Ever since the revamp of Doctor Who by Russell T. Davies made the good Doctor one of the runaway success stories of the early 21st century, viewership has grown by leaps and bounds. Starting with Christopher Eccleston, and exploding with David Tennant’s tenure as number 10 (interesting trend there), and now reaching hitherto unknown heights with Matt Smith, Doctor Who has posted huge numbers which only look to go bigger with the upcoming season, much of which is said to take place in America, which should only serve to bring it even deeper into the dens of Star Trek and Star Wars holdouts who decry Who as more fantasy.
One of the aspects of the show that has attracted the most attention, and accolades, has been the occasional revisiting of characters and concepts from the old version of the show. In its zeal to display its cleverness, however, they have ignored some of the best concepts, and unanswered questions, the show has had in many seasons with these…
Jenny, The Doctor’s Daughter
Well, let’s just get this one out of the way right up front. In her one and only appearance, Jenny sets up the Doctor for one of his most startling revelations. He had once been a Husband and Father! Presumably they (his family) are all now dead, and we are left to wonder why. Was it before the Time War that has been alluded to but never shown? Was it previous to our first encounter with the Doctor in 1963? Are we now saying that the original Doctor’s companion Susan’s referring to the good Doc as “Grandfather” was more than an affectation? All of these questions were brought up by the episode and never addressed beyond that!
Jenny, for those who didn’t see it, was created by stealing some of the Doctor’s DNA and mixing it into a sort of generic “clone slush” for lack of a better word and producing a newly minted young adult woman who was almost half Time Lord. We say “almost” because she didn’t regenerate when shot. The Doctor, for reasons that are never really made clear, leaves her behind on the planet on which she was created. Minutes later she suddenly comes back to life, steals a ship and rockets out into the cosmos to have adventures. Except….
She hasn’t even been mentioned since then. Companions have come and gone, the entire Universe has been saved more than once, the Doctor has regenerated, and not a peep from Jenny. Part of Jenny’s “programming” by the machine that created her was how to be an intensely athletic and aggressive fighter. Think about that combo for a second. A pretty young girl, highly trained, literally from birth, aggressive, ambitious, smart as a whip, able to bring herself back to life by as-yet-unknown means, loose in the Universe and looking for fun and adventure. The BBC has given Sarah Jane Smith, K-9, and Torchwood their own series, yet we don’t even get a second shot of Jenny. Why?
Lady Christina De Souza
Introduced in the special “Planet of the Dead”, Lady Cristina brought something into the Doctor’s world that he had never really had before. She was a strong female character that enjoyed the thrills of the Doctor’s life every bit as much as he does. Clever and quick to take charge, Lady Christina was more than a match for the Doctor’s bluff and bravado, keeping right up with him verbally at least until the language got beyond her. One gets the unmistakable impression that given a few hundred years of catch-up she could become the Doctor’s equal in every important respect. Think of it: a companion who not only could and would talk back when called upon so to do, but could actually be right.
Parallels were drawn between Lord and Lady, as it were, what with the Doctor having stolen his Tardis originally for self-enlightenment and De Souza evidently doing much the same thing with the items she “liberates”. Perhaps having had her travel with him would have been a bit much, but much like Jenny, we last see Lady Christina on the run, in this case in a flying London double-decker bus, on the search for freedom and adventure. As fans we need to see more of this exciting and vibrant character.
Son of Mine
At the end of the episode “Family of Blood”, the one where the Doctor hides as human “John Smith” to avoid the aforementioned family, we see that he has trapped Son of Mine on a pole and dressed him as a scarecrow, complete with mask. We’ll let that sink in for those who haven’t seen it. He left an alien tied to a pole in the middle of the English countryside, dressed as a scarecrow, for ANYONE to find! Or for that matter, to eventually escape and wreak havoc once again.
This was, even for a renegade Time Lord who runs around the Universe righting wrongs on a whim, incredibly irresponsible behavior. Never mind the fact that in order to avoid having to do to the Family of Blood what he ended up doing anyway he had led them to British soil in the first place, getting quite a few innocent people killed. He leaves this…”creature” in some sort of stasis, on a wooden pole and just…walks…away! This just cannot be the end of this story, and frankly the wrap-up is long overdue.
Another character from a special episode, in this case “The Next Doctor”. The Doctor (Tennant) meets a man in 1800s London calling himself the Doctor. Over the course of the story we find that this man had been ambushed by the Cybermen and lost his family. By means of some sort of information storage system gone wrong he is given background on the Doctor and this, combined with his grief over the loss of his family, convinced him he was the Doctor. By the time we encounter him he has acquired an assistant, Rosita, more or less a cross between Rose and Martha, a “sonic screwdriver” (really just an ordinary screwdriver which, he says, makes a noise when struck against a door. Thus it is sonic), and a Tardis (just a hot air balloon) and he is pursuing a creature through the streets of London.
The real Doctor figures this all out by around halfway through the show, and helps Jackson recover his memories. The audience has figured it out probably a moment or two before the Doctor did, and we find ourselves rooting for it to turn out that this fellow really is a future iteration of the Doc. Why? He’s a hoot! He really seems to enjoy his duties as the Doctor, and has a great companion in Rosita. Like all the truly great Doctors past he quickly learns to adapt to and with what he has to hand (witness the screwdriver) and is almost infinitely resourceful. The period clothing he wears perfectly reflects the eccentricities of the Time Lord as well, as one can easily picture the outfit on any number of other Doctors. So what that he’s just a human? We want more adventures of this clever man.
Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor
This is the one that is probably going to be controversial. For those who don’t know, Paul McGann played the Doctor on film one time only, in the ill-fated Fox TV movie. The movie did not achieve great success in the ratings, nor with critics, nor with fans. There was a great deal of discussion before the renewed series began as to whether the TV movie was going to be considered canon or ignored completely. Bravely, Russell T. Davies decided to keep the continuity as it was and referred to Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor.
In the years since the movie, Paul has earned a great deal more respect than he immediately got. There have been more Doctor Who audio adventures and original novels about his characterization than any other Doctor to date. Many fans have come to see that the movie may have stunk, but he was actually quite good, and it’s a damned shame we didn’t get to see him develop. And then there’s the time war… See, somewhere between the movie and the beginning of the new series, the Time Lords and most of the Daleks were wiped out, apparently due to the Doctor’s machinations. He has referred to himself as a soldier in the time war as well. Throughout the new series we have heard hints and bits and pieces about the war, but never seen it. The assumption is that Paul McGann was the Doctor during the war and regenerated to Eccleston in the aftermath. The war is the thing that most defines the Doctor nowadays, and we need to see it. McGann deserves it.