I’ve known a fair few people who have stopped watching Doctor Who over the last several seasons because of the heavy hand of showrunner Steven Moffat, particularly when it comes to his writing of women. Now look, I’m not going to argue the point one way or another. I’m neither defending nor accusing Moffat. Just relating things former fans have told me about his tenure and how it made them feel.
One in particular expressed interest in returning now that Moffat is stepping down and Chris Chibnall is taking over, though we still have one more season with Moffat starting this spring. She asked me if I’d write a little guide for getting back into Doctor Who, so for her and others, here we go.
What Do I Need to Know Because I Really Don’t Want to Go Watch Several Seasons I Didn’t Particularly Like?
Here are the basics. The Doctor managed to both save Gallifrey and not screw up the fixed point in time its destruction was, though he actually lost the planet in a parallel pocket dimension for a couple of seasons. The Master came back as a woman, which was pretty cool. Rassilon came back, but not as Timothy Dalton, which was a mixed bag at best. Oh, and they turned the corpse of the Brigadier into Cyberman while also making The Doctor president of Earth, which was gloriously dumb. Let’s forget I brought it up.
The Doctor traded in his Sonic Screwdriver for magic sunglasses and a really sweet guitar. He lost the glasses but kept the guitar, which is way cooler than it sounds. He took over Gallifrey in a bloodless coup, and then promptly pissed off. He got his last companion killed/not-killed in classic Moffat fashion, but we ended up with Maisie Williams in her own Tardis shaped like a 1950s American diner in the bargain, so not all bad. They did finally show the lead-up to the death of River Song we’d all wanted to see, and it was a real tearjerker. Oh, and the Whoniverse now contains actual superheroes with capes and everything, and Santa is real, and so is Robin Hood. Those were the highlights.
But There’s Still Another Season of Moffat to Go?
Yeah, and a Christmas special where he’ll presumably get to do yet another regeneration. Technically Moffat will have gotten to personally kill four Doctors by the time this is all said and done.
So, Should I Wait?
Nah, I don’t think so. The last season was really, really good, though still mired down considerably from the fallout of the 50th anniversary and the awkward post-resolution of the whole Impossible Girl story. With Jenna Coleman gone, The Doctor is getting two new companions, including a woman of color. The show has also gone to much greater lengths to get women writers and directors in on the production side, though it’s still slow going. The results have been a lot less annoying, though still undeniably Moffat. This is a really good time to get acquainted with the Twelfth Doctor, and it would be a shame for anyone to totally miss the greatness of Peter Capaldi in the role.
New Companions, You Say?
Yep. The most hyped one is Pearl Mackie as Bill. We haven’t seen all that much of her in the previews, though what we have seen is really, really plucky, and I’m willing to bet some of her writing is going to be cringeworthy because of it. Matt Lucas is also on board for most of the season as Nardole, who was a really stand-out performance in the last Christmas special. Perhaps he’ll temper the crew into something more than what looks in the new trailer to be Amy Pond 2.0. Missy/The Master will come back as well, and she was one of the best things last season.
Who Are the Writers?
One big announcement is that Rona Munro, who previously wrote the last adventure of the classic series, “Survival,” is coming back to the show for an episode. Unfortunately, three of the writers behind the worst stories of the last two seasons (“Kill the Moon,” “Sleep No More” and “In the Forest of the Night”) are back, but Jamie Mathieson is too, so that’s good news. Moffat is writing only four episodes.
Is the Show Less Sexist?
I’d say yes. A huge part of last season was The Doctor learning about how making decisions for the women in his life is a crappy thing to do, and while the point took way too long to get there, the payoff showed real growth.
Will You Watch It With Me?
Sure thing. We’ll be covering the show every week when it returns April 15.