I will admit that last year when I wrote about Doctor Who on my blog, I do feel as if I was doing a box-ticking exercise; I did a blog post for each series and a post about why I’m a fan. I’m a massive fan and I felt as if it should be something I should have already written about, but looking back it was a love-less exercise, a distraction from my hectic life. There was some gushing, but very little passion.
However, with the new series of Doctor Who, due to start tonight (15th April 2017) for the first time in a long time I am genuinely very excited to start watching a new series. I’ve been trying to figure why I’m so excited about it when in truth I haven’t been this excited about Doctor Who since the 50th Anniversary special, which is probably the last episode of the show that I genuinely loved.
It is possibly because of the new companion Bill played by Pearl Mackie, after years of not really being all bothered by Clara Oswald. It might be because this is Peter Calpaldi’s last stint as the Doctor and Steven Moffat’s last series as the Head Writer, so I’m expecting major fireworks. It might be because it isn’t competing with Game of Thrones for my attention. It might be because the last series was broadcast in autumn 2015 and I’ve been missing it more than I realised. Or it might simply be because I’m just in that sort of mood at the moment where the prospect of a new series of Doctor Who is appealing.
I suspect it might be a massive combination of it all, but equally I’ve been thinking a lot about why I haven’t been enjoying it as much. I know a lot of people are not fond of Steven Moffat as the Head Writer, and before anyone comments that this might be the reason, I will categorically state that this is not the reason. No-one using any argument will ever convince me that Steven Moffat as done a bad job as the Head Writer, even though it has been mostly his stint that I’ve been less than enthusiastic about.
Looking through what I wrote about what been broadcast while Moffat has been in charge and having a quick flick through IMDB at the episode listings, there is nothing wrong with what has been written and produced. I enjoyed the episodes when I watched them, but I have been resisting watching them again, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen a repeat of Doctor Who since the end of series five and that includes all of Russell T Davies stint as well. However, it is all brilliant television, and I especially loved the story line of Me in the last series. I just haven’t connected to the most recent few series in the way I used to do.
Last week I had an epiphany as to why, when I was watching ‘An Adventure in Space and Time’ again, and then the special features afterwards. I’m a bit of a special features nut. While I predominantly identify as a writer, I am seriously geeky about learning about the production of television and film as well. I always have been, because that is how I interact as a fan with what has entertained me.
I struggled with the format of series 6 because they had a mid-season break, so I know that was definitely part of the problem I had back then but series 7, 8 and 9 was missing something a lot more vital: Doctor Who Confidential.
I mentioned in my previous post summarising why I’m a fan of the show that I missed Doctor Who Confidential and Torchwood Declassified after they got cancelled, but I hadn’t come to the conclusion that this was the reason why I didn’t like Doctor Who as much anymore. Yes I know the BBC then backtracked a little, and there are featurettes on the website, but it is not the same.
I was watching the special features on ‘An Adventure in Space and Time’ with Mark Gatiss literally gushing about how much he had loved being involved in the making of the film (and of course the film itself which is essentially just a dramatization of what happened behind the scenes at the inception of Doctor Who) when I remembered why Confidential was so important to me.
I would watch the episode, then Confidential and then re-watch the episode to see what had been discussed. It was the joy of seeing the episode in production and then re-watching the final product that made me excited about the show. I could re-watch the episode, and rather than focus on the plot and the story, I would be watching for the tiny detail mentioned by a member of the crew that was lovingly included to add depth to Doctor Who even if it wasn’t likely to be noticed.
It was the love and the passion of the people who make Doctor Who that makes me a fan of the show, not just the characters and the stories. The absence of that is what made my discussions of Doctor Who on my blog last year seem like little more than a box-ticking exercise, because I myself had lost my passion for the show.
Yes when I discussed series two I gushed about ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, but I’d forgotten that one of the most fascinating things I learnt as I was being introduced to the show was how the special effects in ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ was produced on the characters affected by The Wire.
It seems simple now, but I was still developing my tastes in the horror genre at the time. It properly freaked me out, but seeing how it was done turned watching the episode into a thrill rather than something I’d have to re-watch from behind the sofa.
It was as much ‘The Idiot’s Lantern’ as it was ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ that made me fall in love with Doctor Who, and not just because they are both iconic episodes (at least in my mind), but because the passion of the people who created them drew me in and started what was once a massive obsession.
I’m hoping that the new series will prompt me to become obsessed all over again, and now I’ve been able to figure out the reasons why I struggled to connect, it might make it easier to go back and watch existing episodes again. I might now get to fall in love with Doctor Who even more. While at the time I thought I could, I now know that I will never be able to forgive the BBC for cancelling Doctor Who Confidential though. That will always sting.