There’s been a Who-fest in our house for the last few weeks. As the launch of the new Doctor series approached, we decided to do our own bit of time-travelling, for a reminder of what happened in 2005, when Christopher Eccleston re-booted the series. We didn’t plan to watch the whole story, but apart from one or two episodes that we couldn’t access, we’ve kept going and were roughly at the halfway point of Peter Capaldi’s term of office, when the new series began to broadcast.
Watching both has been beneficial. I’ve enjoyed the contrast of the Jodie Whittaker version.
It takes time for us to know each new regeneration. First we get used to the face, accent and clothes, then the personality begins to refine. Meanwhile, the journey through time and space continues.
Where do we find The Doctor, doer of good deeds, protector of the universe?
In the prologue to the ninth series, Ohila, leader of the sisterhood says, ‘Right behind you and one step ahead.’
There’s nothing like a good paradox to add layers to what is really a fairly simple and even familiar format. A community is in crisis, threatened by tyrannising outsiders. One or two try to take a stand against them, but are overcome. Things are looking grim, until a stranger enters the scene. We’ve met such heroes before. That’s no surprise. Stories are continually being regenerated.
One of the forerunners I see for The Doctor is a re-imagining of the pioneer-days of the western United States. I’m talking about, The Lone Ranger, who despite his name, always had two trusty side-kicks, Tonto, his native American friend and Silver, his horse.
The Doctor mostly travels with a loyal companion (or sometimes several), in a surprisingly wise and knowing Tardis, but there is another reason for my choosing this source rather than Shane, for instance. Often, as The Lone Ranger rode off into the sunset, one character would ask another, ‘Who was that masked man?’
The Doctor’s true name is a secret, so invariably in new situations the introductions are:
‘Hello, I’m The Doctor.
To which, the pedantically inclined reply, ‘Dr Who?’
They might also say, Dr Why? Where? When? or How?
The twelfth doctor says, ‘I try never to understand, it’s called an open mind.’ I liked the twelfth doctor, particularly in the Steven Moffat stories. And more particularly, the ninth series, when the character interactions seemed to jell perfectly. There was something special happening in the interactions between The Doctor, Clara Oswald and Missy that seems, in retrospect, to have anticipated this recent regeneration.
Watch this new series carefully, and what becomes apparent is how much of the old Doctors are being referenced. The key themes are still there, (what is the nature of friendship, of guilt, of love?) though maybe the interpretation is getting a little shaken up. I’m looking forward to finding out Who this latest Doctor really is.