A long wait for our next appointment with the Doctor

PUBLISHED: 12:30 14 December 2018 | UPDATED: 13:41 14 December 2018

FLAWLESS: Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor in Doctor Who. Image: BBC

FLAWLESS: Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor in Doctor Who. Image: BBC

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Suffering from Brexit burnout? MITCH BENN takes solace in the world of Doctor Who

If, like me, you’re suffering from Brexit Burnout or just so bewildered by the rapidity and randomness of current events, you might find it quite therapeutic to give your aching grey cells a bit of a rest. With that in mind, let’s talk about the thing I always talk about when I’m trying to forget about Brexit...

Doctor Who.

You may have read that after this year’s seasonal special episode (screening on New Year’s Day rather than Christmas Day for a change) that there will be no new season of Doctor Who until 2020, making next year a ‘gap year’. You may also have seen this presented as evidence of how the BBC has lost confidence in the show and that it is, as such, doomed.

Relax.

This isn’t the first time that Doctor Who has taken a bit of time off since it was revived in 2005 (and it’s worth noting, while we’re here, that with more than 13 years on the clock, just this new phase of Doctor Who is already one of the longest running sci-fi shows of all time).

The gap between the just-ended series and the next proposed run (in early 2020) is actually no longer than the gap between this series and its predecessor, which ended in summer 2017, but since that hiatus didn’t leave a whole calendar year Who-less nobody held it up as any sort of cause for alarm. Indeed, the show first took a ‘year out’ back in 2009, when it was at the undisputed height of its post-revival powers and the incumbent Doctor, David Tennant, was being hailed as the most popular since Tom Baker.

This brings me to the only genuine downside to this announcement, the fact that it will be seized upon by the “#notmydoctor” crowd as a sign that they were right, that casting a woman (not just the great Jodie Whittaker, any woman) as the Doctor was a fatal error and that they have been vindicated.

This ‘movement’ (I say movement; careful scrutiny of their social media presence suggests there’s maybe about 12 of them) doesn’t consist purely of calculatedly misogynist bottom feeders, there are a few unconsciously misogynist bottom feeders in there too, but in any event, they’re wrong, they’ve always been wrong and this news only serves to make them wronger.

I’ve enjoyed this new series immensely; in particular I think everyone who said “Bradley Walsh? Seriously?” last year will now be feeling as sheepish as everyone who said “Billie Piper? Seriously?” back in 2004 felt by 2006.

It’s not perfect; there’s a bit too much telling rather than showing (Doctor Who has long relied on the exposition-dump to cover the parts of the plot that the effects budget couldn’t reach) and Jodie’s Doctor is perhaps thus far a bit too adorably perfect; she hasn’t yet exhibited any of the personality flaws that made her immediate predecessors so compelling (Eccleston’s rage, Tennant’s arrogance, Smith’s recklessness and Capaldi’s detachment). I’m sure that’s coming.

Speaking of Peter Capaldi, last weekend I had the honour of working with the man himself on a radio project: the author Neil Gaiman is presenting the Christmas Day edition of With Great Pleasure on BBC Radio 4, in which a guest host chooses some of their favourite bits of writing, and Capaldi and I were among the performers asked to read and enact the chosen pieces.

I was delighted to finally meet Capaldi, if only because it gave me the chance to tell him the story of the time I didn’t meet him...

It was almost exactly five years ago, just before he was about to make his debut as the Doctor in the 2013 Christmas show. I was hurrying through a wintry London, late for a dinner appointment. Suddenly, through the crowd, head down, obviously in a hurry, comes Capaldi, heading straight at me.

At this point I should mention that I was wearing my Tom Baker scarf. It’s a perfect replica of the fourth Doctor’s legendary one, knitted for me by a good friend and instantly identifiable as such.

So here I am, bustling through town with this Doctor Who scarf trailing behind me like some triumphant nerd banner, and here comes Capaldi, the Doctor Elect, looking stressed and pushed for time, marching straight towards me.

His head comes up, his eyes fix upon the scarf, and I can almost hear him think “Oh no... please, NOT NOW...”

And I think to myself: “One day I will say hello to Peter Capaldi, but today is not that day,” and keep walking.

That day, it turns out, was last Saturday. I told Capaldi the story and he said, with immense grace and in that voice: “That was very considerate of you.”

So a year and a bit is no time to wait; in a world going crazy, Doctor Who will always be there for us.

Assuming that by 2020 the BBC hasn’t been sold for parts in a post-Brexit disaster capitalism apocalypse.

DAMN! Nearly made it.

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