Monday, June 17Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Doctor Who?

Ruby Rogers discusses the decline of BBC’s ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Sherlock’

“Doctor who?” – the famous question, that has been asked by almost every character on the BBC’s favourite family sci-fi drama, has suddenly gained new meaning for me. I, like many other people my age, remember vividly when the Doctor returned to our screens in 2005, in the form of the leather-jacket-wearing, more-intense-less-eccentric Christopher Eccleston. My brother and I watched it every week without fail for years, and, when it wasn’t on, we’d spend countless hours re-watching previous episodes, playing with my brother’s TARDIS set or running around the garden pretending to be aliens. Then, the question “Doctor who?” was nothing more than a plot device, a question to which the answer was simply ‘the (italics) Doctor’, because that said enough.

But after watching the Christmas special, the only answer I have to the question “Doctor who?” is ‘I don’t know’. Because the whole episode made the Doctor almost obsolete in his own TV show.

The storyline, a weak parody of Superman at best, would have made sense had the Doctor been removed from it completely. The Doctor is defined as a time-travelling alien, and yet the only two substantial incidences of time travel did very little, if anything, to further the plot. The lazy superhero storyline overshadowed, at least for me, the real threat of the alien invaders, the details of which I had forgotten by the time the credits started rolling. The Doctor did not save the planet, the ‘Ghost’ did. The Doctor wasn’t needed.

I will be the first to admit that I stopped religiously watching ‘Doctor Who’ after Matt Smith’s first season as the eleventh Doctor. My interest these days is restricted to the odd episode and the Christmas specials. And although I don’t necessarily like the most recent two Doctors (and always will be a diehard fan of David Tennant’s Doctor), it isn’t their portrayals of my beloved Doctor that turned me off the show – it’s the poor writing, showcased perfectly in this most recent episode.

And it’s not just ‘Doctor Who’ that has gone this way. ‘Sherlock’ too, at least for me, has lost its bite. The New Year’s Day episode this year was convoluted, forgettable and at times downright outrageous. John seemed to find himself made useless and semi-replaced by Mary as Sherlock’s right-hand. And where was the good old simple crime solving? Is it not enough just to have Sherlock outwit everyone around him?

So I want to make an appeal to Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Bring back the truly scary aliens – the weeping angels, the gas-mask zombies, the Silence – and bring back the Sherlock who solves a mystery based only on how someone’s nails were chipped. Bring back the simple and effective storylines and do away with these disasters that you’ve been making us sit through.