Six Hopes for Doctor Who Series 12
Feature by Cameron Smith.
Over the last few weeks, the Doctor Who hype train has been picking up steam thanks to the drip-feed of exciting announcements. This culminated in the release of the first trailer for Series 12… which was quite short and surprisingly vague. As such, I decided to write about some hopes that I have for the upcoming series. These are based on some of the more important things that need to be improved upon following Series 11, and curated by what we see in the trailer for Series 12.
To start things off, I want to discuss an easy fix…
The Return of the Pre-Titles Scenes
With Series 11, many fans missed the pre-titles scenes that had become a staple since the show was revived in 2005. As much as I like Segun Akinola’s new theme music, it felt very out-of-place right at the start of an episode. The subdued opening notes suit the early seconds of each episode, but the bombastic main chorus definitely does not. Both of these elements would be far better situated after an intriguing, action-packed, or scary pre-titles scene. In the end, I preferred the early minutes of “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” and “Resolution” because they both got straight to the story and omitted the opening titles entirely.
A Companion Retires
Many critics claimed that there were too many companions in Series 11 and, as a result, none of them got much development. However, I think that Graham was easily the most developed character; his motives and depth led him to outshine even the Doctor herself. After getting back to Earth in “Arachnids in the UK,” he chose to continue his travels with the Doctor to help cope with the loss of Grace, and to continue building his relationship with Ryan. After sparing Tzim-Sha’s life at the end of Series 11 and getting Ryan to call him ‘Grandad,’ these goals have been fulfilled. This is why I think it’s time for him to remain in Sheffield.
Some may think that this has already been disproven, due to Graham’s appearance in promotional art for Series 12 and the new trailer. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Instead of the main role that he played in Series 11, he could be reduced to a recurring role. After all, River Song appeared in promotional art and trailers for Series 6 even though she only had a recurring role in that series. After choosing to return home in the first episode, Graham could easily reappear in later episodes that take place on Earth in the present day. I do think it’s possible to balance three companions, I just feel that this is the next logical step in Graham’s character arc.
Some might argue that all three companions should stay and that Series 12 should focus on Yasmin and Ryan. However, if Graham were to stay with the TARDIS for another full series, focusing on the other two companions would make him something of a spare tire. I don’t want him to waste away in the background; I want him to continue to be an important part of each episode he’s in. I believe that having Graham stay in Sheffield and becoming a recurring character is the best way for him to retain his significance, while also giving Yasmin and Ryan the development that they so desperately need.
Regeneration is an exhilarating experience. Each time the Doctor has regenerated in the past, the new incarnation has gone through a period of hyperactivity before they settle into their new personality. The Thirteenth Doctor went through a similar process… but she didn’t seem to settle down. She was perpetually excited throughout Series 11, even when the scene called for a more mellow tone. The best example of this was in “It Takes You Away” – shortly after bidding a sad farewell to the Solitract, the Doctor summarises her emotional experience in three short lines in less than 10 seconds. I hope that this excitement is toned down to appropriate levels in Series 12, so that she feels more genuine.
Whether or not you liked the Doctor’s energetic personality in Series 11, you might be wary about the idea of her personality getting tweaked. Jodie Whittaker is a talented actress and this wouldn’t be the first time that an actor’s portrayal of the Doctor changed after their first series. Matt Smith felt a little reserved as the Eleventh Doctor in Series 5 before getting more comfortable in the role. Peter Capaldi knew exactly what he was doing as the Twelfth Doctor in Series 8, but his character was seriously overhauled to be more comedic in later episodes. If Whittaker continues to portray the Thirteenth Doctor as naturally excited, I’ll be happy with that choice as long as she slows down for more emotional scenes.
From a production standpoint, the most glaring issue was the overuse of close-ups in Series 11. Close-ups are a filmmaking technique used to convey seriousness or importance. The fewer there are, the more effective they are. Too often an actor’s face took up the whole screen in Series 11. In the few moments when a close-up was justified, the significance that would’ve been created was completely spoiled by the exorbitant usage of this shot. Thankfully, Series 12 will feature an entirely new slate of directors. However, since this issue was spread across all the directors in Series 11, it would seem that they were not the source of the problem.
A bizarre trend for modern Doctor Who is the tendency for new showrunners to almost completely ignore UNIT (UNified Intelligence Taskforce) in their first year. After being reintroduced by Russell T. Davies in 2008, they were abandoned by Steven Moffat in 2010. During Moffat’s era, it was Chris Chibnall who brought them back for an episode that he wrote in 2012. Moffat kept them around for a while but then abandoned them again after 2016. Now that Chibnall is the new showrunner, he is yet to reintroduce them properly (unless you count the joke in “Resolution”). This is made even more frustrating as UNIT’s final appearance in “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” saw them infiltrated by the Shoal of the Winter Harmony. UNIT needs to return (hopefully with their classic olive uniforms) and this plot point needs to be addressed.
A Story Arc with a Two-Part Finale
Although Series 11 lacked a proper story arc, the Stenza were set up to become major antagonists. “The Ghost Monument” made it clear that Tzim-Sha wasn’t the only threat that their species posed. The Remnants from that same episode also called the Doctor “the timeless child,” something that even she didn’t understand. The Series 12 trailer has taken this one step further, with the Doctor herself claiming that she could feel something coming for her. Thankfully, Chris Chibnall recently stated that there will be a plot thread running through Series 12. Hopefully it’s the one that I’ve outlined here; if not, picking up UNIT’s story arc would also be a good choice.
In addition, it would be great if this story arc were to culminate in a two-part finale. In Doctor Who, single-episode stories can occasionally suffer from rushed endings, hence the common occurrence of stories spanning more than one episode. For a series finale to be epic and satisfying, it needs to be spread across at least two episodes. Chris Chibnall recently confirmed that Series 12 will have more than one two-part story. I hope that one of these stories covers the final two episodes, so that the series can end on a high note.
Of course, I have other hopes for Series 12, such as the long-awaited return of the Middle Eight during the closing theme music. However, those hopes are simple, not entirely necessary, and certainly don’t need to be discussed at length. The six hopes that I have articulated in this article are the ones I feel most strongly about. I’m aware that some of them may be controversial (one in particular) so I have done my best to convey my reasoning behind each point. Despite Series 11’s shortcomings, I’m excited for Series 12 and I hope this article has improved the outlook of any less-optimistic readers.