Monday, February 6, 2017

Doctor No More!

So far 2017 isn't off to a good start for fans of Doctor Who.

First of all, actor John Hurt died on January 25. Hurt played the previously unknown War Doctor back in 2013's The Day Of The Doctor

Then just last week, Peter Capaldi, the current Twelfth Doctor, announced he's leaving the show at the end of the year. As I said, not a good year so far!

Capaldi's departure isn't really a surprise, as few actors stay with the show for more than three seasons (or "series" to you Brits). This coming season will be Capaldi's third, so... he's right on schedule (or 'shedule" to you Brits). Capaldi's last batch of episodes is scheduled to begin this spring, and his final appearance will be in the 2017 Christmas Special.

I'm going to be honest here and admit that I'm not all that upset about his exit. I just never seemed to warm up to Capaldi's Doctor as I did the previous ones. Don't get me wrong Capaldi's an amazing actor, and he did some incredible work on the show. But his version of the Doctor was stern, gruff and downright mean. This was quite a change from the previous whimsical incarnations, and came as a bit of a shock to viewers.

The concept of a crabby Doctor hearkened back to the show's beginning in 1963. William Hartnell's elderly First Doctor was often a grouch, going so far as to yell at his human companions and call them idiots. The problem is, there's a fine line between being a curmudgeon and being an asshole, and Capaldi's Doctor definitely fell into the latter camp.

This didn't sit well with viewers, so the BBC tried to soften up Capaldi's Doctor in his second year. This Twelfth Doctor 2.0 was decidedly friendlier, sporting a pair of Sonic Sunglasses and cranking out power chords on his electric guitar (!). Unfortunately this all came off as desperate, like a middle-aged man trying to fit in with a younger crowd. I'm surprised this Doctor didn't grow a ponytail or a man-bun!

Part of me wonders whether Capaldi is leaving of his own volition, or if he's being forced out by the BBC. See, David Tennant and Matt Smith, the two previous Doctors, were very popular with female tweens, who thought they were both dreamy. This demographic helped make the show a worldwide hit.

When Capaldi was first cast way back in 2013I predicted that tweens would likely abandon the show, as they wouldn't want to watch a Doctor old enough to be their dad.

And that's just what happened. During David Tennant's run, the series averaged around 6.5 million viewers per week. When Matt Smith took over, the ratings dropped a bit to 5.8 million. With Capaldi as the lead, the ratings have plummeted to just 4.5 million. 

It would not surprise me if the BBC is so alarmed by this massive drop in ratings that they're forcing Capaldi out, so they can replace him with a younger, dreamier model.

The ratings haven't been helped by current showrunner Steven Moffat either. Some of his earlier scripts were occasionally brilliant, but in the past few seasons they've become absolutely incomprehensible. Moffat's scheduled to leave the series at the end of the year as well. His departure can't come soon enough for me, as in my opinion he's done the show far more harm than good.

Now that Capaldi's announced he's leaving, cue the inevitable and rampant speculation as to who'll replace him.

Naturally the PC Brigade are all sounding off in full force, saying it's high time we had a black Doctor, or a female Doctor, or a black female Doctor. Anything but another old white man.

I'm probably going to get raked over the coals for this, but... I feel like people are clamoring for a change for the wrong reason. Deliberately seeking out a specific ethnicity or gender for the role as part of an agenda seems just as bad as not doing so. I want them to cast the best actor for the job, not pick someone just to fill a quota.

Besides, it's not like Doctor Who has a diversity problem. Since the show returned in 2005, the Doctor's had several black companions, and has prominently featured many interracial relationships. And a couple years back, the Master, a traditionally male villain, flipped genders and became Missy. So it's not like such things are foreign to the show.

Am I a racist and a sexist because I happen to like tradition? Probably. These days you're not allowed to make up your own mind or form an opinion about anything. Such actions automatically label you as a hater.

On the other hand, I think Richard Ayoade would make an awesome Doctor, so maybe the BBC should break with tradition after all. 

Most fans believe the BBC will want to pay it safe this time and cast another "heartthrob" Doctor, in an effort to shore up the sagging ratings. Many are speculating they'll cast actor Richard Madden, aka Rob Stark of Game Of Thrones. He's definitely got the smoldering looks they're after, but can he act? Rob Stark didn't seem like a particularly demanding role, so who knows?

My suggestion would be Ben Wishaw. I first saw him as the new Q in 2012's Skyfall, and immediately thought, "Hey, he'd make a perfect Doctor!" He's quirkily handsome, and he's got that same geeky "cool professor" quality that Matt Smith had. If I was the BBC, he'd be my top choice.

It's way too early to start placing bets as to who'll get the role though, as the Christmas Special is a long way away.

The worst part about all this whole situation is that now I'm gonna have to update this thing yet again. Thanks a lot, Obama Peter Capaldi!

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