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3 Mar, 2020 12:30

Chasing woke Twitter at the expense of quality is killing ‘Doctor Who’

Chasing woke Twitter at the expense of quality is killing ‘Doctor Who’

Between the introduction of a token minority Doctor and a BBC head doubling down on woke politics, ‘Doctor Who’ has problems. Bad writing is dragging the ratings down as the production team seems to slide into denial.

Over the years, ‘Doctor Who’ has gone from being a British delight to a sci-fi serial enjoyed worldwide. With a strong revival of the series in 2005, the three memorable Doctors that followed became pop culture icons. Each actor delivered a unique version of the character, with Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith becoming huge stars as a result.

Then, after the twelfth Doctor (played by Peter Capaldi) left the show, we were introduced to Jodie Whittaker’s thirteenth Doctor – advertised as a momentous historic event, because this would be the first time the character would be portrayed by a woman.

Ticking that identity box proved insufficient. The thirteenth Doctor has brought in the worst ratings the programme has ever seen. Between this series and the last, ‘Doctor Who’ has seen its ratings fall faster than a village elder in the film ‘Midsommar’, and the results are just as grisly. In 2018, Doctor Who viewers numbered eight million. That figure is now much lower, with just under five million tuning in for the first part of the season finale last Sunday.

This is coupled with a recent report that two of the Doctor’s companions are leaving the show. Both Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole are said to be taking off after the holiday special amid these recent failings. Though ‘Doctor Who’ as a series isn’t a stranger to casting changes, this couldn’t come at a worse time for the programme. Even then, with the timing it’s not really beyond the pale to wonder whether or not this is a coincidence. Especially given BBC Head of Drama Piers Wenger’s recent comments on the show. 

I worked on ‘Doctor Who’ myself and produced it for many years, and I can honestly say I don’t think it’s been in better health editorially. The production values have never been better.

Viewing numbers show how deep in denial he is about the show’s wellbeing. Better production values couldn’t matter less if the story isn’t interesting or you’re too busy with self-serving politics. The production values of the all-female ‘Ghostbusters’ weren’t what one would call lacking, but it didn’t deliver in quality. The same can be said of the recent ‘Charlie’s Angels’ reboot. The marketing was too focused on gaining points with Woke Twitter™ rather than presenting a story that’s interesting. So ‘Doctor Who’ has advertised a new female Doctor, who this time is also black, while remaining silent on the decline of its writing quality and ratings.

Also on rt.com Doctor Who introduces a black female Doctor, making history... and throwing up a diversity smokescreen against bad ratings

Generally speaking, creative endeavors need focus. Whether it's television, film, comics, or video games, there needs to be a direction. If you worry too much about political messages or representation, the focus on quality simply isn’t there. Compare the dialogue, writing and acting in this scene from the episode 'Kerblam!' to that of the scene from 2005's 'Dalek', below. In the former, the script is too concerned with making a boring speech about rich people to believably convey the tension of a bunch of characters waiting for a guy to commit genocide. In the latter, everything that’s going on has a purpose. There’s a reason for people to be inactive or active, there’s emotional impact, and the actors feel like they’re putting in effort. To put it simply, the second clip has a soul.

The logic of the BBC is hard to follow. Piers Wenger can talk all day about the need for making things contemporary,” getting upset when people use the word ‘woke’ to describe his decision-making. The fact of the matter is that you don’t need to make anything that is timeless into something contemporary. If you have a good story with good characters, you don’t need the next Doctor to be the first Asian transgender incarnation with a club foot. They can be one, but quality comes first.

You just need to tell good stories. If that’s not your focus, you don’t belong in entertainment.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.