If you were a Matt Smith fan who stopped watching Doctor Who in 2013, the Season 10 finale is probably all you need to watch before things potentially start getting good again. The tenth season of Doctor Who will mark Peter Capaldi’s last run as the titular Time Lord and showrunner Steven Moffat’s last turn at the Who helm. Season 11 is around the corner. The 13th Doctor is on the way. And If Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor was your Doctor back when you first boarded the Time Lord-loving bandwagon, it’s now time for you to rejoin the frenzy.
You know who you are, as I, my friend, was one of you. And I’m here to tell you why, exactly, you should start paying attention, once again, to this lovable, timey-wimey mess of a show. You and I strolled into the Doctor Who fandom circa 2010, maybe not bolstering the show’s ratings (which have been slowly declining over time) but definitely widening its cult reach and the amount of yelling that went on about it online. Older, long-suffering fans were still crying about the loss of David Tennant’s 10th Doctor (“I don’t want to go”), and in we came — gleeful, often American, and drawn in by the promise of lighthearted sci-fi silliness with a touch of social awareness.
Steven Moffat, the writer of such iconic Who episodes as “The Girl in the Fireplace” and “Blink,” was the newly minted showrunner. Life was good, fish fingers and custard were all the rage, bow ties were cool, and the 11th Doctor had floppy hair, puppy dog eyes, and a sweet smile.
Then, three years later, Smith left, and so did we. Don’t deny it. The mass exodus started after the show’s 50th anniversary episode, “Day of the Doctor.” The episode broke records for viewership and, on top of that, the BBC claimed “the special set a record as the most popular TV event in the history of Tumblr, with over 14 million views on the Doctor Who Tumblr page.”
Then, viewership took a sharp dive. Ratings got so bad that by 2015, writer Mark Gatiss was, perhaps, protesting too much about the “insane and iniquitous” television ratings system. At the time, Doctor Who was seeing its worst ratings in 10 years, with fewer than 5 million viewers tuning in for each episode.
No matter the reason or the rhyme, it’s undeniable that certain Doctor Who fans trickled away around the time Capaldi came onto the scene. Whether you were tired of Moffat as a writer, the way the show treated female characters, or the various other complaints fans had at the time (and, granted, still have), the fandom suddenly wasn’t the juggernaut it had come to be after the 2010 renaissance.
A lot of people will blame that on Capaldi. While some will argue that he’s actually been the best Doctor in a while and was failed by the writers more than his own personality or Capaldi’s delivery, that’s rarely enough of an argument to sway 11th Doctor-lovers. They joined this crazy train for a 26-year-old who flailed about and swung wildly from the hyperactivity of a toddler to the bone-tired ruminations of a 1,000-year-old alien. There was little doubt an ancient soul lived inside that young body.
Then came Capaldi; fantastic, furious, undeniably alien Capaldi.
After the 11th Doctor’s warmth, the 12th Doctor’s sharp edges were a lot to take in. The writing was already considered by a lot of fans to be falling apart — though a lot of that came from fans who still, to this day, consider Russell T. Davies’ run alongside Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant the best years Who has ever had — and such an abrupt change in the Doctor’s age and temperament was too much.
But Capaldi’s time as the Doctor is waning as Season 10 of Doctor Who wraps up. And, honestly, as a person who fell off the Doctor Who train with the rest of you guys, Capaldi’s grown on me this season. I took a chance and dove in with the promise of Pearl Mackie’s Bill Potts and I wasn’t disappointed. The 12th Doctor has become a kinder Time Lord, with the writers and Capaldi putting in an obvious effort to make the character an empathetic, genuinely likable being.
He is making an obvious attempt at being more human.
But, now, he’s leaving. The 13th Doctor, who has yet to be announced, is on the way. And Capaldi’s regeneration is expected to be the longest in the show’s history. No matter your feelings about the 12th Doctor, maybe give him a shot on his way out.
And if you’re still not vibing with him, then, hey, that’s the only episode you have to sit through before the Doctor gets his (or her) new face. The next Doctor, lucky number 13, is rumored by an unidentified “source” at the BBC to be younger, hotter, and more relevant to a “female and gay male” audience, whatever that means…
Maybe Who will make a comeback after all.
The Doctor Who Season 10 finale, “The Doctor Falls,” will air this Saturday, July 1 at 9 p.m. Eastern on BBC and BBC America.