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Is Doctor Who History Repeating Itself?

Guest contributor Kyle Taylor chronicles the oddly familiar cycle the show is going through.

We all know the old saying of “history repeats itself”, and to me it seems there is no clearer representation of this than the familiar cycle that Doctor Who is going through at the moment. What cycle is this you ask? Allow me to present to you the ponderings of a man with too much Doctor Who on the mind:

Farewell to the fan favourite

tennant-vs-tbakerFrom 1974 to 1981, Tom Baker not only held the role of the Doctor, he forever left an indelible and unique stamp on it, arguably becoming the favourite incarnation of the time lord for many people. Perhaps due to his unusually long tenure, or to his completely unique take on the character, (or perhaps both) the man in the long scarf and floppy hat would forever leave his image on the world’s view of Doctor Who. With the introduction of a new producer (Jonathan Nathan-Turner) and a new direction for the show, Mr. Baker finally handed over the keys to the TARDIS to a much younger man (the youngest at that time) in the form of Peter Davison.

In the modern era of “Who”, we have a very similar situation. David Tennant, it could be argued, left just as much of an impression with audiences as Tom Baker, despite having held the role for a much shorter period of time. A constant fan favorite in many polls, (and thus the source of much back and forth arguing over his take on the role) Tennant put a new face to the part that connected with fans and sideline viewers alike and at that time was the recognizable face and form of the show to nearly everyone, fan or not. Just like with Tom Baker, the introduction of a new producer (Steven Moffat) saw Tennant hand over the keys of the TARDIS to yet another “youngest to ever take the role” actor in the form of Matt Smith.

So in both era’s we see a fan favourite say goodbye, a new producer step in, and a younger man jump into the role at the same time. I think the Doctor himself would start to pay close attention here..

A new and often debated producer

matt-smith-psycho-moffatOur next bit of history repetition lies with the role of the producer. In 1981 Jonathan Nathan-Turner stepped into the role of producer and oversaw the final season of Tom Baker’s tenure. He was then responsible for the era of Doctor Who that gave us Peter Davison, Colin Baker and finally Sylvester McCoy. Turner is and was a source of much debate and contention. While he did help bring the show to a wider audience (he actively sought out American audiences and travelled to conventions in the states quite often) he also takes a lot of blame for the poorer portions of the show’s final leg. Even in midst of his time on the show fans were often speculating if what he was doing was best for Doctor Who.

In our current place in time, Steven Moffat has seen (I think) an equal amount of criticism for his running of the show. Moffat has also, and even more successfully, sought out and attained a larger audience for Doctor Who, and I think it is fair to say it has been a bigger hit during his time than ever before. Like Nathan-Turner he started his run by introducing a much younger actor to the role, and filled up the TARDIS with more companions than previously done. (for Davison it was Adric, Nyssa and Tegan. For Smith it was Amy Pond, Rory and River Song) The complaints surrounding Moffat’s run thus far run the gamut from sexism to over complicated story arcs. The actual issues aren’t important here, just the point that both of these producers have had fans fiercely divided.

Two different producers in two different time periods, both coming in after the show’s most popular Doctor to date, both bringing in young blood to the role, and both drawing a wave of criticism. Curious…

The new young man

series5thedoctorPeter Davison was quite a change from Tom Baker. Not only was he actually younger, he very much looked younger. Baby-faced with blonde hair and a kind, if a little exasperated, demeanor, he was the polar opposite of the very alien 4th Doctor. Davison’s Doctor was still quirky, still the smartest man in the room, but he was now equipped with a boyish charm and a desire to move away from the more dangerous situations.

In our current section of the time-space continuum, Matt Smith offered much of the same fresh take on the role. Younger than Tennant, and even Davison, the 11th Doctor had a similar inexhaustible energy like his predecessor, but replaced the occasional melancholy and deep guilt, with an infectious love for all things around him and an irrepressible excitement. Like Davison, he was stepping into big shoes, and was far younger than many would have anticipated, but nonetheless embodied all the familiar aspects of the Doctor, while providing a fresh take of his own.

The “Darker” Doctor arrives

cbaker-capaldiHere is where I think the timelines come closest together, and hopefully end up straying the furthest apart.

Both Davison and Smith gave their all for 3 years and then decided to hang up the long coats. Both Nathan-Turner and Moffat decided to go for something a bit different in their replacements for the Doctor. One, as we know, did not go the way it was planned.

Colin Baker stepped into the role of the Doctor with every intention of taking the role back to the old days. His Doctor was to be darker, less predictable, less friendly. In many ways he achieved this, giving us a grumpy, slightly holier-than thou Doctor who nearly choked his companion to death in his first episode. Sadly, Colin’s tenure was marred by all kinds of nonsense: A terrible costume choice, inconsistent writing, a hiatus forced by the BBC, and eventually a practically non-existent regeneration. The show had a few highlights in his time there, but the possibility of an edgier and more alien Doctor was never allowed to be fully realized.

Now, here we stand on the precipice of a new period for the show, which feels remarkably like the promises the Colin Baker era hoped to fulfill. We have a new Doctor who will be taking the role in a darker, and less people friendly direction. (and who, like Colin Baker, has previously appeared in the show in a different role!) We are saying goodbye the boy faced younger man with boundless enthusiasm, and hello to the patriarch of the TARDIS with the serious face.

Conclusion

Is history really repeating itself? Are we heading into an era of disappointment like we saw with the Colin Baker/Nathan-Turner years? Personally, I say no. Peter Capaldi already has the advantage of no Technicolor dreamcoat to undermine his performance, and a production team who has mapped out their season with what I assume is a high level of precision. What I think we are about to see is the correction of a cycle we already went through. If some better decisions had been made back in 1984, perhaps we would have seen 4 or 5 years of Colin Baker’s Doctor, and a very different view on his time there. I hope, and do strongly believe, we are now finally getting the transition that was meant to happen back then, but with better special effects, a better production team, and now a swarm of rabid fans eagerly waiting to devour each episode. Perhaps the pent up aggression of our former timeline will now be satiated. Bring it on, 12th Doctor!

Step back in time...

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168 comments
The Finn
The Finn

"The history book on the shelf/Is always repeating itself"

JonathanEvanStern
JonathanEvanStern

There is also the added benefit of Moffet not trying to make us hate The Doctor by having him strangle Clara.

Mercy Reborn2
Mercy Reborn2

I think if the show keeps growing then it wont go down

Mercy Reborn2
Mercy Reborn2

i am not sure but if you have so many doctors then you are bound to have some that are similar, the show is riding high at the moment and things are different now, than they were when the show went down. I am sure that it will go on for a bit longer maybe ten or so years.

microbat98
microbat98

A few things missed here. Both Capaldi and C. Baker arrived after huge celebrations consisting of multi Doctor stories. At the time, Five was supposed to be the thirteenth incarnation near his end, like Eleven, which is why he was saying things like 'Is this death?' and the regeneration was more violent than usual, with dangerous after effects. Both Five and Eleven recently lost their longest companions, Tegan and Amy, and got new companions that have only just got used to the Doctor before he changes, Peri and Clara.

There are others, but I have forgotten them. The biggest deviding factor seems to be that Davison's final story is considered one of the best, if not the best, of all time, and Smith's final story has many fans conflicted; and C. Baker's first story is considered as one of the worst, if not the worst, of all time, whereas Capaldi's first is reported to be amazing from people with early viewings.

 Notsosmartguy Agent of C.L.A.R.A.
Notsosmartguy Agent of C.L.A.R.A.

Moffat has proven himself to be a great showrunner and I'm sure he'll pick a great successor should he decide to step down. As for.the 12th Doctor, he's Peter freaking Capaldi!!!!!!! We'll be fine :-) Whatever happens I feel doctor who's future is very secure (even if the fandom will continue to whine and moan about the show not being exactly how they want it).

Polyphase
Polyphase

I cannot see any similarities between Tom and David I'm afraid, Tom was the most alien and David the most human. David is more like Peters doctor in my books so no I don't think it's repeating itself at all :)

HohenheimOL
HohenheimOL

Sure, Moffat's doing the same thing JNT did - but Moffat has the added benefit of hindsight. JNT crashed and burned because he went way too far way too quickly with introducing the darker elements, which prompted the BBC to start interfering with the show, which in turn made the overall quality suffer. 


Moffat, however, has in my opinion been far more tactful in his edgification of the Doctor. Moffat really excels at making very dark stories with just enough hope and levity to make it all go down easy and still feel Who-ish. I think he's well aware what happened with the classic series, and like Davies before him I think he's smart enough to not do anything too reckless. Will there be some early installment weirdness and a few writing fumbles? Undoubtedly. But as far as I'm concerned, I think the 12th doctor's tenure is in safe hands.

Awqwapwnics
Awqwapwnics

No, trust me- Capaldi is a lifelong fan of the show who has had PLENTY of time to plot out his vision of the Doctor. And there are no more tinsel sets and rubbery monsters, either.

The_Eternal_Dalek
The_Eternal_Dalek

Unfortunately history is repeating itself as it is always doomed to. Our only hope is that the comparison is only a temporary "coincidence".


There have been so many events that could be linked and connected up. There's even one you missed, the controller of BBC One pulling a stunt with the broadcasting schedule to make the producer and the show look bad (which did us out of a series in both 1985 and 2012/13).

DrunkenDalek
DrunkenDalek

May I ask why everyone is saying 14th doctor being more like McCoy, surely this would be the 13th? I know I will get countless, the numbering of the doctors doesn't matter but I'm just a tad confuzzeled?

gunslinger19
gunslinger19

very interesting, wonder if we'll be getting a more manipulative, cunning 14th doctor aswell

ClaireAbraham
ClaireAbraham

I think the comparisons you have observed are interesting, and very much worth noting. I was thinking much the same thing myself. There are definite parallels between the transition from Baker to Davison and from Tennant to Smith. Throw in Davison to C. Baker, remembering that Colin played a peripheral character before becoming the Doctor, and the parallels get a bit eerie. (Davison and Smith also both reigned over major multi-doctor anniversary specials! Creepy!)


I would like to suggest - or hope - that this is an opportunity for history to rewrite itself for a happier ending, as Moffat so often likes to do. While I don't like Moffat's Who as much as I liked Davies', I do think that it is, in general, a much better show than Classic Who was under Davison. The effects are better, the writing is crisper, and, most importantly, Moffat has done a superb job of INCREASING global interest in the program. The BBC isn't going to short-change it or sabotage it like they did in the 80s. Capaldi may be meaner and darker than Smith was, but he's not wearing a hideous clown suit and we can assume he's not going to begin his tenure by trying to murder his assistant. If BBC supports the show and allows it to be a quality, highly prized commodity, this may be the point at which the parallels diverge and the show thrives on the new changes rather than being buried by them. 


The big, friendly reset button. It's actually something I do NOT like about Moffat's Who, because nearly every climactic episode he's written uses it, but... he's the guy with the big screw-what-happened-before-this-is-my-who-now-and-I'll-rewrite-history-if-I-feel-like-it tendencies. In this particular case, I am hoping that he will continue that particular trend and sail on through this parallel as a victor.

ajl117
ajl117

I've been having these thoughts too strangely! Also, both peter davison and smith had a new tardis redesign in their final series!

SeventhProfessor
SeventhProfessor

Assuming the trend continues, a McCoy-like 14th Doctor played by Aneurin Barnard or Maggie Smith would be great

treker68
treker68

try 10 = 5,  11 = 2,  13 = 3

 1, 2 and 3 were original characterizations 4 onward were amalgamations of the original 3 plus elements of each's own vision of the character.  6 was part 1 and 3 and a little on Colin's take on the character.  13 is all about 1 and 3.

DamianChristie
DamianChristie

@microbat98 Oh dear, the rubbish "Morbius Doctors" theory again! Davison was the Doctor's fifth incarnation, not the 13th!!! By that logic, what does that make Capaldi - the 22nd Doctor!?! And why then all the fuss in The Time of the Doctor that he has run out of regenerations?

Con in Sydney
Con in Sydney

I would dispute the argument that many fans are conflicted. More like a noisy few who always find fault. I suspect if the internet existed then there would have been some churlish criticisms about Davison's final episode. Although my memory of it concerns Peri cradling the Fifth Doctor as he lay dying.

Sharaz_Jek
Sharaz_Jek

@microbat98 Where do you get Five being the thirteenth incarnation from? In the Five Doctors, he specifically says that he is the 4th regeneration to which #1 replies "So there are 5 of me now?"

TheCapaldiMasterplan
TheCapaldiMasterplan

@The_Eternal_Dalek That's not entirely true though. Series 7 being split was rumoured to be for financial reasons which, given all the other cost-cutting measures the BBC have and are implementing, looks to be true.

TheIdleIdol
TheIdleIdol

Twelfth, unless you're including the War Doctor in your count (which most people, including Moffat and the BBC, do not). That'd take it to Thirteenth. The only way of reaching the conclusion that he's the Fourteenth is if you take into consideration Tennant's half-regeneration, but that would be plain incorrect - he used a "packet" or portion of his regeneration energy, but remained the Tenth Doctor. I presume the error is down to people equating "regeneration" to "incarnation", but Meta-Ten and the War Doctor prove the exceptions. False-Ten/Meta-Ten stayed in his current incarnation despite regenerating, and the War Doctor used a regeneration but didn't consider his incarnation as being "The Doctor".

stevebrule42069
stevebrule42069

12th! TWELFTH DOCTOR. please don't make this any more confusing

TheCapaldiMasterplan
TheCapaldiMasterplan

@ClaireAbraham 'The big, friendly reset button. It's actually something I do NOT like about Moffat's Who, because nearly every climactic episode he's written uses it' To be fair, so did RTD's.



NumberNine
NumberNine

@treker68 Do you mean 12? Or are you saying 13 because of War? In which case 10 would be 11 and 11 would be 12.

microbat98
microbat98

I've never heard that theory before. In fact, I'd forgotten all about Morbius. And watch your tongue.

The_Eternal_Dalek
The_Eternal_Dalek

@TheCapaldiMasterplan @The_Eternal_Dalek  I would believe that if it wasn't for Danny Cohen's press release.


Needless to say his explanation was nothing short of insulting towards Steven Moffat, basically saying he was incapable of handling two jobs at once and that he must be a dreadful father as well since he clearly takes no time off the shows.


Insult a man's work all you want, but when you start making assumptions about his personal life you've gone too far. As per usual it's a new controller trying to get himself noticed at the BBC, not that commissioning that awful singing show hadn't done that already...

The_Eternal_Dalek
The_Eternal_Dalek

@TheIdleIdol  The second half of the Tenth Doctor's life was a new incarnation, as the Eleventh Doctor would later confirm in The Time of the Doctor. Still the same Doctor and same face, but it was a whole regeneration and knocked him to the twelfth incarnation.

Warisfiller
Warisfiller

@TheIdleIdol That's why hate the War Doctor he screwed everything just so Moff could have his own special Doctor and be the one who dealt with the regeneration limit. Plus he was a bad character.

microbat98
microbat98

He means the one after Capaldi; the Thirteenth. Not Twelfth.

microbat98
microbat98

No, Thirteenth. He's talking about the one after Capaldi. Twelve=Six; Thirteen;Seven.

microbat98
microbat98

Only Last of the Time Lords. Every Moffat finale has had a reset button to take everything back, which is also something I'm tiring of, whereas, while Davies repeated every finale but made them bigger, he only used the reset button once to take back time.

treker68
treker68

@NumberNine @treker68 nope 13 because John Hurt said  "At least for the moment I was the Doctor again" it only takes a moment.  Also in Day of the Doctor the Time Lords said "all 12 no all 13"  I believe whats on screen raather that whats said in interviews articles and speculation

bringmeknitting
bringmeknitting

@microbat98 At risk of starting the tiresome debate again, RTD was the KING of the magic button. There was a reset in Parting of the Ways, Doomsday, The Christmas Invasion, LOTTL, Journey's End... and that's just the ones off the top of my head. Repeating every finale isn't necessarily made better by being bigger. Midnight is a one-set episode with only a handful of characters and it's brilliant. I remember like yesterday everyone moaning about RTD's overuse of deus ex machina. I love both eras incidentally, in case this sounds like RTD bashing, it's not meant as such :)



microbat98
microbat98

On screen, War comes before Nine, so if you're using numbering Ten is Eleven, Eleven is Twelve and Twelve is Thirteen. There isn't one instance on screen where Eleven is still Eleven and Twelve is Thirteen. If Eleven regenerates into Thirteen, where does Twelve fit in?

NumberNine
NumberNine

Why would you call Capaldi 13 but still call Matt 11 and call David 10? That makes zero sense.

ClaireAbraham
ClaireAbraham

@bringmeknitting @microbat98 By "reset button" I mean going back in time and making it so that the circumstances that caused the conflict never happened in the first place. That did not take place in Parting of the Ways, Doomsday, The Christmas Invasion, or Journey's End.  It did happen in Last of the Time Lords. It also happened in The Pandorica Opens/Big Bang, The Wedding of River Song, and The Day of the Doctor.


(The only episode of these that I didn't actually enjoy that much was The Wedding of River Song. This is not meant as a Moffat bash.)

microbat98
microbat98

I hate the bigger every year finales. WHAt gave you the impression that I liked them?

Give me one example. Moffat reset time in every finale, the only time Davies did was in Last of the Time Lords. If you can give me an example otherwise, I'll accept it

I also don't know what gives you the impression that I prefer Davies to Moffat.

microbat98
microbat98

I hate the bigger every year finales. WHAt gave you the impression that I liked them?

Give me one example. Moffat reset time in every finale, the only time Davies did was in Last of the Time Lords. If you can give me an example otherwise, I'll accept it

I also don't know what gives you the impression that I prefer Davies to Moffat.

treker68
treker68

@microbat98 12 doesn't cause Smith and Moffat can't count or forgot. But Capaldi based on what was transmitted on screen is 13

treker68
treker68

@NumberNine for one none of the Doctor's refered to themselves as a number.  Additionally the TimeLord General in Day of the Doctor refered to the Doctors and I quote "All 13".  Also John Hurt said "At least for a moment I was the Doctor again"  it on,ly takes a moment.  I believe what is actually on scteen.  Not in interviews with Producers or writers.  If I  believed that then the writer of Silver Nemesis said in the extras on the DVD that the answer to Doctor Who is he is God.  So Capaldi based upon screen evidence is 13.










microbat98
microbat98

You didn't answer my question; who would Twelve be? On screen, Capaldi is Twelve.

NumberNine
NumberNine

Are you even reading my response? I'm not arguing that Capaldi isn't 13. You're making yourself look rather clueless