Both the BBC and I ushered in the the new series of Doctor Who with quite an intense sequence of rituals. The BBC sent the fifty year old franchise on a world tour, gave the revelation of the new Doctor its own TV show and screened the first episode in cinemas with a live feed from Leicester Square (after the episode) containing a Q&A with the Capaldi, Louise-Coleman and Moffat. As for me, I ushered in the Twelfth’s era by playing with my newly acquired sonic screwdriver (I am 23 years old), embarking on a 4 day Doctor Who marathon (taking me and my fellow Whovian from the first episode of the rebooted series to David Tennant’s swan-song) and attending said cinematic screening with my said Whovian friend and his girlfriend. Did I feel like a third wheel? She doesn’t like Doctor Who. I think she was the third wheel…
People refer to watching 12 hours of the same television show as a marathon. It’s a good metaphor. And I’ve thrown it around a lot myself. But it was only after starting the marathon when I realised how appropriate the term is. It was hard. It is genuinely hard to sit in one place and digest 4 years worth of Timelords, London and bow-ties. Arse-numbness, junk-food induced gases, and fatigue are all hurdles of the marathon experience. We were athletes of television, challenging our ability to concentrate and, as peculiar as it might sound, we emerged from that stinking room proud of what we had accomplished and ready for the new season.
And what of the new season? Moffat, once again, has gone for change. Both the title sequence and the TARDIS have had yet another makeover despite the old ones only having half a season. Still, it makes sense because this feels like a very good ‘jumping-in’ point. That is to say, if people have never watched Doctor Who in their lives, now would be a great time to start. The opening of the episode began with Strax (the Victorian-era bound Sontaran) doing a video blog about this strange man called ‘The Doctor’. It was goofy, fun and wonderfully mirthful way of simplifying the science-fiction giant’s intensely complex fifty-year storyline. After all, despite said complexity, it is still a children’s show.
The Doctor himself is great reminder, however, of the fact that, with Doctor Who, what’s new is also old. Capaldi is an old Doctor – not just as an actor, but as a character. He states he is 2,000. Tennant, by contrast, was a little over 900. This strange old/new paradox also becomes central to the plot of the first episode as Clara dwells on the oldness of the new Doctor and the newness of the old Doctor while running around dinosaur-filled Victorian London and tackling clock-work humanoid-robots with lasers. Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey indeed.
Of course, the most important ritual, for both me and the BBC, is remembering what the show is, why it’s important, and why you love it. I’m not sure if the BBC did this (if Moffat addressed the cast and crew on the first day with a Whovian manifesto, a mission statement, or a kind of rousing speech about what Doctor Who means) but I know I have. And for me, the show is about a pacifist super-hero trying to make moral decisions, and teach people, with the power he has been given: the power of time. It’s important because pacifism is such a rare quality in superheroes. Sure, Batman doesn’t kill people. But he has no problem with beating the shit out of them. The Doctor, however, avoids that – as much as he can anyway. And it is a children’s show. And it’s nice to remind children that what’s much more important than being super-strong, or super-fast, or super-attractive is being super-smart, super-modest and super-kind. The Doctor sometimes struggles with those last two – but that’s what makes him human… Or rather, that’s what makes him Timelord.