The New Year's Day special saw Daleks take over 10 Downing StreetTWITTER/safespacedrwho

After another series of bad acting and narratives so painfully pedagogical even Jodie Whittaker can’t save them, isn’t it about time for Doctor Who to take another break? With ratings continuing to plummet, moralistic storylines more suited to CBBC (don’t use guns kids!) and a Doctor who says “fam” unironically, perhaps renewing it for a thirteenth series in 2021 is not the best idea for the show.

To my surprise, the New Year’s Day special “Revolution of the Daleks” began well. For a blissful ten minutes I actually felt like I could have been watching a Matt Smith or David Tenant era episode. In a modern Britain run by corrupt politicians and immoral business men (sound familiar?) we see a Theresa May-esque Prime Minister come to power on a slogan of “stability and security” — provided by Daleks re-designed as defence drones. In the mash up we didn’t know we had been waiting for, the Doctor’s age-old nemeses, the undefeatable Daleks, are transformed into water-spraying, gas-releasing riot police-bots. The shot of Britain’s Prime Minister standing outside Number 10 flanked by Dalek defence drones offered a particularly dystopian image of a future where unimaginable technology falls into the wrong, politically-empowered hands. But despite the initial promise, the special was still not enough to convince me that the thirteenth season was worth saving.

“The clunky and unrealistic dialogue let down the plot, which rapidly became too far-fetched even for sci-fi.”

The episode couldn’t be saved even by the return of long-time favourite and flirt, Captain Jack Harkness, alongside Jodie Whittaker’s show-carrying acting. As always, the clunky and unrealistic dialogue let down the plot, which rapidly became too far-fetched even for sci-fi — surely the human race can recognise a Dalek after the countless Dalek invasions of Earth we’ve seen in earlier series? And the Trump-like American businessman’s decision to betray his own race came completely out of the blue, mainly due to his poorly-written dialogue. The only good thing to come out of this special was the departure of Ryan – potentially the Doctor’s first companion who can’t act.

As always, I find myself reminiscing over Doctor Who’s glory days. David Tennant will always be my Doctor, my first childhood crush and the reason I’m still attracted to any boy in a pair of Converse. Tenant stands as an emblem of just how funny (and sexy) the Doctor can be. Who can forget his defeat of the Sycorax during The Christmas Invasion (2005) with nothing but a well-aimed tangerine, followed by his iconic line: “This hand’s a fightin’ hand?” Matt Smith’s Doctor was also funny in his own, off-beat way — when he wasn’t preoccupied dipping fish-fingers in custard or trying to make bow-ties cool.

The terrifying character from 'The Empty Child'TWITTER/Emily_rosina

The alien species of Doctor Who have also come a long way from the bubble-wrap-painted-green creations of the ’90s. The alien life-forms of the first few series were not only brilliantly creative but also genuinely terrifying — and not just because I was five years old when I first saw them. The gas-masked children of the Blitz in “The Empty Child” still give me goosebumps with their haunting call: “Are you my mummy?“; the flesh-eating forest of Vashta Nerada in The Library didn’t just give me nightmares as a child — the UL still scares me today! It is no wonder, then, that today’s writers, who are apparently only capable of creating giant spiders and 17th century witch hunters (really?), keep opting for historical cop-outs and recycled villains from the good old days.

“The more recent series are far more glorious in their diversity and commitment to race, gender and class inclusivity.”

This might sound soppy, but the show also used to be genuinely moving. The series two finale, “Doomsday”, in which Rose Tyler is tragically trapped in a parallel universe to the Doctor, brings a tear to my eye even now. The NY special’s attempts at tear-jerker moments are cringy in comparison, while the Yaz’s conversation with Captain Jack about how much she missed the Doctor was a DMC nobody asked for.


Mountain View

Why Season Five of Riverdale will be its Redemption

And yet perhaps it’s naively ignorant to refer to the early noughties as the “glory days” of Doctor Who. If anything, the more recent series are far more glorious in their diversity and commitment to race, gender and class inclusivity in the characters they cast and the narratives they tell. In its “heyday”, the Doctor Who of my childhood was in fact a show where two middle-aged white men wrote about a (white, male) Time Lord and his (female) love interest who travelled the universe in a TARDIS powered by sexual tension, in order to save Earth — and by Earth, I mean London. It’s brilliant that we are finally getting to see non-male Doctors (with a Huddersfield accent no less!) and non-white companions, who inhabit an Earth finally represented by somewhere other than London — Hello Sheffield! Yet while head-writer, Chris Chibnall, may have studied at the University of Sheffield, he is not a young black man — so of course he struggles to write authentic dialogue for Tosin Cole’s character, Ryan.

Doctor Who might benefit from taking a few years off to allow time for a new generation of more diverse writing talent to emerge. What the show needs is writers from a wider range of backgrounds and ethnicities, better equipped to construct the diversity of characters and storylines Doctor Who so clearly aspires to. The show is heading in the right direction, but until their writing table is as up-to-date as their special effects, I will not be watching.