Davies will also have to deal with even more hostility than initially faced in 2005. There’s a strange group within fandom who are hoping that the ‘Woke agenda’ of Chibnall’s approach will be gone when Davies returns, as if they have never read or watched anything he’s written. They presumably don’t remember the threads on Davies’ ‘gay agenda’ on Outpost Gallifrey, or when the simple act of casting a black man in a recurring role in 2005 led to irate posts on right-wing forums. The ‘political correctness gone mad’ buzzwords of yesteryear now mutated into complaints about ‘woke nonsense’. If you’ve read Davies novelisation of ‘Rose’ it’s clear that his approach to Doctor Who now will result in headlines about polluting our children’s minds with ideas of
tolerance, acceptance and compassion woke zealotry. Russell T. Davies isn’t perfect, of course, but like Doctor Who itself, his storytelling is rarely without a political conscience.
One thing worth highlighting, raised initially by Alex Moreland on his blog, is that the show will be co-produced by Bad Wolf productions. This won’t have raised many eyebrows as it’s assumed to be part of the package of bringing in producers Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter. However, as Moreland points out, “changes to the BBC charter means it has to open up in-house properties to bids from external companies to produce them – this is the start of that.”
Either way, Doctor Who is no longer going to be produced entirely in-house by the BBC, and it’s possible that the same forces that complain about ‘wokeness’ in the show have driven the organisation to this point. Beneath the decisions over who gets to run a television programme are reflections of the current political situation, the endless churn of Interesting Times. Given this, then, it’s possibly a case of damage limitation by the BBC: if they have to pick an external company to co-produce, at least Bad Wolf can be relied upon to treat the property with respect and Davies has fiercely defended the corporation in the past.
Davies’ appointment can be interpreted as a conservation measure, both in the wider sphere of politics and regarding the show itself. Fan talk (at least in the circles I’m in) is dissatisfied with Doctor Who, seeing it as a show needing a rest or reinvention. Chibnall’s departure felt like a chance to try someone new, with names like Sally Wainwright and Nida Manzoor mentioned alongside former writers like Jamie Mathieson and Sarah Dollard.
The least positive interpretation of RTD’s return is that, for all its talk of diversity and inclusion, British television has failed to develop anyone new to a position where they could take over Doctor Who. Or even that they have done this, but then potentially ignored them for this role.
What we can be positive about, however, is that Russell T. Davies’ writing is better than ever. January’s It’s a Sin is widely considered his masterpiece, and he’s clearly still fizzing with ideas and passion. He loves Doctor Who, he’s hardly going to take this job just for the money. The hope is that this is a transitional period for the show, the passing from a period of uncertainty to an exciting, unknown future.
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