I have always been something of a Doctor Who fan, for as far back as I can remember.
Though the Classic Who era technically ended the year after I was born, re-runs on television made it possible to grow up alongside the series — and, in a household so heavily dominated by sci-fi, it firmly embedded itself as a childhood favorite alongside Star Wars, Star Trek, and Stargate.
Despite that, none of the Doctors had every truly felt like they were mine. I never experienced them for the first time alongside other fans, and there was something of an emotional distance to my viewing, despite seeing the episodes week-to-week.
And then the revival happened.
I remember exactly where I was, in the moments before Doctor Who returned to the small screen full time. I was eating dinner with my parents, as quick as humanly possible without giving myself heartburn, right up until I abandoned all pretenses at finishing at the exact moment the theme song rang out.
I sat transfixed over the course of the premiere episode, and something just clicked into place. Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor, alongside Billie Piper as Rose, settled next to my heart as easy as anything, and remained there through the finale. (And, as anyone who has heard me speak of my love for Doctor Who knows, Nine is, and remains, my Doctor, to this very day.)
Over the next handful of years, Doctor Who remained a constant in my life. Particularly amongst my friendship group, when I moved away from home, and went to university. It was event viewing television for my household. No matter what, we made sure that we all sat down together, to watch the Doctor’s exploits and adventures through space and time. Every weekend. Without fail.
Much like Doctor Who extolled the virtues of found family, love, friendship, and caring for one another, it became the symbol of those very feelings within all of us — even after we went out separate ways following out graduation.
For those of us who remained, we made a conscious effort to watch together while we could, even when life conspired against us through later shifts at work, or public transport delays.
When I eventually moved to Cardiff, in order to make it easier to head to work day-to-day, Doctor Who became even more intertwined with my life. Much of the series was filmed there, after all, and it wasn’t unusual to stumble across the set when heading to work. It was a touchstone, of sorts, for my life there, and I couldn’t ever imagine it not being a part of it.
Right up until it happened.
I doubt that I am the only fan who fell off the Doctor Who wagon, and there are likely various reasons for why it might have happened. On my own part, as I kept watching, the Doctor Who I fell in love with seemed to slip further and further away. Whether that was down to how I was growing up, changing, and interacting with media, or a fatigue at some of the treatment of the characters, and a cyclical nature to the storytelling that felt stale, rather than purposeful, my viewing habits shifted.
At first, it was just missing the episodes live. Then I let them pile up. Then I just never got back around to catching up. Until, suddenly, I had no desire to.
Fellow Hypable staffer Danielle Zimmerman has written at length about fandom fatigue, and perhaps it was that, but gradually, Doctor Who became something that was no longer for me. It has taken some time — over the last year or two — to reconcile that, while I may have loved a show at one point, it could eventually morph into something that was no longer geared to my demographic, or even that it just stopped speaking to me in the same way, and that was fine. All shows are not made for all people, and there is nothing wrong with that, but losing Doctor Who — for want of a better phrase — felt strange.
It felt alien.
I wasn’t certain that anything could recapture and rekindle the love I once felt for the show. There were a handful of writers who had dipped in and out since I’d put the show down, but on the whole, I was just uninterested in the stories that the current showrunner had to tell. And then, it was announced that he was stepping down.
Between that, and the inevitable shakeup in the writers’ room, I found myself keeping one eye on proceedings. Perhaps, when the next season premiered, I would check it out. See if the shift in tone might give my interest a jump start. And then — and then — came the announcement that Jodie Whittaker would be the Thirteenth Doctor, and I knew that if there was ever a time to return, it was now.
And thus far, that hunch has been absolutely right. Not only does Whittaker play the Doctor with a life, and charm, that had felt missing for me for so long, but the writing is sharp, clever and so deeply funny — but never at anyone else’s expense. It toes the exact line that I always want from my Doctor Who viewing. Making the fantastical believable, even when it edges ever so close to the ridiculous.
But beyond that, it is using that foundation to build important, emotionally resonant stories from. As evidenced in the third episode, “Rosa.” If I hadn’t been decided by that point, on making a permanent return as a Whovian, that episode sealed the deal.
I never thought I would see the day, where an episode would challenge my top five ranking — which include episodes like “Blink,” “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” — but “Rosa” did exactly that. And with good reason too. Unlike previous episodes, which have, to me, mishandled the conversation of race and white privilege, and balanced that with who the Doctor is, “Rosa” managed it with a sensitivity and deftness that — as Tai Gooden so aptly phrased — set a new standard for the sci-fi series.
What Chris Chibnall, his writers’ room, and the cast of this newest iteration of Doctor Who has managed in such a short amount of time is impossibly perfect. Not only have they created a show that provides the perfect jumping in point for viewers who are entirely new to the Doctor, but they have also given former fans a reason to return.
I may not ever be as immersed as I once was — having, unfortunately, left Wales and Cardiff behind — but I am glad to have Doctor Who back in my life. And to be able to set aside an hour, on a Sunday, to drink a cup of tea from my recently resurfaced TARDIS mug and enjoy watching the Doctor and co’s exploits.
So, if you are a former-Whovian, skeptical over returning to watch the Doctor — and her companions — adventure across space and time, I implore you. There has never been a better time to return to the series. Allow Chibnall, Whittaker, and the team behind Who to delight and surprise you.
You won’t be disappointed.
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