I've read some things about the ratings for the new season of Doctor Who. They're pretty low. If you head over to Rotten Tomatoes, it's insane. The critical reception of Season 12 shows 80%. Audience score is 16%. I have several opinions about this.
1) Show Runner Reaction: I hope that they look at the score that matters there because if they think 'people just don't get it, critics love us', then they're in trouble. The 16% isn't even people whining about a female doctor. They're going on and on about how bad the writing is. I'll get into the main complaint and why I think it's BS in a moment. The problem is there's not much they can do about it now. These episodes are all done. So they just have to hope they get another chance to turn it around.
2) Except Why Would They: Who is going to give them another chance with the reviews they're getting? The last episode showed they were down to just under 4.5 million viewers. They cancelled the 7th Doctor's series when he hit 4.15 million. Now, with DVR and streaming, they figure it'll creep up to 6 million but I think they're looking for the 10 million viewers they were getting with the first few episodes of the first season. So this regime of the show could be in trouble.
3) The Complaints Are Strange: The show is too 'preachy'. That's the consensus I got out of reading people's reactions. Maybe they prefer Another Life with bickering twenty-somethings but have they really lost sight of what Science Fiction does? Was Star Trek the original series too preachy? Most sci fi uses the avenue to draw attention to social problems. Where's the barometer? How do writers achieve a Goldilocks approach of subtle but not so subtle it's confusing? If people hate the writing, then just say 'this sucks' and don't try to articulate because I sincerely doubt you like much scifi if you find any socially conscious science fiction show preachy.
4) Too Many Companions: I'm not sure why she's got a crew but I honestly feel like they shouldn't have gone so overboard with the number of people in the TARDIS. They also should've had some crossover from Peter to Jodie. Something to bridge the gap. The first season didn't have any 'old school' enemies either. It was a pretty detached scenario in that way.
What would I have done differently:
The DNA of the show has a problem. It comes from new show runners either doing everything in their power to erase the past of their predecessors or ignoring the past completely. There are GEMS in those old shows. Things that would get viewers back in droves if they brought them in.
This has happened since the old days though. Once Tom Baker got away from UNIT, he only visited them a couple times. Then, he was off on his own adventures without hardly looking back. But with the old serials, this worked so much better than the modern approach. Furthermore, when the Doctor left his companions behind, it was pretty final.
Even if Sarah Jane Smith disagreed (see School Reunion, Season 2, Episode 4).
When we moved from Davies to Moffat, he not only cast aside the Children of Time and all the plot gems that could've been explored, he didn't just erase Torchwood from the Doctor's concern...he undid the destruction of Gallifrey. Scorched Earth (universe).
And though Matt's Doctor was able to build up a new cadre of helpers and companions, many of them lacked the substance of the characters found in Davd's series. So many of those characters had multiple episodes to develop. Half the people hanging out with Matt...I couldn't even tell you their names.
Moffat at least carried over companions between Matt and Peter, and that helped. But once Chibnall got his mits on the show, once again, we were off the rails and no longer working with what came before. It was all new. Like a brand new show.
Science Fiction fans are into continuity. They make a joke about it in Galaxy Quest. People who write ‘beloved’ sci fi have two choices: be more fanatical about continuity or do monster of the week so you don’t have to worry about it (a la most Star Trek shows). Doctor Who suffers from the fact that they occasionally sneak in details from the past as Easter eggs but that doesn’t serve them as well as they’d like because then fans wonder ‘wait, if that’s happening then why doesn’t X happen?’
Example: all of reality is coming undone. Why doesn’t Matt’s Doctor call up Torchwood for some help? Why go it alone? Why risk EVERYTHING when he has qualified and experienced companions from the past who would be more than eager to assist?
Now, Matt didn’t need the ratings all that much. His Doctor Who carried on as well as David’s did. But they began to slip with Peter and it’s not his fault. He’s awesome. His writing suffered. And the further away we got from the amount of work Davies put into his characters and plots, the more superficial, poorly thought out tools we had to work with. So when Jodie came along, and they decided to once again salt the Earth left by Moffat, we ended up with shell shock. And worse, a stubbornness that seemed arrogant.
But there are questions that would’ve drawn people back. How would Jack Harkness respond to a female doctor? What would Mickey and Martha do when they saw the new TARDIS? Maybe Donna’s condition can be cured and the new Doctor just figured it out. These are things that if they revisited, they could still tell their stories but use all the rich background they’ve created over the last 15 years. Instead…we get poor ratings. People crying out ‘they’re not even trying anymore’.
This is exactly what Doctor Who needs:
1) Adherence to continuity. Use the past so it doesn’t feel like it’s been erased completely.
2) Less arrogance by the show runners. It’s not THEIR show. It’s a collective they’ve been given the keys to. Respect that.
3) Include whatever they have to in order to keep interest. Bring back Jack, bring back Martha, bring back K9, visit things from the old show. Follow up on old plot lines a la Wrath of Khan. There’s a WEALTH of information available. So many stories it hurts. Sometimes, pioneering isn’t necessarily the way to go. And sometimes, you can do so while still visiting old friends. And if nothing else, what Doctor Who needs right now is some old friends.
Before it dies due to stubbornness.
Author of several books, composer of several CDs. Please check out the rest of the site for some of my work.