TV & Showbiz

‘Doctor Who’ season in review: The Doctor may be on a new path

And despite the show’s fresh focus on diversity, this Doctor’s race has barely been referenced. The episode “Dot and Bubble” implies that one of the very wealthy, very white inhabitants of an attacked planet rejects the Doctor’s help because of his race, but the implications are so subtle that some miss the racial undertones entirely. And the episode “Rogue” is set in a “Bridgerton”-inspired alternate version of 1813 as a lame solution to insert a black Doctor into the midst of Regency England without having to deal with thorny topics like slavery.

The new “Doctor Who” is also a lighter, brighter affair in several ways. For all the sparkling humanity that Gatwa has introduced to a generally more emotionally cautious (read: alien) hero, his Doctor also lacks the ruthlessness and darkness that occasionally emerges in the character, who has been scarred by witnessing every form of genocide and war. There’s a risk that this change in tone is a harbinger of a bigger, more permanent change: Disney may be in the early stages of transforming the BBC show, just as it has done with other IP, such as Star Wars, which grew into an ever-expanding franchise at the expense of the original product.

Russell T Davies, who has returned as the ‘Doctor Who’ showrunner after successfully launching the series’ reboot in 2005, has infused the show with a level of cheesiness and camp that is at odds with the series, including his own previous run. In the second episode of the season, the drag theatricality of the Maestro, played by “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Jinkx Monsoon, gave more cartoonish Cruella de Vil than a menacing god of music, and the song and dance numbers of the season were too “High. School Musical” for a show that often delves into the more sinister corners of the universe.

Occasionally, even individual episodes felt tonally dissonant from start to finish, like “73 Yards,” which started off with a promising horror movie vibe before unraveling with an incomprehensible time-travel paradox plot. And longtime “Doctor Who” writer and showrunner Steven Moffat’s bleak, gritty “Boom,” about a war-torn planet where war is the best capitalist incentive, maintained the highest, most believable stakes of the season. The killer episode was considerably more in line with peak ‘Doctor Who’ than most of the season’s other, more kitschy episodes.

Because, with the exception of ‘Boom’, the series has been given a fresh sheen to even enhance its appearance; more vibrant colors and costumes, livelier lighting design and more expensive CGI that, ironically, offers little more than artificial-looking, mindless antagonists.

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