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Published on April 27th, 2011 | by Patrick Riley

Is Doctor Who Too Appealing?

Another year, another series, another round of apocalyptic naysayers crying the imminent end of Doctor Who.  It’s business as usual in 2011.

Christian already told you about Chicago Now’s Matthew Milam earlier this week, who essentially called for the permanent end to the TV series just because he doesn’t like it as much as he used to.  But now another bonkers American (I feel no shame in saying that, being one myself) – Kate Kotler of Bleeding Cool – has jumped on the demise-of-Who bandwagon.  While admitting the most recent episodes have been top-notch, she argues that the BBC’s attempt to broaden the appeal of the show will gradually begin to make it substandard, until it eventually falls off the airwaves altogether from the same lack of love that killed the show in the late 80s…

“While I’m not worried about [Steven] Moffat and [Matt] Smith cocking up the legacy of the Doctor anymore, I am worried that Doctor Who may be about to jump the proverbial shark and then start the slow decline into mediocrity, eventually peetering out into non-existance.”

She may or may not have meant it this way, but I read that as, “I think Doctor Who’s in good hands, except I don’t.”

To back up her point, Kotler uses the new Amy-narrated intro to The Impossible Astronaut that appears in between the pre-credits teaser and the title sequence (which you apparently won’t have seen if you watched the episode in the UK).

“I get why they did it – it is the same reason why much of Series 6 was shot in the United States and it is the same reason why they’ve made the effects flashier and bangier.  It’s to appeal to a broader demographic including non sci-fi fans, women who bailed on the series when David Tennant left and (in particular) Americans who have never before watched Doctor Who.”

Okay… but I still don’t see what’s wrong with that.  “Flashier and bangier” effects aren’t a problem at all when the story’s good like it’s proving to be so far; it’s when they’re the story’s crutch that they become an issue, which arguably hasn’t happened since Matt Smith started Doctorin’ the TARDIS.  And in the UK, Doctor Who already does appeal to non sci-fi fans, and many of the women who almost dropped out post-Tennant gave Smith a chance and loved him.

But that’s beside the point.  What’s the beef with making Doctor Who more accessible?  It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.  Russell T. Davies was responsible for the show’s “Ultimate Regeneration” (to steal the title of the Kasterborous book) that turned the show from a cult classic to a popular phenomenon.  Some fans, myself included, owe their absolute obsession with the Doctor Who as a whole to the new-series’ successful audience-boosting attempts.  And has the story quality suffered, barring much of Series Two?  Go re-watch The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways, Blink, Midnight, The Waters of Mars, A Christmas Carol, and basically all the other episodes made since 2005 and tell me they’re not still ridiculously superb entertainment.

Don’t listen to all the wolf-criers; Doctor Who is a strong as ever!

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About the Author

Patrick is a temporal hitchhiker who spends most of his time in the future. His favourite Doctor is the Fourteenth. If you're especially lucky, you might even hear him tweet to all you merry folk in the past @10PatrickRiley.




6 Responses to Is Doctor Who Too Appealing?

  1. Charlie says:

    I get the feeling that these reviews say more about the anxieties and insecurities of the reviewers themselves than the actual show.

  2. 23skidoo says:

    What really annoys me is how that Chicago guy didn’t even allow people to post rebuttal comments. I used a rather uncomplimentary term to refer to the guy in another forum, and I stand by what I said.

    The great thing is how on the same day this nonsense reared its head we had: the show getting a huge Appreciation Index rating in the UK (meaning people liked what they saw); the show dominating the Hugo Award nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form – in fact it was the only TV series nominated; BBC America and Space reporting record ratings; and, oh yeah, Matt Smith becoming the first Doctor actor ever nominated for a national (as opposed to regional) BAFTA!

    Perhaps that Chicago guy ran tail from people responding to his viewpoint because he realizes how utterly in the tiny minority he is. Yes, not everyone likes modern Who, and not everyone liked what RTD did with the show or what Moffat is doing now. But the fact is the crushing majority (I love that term!) supports the series. Frankly, this is the same as the one or two (out of millions) who were calling for Star Trek The Next Generation to be cancelled when it was the #1 syndicated program on the planet, simply because it didn’t feature Kirk and Spock…


    • Personally I think Matthew Milam’s comments would be akin to me calling for the cancellation of the evening news broadcast because I happen to not watch it. Totally ridiculous.

      I wish we had something like the Appreciation Index here in the States (at least I think we don’t). Here it’s all about how many people are watching between the ages of 18 and 49… no one in that field seems to care if the audience actually likes what it sees.

  3. Carn says:

    What a bunch of morons… I can’t see the logic in axing popular and well made TV shows cos if we did that a lot all we’d have on tv is absolute crap (ie, most things that aren’t Doctor Who).

    Complete idiocy…

  4. 23skidoo says:

    Just FYI, the Amy introduction was only on the first episode – it wasn’t repeated for Day of the Moon so it might have been a one-off thing. Personally, I think Doctor Who should have had one of those openings from the very beginning. It’s only elitists who don’t want new viewers to come into the show; anything that makes things easier for new viewers is fine by me. It’s not as if they dumped the Ron Grainer theme and anyone who thinks this was in any way a new innovation needs to Google the name Howard Da Silva, the narrator of the US-syndicated version of Doctor Who in the 1970s.


    • Good catch, 23skidoo; I hadn’t even noticed it was missing when I watched Day of the Moon!

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