Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ramblings For September: Doctor Who

So, taking me up on my invitation to tell me what to blog about, Fred asked:

Which old-school Doctor Who characters/villains would you most like to see in the new series and why? (This doesn't necessarily preclude ones we've already seen revived).

Okey-dokey! Well, first of all that parenthetical bit is pretty important, because I think we've seen the two best and most important recurring villains already. I know there are people who are getting heartily sick of Daleks, and I agree that it's entirely possible to over-use them. Once a season might even be too often. But Doctor Who without the Daleks is, is... Well, it's inconceivable! And yes, that word does mean what I think it means. Who wouldn't even be here without the Daleks; it would have been dead in the water in 1963. They are the iconic Doctor Who villain, and of course they'll be back. Repeatedly. And, in my opinion, that's exactly as it should be.

And then there's the Master, who may not go back quite as far, but who has almost as much staying power as the Daleks. I still say that it's an iron-clad rule of the show that you cannot kill the Master, no matter how definitively you appear to, and I have no doubt that he will be back eventually. And I believe that's as it should be, too, because he's a marvelous foil for the Doctor, and because there's still a great deal left to be done with him.

(I'll be just as happy if we don't see the Cybermen again for a while, though. I have nothing against the Cybermen, and I liked the relevant episodes of New Who better than many people did. But they're less scary than the Daleks and less engaging than the Master, and I don't know that there's all that much still to be done with them that can't be done as well or better with more original adversaries.)

As for characters we haven't seen yet on the new series... There was a rumor going around a while back that we were going to see the Ice Warriors returning, and I was actually rather disappointed when that came to nothing. The Ice Warriors were among my favorite villains, I think because, while they were undisguisedly a warrior culture, we did see at least one instance in which they weren't painted as bad guys at all. I like that a lot; it indicates a kind of realism and complexity that was never present with, say, the Sontarans. On the minus, side, though, it might be a bit much to expect viewers in the 21st century to accept the idea of a civilization on Mars, given that we've had robots there fruitlessly hunting for microbes for a while.

Another rumor that was going around prior to season 3 was that the Rani would be showing up again. Now, I love the Rani. She has a sharp mind and an acid wit, and her complete amorality makes a perfect little philosophical triangle out of the Doctor and the Master's familiar good-evil dichotomy. Also, unlike the Master, she is in fact completely sane, which makes her potentially much scarier. But I had seriously mixed feelings about the idea of bringing her back, and I still do, as I think she would require very careful handling and that writing her badly would be infinitely worse than never writing her at all. There's also a danger of making a total joke out of the whole "last of the Time Lords" concept by having tangibly not-dead Time Lords popping up over and over. (By the way, I used to go around saying, only half-jokingly, that if any other Time Lord had survived the war, I was voting for it to be Drax the Cockney Time Lord, who provided the comic relief in "The Armageddon Factor." But because that really would make a joke out of the whole thing, and because it would perhaps be a less funny joke at this point than it might have been earlier in the show, I reluctantly withdraw the suggestion.)

Moving away from Time Lords and bad guys (and Time Lord bad guys), I wouldn't mind seeing the occasional companion re-appearance, a la Sarah Jane. (Not to get too spoilery for season 4, but I can't help thinking about the fact that if, say, anybody wanted to round up the various friends that the Doctor has on Earth, there would be a hell of a lot more of them than we've seen on the new show.) I do have to admit that my desire to see old companions again is purely a self-indulgent fangirlish one, and one that runs up against a whole host of issues, starting with the fact that actors die, age, and move on to other things, and ending with the very real danger of the show getting so self-referential and nostalgic that it alienates new viewers in the process of disappearing up its own ass. I thoroughly agree with Steven Moffatt that it's much more important to invent new characters and new monsters and new adventures than to compulsively revisit the old ones.

However, even admitting that maybe Sarah Jane and K-9 are enough and that it's a bad idea to round up whichever of the Doctor's old companions they can still find the actors for and throw them all into the new show willy-nilly, there is still one solid, unassailable answer to Fred's question. They need to bring back Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, late of UNIT, the man who is indisputably the Doctor's best and oldest human friend. The Brigadier has been in and out of the Doctor's life since his second regeneration, and there is absolutely no reason for that to stop now. I've heard that he's supposed to make an appearance on The Sarah Jane Adventures at some point, which delights me, but not nearly as much as it would delight me to see another reunion between him and the Doctor. Even aside from how fascinating that bit of character interaction would be, well, he's the Brig, and the Brig is impossible not to love. (Oh, and while we're at it, I wouldn't mind seeing his replacement, Brigadier Winfred Bambera from "Battlefield" again, either. Possibly I just have a thing for UNIT brigadiers...)

Um, yeah, there. That enough of an answer for ya? Really, you people should know better than to ask me questions like this...

(Oh, and by the way, I feel compelled to say: I do try to avoid spoiling myself for this show, so if anybody has information, or even rumors, about who actually will be returning in the future, please refrain from mentioning them here. I admit, I'll probably find it impossible to avoid some of them eventually, plus there are so many unfounded rumors that even when I hear the true ones I generally don't believe them. But I do like to at least make the effort. So, if anybody's actually read this far and wants to discuss the subject in the comments, well, consider wild-ass speculation welcome and informed speculation discouraged.)


  1. I agree about the Daleks (but please, not for the 5th or even the 6th series) and especially the Brigadier. I'd like to see how they bring the Master back, but I'd hate to have him surface as often as the Daleks have.
    I am reminded of the ending of the Chief Wiggum spin-off bit where he states he has a feeling that he will be meeting up with "Big Daddy" again and again and again, each and every week.
    My exposure to the classic series is still somewhat limited. Aside from classic villains, most have been one-offs. The Revenge of Zog? I'd like to see the Cybermen return, but maybe as a melding of the Mondas Cybermen and the alternate Earth Cybermen.
    BTW, as I was reading up on doctor who villains, I saw one called The Master of Fiction. He apparently wrote "The Adventures of Captain Jack Harkaway" within the series.

  2. The Master of Fiction was from the episode "The Mind Robber," which is a really, really cool episode in its own surreal way. It's available on DVD; I recommend checking it out.

    And I'd actually rather see the Mondas Cybermen again rather than the alternate universe ones, although that might be deemed too confusing to new series viewers.

  3. I figure a coming together of the two might be more interesting.

  4. Hmm. Could be, if it was handled right...