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Doctor Who: In defence of Chris & Jodie

Unfortunately for me, most of my fandoms have toxic elements. In fact with exception of Gravity Falls & 90’s indie band Shed Seven, I’d say all of my fandoms are filled with toxic people; none more so than Doctor Who.

There is a joke amongst Whovian’s that November 23rd 1963 is the only date, in the history of Doctor Who, that all the fans were happy. Even regeneration, which has gone on to be a much loved staple of the show, was complained about when introduced.

So it was no surprised that the first female Doctor faced such a backlash. It was immediate. Jodie Whittaker’s video short to introduce her was followed by cries of wokeness, unnecessary feminism, Marxism, and just general nastiness. I’m not saying that every fan who doesn’t like Jodie is a misogynist, but there is definitely an element. When the complaints about Jodie started post her initial short, then what was the bases for these objections if not her gender?

Chris Chibnall was always going to have a difficult task. Since its return in 2005, every Doctor Who show runner has faced a backlash of some sort. Chris’s seems to be poor writing and the Timeless Child story arc. The writing has always been a little confusing for me. I’ll admit I found season 11 a little hit and miss, but there were some strong episodes. For me season 12 was fantastic, with only Orphan 55 really missing the mark. The Timeless Child story arc was a shock at first. For me it has the possibility to take the franchise in a whole new direction. It also provided an explanation to the unknown faces of the Doctor first seen in the 1976 story The Brain of Morbius.

The politics of the Chibnall era has been hard for some. When drilled down, the politics translates as a focus on social issues. It should be made clear that not every episode has dealt with issues such as racism and climate change, but there have been a few. In a review for an episode I mentioned some classic Who stories that also dealt with social issues. I had a response that these classic stories weren’t so in your face. I then went and re-watched these episodes and I’d say in the context of their release dates, they were quite blatant with their message. A Doctor seeing things from a more conservative gaze, to me would seem a little odd.

In a previous article I spoke about how the overnight ratings argument doesn’t stack up when you looked at in terms of audience share. I also mentioned in terms of syndication and licensing for merchandise Doctor Who is one of the BBC’s biggest money spinners. Still those saying cancellation is imminent crow loudly. In fact there is a faction of Whovian’s who would be happy if it was. Their reasons run the full gambit from reasonable (let the franchise have a rest) to the self serving (it’ll prove they were right all along).

So much time is focused on the negativity towards Jodie and Chris, that it is easy to miss the fact there are those who have enjoyed their tenure. Jodie era merchandise is popular, with the initial run of her doll selling out with weeks of release. There are positive reviews for both individual episodes and season 11 and 12. Comic Cons are full of people of all genders and ages cosplaying as Jodie’s Doctor.

Jodie is a wonderful actor and plays the Doctor with a childlike enthusiasm (much like Matt Smith and Patrick Troughton). The companions have been equally well cast. I would say as a grumpy middle aged man I identified with Graham, who has gone on to be one of my favourite companions (along with Jamie, Sarah-Jane, Romana 1, Ace, and Amy).

Post their time, like all previous Doctor’s and show runners, I’m sure Jodie and Chris will be assessed with less critical eyes. For me their tenure has had great performances, stories, characters, and made brave decisions. I will miss them and, despite what many will have you believe, so will may other Whovian’s.

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