If you’re a “Doctor Who” fan then you’ve likely attached the word “former” to that descriptor. Whether you began your journey with the Doctor back in the campy days of William Hartnell or Tom Baker or came in during the era of David Tennant and Matt Smith, everyone can agree that the show was absolutely legendary.
All of that changed when Chris Chibnall took over as the main writer and proceeded to transform the Doctor into a walking, talking piece of propaganda for socio-political ideas hailing strictly from the left. Chibnall rewrote the Doctor’s origins to better fit modern sentiments, demolished the show’s established logic, and made the Doctor into a shadow of his former self.
He put Jodie Whitaker into the role of the Doctor, marking the first time the traditionally male character would be played by a female. While this could have made for an interesting turn for the beloved character, Chibnall only used it as the fulcrum for his pathological need to push social justice narratives.
The politicization of the show caused the majority of its fanbase to walk away in frustration or anger. It was one of those legacy characters that modern politics infiltrated and destroyed from within. The bitterness of the fans could be heard far and wide but nothing demonstrated the rejection of this politicization more than the ratings plummet.
This includes its season finale that you may or may not have known was even happening due to the fact that you gave up on the show long ago. According to BBC News, only 3.7 million people watched Whitaker’s final episode. This is a bump for Whitaker’s Doctor who oversaw the lowest ratings the show experienced in years.
As Cosmic Book News reported back in January 2020, by the third episode of the 12th season, nearly a million fans had walked away bringing the total to under 4.2 million. By November 2021, an estimated 3.4 million had watched episode 4 of the 13th season.
This is a far cry from the millions that would tune in for Tennant and Smith’s Doctors, who brought in an average of 8.3 million and 7.8 million viewers respectively.
The Doctor’s decline under Chibnall was best talked about by The Critical Drinker, whose video essay on it is worth a watch. Mind the language warning.
Now, Chibnall’s time as the show’s writer is at an end and so is Whitaker’s portrayal. They’re handing the show back to Russell T Davies, the man who oversaw the Tennant era of Doctor Who. Davies is also bringing back Tennant as the Doctor, who Whitaker’s Doctor regenerated back into.
It’s a move that clearly feels more like a defibrillator’s shock to reawaken the now-dormant heart of the show. Whether Davies can breathe new life into it remains to be seen, but many fans are withholding hope, including this author.
Tennant will only be there for three episodes before he will regenerate into Scottish actor Ncuti Gatwa. I’d like to tell you that this will be the first time a black actor has portrayed the Doctor but thanks to Chibnall’s abuse of the Doctor’s history for some drive-by social justice clout, it’s not.
If the BBC and Davies are smart, they won’t abuse the memory of Tennant’s Doctor while using him as a cheap way to bait fans to return so they can then sell Gatwa. It’s not wise to hope that Davies will be any better than Chibnall at this stage of western mainstream society, but he has the opportunity to revitalize the Doctor and, more importantly, redeem him.
Time will tell but at this juncture, time is not on the Doctor’s side.