A long time ago, I came up with a word that, just a single word, described the problem with most modern television and, in fact, modern media in general. And I think Doctor Who is a great example of that word.
Before I say the word, I want to briefly mention my history with Doctor Who. My first exposure was in around 2005. I lived in a different town back then, and there was this big library, and it was free to rent DVDs from there, and they had a lot of Doctor Who, mostly the old series but including the complete first season of the new series. So I pretty much discovered both versions at the same time.
And I’m not saying the New Who is bad. I mean I just watched a fucking marathon, and this isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. The thing is the New Who tends to have a lot of interesting individual stories that are just fascinating, but there’s one thing, one little word that keeps fucking things up.
That word is “Introversion.”
Now think about what an “introvert” actually is. It’s a person who is always by themselves and considering their own thoughts and feelings and situations, not really caring much about the outside world or other people, while an “extrovert” is the exact opposite, someone who is outgoing and cares more about what’s out there than what’s in here, and I’m saying these words can also apply to stories.
The Old Who, and most Old TV in general, was very much extroverted. The Doctor never really talked about himself and his companions never really worried about their lives or their homes, not unless they had to. Their minds were always on where they were right now, and what they were doing right then and there. Now that’s not to say that there was never character development or a moral conflict, I mean there were, but it was always introduced as a result of external stimuli, not something that they’re carrying with them every moment of the day.
In the New Who though, pretty much every episode and especially the season-wide story arcs always revolve around the Doctor and how much he cares and how much he regrets his past and about how important his companions and devices are, and yeah there’s still aliens and adventures but it’s like the audience–or at least the writer’s think the audience–finds the moral soul-searching and the personal angst and the “Oh dear I hope my mum is alright” more interesting than getting lost on alien planets or overthrowing tyrannical empires. And that’s what “introversion” means in a nutshell, that whatever is going on in the outside world is of secondary importance to the internal thoughts.
And this isn’t always a bad thing, but it gets fucking tiring.
Like okay, just before “Day of the Doctor” aired, there was this episode where Clara jumped into the Doctor’s personal timestream to save him from a bad guy who had also jumped into the Doctor’s personal timestream, so it was yet another “everything is all about the Doctor, the Doctor is the center of the universe” episode, with a dash of “and this companion is the most important person in the universe because she saved the Doctor,” and my eyes rolled right out of their sockets. I mean, am I the only one who wishes they’d have a companion who is just… a regular person? Like just someone who is glad to be of help, and not someone whose very presence is the single most important thing to ever happen in the entire galaxy?
And then we get to “Day of the Doctor,” and if you haven’t seen the story yet, well, SPOILER WARNING, and if you don’t want it spoiled for you, turn back now. It’s nobody’s fault but your own if you keep watching beyond this point.
Still with me? All right. So basically, “Day of the Doctor” turns out to basically be yet another fucking story about the Time War and how the Doctor is so upset and angry and angsty that he ended it by destroying his entire race. I mean seriously? Seven seasons in and we’re still harping on the fucking Time War? Haven’t we moved beyond that yet? Oh, there is a twist, in that basically the Doctor changes history and ends the Time War in a different way, so he no longer has blood on his hands, and then the story ends with the Doctor announcing that his new quest is to “find Gallifrey.”
And I mean think about it: this is a story that features the fucking Zygons, an alien species that appeared precisely once in the Old Who run and until now had never been seen again, it features Tennant’s Who getting married to Queen Elizabeth, a plan to conquer the world using aliens frozen in paintings… and all of that takes back fucking seat to the Doctor moping about how he’s so sadey-waddey about Gallifrey.
When did this happen? When did all this… soul-searching navel-gazing over-emotional shit become front and center, and people stopped caring about the fantastic worlds outside? Is this like some sort of statement about the world today? Like people’s own thoughts and feelings are so shallow that they have to seek escape from it in watching a time-travelling immortal angst about his past mistakes? Are people seriously so… introverted that they find that more interesting than travelling through space and time?
I guess so, because that’s how everything goes these days. And I seem to be the only person who hates that trend.
Fine. Enjoy your shit, audiences.