GeekPlanetOnline’s Editor-in-chief, Matt Dillon, is a man of many passions - although most of them involve a joystick. In this semi-regular column, he shares his thoughts on life, love and the pursuit of video games (and occasionally other things).
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE DOCTOR WHO SEASON 10 FINALE!
After a suitably impressive and bombastic finale, the dust is settling on season ten of Doctor Who – or season thirty-seven, depending on your point of view – and across the internet one can hear an almost deafening cacophony of cheers and jeering as what seems like everybody in Britain runs to their keyboard to express their opinions. I’m not complaining about this, of course; not only is shouting into the void part and parcel of any fandom these days, but it genuinely makes me smile that a show that I think so fondly of inspires that much passion in the people who watch it; Doctor Who really is a British institution, and that’s fabulous.
As ever, what’s more interesting than the opinions themselves – people very rarely seem to react to Doctor Who with genuine indifference, so the reviews tend to either be rants or rave with very little in between – is how those opinions are divided between classic Whovians and those who have only been watching since the show returned in 2005. As my good friend of mine put it: “[People are complaining that] yesterday’s episode of Doctor Who has forever killed the Master. Have people never WATCHED this show?!” And yes, I laughed; the idea that the Master (or Missy, or whatever she’ll call herself in the future) has disappeared forever is as absurd as the insistence that the Daleks were extinct during the revamp’s first season. This is Doctor Who that we’re talking about, after all; the villains always come back, especially if the current showrunner needs a shocking plot twist. I’ve seen equally embittered comments about the Twelfth Doctor stubbornly holding back his regeneration, as if we haven’t seen examples of the Doctor doing this as far back as his fifth incarnation (or arguably his third, especially if you read some of the old spin-off novels).
But although I laughed at the joke, I didn’t laugh at the comments that prompted it; instead, it got me thinking about whether this now twelve year old divide between “Classic Who” and “New Who” divide is just another example of the often ingrained gatekeeping that plagues geek circles and makes newcomers feel unwelcome. The friend of mine who made the joke was not mocking New Who fandom – he’s not that sort of person, and frankly he needs little inspiration to come up with a wry gag, which is probably why he’s a writer – but plenty have and plenty are still, and as much as it’s natural to be irritated by fans who have no knowledge of a show’s canon, but when that canon is as long-running, contradictory and often plain nonsensical as Doctor Who’s it seems not only unkind to expect somebody to sit down and catch up on twenty-six seasons of variable-quality television but patently absurd.
Besides, New Who fans have it better than we ever did; if anything we should be envious. For a start, being a Whovian is cool now – as is, for some bizarre and inexplicable reason, the word “Whovian” – which makes it a lot easier to actually be a fan; it’s now ridiculously easy to find birthday cards, wrapping paper, action figures and lunchboxes with the show’s logo and characters on them, perhaps the easiest it’s been since the 1970s. Secondly, it’s almost impossible to miss the show when it’s on air, thanks to DVR technology, catch-up TV services, iPlayer, DVDs, Blu Rays, iTunes downloads and so on. No more missing part four of that Zygon story because Nan wants to watch Corrie! There’s also a Christmas special every year; what more could you want?
And that, perhaps, is the crux of so many older fans’ ire; there’s almost a feeling of “I had to suffer, so why shouldn’t you?”, and that’s sad. When I was at school, getting burst lips and black eyes because I preferred to watch a 25 year-old TV show on VHS than football or Top of the Pops, I remember wishing that somebody would come to my defence, and I’m certain a lot of the people who shake their fists at the youth over the internet today had similar experiences themselves. A shame, then, that they’ve decided to become bullies themselves, rather than an voice of reassurance and experience. If they’re irritated by anyone, perhaps it should be Steven Moffat himself; it’s he, after all, that’s left Chris Chibnall with a humdinger of a pit to write himself out of if ever he wants to bring Missy back. With any luck, when (and it’s almost certainly “when” rather than “if”!) he does it’ll be with a better explanation than “I’m indestructible, the whole universe knows that!”, a line which is proof, if any were needed, that not everything about Classic Who deserves remembering…