Doctor in Distress? The Series 12 Conundrum

Its difficult to be a Doctor Who fan on the internet without coming across outcries from certain members of the fan base about how "terrible" Series 11 was. Aired from 7th October 2018 to 1st January 2019, Series 11 (or Season 37) featured not only the show's first female lead with Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, but a larger and more diverse ensemble cast with Bradley Walsh as Graham, Tosin Cole as Ryan and Mandip Gill as Yaz. This, coupled with the series' emphasis on real-world issues - including episodes focused on Rosa Parks, the Indian partition, 17th Century witch trials, a mock-Amazon company and a Trump-esque billionaire - caused many people to call the series "overly-political", in spite of the obvious argument that this was nothing new. Whilst some journalists will publish articles on "PC Who", many fans took this idea further, moaning about "SJW Doctor Who"...whatever that means.

For the record, Doctor Who has always been political. 'The Green Death' (1973) is about as subtle with its messages regarding global warming as a sledgehammer to the face. 'The Sun Makers' (1977) is a satire on government taxes. 'The Happiness Patrol' (1988) features a thinly-veiled Margaret Thatcher as its villain. 'Genesis of the Daleks' is an elaborate Nazi allegory, whilst 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' (1964) not-so-subtly showcases Terry Nation's fear of a Nazi-occupied Britain, complete with Daleks marching across the city with their plungers raised in the air in a mock-salute. At the end of 'Planet of the Daleks' (1973), Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor pulls one character aside to lecture them about the concerns of glorifying warfare. Politics has always been a part of Doctor Who's story-telling, but Series 11 specifically focuses on racism and sexism, the latter of which has been a part of Who stories before now, but the former...less so, mainly because of the interests of the people working on the show.

Complain what you will about the faults of Doctor Who's most recent series - be it poor pacing, a lack of narrative progression, fewer memorable monsters and villains, or the lack of focus on the Doctor herself - but to say that the show has become "too political" simply reflects an uninformed perspective.

Current showrunner Chris Chibnall and lead actress Jodie Whittaker have taken most of the blame for the series' faults though, with certain fans criticising their "agenda" - which, based on their arguments, and the episodes of the series, simply comes down to "be nice to people regardless of their race or gender". If that's what's getting your knickers in a twist, than I don't know what the show can do for you. Nevertheless, it has stopped some fans from making up vicious rumours about either Chibnall or Whittaker leaving the show, and then claiming to have "won" a battle that was never fought in the first place. Not only have these fans tried to manipulate viewing figures provided by the BARB in favour of their argument - despite the actual numbers proving that Doctor Who has had a sudden surge in popularity, that settled across the eleven episodes aired - but they are more than comfortable with lying about the show to gauge a reaction.

Most recently, the #NotMyDoctor crowd (as they've been nicknamed) have spread a rumour about Chris Chibnall leaving the production of Series 12 "half-way through", and that Jodie Whittaker has left as well, meaning that she will regenerate into a male Doctor before the end of the series. Not only is this provably false, given that Series 12 is most of the way through production, Jodie Whittaker is contracted to a full season of ten-eleven episodes and thus cannot leave, and that if Chris Chibnall has left, it would not only be a breach of his contract but presumably be with all of his episodes written and in pre-production. If there is hostility on the set of Series 12, this isn't it. Or, at least, the specific news is false, even if there may or may not be some truth to it. Quite why Chibnall has left isn't specified by any of the #NotMyDoctor representatives, neither has the circumstances behind Whittaker leaving. For BBC Studios, the ratings success of Series 11 would surely encourage them to keep both Chibnall and Whittaker around, and if they were concerned about fan response, they'd surely wait another year to see if it settles? Every series of Doctor Who is received with some hostility from a corner of the fan base - only the other day was I looking at IMDB reviews of Peter Capaldi's Series 10 episode 'Oxygen' and saw a number of "urgh Doctor Who goes SJW" reviews. The response to Series 11 is nothing new, but perhaps a little more pronounced and vicious with the show's more diverse approach to its cast, crew and story-telling.

This rumour clearly attracted someone high-up's attention, as Radio Times shortly afterwards released a statement to say that no such hostility has taken place, and lambasting the rumours as "nonsense". Those who inquired to the BBC directly were met with very much the same response. Despite all the evidence being against them though, this hasn't stopped the #NotMyDoctor crowd whatsoever. Instead, they've changed their lies to say that the BBC are lying to cover-up a troubled production. Surely if the BBC were, we'd have some bit of evidence to suggest it beyond random people on Twitter and/or Reddit? But no, who needs facts from these people when they're more interested in the elaborate lies they intend to spread. The worst part is that many fans, particularly those too young to understand why they'd make it all up, will be taken in by these false reports. There's no way for the Doctor Who production team to please this section of the fan base, and when they inevitably do leave one day, these "fans" will claim that they have "driven out" these creatives, despite whatever press release the BBC provides.

For those Doctor Who fans who aren't part of this crowd, its rather upsetting to see such rampant hatred and negativity on the internet. It reflects badly on an otherwise positive fandom, and also on those who had genuine issues with Series 11, be them with Chris Chibnall's writing or Jodie Whittaker's performance. A vast majority of Doctor Who's audience don't care about the nonsense created by these "fans", and instead just want to watch good Doctor Who - and if that's written by Chris Chibnall and stars Jodie Whittaker, then they'll be perfectly happy with that. Until Series 12 finally airs though, Doctor Who fans will have to critique the source of any new rumours or leaks with some trepidation.

Doctor Who returns in early 2020.

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