As a “new seasoned” veteran Whovian, I’ve come to expect that The Doctor character is ever evolving, and the man in charge, Steven Moffat, likes to make his audiences uncomfortable. The newest incarnation of the television series started with Christopher Eccleston, but after one season the show moved on, transitioning to David Tennant, who I consider “my doctor” (more on that later). Over the next few seasons Doctor Who started to gain a following in the US being broadcast on BBC America. Tennant was considered by many as the quintessential Doctor, the one that started it all. But, Moffat insisted on making fans squirm, with a plea of “I don’t want to go.” introduced us to Matt Smith.
Mr. Smith’s arrival was in perfect concert with the increasing popularity of the show. Smith’s reign allowed a lot of quirkiness and youth. Now, don’t get me wrong, a lot of people don’t understand the draw of the show with it’s very British dialect, admittedly hokey special effects (though, it is improving), and utter silliness (dialog, acting, and storyline), but through all of that, there is a lot of history and perfectly good reasoning as to why the show carries on the way it does. Many of the actors are launching their own careers through the show- Tennant has had many roles on British T.V. and will be debuting his American accent on “Gracepoint”, the American version of “Broadchurch”, Karen Gillan has had a flurry of movie appearances including Guardians of the Galaxy, and Matt Smith has several films in various stages of production.
You see, just about every fan of Doctor Who has “their Doctor”. The Doctor you started watching (or rewatching) the show with, you beacon into the universe that is Doctor Who. And when that familiar face gets wrenched away from you with a seemingly abrupt plot change you feel as if a part of your life was stomped on. Sure, you learn to reluctantly accept the new visage over time, but you still have that unfounded resentment. “My Doctor” was Tennant, as was for many others, but for even more, it was Smith, my mom included. And she is of the mind that she will never come to accept Capaldi as the new Doctor, and all I can do is smile and nod, as I have been there before. And I can only imagine the thoughts of fans of the original series of Doctors. But we learn to embrace, carefully, the “new” Doctor and come to understand his new world, and why “our Doctor” had to go.
The Eleventh Doctor’s popularity was highlighted and revolved around that appearance of youth and charm, which attracted many people to the show, but Moffat wasn’t going to stand for people being comfortable and familiar, which lead the show into a more serious, older, and darker tone. Enter Peter Capaldi. He’s a seasoned actor, mostly cast in stern and serious roles. See The Musketeers.
Capaldi took The Doctor in a decidedly new direction, poking fun at his former selves (Tennant and Smith) and the writers had a pointed task of reminding people, The Doctor isn’t who you want him to be, but rather who he NEEDS to be. The Tenth, Eleventh and Eleventh point 5 (War Doctor) left the universe in such disarray that it needed to be rebooted, again. And The Doctor has to reboot himself, and that is a serious and intense process.
The first episode of the season 8, we’re reminded of two things, The Doctor is The Doctor, and as grave or heavy the gravity is for a situation, or story line is, it doesn’t have to be completely serious and uncomfortable. In time, Capaldi will be accepted as an aspect of The Doctor’s personality (and Capaldi did a tremendous job of intermingling the silly with the gravitas). At one point, he realized he was speaking with a Scottish accent and started to lay it on so thick, that it was barely understandable to those not from the UK, an obvious nod to Tennant who is Scottish and was made to have an English accent. There were subtleties in dialog which made me smile, as an example, Madame Vastra asked for a dispersal of node at a distance of 30 feet apart, not meters. I’m assuming this was done purposely to acknowledge the growth of the audience to overseas markets.
It seems writers and show-runners are finding it more acceptable to “enrage” their audiences with uncomfortable scenarios. George R.R. Martin with Game of Thrones killing off fan favorite characters, Moffat changing Doctors when people have come to accept only *that* actor as The Doctor. Solid shows that have faith in their writers seem to be gravitating toward infuriating their audiences, but with positive results. Who wants to be kept in a warm cozy spot with their entertainment?