In praise of small stories
It’s had some criticism, and there were some clunkers (hello, Kerblam), but I’ve broadly enjoyed this era: an optimistic Doctor, a renewed focus on inclusion and kindness, a family-friendliness that doubtless brought in new kids. Season twelve in particular was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the mystery that The Timeless Children brought back to the character’s origins. The execution could sometimes have been tighter, but it was all good. I’ll follow this show anywhere.
What I wish, though, is that they’d embrace some smaller stories. Classic Who was often structured like a mystery novel: something weird was happening, and the Doctor would have to get to the bottom of what was causing it. Often there were multiple contenders, like potential murderers in an Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes story. The survival of the world didn’t need to be at stake; it could be creepy and self-contained in its own right. The stories could still talk about big topics, but they didn’t need to be bombastic to be effective.
That’s true across a lot of modern reboots. The myriad Star Treks, for example, seem to feel the need to be action-packed movies instead of the idea-led potboilers of the past. I think producers think they need to do this to get past our shorter attention spans, but they’re missing the point: our quality filters are higher than they ever were, and the way to keep our attention is to give us tightly-written, compellingly-acted, humanistically-directed drama. Some of the best modern television - Succession, Severance, Slow Horses - do understand this, but clearly not everyone got the memo.
I’ll absolutely watch, probably multiple times, and I’ll probably love it. But I do wish we’d swap flash back for substance. Maybe I’m just getting old.