I think Jodie did a great job in her debut season, but imagine the job she could have done with better material.
The problem with the 13th Doctor is that, ultimately, she is shallow. What are her motivations? What does she fear? What are her conflicts? What is the lie she believes or the truth she won’t accept?
The Doctor is one of the most tragic and tortured heroes in sci-fi, but all hint of that was absent. On any basic level Jodie’s Doctor lacks a ‘character’, in narrative terms.
Let’s be clear – there were things I liked about Series 11, even if my early enthusiasm was not maintained. Visually it was fantastic, and I don’t think any of the episodes were real stinkers. But there were no classics either. And every episode stuck very firmly to the same formula, characterised by poor narrative resolutions and a lack of character progression. This Dalek represents a grave threat to humanity! It literally just beat the army in a fight! What will we do? Oh, we’ll run toward and stick bits of a microwave on it? OK.
Where was the Blink? The Heaven Sent? The Family of Blood? The Listen? The Girl Who Waited? The Vincent and the Doctor? The Flatline? The Turn Left? Just something to mix it up.
Really, the relationship between Ryan and Graham was pretty much the only character development we got, and that’s nowhere near enough – despite Graham being a complete delight throughout the run (who saw that coming – it’s like Donna all over again!). There was never any consequence to anything. Most of the danger felt incidental. I simply cannot believe the series closed with them all just getting into the Tardis and leaving.
Even more annoyingly, there were times it looked like we might actually be going places.
Tim Shaw returned? He’s a shite villain who has not earned this return, but at least now there’s a consequence to the Doctor not seeking vengeance! Maybe that will challenge the Doctor’s compassion and force her to reassess her values? No.
The Doctor’s decided she’s going to kill the Dalek? Oh my god! This is huge! Her morality has limits! Surely this is really going to affect her, and alter how her companions perceive her? No.
Ryan, having lost his grandmother, nearly lost his dad. That wouldn’t have happened if it were not for the Doctor! That’s gonna make him angry, right? And possibly make him think twice about getting back in the Tardis? Nope.
Space Nazi, not Trump and many others just left to walk away… and nothing. No consequences. And let’s not even mention ‘The Timeless Child’…
None of which is meant to romanticise where New Who has fallen short before now.
I’ve been re-watching a lot recently and dear me, Moffat certainly enjoyed changing the dynamic of the series entirely only to throw it all away. The Daleks have forgotten the Doctor! Actually, no. The universe has forgotten the Doctor! Temporarily. The 12th Doctor forgot Clara! For a bit. The Doctor is blind! Although let’s give him magic glasses, and then just restore his sight anyway. The Doctor is dying… again!
At the same time I would kill for some Moffat scripting. I would die for some epic RTD Whoniverse drama. My god I yearn for the days of Smith. Or Tennant. Or Capaldi. Or even Eccleston. The Tardis is a time machine – play with that! Re-watching what we had then has made what we’ve got now all the harder to stomach.
Not that I hated S11 – broadly, I liked it. But was this the weakest New Who series we’ve had? At one stage I was saying it was an improvement over S10 but no, I think I was wrong.
Ultimately S12 needs to make the Doctor the most interesting character again. Jodie needs to be more than just a galactic handy(wo)man. Mix up the formats. Chuck in arc. Bring back some classic Who villains or give us new ones that are actually good. Ultimately take us on a journey again.
We’re all willing you on – let’s do the first female Doctor the justice she totally deserves.