Saturday 15 April 2017

Doctor Who: the end of a very big era approaches

New Doctor Who tonight! Its been too long and I can't wait to see what Moffat and Capaldi have in store for their final season. What the trailers have revealed have more than whet my appetite: Ice Warriors, proper Cybermen, Missy (oh, Bill's going to love her).

Then there's the future...

Now, absolutely nothing is known or announced about Chris Chibnall's Doctor Who and this time I don't even have tea leaves to read. With Davies I'd seen Bob & Rose and the odd episode of Queer As Folk and I was a massive fan of Coupling so I had some idea of Moffat's style before he blew all our minds with The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances.

Chibnall? Well, to my mind his Doctor Who and Torchwood episodes are a bit of a mixed bag and Wikipedia lists for me a bunch of things I've never seen like Law & Order: UK and Broadchurch.

There's another aspect to it, though, in that up to now the modern series has been massively influenced by the wilderness years material. Russel T. Davies and Steven Moffat both contributed to the Virgin novels (albeit only a short story in Moffat's case), both have employed other multiple writers from that era including Gareth Roberts, Paul Cornell, Mark Gatiss, Matt Jones and Gary Russel as well as early Big Finish stalwart Rob Shearman.

A lot of motifs the modern series plays with extend pretty naturally from things the various wilderness years spin-offs did: pansexuality as the future majority; Daleks straight from the Nick Briggs school of thought; the destruction of Gallifrey; Rassilon as a living villain; companions who live on the TARDIS part time and even have their own adventures and agendas (River in particular has a lot of Benny Summerfield about her and not just because of their joint profession); and four of the first five seasons have an adaptation in them, though admittedly a loose one in series two.

Its not exactly a massive debt the modern series owes to the wilderness years, everyone who wrote for both did a lot between times and developed a greaty deal, but it is unavoidable.Potentially, this season is where that train of thought ends and the generation of fandom that I grew up with checks out, Moffat and Gatiss really being the last ones standing at this point.

And that excites me. I got into Doctor Who in 1992, in the wilderness years. In a way, I've only experienced the evolution of one era of Doctor Who in terms of influence and core beliefs. Its been a hell of a ride but I am so ready to see what a series that doesn't come out of that long tradition looks like.

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