Doctor Who premiere


The “pre-show” was full of cringing awfulness that I had to keep muted, and I honestly felt sorry for BBC America, because they clearly have nothing else going for them right now. Seriously, after 13 days of showing nothing but Doctor Who reruns, they’re going into a two-day Star Trek maration, followed by a day of Planet Earth, two days of X-Files, and another day of Star Trek, and next week more of the same; do they even have any programming?

As for the episode itself, the publicity robbed all drama from the spoiler of Spoiler. It does at least suggest that they’re going for a more classic full-time-companions season, which is nice. I liked the performances, and I’ll tentatively give the story a B, even if they had to cheat a bit to give her a real “Doctor trick”. Whittaker carried the role, which is what really matters.

I recorded it, so whatever “extra footage” they show in the after-show special, I’ll see later; I can’t handle more cringe. What really struck me was that BBC is going all-in, but not all-out. I’m not sure I can really explain what I mean by that; it just feels off.

Okay

Let’s see if I can explain it. The BBC is betting everything on revitalizing their brand as pro-women. Witness the tag lines for this Doctor Who season: “Galaxy of Women”, “The Past, Present, and Future is Female”, “It’s About Time”. It’s a conspicuous theme across their programming: they’re Getting Woke.

But the DW promotion feels low-budget and low-effort compared to previous seasons, like they’re not sure this is going to revive the franchise (and more importantly, the merch sales). The pre-show special was full of unknown actors and girl power, telling not showing. Bonus middle finger for having a half-dozen fangirls help fix the host’s remote control with their sonic screwdrivers.

I didn’t see any theaters putting the first episode on the big screen. I didn’t see a bunch of teaser mini-episodes. I didn’t see a special with previous Who actors brought out to celebrate the changing of the guard. It looks to me like the promoters are concentrating on “rah! rah! teh wymmins!“, not “this will be the best damn Who we can make”. The BBC wants us to believe, but do they believe?

I did see the announcement of a limited-edition Barbie (which is actually a decent likeness, unlike the other figures I’ve seen announced of her).

Now, admittedly, too much teaser-ing can backfire. Remember this line from Capaldi’s teaser:

“I’m the Doctor. I’ve lived for over 2,000 years. I’ve made many mistakes, and it’s about time that I did something about that.”

They never even tried to live up to this promise. Hell, last season was a chronicle of suicide attempts, and his best moments were playing off of River Song.

The actual episode, unlike the way it was marketed, was made by people who believe. The Doctor gets a solid foundation for a new personality and style. Each companion gets more character development than Bill Potts got all season. The Monster Of The Week was just deadly enough to take seriously, but not enough to take seriously, if you know what I mean; Whittaker nicely carries off the attitude of “even in my current state, I can spot a loser and mock him for it”.

As long as they don’t immediately follow this up with something written and directed by junior interns, I’m cautiously optimistic.


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