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Thoughts from the Kitchen

Ruminations on the dear departed Doctor and any possible future he can have

By Jeff Stone

Over the past couple of TSVs, we've seen two fans air their rather pessimistic views on the 'death' of Doctor Who, and the part The New Adventures play in keeping the show alive. Inspired by these, I've decided to chuck in my own two cents' worth.

For starters, I think that the demise of the show happened long before the final episode of Survival. For me, Doctor Who was effectively killed by the 1985 hiatus. Following that, the series was no longer the impressive screen giant it had always been - now, it was a pathetic shadow of its former self, staggering from season to season until the end. The BBC's betrayal of one of their most durable shows is the main reason that Season Twenty-Nine isn't screening now, but there's more to it than that.

Like it or not, Doctor Who is - was - a B-grade sci-fi series. This isn't an insult; on the contrary it's a compliment.

Doctor Who was always at its best when playing out the classic B-grade concepts: alien invasion, megalomaniac villains and machines, outlandish schemes to rule the Universe, and so on. On the rare occasions when it tried to tackle 'heavy' subjects it nearly always failed; The Happiness Patrol, a botched attempt at New Wave SF; and Survival, a purportedly intense character study that was over- padded and downright boring.

That said, I'm not say that every attempt that Doctor Who made to be 'adult' fell flat - look at Ghost Light, for example. What I'm trying to say is that the show's greatest strength was its ability to treat traditional SF concepts with the respect they deserved. Joe Public thinks 'Hey, Doctor Who, that's the show with the Daleks in it', not 'That's the show with Neanderthal butlers and psychic circuses in it.' It's the average viewing audience's view that makes or breaks a series, not the opinions of the fans.

It's my belief that Doctor Who died because it tried to be something it wasn't and the same is true of The New Adventures. They're very good stories, but they're not Doctor Who! I stand with Jessica Smiler on this: Doctor Who isn't Robert Heinlein, it isn't L. Ron Hubbard, it isn't Phillip K. Dick and it certainly isn't William Gibson! What it is, is H. G. Wells, Jules Verne and Theodore Sturgeon - traditional science fiction.

If Doctor Who is ever to return and survive, it has to get back to the values it has lacked since The Caves of Androzani or perhaps Remembrance of the Daleks - the last true Doctor Who story in my opinion. The New Adventures are good perhaps in the way that they show how Doctor Who shouldn't be done - the New Wave elements they contain should remain there.

I earnestly hope that Doctor Who will return, as do all Whovians, but unless we can be assured of seeing a new and improved version of the show we all love, the Doctor should be laid to rest. There is no point in going otherwise - necrophilia is never pleasant.

I welcome any alternate views to the one I've put across.

This item appeared in TSV 31 (November 1992).