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Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary Show Should Ignore the Fans

Posted: 24/09/2013 18:24

Ever since the BBC finally announced their plans for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, all kinds of rumours have been flying. Classic Doctors have been seen apparently protesting their lack of involvement, whilst elsewhere Peter Davison has apparently confirmed that he might be involved after all. Rumours, counter rumours. Stuff flying back and forth, with Steven Moffat's cheerful admission that he's been lying his arse off just adding to the fun.

I've got a list of stuff I'd like to see for the 50th anniversary. Of course I have; I'm a fan, and have been since I was a kid. I've also probably got my hopes up way too high. Like Uma Thurman's joke in Pulp Fiction, if you raise the expectation to unrealistic levels all the final thing can do is disappoint.

Fans. Faithful fans. Loyal fans. The lifeblood of shows, keeping them going through the lean years as well as the award-winning ones. Fans kept Doctor Who alive during its long, long absence from our screens. Fan loyalty brought Veronica Mars back from the dead a few months back. Fans should be respected, fans should be treasured.

Fans should also, whenever they offer an opinion regarding the content of the show or movie series that they love so much, probably be ignored.

I fear that devotees are in a much worse position than the average person in the street to know what's best for a show. Attendees at a recent Star Trek convention voted this year's Star Trek: Into Darkness (for my money one of the most consistently entertaining couple of hours of entertainment that the brand has produced in its entire history and averaging 8/10 from users on IMDB) as the worst film in the whole franchise.

In case you've forgotten, the Star Trek franchise includes Star Trek V.

Either blinded by an allegiance to the past or bedazzled by an overly personalised vision of what the franchise "should" be, the viewpoint of a fan is rarely to be trusted. Simultaneously fiercely conservative ("X,Y and Z just CAN'T happen!") yet oblivious to how alienating their suggested narrative detours would be to new viewers, I'd argue that the hardcore fans of ANY franchise would be the first ones to steer their beloved vehicle straight into a brick wall if anyone were ever fool enough to give them the steering wheel.

As far as Doctor Who goes, that includes me.

My own mental version of the 50th anniversary show, (packed with villains from the Tom Baker era, with a whacking great Paul McGann cameo in the middle), would make me very happy indeed, but what entertains a single fan and what entertains the non-fan masses are very different things. What I want in a show probably isn't what best suits the show going forward. As individuals, we extrapolate a version of the show in our heads based on the things about it that we happen to love the most. The things we connect with.

I adored the show as a kid, though it took me awhile to pluck up the nerve to watch it properly. During the Tom Baker years, my dad would flick the television on to watch Grandstand on a Saturday afternoon, meaning that the always caught the last few minutes of Doctor Who beforehand. The last few minutes, of course, constituting whatever pant-wetting cliffhanger the show had come up with that week.

I didn't hide behind the sofa. I never hid behind the sofa. Hiding behind the sofa is a ridiculous journalistic cliché about the show.

I hid round the corner, which is completely different.

In those early years of my development, Doctor Who to me was basically a series of jump scares. Look, he's drowned! Look, that man's face has come off! Look, underneath his space helmet that monster's got a funny head like a potato! I didn't properly hop on board until the Davison era, more specifically on the 20th anniversary episode The Five Doctors. Funnily enough, that episode is probably the closest point of reference that we've got for this upcoming anniversary special. It was an episode of total fan service, dragging in just about every companion, villain and, yes, Doctor that the audience would be hoping for. Of course, the absence of William Hartnell (because he was dead) and Tom Baker (because he was still trying to distance himself from the show) meant that there were stand ins, replacement actors and spare footage from ditched episodes used to paper over the gaps. For me, it served as rather brilliant crash course in the show, but I think it's safe to say that it isn't the show's finest hour from a storytelling point of view.

Both then and now, there are too many plates to keep spinning to keep the fans happy and craft and engaging storyline. Besides, an awful lot of the fans won't be happy anyway. Odds are, no matter how skilfully showrunner Steven Moffat brings the elements together, there will be a bunch of people whining.

I'll really, really try not to be one of them.

 

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