Tuesday, 4 June 2013

New New New New Doctor

When it was announced in 2008 that David Tennant was leaving Doctor Who I was upset. I didn't sit around moping or claiming I'd never watch the show again but I did think it was the beginning of the end for Doctor Who's mega popularity. I didn't think any other actor would be able to generate the interest and adoration that Tennant had managed with his combination of good looks, good acting and good scripts.

Matt Smith has proven me wrong. He's been mostly as popular despite not seeming to be quite as good an actor or being quite as good looking. The show becoming a larger presence on US television has doubtless helped him. Smith has been the face of the show during a huge push into an incredibly important TV market. Imagine how astronomical Tennant's popularity would have become if he'd stuck around for that. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Where Smith's been let down is in the scripts. He's not been given the broad range of things to do that Tennant was. The reason for that is Steven Moffat. Yes, I'm blaming him again but I'm not doing it for the sake of it. He really has let Smith down. His time as showrunner has been characterised by supposedly clever paradoxical plots, uninteresting personalities and, most recently, the movie poster approach.

All are shallow and fail to give actors, be they regulars or guest stars, anything worthwhile to do. They don't give audiences much to get excited about either. Russell T Davies (mostly) understood what viewers wanted. That was drama featuring likeable characters with some humour and references to the past tossed in for good measure. He gave us something that could be enjoyed in forty-five minutes on a Saturday afternoon and then forgotten about, but with enough depth for obsessive fans (like those who write blogs on the subject for example) to go back and analyse them over and over again.

Moffat doesn't write drama. He seems incapable of it. He writes comedy with Big Epic Moments inserted into them. Because that’s his idea of drama. It's an approach that has meant Matt Smith has had very little chance to showcase what acting talent he has, instead having to trot out wearisome quips and catchphrases, occasionally breaking the monotony with a bit of shouting to show that he's an Angry Doctor.

Which, to get back to the point, is why I'm not terribly fussed that he's going. I've not been given a reason to care about his character. Truth be told I’m more interested in the possibility an incoming Twelfth Doctor presents for a clean start.

It's impossible to predict who'll be cast as the new Doctor. The people that audition don't have their names revealed during the casting process. Which is fair enough really. It only becomes the concern of the viewers once someone's been cast.

It's interesting to note that the BBC has stated that they won't be casting anyone based on race or gender. Once again the tease of a female Doctor rears its head (although in a distinctly more subtle way than JNT could ever have managed). Personally I don't think they'll do it. Jenna Louise Coleman has been confirmed for the 2014 series and I think the BBC will be keen to stick with the established setup of a male and a female lead. It doesn't strike me as a particularly Moffatian move either. He seems to understand the show enough to know his approach to writing women wouldn't lend itself to a female Doctor.

I'd quite like a forty-something black Doctor. It would be something new for the show, and considering the broadly liberal undertone it's had since 2005 I think it's time it happened. I imagine the likelihood of a black Doctor is higher than the likelihood of a female Doctor, mainly because Moffat can cast a black dude while sticking to his confirmed "the Doctor should be an older gentleman" preference. Hard to cast a woman as an older gentleman, isn't it?

A few years ago I liked the idea of Richard Ayoade playing the Doctor. I've gone off that idea over time. I now like the idea of Paterson Joseph playing the part. He’ll turn fifty next year, which places him snugly into Moff’s preferred age range for the part. He's a good actor and comes across as very supportive of the show when quizzed on it. Whoever's cast will need his level of exuberance to put on a brave face with Moffat's writing.

Something tells me Joseph's casting is unlikely though. He was open about the fact that he auditioned to be the Eleventh Doctor, and was a tabloid fave for the part at the time. I think such a high profile loss of the role last time it was up for grabs will make him look like a second choice should he be cast now. Which is a shame, because I think he’d be good in the part.

I expect an announcement sometime this year that the next series will be Moffat’s last. An RTD-style year of specials in 2015 may be a part of his leaving schedule but it’s not something I’d bank on. I've a feeling (based only on the fact that Moffat’s been doing the job for a good few years now) new executive producer Brian Minchin has been brought on board to learn the ropes for a year and then take over as showrunner. Considering Moffat's recent form the sooner he goes the better.