‘Doctor Who,’ a Time-traveling Classic Re-charms Its Audience

The twelfth season of the cult-classic series “Doctor Who” is finally giving fans the silly space adventures they were missing in season 11, as the new writers and cast begin to settle into their place in the iconic “whovian” universe.

After long-time “Doctor Who” writer Steven Moffat left the show during season 11, the series took a turn down a path it’d never gone before. The new writers tried to take the historical-fiction route, which made the show seem too dramatic for a comedy about quirky space-time adventures. The fans were all too eager to offer their feedback: more aliens!

The show creators answered by bringing back the Master, the Judoon, Cybermen and several other extra-terrestrial villains that the Doctor has been battling since the 60’s. Fans were also treated to a special cameo from John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness in episode five. The flamboyant, immortal time-traveler finds the Doctor’s crew of companions to warn them not to give the lone cyberman what it wants.

Though it’s a bit vague at this point, the new plotline gave Whitaker more opportunity to show the gritty, angsty side of the millenia-old time lord as the knowledge gap between herself and her human companions begins to show itself. It’s refreshing to see some of the straightforward and predictable stories from last season transform into token complexity that “Doctor Who” is known for. 

Part of the complexity comes from the family-like relationship between the Doctor and her companions, which we are only now starting to develop after a full season. Last season’s new set of companions continued their journey with the Doctor across space and time in season 12, though the team dynamic has changed. 

One of the greatest issues of season 11 was the poor characterization of companions Graham O’Brien, Ryan Sinclair and Yasmin Khan. The writers gave Graham the type of witty lines that would normally be given to the Doctor, whilst leaving Whitaker with an overall lack of personality. It felt like the creators gave us a woman Doctor, but then took all of the Doctor’s powerful cleverness and gave it right back to an older man.

It was frustrating to watch, and coming into this season I was worried it would be much of the same. The “Doctor Who” setup is interesting, because the time lord’s ability to “regenerate” and change bodies has allowed the show to continue for nearly six decades. However, if the writing and acting for the character doesn’t remain consistent, it can begin to feel like you’re not watching the Doctor at all.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see Whitaker’s classic character be given much more attention. The overall plots of the episodes have taken on more of the wacky charm of past seasons, and the Doctor has been in the center of it all. Season 12 has taken several giant leaps towards being the energetic sci-fi adventure that fans have been following for years.

Despite a few bumps in the time-vortex as the new writers started developing new characters and plotlines, the drastic improvement from last season has renewed the Whovian’s hopes for the future of the show. The final episode of season 12 will air on BBC on March 1, and can be found on Amazon Video the following day. 

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