Is Doctor Who Too Appealing?

Another year, another series, another round of apocalyptic naysayers crying the imminent end of Doctor Who.  It’s business as usual in 2011.

Christian already told you about Chicago Now’s Matthew Milam earlier this week, who essentially called for the permanent end to the TV series just because he doesn’t like it as much as he used to.  But now another bonkers American (I feel no shame in saying that, being one myself) – Kate Kotler of Bleeding Cool – has jumped on the demise-of-Who bandwagon.  While admitting the most recent episodes have been top-notch, she argues that the BBC’s attempt to broaden the appeal of the show will gradually begin to make it substandard, until it eventually falls off the airwaves altogether from the same lack of love that killed the show in the late 80s…

“While I’m not worried about [Steven] Moffat and [Matt] Smith cocking up the legacy of the Doctor anymore, I am worried that Doctor Who may be about to jump the proverbial shark and then start the slow decline into mediocrity, eventually peetering out into non-existance.”

She may or may not have meant it this way, but I read that as, “I think Doctor Who’s in good hands, except I don’t.”

To back up her point, Kotler uses the new Amy-narrated intro to The Impossible Astronaut that appears in between the pre-credits teaser and the title sequence (which you apparently won’t have seen if you watched the episode in the UK).

“I get why they did it – it is the same reason why much of Series 6 was shot in the United States and it is the same reason why they’ve made the effects flashier and bangier.  It’s to appeal to a broader demographic including non sci-fi fans, women who bailed on the series when David Tennant left and (in particular) Americans who have never before watched Doctor Who.”

Okay… but I still don’t see what’s wrong with that.  “Flashier and bangier” effects aren’t a problem at all when the story’s good like it’s proving to be so far; it’s when they’re the story’s crutch that they become an issue, which arguably hasn’t happened since Matt Smith started Doctorin’ the TARDIS.  And in the UK, Doctor Who already does appeal to non sci-fi fans, and many of the women who almost dropped out post-Tennant gave Smith a chance and loved him.

But that’s beside the point.  What’s the beef with making Doctor Who more accessible?  It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.  Russell T. Davies was responsible for the show’s “Ultimate Regeneration” (to steal the title of the Kasterborous book) that turned the show from a cult classic to a popular phenomenon.  Some fans, myself included, owe their absolute obsession with the Doctor Who as a whole to the new-series’ successful audience-boosting attempts.  And has the story quality suffered, barring much of Series Two?  Go re-watch The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways, Blink, Midnight, The Waters of Mars, A Christmas Carol, and basically all the other episodes made since 2005 and tell me they’re not still ridiculously superb entertainment.

Don’t listen to all the wolf-criers; Doctor Who is a strong as ever!

Patrick Riley


Patrick has just been murdered and is currently seated on the edge of a lawn chair wondering when this Missy person will stop demanding his autograph. He probably can't tweet from the grave, but you should follow him anyway @10PatrickRiley.

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