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Bring back classic monsters and give us a stronger series arc: all the ways Doctor Who can improve on its last series

The i logo The i 12/01/2019 Stephen Kelly
© Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Jodie Whittaker’s first series of Doctor Who has been a huge success. Showrunner Chris Chibnall has reinvigorated the programme with a new look, a new sound, a new feel. It has achieved its highest ratings in years. And Whittaker herself is generally beloved – making the initial contention over her casting seem even more embarrassing in hindsight.

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But it hasn’t been perfect. Ratings are strong, but they have also declined over the course of the series. Chibnall has made the show more accessible, but his stories have left a lot to be desired. And as charismatic as Whittaker is, her Doctor has struggled to form an identity of her own – feeling, much like the series overall, like a work-in-progress. 

With the show not returning until 2020, however, there’s plenty of time to address the flaws of what has been both a thrilling and frustrating series. Here are a few suggestions…

Give us more challenging stories


Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who is a notably simpler Doctor Who than Steven Moffat’s. Its dialogue is driven by soap opera earnestness and technique – where plots are spelt out for you – and its stories are fairly straightforward. This is fine. Going back to basics is smart, if it doesn’t come at the sacrifice of imagination.

But alarmingly, too many stories this series (mainly ones written by Chibnall himself) have felt like they’re emulating science fiction rather than reinventing it. While the strange trend of villains who are either revealed to not be villains at all or who just seem to walk off or vanish has meant that too many episodes end with not a bang, but a whimper.

Give us a stronger series arc

One of the biggest criticisms of the Steven Moffat era was that the show had become too complicated for those who couldn’t keep up with its long-running story arcs. In apparent response, Chris Chibnall has over-corrected – with series 11 consisting almost entirely of standalone episodes, and no obvious overarching story. This made the show more accessible to casual viewers but destroyed any sense of build-up for finale The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos. As Russell T Davies’ Bad Wolf arc showed, there is a way to thread a larger mystery through a series without compromising self-contained stories.

Bring back more classic monsters   

Series 11 launched with a bold claim: no old monsters, only new ones. This made sense, of course. Jodie Whittaker’s era has been defined by embracing the future, not wallowing in the past. The only problem? New monsters such as Tim Shaw or the Pting have failed to make much of an impression.

Where is this series’ Weeping Angels? Where is the toy that kids will want for Christmas? This is not to say that series 12 should lose itself in nostalgia. But it’s telling how much of a thrill it was to see the Daleks again in New Year’s Day special Resolution.

a group of people preparing food in a bowl © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Give Yaz more stuff to do  

The TARDIS team has been, by far, the best thing about this series – especially the relationship between Tosin Cole’s Ryan and his grieving step-grandad Graham, played by revelation Bradley Walsh. The weakest leak, however, has been Mandip Gill’s Yaz, who has been underdeveloped and underused by comparison.

Unlike Ryan, there is no great overarching story for her – indeed, the fact that she’s a trained police officer barely comes up. Her role, it seems, is simply to ask the Doctor exposition-friendly questions, with rarely any regard for what she thinks or feels. Gill deserves better than that.

a man that is standing in the grass © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Work out who the Doctor is  

A notable theme of series 11 has been Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor finding her feet as the lead of the show. In theory, this meant a more flawed and human Doctor, prone to the sort of vulnerability and doubt that made incarnations like Peter Davison’s Fifth so interesting. In reality, this rich thematic territory went bafflingly unexplored – making the Doctor come across as ineffective and inexperienced for no reason. She does, however, seem a bit more confident in Resolution – more of that, please.

Keep engaging with history

a group of people standing in front of a monkey © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

A persistent criticism of this series of Doctor Who is that the show is now – thanks to its female lead, its diverse TARDIS team, and its refusal to shy away from topics like the American Civil Rights movement, too ‘politically correct’. This is disingenuous nonsense.

Doctor Who engaging with history in a more serious, meaningful way as opposed to treating the past like a playground has been one of the most impressive things about this series. And its course-correction in terms of representation (both in front and behind the camera, with this year marking the show’s first ever BAME writers) is long overdue.

To succumb to bad-faith pressure, to lose episodes like Rosa, would be to lose what has made this series feel so full of potential; even it does need a bit of work. Roll on 2020.

Related: Which classic Doctor Who monsters are most likely to return next? [Digital Spy UK]


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