Why it’s OK to Rewrite Doctor Who History

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Guest contributor Mike Falino suggests rewriting past events can be good for the show.


Let me begin by making it known that I have openly and proudly criticized Steven Moffat ever since he became Doctor Who’s showrunner, when it is appropriate. I won’t go into all the criticisms I’ve had in the past, as well as presently, but suffice to say that I’m no ardent defender of his. What really makes my vortex manipulator fluctuate is when criticism is laid down upon him that is unjust, and based on either faulty logic, or simple emotional opinion.

I take, for example, the criticism of how Moffat handled the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor. I thought the episode was exceptional, paying homage to the past, as well as setting the show on a new and exciting course into the future. I have my own criticisms of the special, for example, the fact that the Zygon plot had no real concrete resolution. But I have already accepted that issue and moved on. Why? Because the special was a whole lot of fun, and its good points far out-weighed its bad ones. This leads me to my main point, that the criticisms of Moffat “rewriting” the show’s history are unfounded. I propose that he did not “rewrite” it, as many loud Moffat-haters suggest, but rather, he simply added to it.

The only reason to be upset at the “rewriting” of a show’s past is if you pride yourself on your memorization of those events, those people who hold fast to the smallest details and let any perceived infringement on them ruin their enjoyment of the show. A show stays interesting by evolving. Doctor Who is uniquely suited to allow for its past to evolve, and change its future, all while the present just took place! You can’t think of it as a “rewriting” in the sense that it is “destroying” the past, or “glossing over it”. Rather, you must think of any modifications or changes to the past as a natural progression of the show. I actually get excited when something I’ve held as truth turns out to be incorrect, or just changes and becomes something new. That is the beauty of Doctor Who, and when people treat it as every other show they ignore one of its fundamental properties, that it too is subject to its own propensity to change history.

As a proud card-carrying Geek, I love to pick apart my favorite Sci-Fi shows and make sense of them. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Doctor Who, it’s that it doesn’t work like regular science fiction. Throughout its fifty years continuity has been ignored, rewritten, and interpreted for no other reason that nobody takes it as serious as the fans. And for the most part, modern fans at that. The advent of people nit-picking every out-of-place piece of information has only existed as long as people were able to re-watch their favorite shows in re-runs or on video.

Doctor Who is an example of a show that exists outside these fan-imposed constraints, and to try and shoehorn it into contrived expectations will only lead to unnecessary angst and frustration. It’s a show that is so fanciful and outrageous that you can’t expect it to follow normal conventions, and just because one of the writers, or in this case, the showrunner, changes something you held dear, doesn’t mean he or she has ruined it. Let it go!

I never understand resistance to the show changing. When it changed into an Earth-based spy-style show it got even more popular. When it came back in 2005 it looked and felt completely different from Classic Who, and gained even more fans. The emergence of the love interest in Doctor Who had many longtime fans outraged, but now his relationship with Rose is considered sacred. Now, after the 50th anniversary, people are again angry because the show looks to be changing in tone and scope, but why is that a bad thing? Shouldn’t a show strive to become more than it was, especially one that is fifty years old and has already changed so many times?

To those who are so hung up on how the events of The Day of the Doctor changed the events of The End of Time, I urge you to listen to yourself arguing about the finer points of how a near-immortal time traveler using his bigger-on-the-inside time machine can or can’t change his own past or future. Go ahead, I’ll wait while you go get your degree in temporal studies and gain the credentials to school everyone on how time travel is “supposed” to work. I’m waiting…