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Change, My Dear: Rebirth from the 50th

Guest contributor James Copley looks at what changed and what it might mean for the future.

Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary year gave us many thrills and spills such as the recovery of the lost Troughton episodes, Big Finish’s ‘The Light at the End’, Paul McGann’s return in The Night of the Doctor, and to top it all off we had the Doctor trilogy. One thing that wasn’t really associated with the 50th anniversary, but featured in 2013, was Series 7: Part 2 – Matt Smith’s final half-series as our beloved Doctor. Throughout the 50th anniversary Doctor Who changed dramatically – some of the changes positive, others controversial among the Whoniverse. This article – my first by the way – shall compare and contrast Doctor Who from this time last year, through the 50th, to present day – comparing the format, the stories, and the characters and monsters. But what do these changes mean? And what does this contribute to what we have in store for Capaldi’s debut series later on this year?

Format & Episode Style

series-7-part-2-postersLet’s start with series format and cast our minds back to the end of March 2013 and the second half of Series 7. Doctor Who was practically reinvented again – new TARDIS, new companion, movie-styled episodes – all except for the main actor, Matt Smith. The movie-styled episodes were disliked by some fans as they felt two-parters could expand the story more. Squashing an story into 45-minutes is sometimes too hard to execute correctly. I for one agree with this point-of-view as it is impossible to confine a movie to 45-minutes. Has Hollywood ever distributed a film that was 45-minutes long? No. Two-parters allow the writer to expand their stories and delve into deeper depths with the characters, and to use their monster to the full.

doctor-trilogy-2013-name-day-timeLater on in the year, for the 50th specials, the format was divided into three huge episodes that made up the Doctor trilogy: The Name of the Doctor, The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor. I thought these episodes were more movie-styled than Series 7 – especially The Day of the Doctor. One massive change was the move to simulcast the 50th episode in cinemas around the globe. More TV shows are now showing some of their ‘big’ episodes on the cinema. Could The Day of The Doctor lead to more episodes of Doctor Who in future being shown on the cinema? I think that is possible. Looking ahead to Series 8, Doctor Who has learnt from its mistakes in the split format – okay the split did have some positive effects like the fact that we didn’t have too much of a gap waiting for Doctor Who throughout the year, but on the whole it was negatively received by the audience – reverting back to 13-episode runs for Series 8 and beyond.

Stories

the name of the doctor promo batch b (6)The stories back in Series 7 were, as mentioned earlier, supposed to be big and movie-styled. I believe the Doctor Who team achieved their ‘big’ episode aim. For example, The Name of the Doctor one cracker of an episode! The Paternoster gang was back, Clara’s riddle was about to be solved, and we were teased about the Doctor’s greatest secret – it turned out not to be his name but a secret incarnation, what a surprise! That story unlocked many secrets to the Time War and left us puzzled about which Doctor was what incarnation. What does the Doctor really do while he’s away, and with which face?

Towards the end of the year we were blessed with ever more fantastic episodes; we had The Day of the Doctor, and to finish a wonderful four years with Matt Smith, The Time of the Doctor. These stories got darker as they progressed through the year, Name was set after a funeral, Day saw the Doctor come face-to-face with his greatest secret, and Time was practically about the Doctor dying! I suspect, from Moffat hinting at a ‘snarling beast’, that Series 8 will die down from the Doctor trilogy but still contain some of the dark themes with a darker Doctor – I mean, the Doctor is really a ghost now, he should have never reached his Fourteenth incarnation. I wonder if Moffat will expand on that point? The Doctor is like a ghost in Series 8.

Characters & Monsters

time-of-the-doctor-tv-trailer-(13) dalekNow, the main characters haven’t really changed from Series 7 – it is still the Doctor and Clara, except that the Doctor has changed actor and incarnation and Danny Pink is to be added to the crew. However, there are more episodes that have two or more monsters than ever before. These stories have small parts for different monsters, almost like extras; the backing cast. For instance, The Time of the Doctor showcased Cybermen and Daleks before the opening credits even rolled. Also, The Day of the Doctor had the Daleks with the Zygons as a sub-plot. I think from the experiences of these last two episodes, we are in for more multi-monster episodes in the future – not just in Capaldi’s first series.

We still don’t know what, maybe who (the Master?), will be the main antagonist for Series 8. Maybe in the last episode the villain will team up with other powerful monsters like the Daleks or Cybermen to create something similar to the alliance in Series 5. Or maybe not as Doctor Who doesn’t tend to go back over things already established, unless you’re Steven Moffat where you go back to an established event and change the outcome completely. But I like it when you think you know what happens and you’re wrong and you’re taken on a turn of events. Also, one thing that has changed from Series 7 to now is the Daleks. From Series 1 through to Series 7, Doctor Who has never had consecutive stories both having Dalek appearances (Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways is one story). Some members of the Whoniverse believe that the Daleks should have a rest for a while. But considering their frequent past appearances, like it or not, the Daleks are going to be in Series 8 somehow…

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe Doctor Who has changed dramatically. Last year we had the following: Eleven and Clara, movie-styled episodes that were split halfway. Going into Series 8 we have the following: Twelve and Clara, 13 episodes that will not be split halfway. But my main point is how the 50th anniversary has changed many aspects of the show. I saved this one to last because I think it’s the most important change: Gallifrey. For the past 50 years the Doctor has been running from Gallifrey. Now, he is running back to his home. But have all these changes been positive or negative? I believe all the changes mentioned have been positive. We now have a full series of Doctor Who – no split – for umpteen months to come, with a possible two-parter return. One thing I am sad about is Matt Smith’s decision to leave. However, I think this is a good time to leave – after the 50th year – and hand over the keys to the TARDIS to an older man who will drive the show on a different narrative. So, I think the regeneration was a positive action for the show. Doctor Who is all about change; it regenerates itself every four-five years. But within the space of a year Doctor Who has twisted itself around to go on a new journey. Thank you, Steven Moffat; here’s to the next 50 years!

Step back in time...

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65 comments
JFrance
JFrance

The series 7 split didn't really bother me and I thought series 7 worked well without 2 parters.         

giddir
giddir

Double-parters are a bit hit or miss tbh. 

Great ones are "The Impossible Astronaut" double-parter, "The Time of Angels" double-parter, "The Pandorica Opens" double-parter, and the "Silence in the Library" double-parter. Bad ones include that dreadful cybermen one in Series 2, the Series 3 finale (though that was a triple-parter), the Sontaran one, and the Silurian one in Series 5.

Planet of the Deaf
Planet of the Deaf

I'm not bothered about 2 parters, it all depends on the story. Many of my least favourite new Who stories have been 2 partners.


The S8 split genuinely didn't bother me. What I wanted was 13 episodes in 2012 and 13 episodes in 2013 PLUS a 50th anniversary special. As BBC finances or production issues or Moff's workload didn't allow this, we ended up with a 13 part S7 split other 2 years. If the series hadn't been split there would have been some very long gaps without any new shows to watch! And S7B WAS like a new series, new companion and titles, new costume for Matt, new TARDIS.


S7B deliberately had lots of clever references to the past, which was entirely fitting for the build up to the 50th. I imagine S8 will look to the future more.


Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

I'm looking forward to the Master's return, though I'm a bit sceptical if they'll be able to find someone better than John Simm.

CallumSimmons
CallumSimmons

I agree and hope that the master will return as the one thing series 7's finale suffered from was the GI as they appeared then they were gone before the climax of the episode had even begun. Make no mistake I thought the whisper men were great while they were around but as soon as grant disappeared into the doctor's time stream they were all gone. I'd like to see a two part finale again as my one nit-pick with day was they never explained how Clara and the Doctor got out of his time stream. Plus I always loved a good two part finale especially the first one of the 11th doctor's era pandorica. 

Benvenfold
Benvenfold

What would make Series 8 perfect for me - No two-parters up until episode 11, (So 11 good strong independent episodes), with a two-part finale like Pandorica/Bang

AztecsDaleksAndCavemen
AztecsDaleksAndCavemen

I think the show needs to drop some of the common tropes/clichés/conventions it's picked up in the last few years. Not because they're bad but because change is good.

WhoPotterVian
WhoPotterVian

The Master simply HAS to be the series 8 villain. His return is long overdue and any longer without him could lave an impact on the series, causing people to start losing interest in the show.

TimeRonin18
TimeRonin18

does anyone know when the Day of the Doctor and time of the Doctor soundtracks are being released

TheOncomingStorm
TheOncomingStorm

Cool article. I agree that no split, 2 parters and 13 episodes is better, but I don't like the whole blockbuster feel very much.

TonySimmons
TonySimmons

Totally agree about one part 45 min episodes. They don't work! Look at Asylum and Victory of the Daleks, they could have been great, but were rushed and ruined. Journey to the Centre of the Tardis was all build up with a rushed easy 'it never happened' ending. Does anyone really understand what those things were that were chasing everyone around? Part of the problem is due to weak writing, but a big part is down to limited time to develop and execute stories and characters. Writers are going for the quick set up, quick solution and unsatisfying ending. What if Genesis of the Daleks was 45 mins, or Evil of the Daleks.. Would we still be talking about them as classics today? Think not. Six 2 parter's and two one part episodes would be best way to plan a season in my view

Americanwhovian
Americanwhovian

I think they should make the episodes an hour again. I think bbca can deal with 1 comercial free hour

The Finn
The Finn

An interesting article. I may not agree on all the points, but still.

shyx111
shyx111

I don't miss two parters and I would sign immediately for a split like S6; other than that, yes the show has changed but it's something that it does normally, well, not in such big style!

Very good article!

floppy_who
floppy_who

An interesting article, however change of this magnitude is not new. Compare Troughton's final season with Pertwee's first. The sudden change in direction stylistically in seasons 11 and 18 (with the latter losing the Delia Derbyshire theme tune- that upset a lot of people) and also the revelations that came out of the 1996 TV movie that many fans rejected at the time.

After 41 years of following the series, it's clear to see that the show is about change- sometimes for the better, sometimes not so well received.

But if it hadn't changed at all or tried different approaches and formats (45 minute length episodes in season 22? It'll never catch on!) it almost certainly wouldn't have made it past 1969.

Basically- que sera sera. Just sit back and enjoy the ride as you can..!

TheEleventhHour
TheEleventhHour

I'm sorry but is it just me who thinks that the Day of the Doctor felt like it had no real story? All stories should have a beginning middle and end, but Day of the Doctor felt like beginning for about 50 minutes then 25 of the climax! I think I'm the only one who disliked it

Polyphase
Polyphase

I agree there should be 2 parters, not only for the extra depth of story and characters but for the cliffhangers :)

Huknar
Huknar

"I mean, the Doctor is really a ghost now, he should have never reached his Fourteenth incarnation. I wonder if Moffat will expand on that point? The Doctor is like a ghost in Series 8" 

I have no idea where you are going with this. I don't agree and I think that whole sentence is a little silly. 

Personally, I don't believe much has changed for the show. The only difference will be a new Doctor and a newer overarching story.





Who is the Doctor
Who is the Doctor

Now that we have a new Doctor, we will expect great things.  Will we get them?  Who knows! But I will always tune in like the fan I am, expecting to be entertained, amazed by the Doctor and his companion.  We will have monsters, excitement, history, space and time, the TARDIS heaving and pitching, great guest stars, old favorites visiting.  In other words, we will have a wonderful 13 episodes of excitement to come.  Now Moffat just needs to deliver!

Meh Meh Meh Meh Meh
Meh Meh Meh Meh Meh

1. Series 7B is my favorite group of episodes. Ever.

2. I dislike multiple-monster stories where most don't serve a purpose.

Galax
Galax

Don't see why everyone finds Series 7B to be "blockbustered" ?... It's just basically Doctor Who : different places, different times, different characters, the Doctor, his companion and his box, traveling through space and time... and that's all. Just because it's made of 8 different stories with great (photoshoped) promotional posters, it has to be like Hollywood ? Nah. To me it was not the same thing than Series 7A...

Also, I don't want two-parters to come back, except for multi-part finales stories. 




sontaran17
sontaran17

Besides from the fact I loved the Blockbuster Style Episodes I agree with everything else said. Well Done! -- SEASON 8 COME AT ME

Liana21
Liana21

One of the things tht I loe of Doctor Who, is its capacity for turn around like a sock and still being the same in the essence. You can change the Doctor, the Companions, the TARDIS console, but when you watch a lot of episodes, you can still feeling the same things.

I really wonder what Sydney Newman would've thought if 50 years ago, someone would've showed him a photo of Matt with his fez and his clumsy smile...

dills18
dills18

Hmph, good article, one point to mention, "Like it or not the daleks will return into series 8 somehow." Yes they will. (one person said they have to use daleks atleast once a series to retain the Dalek license) I'd love if we saw how the Emperor Dalek (love the big boss to return) escaped the timewar, after all thats how the daleks survived the Time War. I dont know how they'd show it but boy would I love the Emperor to return he's just so evil with the Deep, loud tone of voice it has a big impact.



StephenAHayes
StephenAHayes

I agree with most points bar the 45 minute episode. Star Trek The Next Generation and other incarnations managed to pack a good story into 45 minutes. I thought the majority of episodes were of a high standard. I did enjoy the split in series 6 (6 weeks) as opposed to series 7's split of 6 months; that really did annoy me.

antimon_bush
antimon_bush

@Planet of the Deaf  As for two-parters, from my experience, all two-parters so far were either very good or very bad. For example, I really liked Human Nature two parter, Pandorica two-parter, Astronaut two-parter, Library two-parter and Angels two-parter, but I didn't like Rebel flesh two-parter, Daleks in Manhattan two-parter, Rise of Cybermen two parter and RTD finals.











supermoff
supermoff

@WhoPotterVian  I doubt that a further delay of the Master of all things will cause people to start losing interest in the show. He's not exactly that important. Nevertheless, seeing as he's stuck on Gallifrey, and finding Gallifrey is now the arc, he will inevitably soon return. 

gwylock1
gwylock1

@Americanwhovian  Or maybe extend the episodes to an hour fifteen? That way BBCA could have a full hour and a half with adverts


floppy_who
floppy_who

@Polyphase That's the thing I miss most about NuWho- that point just before the programme is due to finish when the heroes are in some dire peril- the camera would do a crash zoom (or something similar) on the peril itself or the shocked/ terrified / bemused look of the protagonists and then the closing music would crash in.

The closest the new run has come to that in my view is the conclusion to The Stolen Earth. It's the only time both me and my wife have shouted "NOOOOOO...!!" at the end of an episode at the sudden realisation that we'd have to wait a whole week to see how the heck it would be resolved...

:-)

Lord of Time
Lord of Time

Moffat does run Sherlock so you can count on a good cliff-hanger!

Amy is Hannibal
Amy is Hannibal

@Galax   It's not, really. Series 7.1 is the "blockbuster" series. Series 7.2 is a meta-reference to the classic series; i.e. a string of standalone stories that focus on a variety of lighter adventures through space and time. Quite fitting for the lead-in to the 50th anniversary, I think.



supermoff
supermoff

@Galax  It was really only "blockbustered" as it was advertised as such (by the production team, Moffat, posters as you say). In reality, the series wasn't that "blockbustered" at all. As you say, it was just normal Doctor Who, with just a few stories focusing on certain genres (though practically all series having some genre-focused episodes). And it was brilliant!

Meh Meh Meh Meh Meh
Meh Meh Meh Meh Meh

Agreed. I find nearly all two-parters to be dull and tedious, especially if both parts take place in the same area/have the same plot. This is why I like Pandorica/Bang and Astronaut/Day, because both episodes are completely recognizable and amazing without their counterpart. When a story gets dragged into two (Rebel Flesh), THEN it becomes a waste.

floppy_who
floppy_who

@Liana21 I wonder if his response would have contained the word "vinegar" (along with a choice few others..)?