girlfriend” was the only way the show could continue.

    2. “But, as one of the earlier incarnations once said, courage consists of being frightened of something and doing it just the same. That’s what fully developed, grown-up characters do.

      The Doctor as played now is an under-developed character, and eventually they lose the audience’s sympathy.”

      Exactly, this is what it comes down to…the Doctor can certainly be afraid of his feelings for Rose. There is sense in that fear, because opening his hearts to Rose means pain in the end. But, as most adults know, there is also a lifetime of joy. The good outweighs the bad. And he and Rose had lots of joy together. But, instead of seeing that, he reacted as a child, and with cowardice that is unbefitting to a childhood hero. That is what the audience has trouble accepting.

      So, many of them decide that he didn’t love Rose enough and they start looking for a replacement for the Doctor (in Ten2) or for Rose (in River). But that is clearly not the authorial intent in the show. As you note, there are dozens of times when they could have chosen to clearly demonstrate that the Doctor didn’t love Rose, but they never did. He is quite obviously devastated as he leaves her. The way he stares sightlessly ahead as Donna raves about her new brain, is very telling. He’s not happy. Rose, also, doesn’t look happy at all, before or after that kiss, which is editted to be far less romantic than original filmed. Beyond that, in End of Time, when Wilf says that Donna is just making do with her fiance…Ten says, “Aren’t we all?” Obviously, he is thinking of Rose, even when expressing how he thought he could be on his own and it went wrong. Though Wilf assumes the someone he needs is Donna, the expression on the Doctor’s face indicates he was thinking of someone else…most likely Rose, because he had asserted that Rose made him better, less dangerous. And then, at the last second, before he dies, it is Rose he goes to see. Yes, he saw everyone, but she was the final person, because he was in pain and actually dying, and he needed to see her.

      I don’t think his not mentioning her since regenerating is reflective of his feelings for her. He had to be cajoled by Donna to mention her. Apparently, he talked her up quite a bit to Martha. But I think he feels Rose is truly lost to him now, by his own actions. So, he would be guilty about her, knowing that she is suffering as he suffers, as he suggests when the TARDIS in response to “Someone I care about” gives him an image of Rose, rather than say, Susan. Had he truly no understanding of love at all, he would not feel guilty about leaving Rose with a far superior version of himself. He feels guilty because he knows he did the wrong thing.

      1. “the Doctor can certainly be afraid of his feelings for Rose. There is sense in that fear, because opening his hearts to Rose means pain in the end. But, as most adults know, there is also a lifetime of joy. The good outweighs the bad. And he and Rose had lots of joy together. But, instead of seeing that, he reacted as a child, and with cowardice that is unbefitting to a childhood hero. That is what the audience has trouble accepting.”

        The problem with this argument is that everything the Doctor does will in some way be used to support it. So, even if he came out and said, “I can’t stand Rose. I liked her at first, but she’s only nineteen years old, and she has a lot of growing up to do. I never want to see her again,” this will be interpreted as denial, and a mask for his true feelings.

  7. We’ve wandered a bit off the original issue here. My original post was about the problem of having the Doctor develop generally as a character, versus a reset at the start of each episode. Or to put it another way, whether or not to have a narrative arc. Certainly, by choosing to do so, the POTB made New Who compelling to a new generation in a way it might not have been otherwise. The Rose storyline is one example out of several where the multi-series arc conflicts with the concept of the show. And people are never going to agree on it. But generally, when I view DW now I see a show stunted and stifled by its format. That’s what makes me frustrated, not simply whether the Doctor loved a particular companion in a romantic sense, or not. And I’d love to see Matt Smith’s considerable talents rather better used. We got a glimpse of it a few weeks ago in the Rings of Atakhan, and it was electrifying. More of that, please.

    1. This is true, sorry about that! Well, to return to the main point, the show has become weighed down by fanservice, yes. Catch phrase. Set pieces. They steal airtime from the originality. And then you must add the obligatory hints for people to pick over in communities…like The Rose and The Chalice sign. What began with a few set-pieces carried over from Old School, has become a familiar, I would say tedious, dance. The changing of personality, clothes and companions at regeneration, for example, was started in Old School. But, for the most part, Old School Who did not run season long arcs. The Trial of a Time Lord and The Key to Time being the main exceptions to the rule. But even within those larger arcing stories, we pretty much had the same format of resetting on a new planet for the main characters. The closest we came, I think, to this much stifling of the Doctor was when Three worked for UNIT and fought the Master…every…single…time! I swear I hated the Master by the time they were done.

      Now, we have a lot of baggage to carry around with us. The Old School Doctor was, more or less baggage free. And I think that helped the show endure. His sense of mystery kept him interesting. That speech that Matt gives in Rings speaks to too much baggage for me. I am afraid I didn’t love it as much as you did, simply because it is all old news for us and reeks of hyperbole. Ten gave much the same speech to the Beast in The Satan Pit.

      I like to break new ground within the old story and it is increasingly difficult to break new ground with Who, because he claims infinity as his home. I am, also, quickly bored by resetting of characters to a default, but the Doctor avoided that reaction by retaining his mystery. Now he’s not so much an enigma as a series of quirks. I am almost unable to watch a sitcom, where the primary satisfaction for the audience comes from a weekly fondling of the touchstones of the format. The Fonz enters. The audience goes into raptures. He delivers the same line he always delivers. There is canned hoots and laughter. We all know what we are going to get.

      I’m the Doctor. Doctor Who? Yes, very droll. Oh, and there is the kiss. I knew it was coming, so it had to happen. No chance he won’t kiss a companion these days. He’s going to tell us how alien races tremble when they hear he’s in the neighborhood now. Don’t cross him. You will regret it. “Did I do that?” Yes, Urkle, you did. You do it in every episode. We are so busy fitting in the little touchstones and hints about the past that there is hardly any room for an original story.

    2. You have set me on the path of considering how anyone might “save” Doctor Who for posterity. I think a reset of the greater mystery is the answer. One of the reasons I was such a fan of the sending him off to Rose for a life in another universe, is that there would be a complete veil over that life. That veil increases the mystery.

      I think the mistake that RTD and Moff have made is that they wanted answers and set out to offer them to us. RTD’s view of the Time Lords, for example, explains the Time War and why the Doctor is alone in the universe. Moff seems determined to give the Doctor family, spouses and a name. I will say, to his credit, so far he hasn’t done any of that. But he’s definitely pounded the drum so much…by creating tensions over River and the name issue…that the audience wants to know.

      I suppose, what I’m saying, is the Doctor should shut his mouth a bit more on some subjects. There is no name, no full definition of the Doctor…and no epic love interest…that will completely satisfy the audience…because the build up to those things has been too long and convoluted. We have been put in a position to be perpetually unsatisfied, because our expectations have been raised too far.

  8. What a fascinating read. Thank you one and all. What great though you all have put into this.
    I, for one, have been more than delighted with the current production of Doctor Who in 9, 10 and 11. I do not care about the inconsistencies. I can happily put those in the, “let’s not worry my pretty little head about that” box.
    I immerse myself in the fantasy of Dr. Who for sheer entertainment. I adore the wit and humour.
    I love the little ‘in’ jokes. I weep at the tragic moments. I am surprised after all these years that I feel myself curling up backwards on the sofa to get away from the latest monsters. Yup. The fantasy still works.
    All relationships end. As a nurse I sometimes see the end of “happy ever after” marriages.
    All must part eventually, one way or another, and it isn’t pleasant.
    ‘My’ doctor is the only ‘bloke’ I would allow to have multiple loves. He is a incredibly intelligent alien of great longevity; what else can he do? I totally accept all that Time Lord curse stuff.
    The modern production, writers and actors have been brilliant. Much as I loved Tom, and Elizabeth and Lalla way back when, I find those shows slow and primitive now. For me it is better to leave them as happy memories. We have matured with the production of film making.
    I suspect that Peter (12) may well be the last doctor. Surely the astonishing production team will run out of steam, and the writers be exhausted. Whatever they do, it seems not everyone will be happy. What a terrible conundrum they will be in whilst the show is so successful. I don’t care if ‘loose ends’ are not resolved. Leaves a little mystery for us to work out for ourselves.
    Britain is very clever at knowing when to end good shows; when nobody wants the show to end……..

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