So. This season of BBC’s Doctor Who has been a polarizing one, even for us self-proclaimed Whovians. The series’ tone has changed dramatically with the arrival of Peter Capaldi — a man who is quite capable at being the Doctor. To say nothing of the incredibly positive leaps forward the series has taken on a production and directorial level. (It’s so shiny and polished now!) But still — something doesn’t seem quite right. The Doctor and Clara, these stories they’re telling, have not found a balance in the new Doctor’s innate alienness and newly darkened attitude. But maybe the problem isn’t that this Doctor is too alien for this world — maybe it’s that his world is too earthly for him. Maybe he’s outgrown it, and needs to be untethered for awhile. In order to grow up and move on to bigger and better ideas, maybe the burgeoning human race atop Earth over here needs to gestate for a bit on its own, without help from the Doctor. And maybe the best way to do that is to make is next companion not of our planet, either.
It’s no secret that this season of Doctor Who is likely to be its last for Jenna Coleman and Clara. And maybe that’s for the best. The writing this season has been uninspired at best, and Clara’s character has suffered a bit because of it. Once a very strong, competent, independent woman, she is far less than that in these most recent episodes. At times it feels as though the Doctor — or, mayhaps, the writers — are tired of the dynamic and don’t know what to do with her.
So how do you do that? Rethink the formula.
The need for change felt particularly evidenced in the wholly petulant attitude of the Doctor in “Kill the Moon” (which is a whole ‘nother story for another day). Though an episode I found, overall, to be slightly problematic — jeez was the over-the-top abortion allegory really necessary? — the Doctor honed in on one particular sentiment I agree with: humanity has a tendency to be very selfish in its machinations. And so, too, are the viewers of Doctor Who (I mean, sometimes. It happens to all fandoms). The audience needs to be able to relate to the Doctor’s earthly companion, represented on-screen by their metaphorical stand-in, sure.
But is it really necessary, what with the enormity of time and space out there in the whole of the known universe, to keep plucking upstanding ladies of Earth to be taken into his jaunty blue box? Humans have, apparently, spread across the galaxies and the stars. Why not, then, look forward at an alternative human reality? One where, say, a companion from a distant planet, far off in the future, comes in all ghost-of-Christmas-future-y and gives the Doctor someone a bit more outsider-y to push and pull against? All it leaves for the series is, well, endless possibility.
And it just might be what the series needs to help this current Doctor’s iteration find his flow. If we’re leaning into Twelve’s inherent weirdness and utter alien attitude towards mushy-brained humans of Earth, giving the Doctor a human companion not of this earth will buck with his conventional wisdom of the limits of humanity. As it stands, the Doctor finds humans to be idiot mush-brains — not exactly the most charming sentiment, but not wholly without some merit. If the point of this season is so establish and grow Capaldi’s Doctor into his own thing, he must be challenged rather than obligated.
As it stands, the Doctor has been traveling with earthly humans for thousands of years. He has taken for granted humanity’s ability to change and evolve. By replacing his companion with someone outside the Earth’s purview, not only will the Doctor see a different side of people, but so will the audience. The audience, in turn, will be able to see, say, the cautionary tales of our hypothetical future. OR, better yet, they’ll see just how capable and good we all can be, and perhaps inspire the Doctor (and its viewers) to open up their minds a bit.
To say nothing of the fact that, well, it would just be really fun. The possibilities — and the companion’s abilities — would be essentially limitless: these are hypothetical future beings we’re talking about. Not the human of now, but one that is a product of many, many more generational evolutions. In those stories, the series can explore how well humans have or have not grown since their earthly days. With a non-earth human companion, the mental capacity could be expanded (or, heck, maybe on one planet it has wholly regressed: these ideas are free, Steven Moffat. And you’re welcome). And the gadgetry upgraded. Not that this will make them unrelatable — far from it. After all, the more things change, the more they stay the same sometimes, right? Surely the at-times lesson-y nature of Whovian storytelling would be able to understand, appreciate, and convey that, should they want.
Think about it, is all we’re saying. It could bring a whole new outlook and life to the series’ currently stale-seeming ways — and force the humans who watch it to look and think beyond themselves. It’s a whole big universe out there — why not really, truly explore it a little?
For more on who should replace Jenna Louise Coleman, check out Dan Casey’s thoughts on The Dan Cave!