Doctor Who: Dear BBC, Please Ignore the Big American Ratings
All the tallies are in and Pater Capaldi's first season in the Tardis was a ratings success both in England and in the United States. Especially the United States, where "Deep Breath" was the highest-rated season premier yet, and last year's "Day of the Doctor" shattered records. The American ratings success is an even bigger deal when you consider that American Whovians usually have to spend all day Saturday off social media to avoid spoilers and watch Doctor Who on a relatively small cable network as opposed to the largest television station in Britain. Clearly our country offers some real potential for growth in the long-running science fiction show.
I'm here to humbly ask that the BBC, Steven Moffat and everyone in writing for Doctor Who to please ignore that.
I don't mean stop sending us episodes and stuff like that. Never stop that. What I mean is that if someone in a meeting says, "You know, the show is doing big numbers in America. We should add something more American to it," it is my sincere hope that someone hit that person in the nose.
First of all, we don't need it. Seriously, guys, we're perfectly good over here. We produce a ton of movies and television on our own, and plenty of it involves monsters from outer space and time travel and other Who staples. All of it is just as ridiculously American as it could possibly be because frankly we're not a subtle people.
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What we like about Doctor Who is that it's something we can't make. Someone like The Doctor is never going to pass an American producer's desk without adding sexy chick in a tight outfit and a legion of bad guys to mow down while being chisel-jawed and muttering something about war being hell. He will never not have a gun. That's not what we make, and that's why we're perfectly happy to buy what you're selling.
There's also the uncomfortable fact that, well, you guys do America as bad as we do Britain when we try. There are very few Who adventures set in America that aren't completely terrible.
Both William Hartnell and Matt Smith tried to do the Old West and both are major low points in their respective seasons. That's nothing compared to how awful the Tenth Doctor's adventures in New York City were. Between bad accents and a complete lack of ability to shoot the city as a character -- a necessity when filming in NYC -- it makes you glad that Eleven messed up the timeline of the city so bad he can never return.
The 1996 movie is way better than people give it credit for, but it's still not exactly an advertisement to return to San Francisco anytime soon. Eleven's work with Richard Nixon and Canton Delaware remains the only truly great American story line done on Doctor Who, tapping into a rich vein of American '70s science fiction tropes and urban legends. Still, getting it right once in half a century is not a set of odds we should bet on.
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We don't really need an American companion either. Yes, I realized that Peri Brown was an American character (played by the British Nicola Bryant) and that John Barrowman used an American accent for Captain Jack Harkness. There's nothing inherently wrong with having an American-ish companion on the Tardis.
But the revived show hinges heavily on exploring the modern-day lives of the companions. How many Rose Tyler episodes took place around Powell Estate, or around locations important to Clara Oswald? By bringing in an American companion full-time, you're pretty much dooming The Doctor to constantly having to visit American locations with American supporting casts, and we've already established that in general, doing so is not something the show is terribly good at.
As an American, I am happy to contribute to the worldwide popularity of Doctor Who. It's my favorite show of all time, but it doesn't owe us anything. Enjoy your ratings from our eyeballs and our dollars for your merchandise. You've earned it. Just keep pointing yourself to new worlds instead of the New World and we'll keep watching you do it. We don't want The Doctor to come to our house; we want him to take us somewhere.
Doctor Who returns later this year with "The Magician's Apprentice".
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