ByCraig Patrick Arnott, writer at
I'm currently studying a degree for Film Production and Cinematography.
Craig Patrick Arnott

is a long-running franchise and has been a part of many fans lives since they were young, but is the coming to the end of its journey? The mad Doctor and his blue box have been hitting fans with stories for over 50 years now, and popularity spiked in 2005 when the show returned after a 16-year hiatus. Is time drawing closer to the end of their adventures through space and time? The show is clearly starting to lack in many important areas, and here are the major ones.

The Doctor's Ever Changing Personality

Image Credit: imgur
Image Credit: imgur

With the Doctor acquiring a new style and personality with every regeneration, it is risky playing a new Doctor. Colin Baker knows this all too well, as he only played the Doctor for a single series due to being unpopular with the fans. Since the show's revival, set a bar for many fans as to how the Doctor should be portrayed. This even saw many fans stop watching the show when he departed on New Years Day 2010.

Both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi were met with mixed reactions by fans due to their portrayal of the character. This never swayed the pair to change their character, as they did find ways to make the character their own. However, for many fans they still want to see David Tennant return to the role, as he is considered by many to be the best as the Doctor to date. But, perhaps Number 12 (Capaldi) and his next assistant, Bill, will bring a new dynamic to help rejuvenate the character.

Hooking The Viewers

When the show returned in 2005, it used clever mechanics to help keep viewers hooked. Using nostalgia for veteran fans and exciting plots for new fans, one hook used in the show would be dropping key words in every episode. Either being spoken or appearing as written words, these would end up being key to the finale of their season.

  • Series 1 — Bad Wolf
  • Series 2 — Torchwood
  • Series 3 — Saxon, ("You Are Not Alone")
  • Series 4 — The Medusa Cascade, disappearing bees, lost worlds, the return of Rose Tyler

When Russel T. Davis walked away as series showrunner and Steven Moffat stepped in, Moffat tried a different idea. Instead of a repeating key word played out through the series, he opted to have something appearing in every episode. The most famous being the "Crack in Time."

Image Credit: Pintrest
Image Credit: Pintrest

This was then followed in the next series by a nursery rhyme. As episodes played out, more and more of the rhyme would be revealed, which told the story of the Doctor's death. While these ideas were clever, they never hooked viewers in the same way Davis's words and phrases did. This could be due to how Davis gave viewers a more ambiguous clue, while Moffat opted for a more obvious, anvil-dropping hint.

With episodes no longer offering clues or hints to paint a bigger picture, it is arguable that stories have become weaker and old ideas are playing out again and again. The show needs to return to more cryptic clues over the more obvious ones we have seen of late. Perhaps a return to the key words would reignite the excitement over a series, as it gave fans more to speculate over.

The Assistants

Image Credit: BBC America
Image Credit: BBC America

The "Assistant" is something you expect to see in Doctor Who, but compare each assistant — from Rose Tyler to Clara Oswald — and you notice a decline in their likability. When we first met Rose, we met a girl eager to discover more and to experience new things, but when you get to Clara, we meet someone who behaves like the Doctor and the Tardis owe her a favor through her simple self-entitlement. Clara has essentially been an amalgam of past companions, but with a more unlikable personality. Her story and even her departure can be seen as parallels to past companions.

Clara lost her mother at a young age (much like how Rose lost her father) and she can understand half of what the Doctor is saying (similar to Martha). She is not afraid to put the Doctor in his place (sounds like Donna to me) and her exit can be seen as a reflection of Amy and Rory's departure. Even after she left, Moffat returned to an old idea by only allowing the Doctor to see her, much like how Matt Smith's Doctor saw Amelia/Amy before regenerating.

Image Credit: Rebloggy
Image Credit: Rebloggy

Then we get to the identity of River Song. River Song was an exciting character when first introduced and fans speculated like crazy as to her identity. The fan favorite choice was for her to be the Doctor's wife, which she was revealed to be. However, the part no one was expecting was for her to be the daughter of Amy and Rory. This was a plot twist that was really hit or miss with fans. Many found it to be a lazy way to tie in with an old end. Regardless of this fact, River is a character fans continue to look forward to seeing. She is now simply the "bad girl" that knows how to excite a scene in the show, which is tragic given the build up fan were given.

The assistant is the one feature outside of the Doctor and his Tardis that is part of the iconography that fans expect to see from the series. Perhaps Bill, the next assistant, will revive the love of the companion for many fans. Her retro style and ability to not listen to the Doctor's instructions will help her break away from the style of past assistants such as Rose and Clara.

The Enemies

Image Credit: Inverse
Image Credit: Inverse

Doctor Who seems to be doing a brilliant job of continuously killing off their villains. To date, the Daleks have been "completely" wiped from history several times. The Cybermen are not far behind them on the count. You also begin to lose count of the number of times the Daleks and Cybermen have been upgraded and altered. In fact, the last upgrade the Dalek's received (back in 2010) revealed a new lineup of Daleks, with each consisting of a different color to designate their roles. "Scientist" (orange), "Strategist" (blue), "Drone" (red), "Eternal" (yellow) and "Supreme" (white). While orange, blue, red and white are all obvious due to their names, fans have never been told what the yellow Dalek is actually designed to do with the ambiguous title of "Eternal." Fans are still waiting for an answer, and probably will never receive one. Perhaps the answer will come one day in the form of a season's final episode.

Then we also have the Doctor's nemesis, The Master, who has died a couple of times, one time even sealing the Time Lords and himself in the Time War "forever." Luckily, he did return, playing a fun mystery behind a new character of Missy, who has been one of the highlights behind recent years of Doctor Who. The problem is, fans are never really given the explanations they would expect on how these foes have lived to fight another day. It is almost as if the writers behind the show are not thinking long-term and simply focus on a series at a time.

However, before the hiatus, Doctor Who villains would simply escape to fight another day. It seems to be a current trend in many franchises of killing off villains, but the problem with this approach is it removes the threat level of these characters. When a "bad guy/girl" successfully escapes to fight another day it puts them on par with the "immortality" of the heroes they face.

The Spin-Offs

Image Credit: Tardistopia
Image Credit: Tardistopia

One thing that worked massively in Doctor Who's favor during the reign of Davis was the spin-off shows and . Granted, one of these shows ended due to the tragic loss of Elisabeth Sladen back in 2011, and fans couldn't have been sadder to see the end of their show and the loss of a wonderful actress. However, Torchwood literally burnt out due to their last adventure, Miracle Day.

Torchwood had an amazing ability of going darker than Doctor Who ever could imagine, and tackled stories that at times would leave fans shocked. Children of the Earth was perhaps the apex of the Torchwood adventures and stunned fans in the final episode. But, when Miracle Day followed, fans were left with an adventure that just felt to far from a typical Torchwood storyline. If anything, Miracle Day was a more fitting story for the Doctor himself and was so badly received by fans a new series has never been ordered.

The sadness behind this is, with no spin-off series in effect for years, we have been denied epic moments reuniting the Doctor with past friends. Perhaps the most iconic being when the 10th Doctor and his past companions took down Davros, the Dalek Empire and then flew Earth back home.

While a new spin-off called Class is now airing, it does not hold current links to Doctor Who the way Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures did. We do know that Peter Capaldi will be appearing in the show, but how often and for how long still remains a mystery. The only link the show really has to Doctor who is the location. The school set to be the focus is Coal Hill Academy, a school that has appeared several times during the history of the show.

Perhaps Class will revitalize the spin-offs of Doctor Who, as it does seem to be set for exciting and fast-paced stories. This could then result in a Torchwood revival and allow the Doctor to enjoy adventures once again with old friends like Captain Jack.

The Ratings

When Doctor Who first returned back in 2005 it was a big hit. The first episode "Rose" reached 10.81 million viewers alone. Ratings in general remained pretty good, especially during the time of David Tennant in the lead role. In fact, viewing figures even spiked higher during his final adventures as the Doctor, with his final episode reaching a total of 12.27 million viewers. This was not the highest ratings, as that is held by the Christmas episode "Voyage of the Damned" that reached a whopping 13.31 million viewers in the UK alone. However, these rating do noticeably drop after Tennant's departure.

Christmas Specials have remained among the highest figures for the shows, but now even they have declined greatly. The Christmas Special has always seen numbers between 10–12 million viewers, even during periods of lower ratings. However, the 2015 Christmas Special "The Husbands of River Song" saw an all time low of 7.69 million viewers. The average viewership is now only averaging around 6 million, nearly half of what the show was seeing 10 years ago.

*Note: It's important to point out that ratings in general are falling as a result of alternative viewing methods over TV, such as on-demand, iPlayer and other streaming services, all of which consolidate viewing figures

Image Credit: BBC America
Image Credit: BBC America

Perhaps it is time for the Christmas Specials to take a break, as early Christmas Episodes would play stronger links with the series, such as Donna Noble appearing in "The Runaway Bride" before becoming his assistant a couple of series down the line. Having a break for a couple of years could allow them to come up with new ideas and how to re-link them back to the series.

Will It Be Too Late For Chibnall?

The next series, Series 10, will be the last series with Steven Moffat as the showrunner, with Chris Chibnall set to take over from Series 11. But, could this transition be happening too late? The show is already declining in popularity and Moffat could "pull a Davis" on Chibnall. Before Russel T. Davis left as the showrunner, he went on a mission to eliminate as much Doctor Who iconography as possible.

Image Credit: Tumblr
Image Credit: Tumblr

Now, this may sound crazy to many, but it is true. Russle T. Davis (perhaps not intentionally) did nearly screw Moffat over simply through the writing and how both he and David Tennant left the franchise. Before leaving, Davis wrote stories that tried to end things fans came to expect from the show. One example is how the Daleks and Davros were "destroyed" at the end of Series 4. Luckily, Moffat came up with a way to resurrect the iconic foes to the Doctor in the format of a new Dalek Paradigm.

The Doctor meet the new Daleks
The Doctor meet the new Daleks

Another good example was how Davis tried to leave the show in the final adventure for David Tennant's Doctor in the two-part episode "The End of Time." During this story, the Time Lords themselves became the enemy for the Doctor to defeat. Through their madness they were willing to destroy Earth to free themselves from the Time War. This resulted in the nemesis of the Doctor, The Master, helping save the Earth, but sealing himself and the Time Lords away "forever." Again, Moffat was clever enough to undo both the loss of the Master and the Time Lords.

But, with him creating so many new versions and variations himself, could he also go on a mission to create a blank slate for Chibnall like Davis did to him? If he does, it may result in new incarnations that breath new life into the franchise, or he may leave Chibnall with question left to be answered.

Closing The (Tardis) Door On The Topic

While we are guaranteed both a Series 10 and 11, the future beyond that remains a mystery; not even the Doctor himself has the answer. When Chibnall steps in for Series 11 he has challenges already ahead of him. The show has been slowly losing viewers for years. Originality and staying true to what fans expect to see have also become issues over the last couple of years. If the show does not start to show an increase in interest, it could meet its end soon.

Image Credit: PicGifs
Image Credit: PicGifs

However, that may not necessarily be a bad thing. The show has been cancelled before, and years later brought back stronger than before. Perhaps that is what is required now. For the show to take time off, it would allow fan excitement to return when it comes back years down the line.


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