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Media Essays: A Character Insight: The Thirteenth Doctor

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Written by The Wandering Fox

Before we begin, I want you all to get this is not a hate blog, its not anything hateful to Jodie Whittaker or Chris Chibnall. With that out of the way, we can begin.

Greetings everyone, it's The Wandering Fox here and I’m here to go into depth about a character who has divided a fandom as well as the show she was the main star of, the 13th Doctor of Doctor Who.

For myself, after Jodie was casted as the Doctor, I was interested in how new show runner, Chris Chibnall, would do the 13th Doctor’s adventures. Bear in mind I kinda stopped watching the show after series 8, watched Heaven Sent and Hell Bent, which left me disappointed, before getting a teeny bit bored of a few Series 10 episodes, so while some quit Doctor Who once Jodie came along, I actually began watching it again thanks to her XD

With the Chibnall era gone, I have had the chance to think back on the Doctor and how she was written, and I can say I’m not the biggest fan of the era we had, there was bits from the show I loved, including Resolution, Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror, I liked the idea of a police woman being a companion of the Doctor’s, as well as the idea of a found family for the Doctor, which I felt we haven’t had since Amy and Rory left.

And that's one of the things I’ll be talking about for this post, because it's quite a big thing about the Thirteenth Doctor character I feel wasn’t developed enough with her character and why her character could’ve been a lot better. As I said, this isn’t me hating on Chris and Jodie, yet I do wish there was some improvements.

For the actual positives I have for the character, I like the idea of her being a nice Doctor, which is honestly a welcome thing, nothing against the previous lot, but we haven’t had a “nice” Doctor since the Fifth Doctor. A nice Doctor was a fitting change. Her being younger and a bit more upbeat allowed for her to be like your friend and her letting go of her wandering about her past was quite a admirable thing about her.

13th Doctor variant by The Wandering Fox

Minor nitpick but I wish she switched her costume up a bit, as in maybe burgundy trousers, either a purple or pink coat and maybe a few more t-shirt differences.

We can now get into the juice of it all.

Character arc

I mentioned above but what I liked about the Thirteenth Doctor was she was “nice”. Not a slant against the Doctors between 5 and 13, as those Doctors could be nice but it wasn’t their core trait. But the problem with the Thirteenth Doctor was that she had other traits which didn’t line with her niceness with this being hardly addressed in show, which I think could’ve been interesting to explore. Her morals do flip flop in which she’s against her companions killing someone but is fine doing it herself. With the Doctor having a fam, she wasn’t exactly close to them emotionally, she was nice to them but wouldn’t let them get close to her, which is again a odd thing. The best examples I can give are Graham’s fright of his cancer coming back and she kinda brushes it aside, or Yaz’s feelings for her.

If Chris had been more thoughtful, I think he could’ve done a good character arc addressing this side of the Doctor, and I think it could’ve worked better than the Timeless Children being one for her Doctor, with Sacha Dhawan’s Master being a clever foil for her.

I think her being nice was something she took from the Twelfth Doctor before he regenerated, but if it was all she took from him, it could’ve been good to see how that might not have exactly helped her in the emotional area.

But how would I have improved it? Okay, let's give you guys examples:

Lets say the Doctor was with Yaz or Ryan on an adventure, they get separated on this world with Yaz or Ryan having to overcome obstacles while the Doctor guides them, acting all optimistic, assuring them not to be scared, but her calmness doesn’t help either of them, leaving them hurt and argue with the Doctor once the adventure is over, the Doctor is confused and tries to explain they’re okay though and that’s what matters but there argue the Doctor doesn’t understand the fear they were in, with them both wanting a break from the Doctor, and she’s left deeply saddened and confused by their leaving and questions herself.

And you follow this up with Graham having an adventure with the Doctor, and he knows of the rift between both her and Ryan and Yaz, he hopes to soften things by trying to understand the Doctor, noting how once he had cancer he tried hiding it from his loved ones because he was afraid he’d be burdening them but he realised it wasn’t fair, trying to have the Doctor get that you have to let others in. Graham being the oldest of the companions, he feels that the Doctor has gone through a lot and urges her to be more open hearted. Okay, try and say it like this:

Graham: Doc, I think you and I both know what its like.

Doctor: Like what?

Graham: Like, I look at you and I see it. You’ve been around for a while, and you’ve seen things, you’ve been through things. Stuff like that can affect anyone.

Doctor: Graham, I don’t, how can you know any of that?

Graham: It’s empathy, Doc. Look, what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t let that all that crap affect you. You are nice but you got this thing around you, like you aren’t letting yourself be free.

Doctor: Graham, look, if you have been through what I have, I think its best to keep others a wide birth, is that how you lot say it? Ive lost a lot of people, not just to death, but I’ve been cut off from them, their lives go differently, some simply want their old lives back. I just feel if I don’t-

Graham: Let anyone get close to ya, you’ll be saving yourself from the pain. But that's it, if you don’t let them in you’ll be hurt anyway. Yaz and Ryan, they don’t want to talk to ya. You should make the first step, Doc.

And say once that is done with, you have the Doctor go on solo adventures with Yaz and Ryan, as in the Doctor teams with Yaz to investigate a few break-ins, a episode which has the Doctor undercover as Detective Joan Smith, the Doctor gets to know Yaz better and does things right by her, understanding how she almost ran away from home, but a policewoman convinced her to go back. Finding its a Auton who’s been behind the break ins, it broke away from the hive mind and wants to live, so the Doctor and Yaz help. The Doctor would admit to Yaz she was a runaway and while she does think of wether it was a mistake or not, she has to do right and make things better. Here the rift between them heals.

For her and Ryan, I think the Doctor would take him to the best psychologist in the universe to try and help him get better, with her learning about him and becoming a more stronger figure for him.

Obviously with this, I think I have set it on New Earth, where the world has recovered and gotten better, although there’s still a dark organisation about who are trying to psychologically affect those taking part in the programme to better manipulate them into being empty shells and hide something inside of them, thus we have the Doctor trying to keep Ryan safe and we have a moment in which the Doctor is affected and Ryan saves her. With this done, their relationship is healing.

After this, the Thirteenth Doctor is more open and willing to be talkative with her friends, helping her become more of a emotional Doctor. Yet I think the Doctor would only do one thing in not doing again. Love. As in romantic love. After Rose and River, the Doctor feels she can’t do those again, she knows how it will end. And its why she feels her and Yaz won’t be able to work.

I think this could’ve been a great wide spanning story from the Ninth to the Thirteenth Doctors, as how I see it, the Modern era has been a growing pain story for the Modern Doctors, as the trauma of the Eighth Doctor’s death, the Time War, meeting Rose, losing her, Donna having her memory erased, the Doctor connecting with Amy and Rory but losing them, his relationship with Clara complicated, and how things ended with River, Bill, Nardol, and Missy could’ve been a good point in why the Thirteenth Doctor was scared of being close to her companions again, basically feeling it was more suitable to be a wise leader than a friend, yet the stress this did to her friends had her realise she should be more accepting of them.

Having gone over this, we have to talk about the series arc, this being the Timeless Children. I get what Chris Chibnall was trying with, but I think he should’ve been reigned in. We aren’t getting a resolution to the Timeless Children, we don’t know who the Fugitive Doctor is, Gallifrey is gone again, we’ve had all this story elements and it wasn’t resolved. While I believe the Fugitive Doctor is in between both Troughton and Pertwee, I think she could’ve been another example of how the Doctor was slowly coming apart from her friends and she had to get herself back together.

In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done the Timeless Children for it went nowhere, or I would’ve made it the Master as the Timeless Child because all along he was being used and it would’ve made him more so want to control the Time Lords. With those in mind, what would I have done?

Doctor versus Master

I think the Master could’ve been the perfect enemy for the Thirteenth Doctor and her foil. You have the Doctor open her family back in, while the Master has gone back to his old ways. Obviously I’d canonise the Luminat from Big Finish as the incarnation between Gomez and Dhawan, but for the show I’d have the Master tell the Doctor all that good will Twelve tried to get in Missy died with her, the universe isn’t big enough for two good Time Lords, yet he loved the idea of his own companion. Thats where we get our new River Song character, and that being a young character who becomes the Master’s companion.

Kinda like Sally Armstrong from the Dark Eyes audios, this character would’ve had much potential whether the Doctor or the Master didn’t interfere with her life, but the Master comes in and has her as his companion, making her his puppet and manipulates her into thinking his way, you get the opposite of the Doctor’s fam with the Master and his companion resembling that of a psychological abuse duo. This could’ve been how Ryan might’ve left the TARDIS, maybe by the end of the series 12 Ryan and the Master’s companion have gained feelings for each other but maybe she dies, or she finally breaks free of the Master’s control. Ryan lets her come with him and he begins a whole other life with her.

As for the Timeless Children, I would leave it up to wonder within the universe of Doctor Who whether its true or not, yet the Time Lords do survive here, as while they were almost brainwashed by the Master, they get to live on, and even they are not sure if the Timeless Children are real or not.

This dynamic between the Doctor and the Master might’ve been interesting with how the Doctor feels she wasted her efforts on Missy, and the Master is more hateful to the Doctor because she almost had Missy be good, hence he wants to wreck the Doctor’s ideals.

And such a thing would’ve had the Doctor change her ways with her companions. You see? Because I think what helps make the franchise good is how each Doctor was with their companions, and how they battled the enemies around them, if we had something like this with the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions, they would’ve been better received by the fandom.

With Doctor Who entering its 60th year, and Ncuti Gatwa to take over from David Tennant, with Ruby Sunday as his companion, I hope we have a more stronger dynamic between the Doctor and Ruby.

I hope you all liked this read, everyone.

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