How I learned to stop worrying and love Brutalism

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like Brutalist buildings. I think they’re eyesores and blights upon the urban landscape. I would hate to work or learn in a Brutalist building, let alone live in one. I’m actually a frothing architectural reactionary who thinks nothing built after 1930 is worth the (cheap) material it was built from, and that the colonisation of our cities by Brutalist concrete monstrosities, and the accompanying destruction of priceless architectural heritage, was a heinous crime.

I don’t need to give a lecture on the ills of Brutalism, which are plain enough. Not only are Brutalist buildings ugly, they’re designed to be ugly. Or, rather, they’re designed to eschew any and all notions of beauty and aesthetic appeal in favour of pure functionality. Which, really, is the same thing as being designed to be ugly. Beauty is elitist and oppressive, you see, and by rejecting conventional norms of beauty we reject elitist, oppressive bourgeois society. By tearing down the spires and arches and ornate façades from the past and replacing them with featureless concrete blocks, we create a just new society atop the ashes of the oppressive old, where none are beautiful or ugly, rich or poor, gentle or common, great or small; where all are equal, and all the same.

Brutalism, then, is not just ugly, but deliberately anti-beauty. It is designed to reduce the built environment to the lowest common denominator, levelling down the physical world we live in just as we level down the human world itself. Brutalist buildings are also depersonifying in the way egalitarian ideology is: their monumental proportions make the individual feel minute and insignificant, except as one tiny, indistinct cog among millions in an enormous, inhuman social machine. Brutalist buildings, therefore, are erected as physical symbols of the brave new world; visual egalitarianism.

Which is all very well, but such high-minded ideals don’t spare much sympathy for the people who actually have to live and work in these drab concrete eyesores. No one should be surprised by the revelation that the physical world around us affects our mood, our productivity, and even our mental health. Sunlight, warmth, greenery, pretty buildings and other people make us happy. Grey skies and cold, grey surroundings devoid of humanity make us anxious and downcast. Few people like living and working in cold, grey, concrete environments. The proliferation of Brutalist buildings in the 1960s and 1970s was an instance of building for ideology rather than for people.

So much for what’s wrong with Brutalism. And yet—and yet—there’s a small part of me which can’t help but admire Brutalist architecture, in all its cold, nihilistic ugliness. No, I will never think Brutalist buildings are pretty, but no one could deny they’re impressive. Brutalism isn’t supposed to be pretty, but it’s designed to impress and to awe, with its gigantic proportions, its stark, straight lines and geometric shapes, and its overpowering cold, barren greyness. When you approach a Brutalist building, you feel increasingly diminished as the sheer, bleak façade towers over you. When you are inside one, you are awed by the dimensions, which are exaggerated by the ostentatious lack of any feature or ornament whatsoever. Brutalism is an aesthetic experience designed to dominate the senses.

And this is by no means a characteristic unique to Brutalism. Many of the great buildings of the past were also constructed to create an awesome impression. What were the great European cathedrals but edifices and spaces designed to make the believer feel small and supine before the divine majesty of God? What was the feudal lord’s towering castle on the hill but the Brutalist eyesore of its day, designed, in part, to intimidate and awe the oppressed local peasantry? And we don’t think of the Tower of London or St Peter’s Basilica as anything other than priceless artefacts of our historical heritage.

And while Brutalist buildings may not be pretty (in the sense of Instagrammable), if you squint really hard and tilt your head a bit and look at them in just the right light, they do, I’ll admit, have a certain avant garde glamour to them, in a sci-fi, Ayn Randian sort of way. You could compare Brutalism, for example, to Vaporwave (or its forerunner, Surrealism), which is to art what Brutalism is to architecture. No one thinks Vaporwave art is pretty, but, with its faux-nostalgic imagery, hyper-saturated pastels and incongruous Roman busts, it has its own weird, evocative allure that has nothing to do with conventional notions of beauty.

In the same way, Brutalism’s stark shapes, hard lines and bare surfaces exercise the aesthetic sensors of the brain. Not in a pleasing, endorphin-producing way, but it exercises them nonetheless. If sufficiently open and receptive to aesthetic experiences other than the pretty, pleasing kind, people are drawn to the visual impression created by Brutalism in the same way they’re drawn to Vaporwave, or Black Metal music, or skydiving, or very spicy food, or whisky. Our senses and our bodies are not made to enjoy these things, but once we overcome our instinctive repulsion to them, we can enjoy the experience of exciting our senses with things they instinctively reject.

And for my part, at least, it’s also hard not to admire an architectural style propagated so boldly in the service of its guiding philosophy, whatever one might think of that philosophy, over other relevant concerns such as aesthetic appeal and fitness for human habitation. It’s hard not to admire buildings which were, in part, designed as physical symbols of such a bold and ambitious social philosophy. One can appreciate and admire the impressive intellectual edifices crafted by Nietzsche, Marx, Plato, Stirner and Rand despite being justifiably repulsed by those thinkers’ worldviews.

So, on balance, if I could, would I knock down all the Brutalist eyesores that blot our cities? If it meant replacing them with the kinds of beautiful buildings that were themselves invariably demolished to make space for the new concrete horrors in the 1960s and 1970s, then I would. Little satisfies more than putting right an old wrong.

But, let’s face it, they’re not going to be replaced by beautiful Victorian train stations and Georgian pubs, but, if possible, by even blander, less interesting buildings that blend seamlessly into the rest of the featureless, unexciting modern urban landscape. Brutalist buildings, at least, have the decency to be offensive and ugly, if they’re not going to be pretty. I think I would rather a building that is proudly, shamelessly ugly than one that, although it tries to avoid being ugly, still can’t bring itself to be pretty. The former is something to be looked at, to be reviled or admired, depending on your taste. The latter won’t even be looked at, or thought about at all. It’s just there. Brutalism, at least, is not that.

What if Series 11 sucks?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want Series 11 to suck. Maybe, by the tone of everything I’ve written about Chris Chibnall, Series 11 and the Thirteenth Doctor so far, you might be under the impression that I’d be privately happy if Series 11 crashed and burned. Only then, you might think I might be thinking, will Doctor Who’s powers that be realise their folly and put Doctor Who right. Nope. I don’t want Series 11 to suck. I don’t even think it will suck. I think there’s every chance it will be a great, roaring success. But I think there’s equally a chance that it could suck. A bit like Brexit, the thing could go either way, and it’s really difficult, at this point, to predict which way.

The key thing is Chris Chibnall’s apparent willingness to be bold. There’s no more conspicuous evidence of this than his decision to regenerate Peter Capaldi into Jodie Whittaker, but most recently we’ve learned that Chibnall had cast out all of Moffat’s people and brought in an entirely new batch of people to write, direct, produce and set to music Doctor Who. Even before the sex of the Thirteenth Doctor had been revealed, we knew that Chibnall was seriously toying with radical ideas to shake up Doctor Who’s format (before settling for probably the least interesting possibility of a series of ten single episode stories). If nothing else, this tells us that the person in whose vision Series 11 will be molded wants to do Doctor Who differently to how it’s been done, at the very least, in recent memory. That means being bold.

Boldness is good. Boldness is the opposite of timidity, predictability and staleness. Boldness is the opposite of boring. If there’s something Doctor Who should never be, it’s stale and predictable and boring. Doctor Who is supposed to be the antidote to staleness in television. It’s supposed to be bold and daring and it’s supposed to set the imagination aflame and do something radically different from the usual bland diet of undifferentiated soap operas and detective dramas. If a show about an immortal alien who can go anywhere in time and space isn’t going to be bold, then what exactly is the point of it?

To be candid, if Chris Chibnall really is trying to make a clean break from what Doctor Who has been for the last thirteen years successively under Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat and blaze an exciting new direction for the show, then I’m broadly in support of the Chris Chibnall “project” in boldness. I think he has the right idea in this respect, because it really has come time for Doctor Who to reinvent itself.

I adored Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who, but I’m not an average member of the audience. Under Moffat, the show was steadily losing viewers and increasingly becoming a cult fandom. Simply put, people had become bored with Doctor Who, bored of seeing the same thing every week. Bored of the bloody Daleks all the time. The characters may change every couple of years, but the show basically stays the same, and had stayed basically the same since it returned to the screen with what was then a new lick of paint in 2005. Steven Moffat did a lot differently from Russell T Davies, but the Doctor Who he made was still basically the same show that Davies made, and an average member of the audience, the valorised “casual viewer”, who didn’t know who Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat were, wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Davies’ Doctor Who and Moffat’s Doctor Who.

In Moffat’s final years, he seemed to recognise that the general audience was growing bored of Doctor Who, and he played increasingly to the fandom — people like me — rather than vainly trying to appeal to a broad general audience (although there was a last gasp attempt at doing this in Series 10).

Ironically, I think the female Doctor decision looks more like a symptom of Doctor Who’s crisis of staleness than anything resembling genuine boldness. Here is a show that had been making basically the same twelve episodes every year since 2005 and which people were increasingly becoming bored of. The big, scary “cancellation” word was being thrown around with more and more seriousness. To remedy the problem of staleness, Doctor Who could sit down and think about how it could reinvent itself to return anew and regenerated, like it did in 2005, or, alternatively, it could perform a cosmetic but attention-grabbing change, like changing the Doctor’s gender, which would buy it a couple more years to continue going on making the same 12 episodes every year as before, just with a woman playing the Doctor now instead of a man.

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I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I’ve no doubt that, if Steven Moffat had been the one to bring in a female Doctor, this is exactly how it would have gone down. A female Doctor would have been a superficial panacea to temporarily bring back a few eyeballs while nothing substantive would have changed. Chris Chibnall, at least, has shown a willingness to revamp and reimagine the show and do things differently. But I don’t know if he’s going to do enough to dispel the charge of staleness and justify another 13 years of Doctor Who. I don’t know if it’s possible to get out of the rut Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat have dug Doctor Who into over the last 13 years. There needs a properly radical and paradigm-shifting departure from the Doctor Who of Davies and Moffat to justify the show’s indefinite continued existence, and it remains to be seen whether Chris Chibnall is up to the job.

So what if Series 11 sucks, then? What happens if the new regime produces something that’s either boring or bad? Chibnall’s brave new era will be off to a terrible start, and it will be difficult to justify continuing the show, at the very latest, after Jodie Whittaker exits. If Series 11 is bad, the female Doctor experiment will be pronounced a failure and cancellation will be openly discussed. If Series 11 is simply boring, the initially high viewing figures borne on interest in the female Doctor Who will quickly dissipate and return to normal (ever-diminishing) levels, and cancellation will still be on the cards, albeit a few more years down the line. If the drastic changes needed to revive the show aren’t made and the show continues to be boring, viewing figures will continue their downward trajectory and, at some point, the show will be cancelled.

I don’t think that’s necessarily a controversial thing to say. At 13 years, Doctor Who has run long past the typical lifespan of a TV drama. That’s because it has the capacity to continually swap new actors in and because it doesn’t have a narrative “end point”. We could keep on following successive incarnations of the Doctor around forever, if we wanted. But that doesn’t mean that even a show like Doctor Who can’t reach its use-by date in the minds of the audience, especially if it doesn’t seem to change very much during its occupancy of its weekly time slot.

If that’s the case, I’m actually not sure that temporary cancellation would necessarily be a bad thing. Maybe it’s what needs to happen. Maybe a show like Doctor Who needs these occasional hiatuses when it gets into a stale rut it can’t break out of, to return years later from its spell in purgatory renewed and regenerated. Would anyone deny that the show’s cancellation after 1989 was, ultimately, for the best? If it weren’t for 1989, we wouldn’t have had 2005 and everything Doctor Who has been since it returned from its banishment. Maybe this version of Doctor Who — let’s call it Doctor Who 2.0 — has reached the end of its natural life and should be peacefully put to rest while it still has its dignity. Then, after an appropriate amount of time has passed — I would say 10 years at the least, long enough for people to miss it — it can come back a shiny, brand new show, Doctor Who 3.0, and preferably looking very different from how it did before, like it’s 2005 all over again.

Or maybe I’m wrong. There’s always that possibility, too. It’s just that I think it’s impossible that, without a radical overhaul, the show could do anything but continue to lose viewers from this point. Jodie Whittaker may well end up being a sensational, fan-favourite Doctor, but the whole female Doctor thing is ultimately an attention-grabbing gimmick that won’t, on its own, bring viewers back long-term. The show’s high water mark was the end of the Tenth Doctor’s era and the first two seasons of the Eleventh Doctor’s era. Since then viewing figures have been in freefall, especially during Capaldi’s era. It’s hard to see how the show could return to that level of popularity and cultural heft if it carries on just as it is, short of regenerating the Doctor back into David Tennant.

I might just end by saying that, out of the two alternatives I foresee — that Series 11 is bad or boring — I think it much more likely that Series 11 will simply be boring, “boring” here meaning that it might well be a competent, even brilliant, series of episodes, but that it’s still nothing we haven’t seen before, still Doctor-Who-as-usual. Chris Chibnall is accomplished enough a writer and showrunner for us to be confident that there’s no great danger of Series 11 being bad. I don’t think the man who made Broadchurch and Born and Bred is capable of writing bad television, or at least a whole series of bad television.

Or Chibnall could surprise us all and bring back Doctor Who this year as if it had been away for 16 years, not one.

What has Chris Chibnall done to our fandom?

Probably to the mixed amusement and weariness of some of my irl friends who follow me on Twitter, as well as to my non-fandom mutuals, I’ve been tweeting almost exclusively about Doctor Who for the past few months (beginning with the run-up to the new series). I can’t help it—I get excited about Doctor Who and I like to talk about it on a platform where it’s acceptable to spill out every unfiltered thought that crosses one’s mind. Usually I stop talking as repetitively about Doctor Who soon after a new series ties up and go back to being weird and incoherent about non-Doctor Who things, but this time the feverish speculation and excitement around the identity of the Thirteenth Doctor has kept me going. I spent two hours the night before the revelation of the Thirteenth Doctor making a thread of ironic candidates for the role of Thirteen (e.g. Michael McIntyre, Jeremy Clarkson, Russell Brand, Jo Brand, Jacob Rees-Mogg, etc.) for my own amusement; I regret nothing.

Following the announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, though, I fell silent. Uncharacteristically for me, I don’t think I sent a single tweet, about anything, the day of the announcement (in Australia we got it in the early morning). In part this was because I was still processing the news, trying to figure out how I felt about it, and didn’t want to prematurely denounce it—because my immediate instinct was to denounce it. But it was also because, interspersed between the glowing, rapturous positivity and joy over Jodie’s casting coming from every direction, there was the smug, faux-indignant calling-out of those disappointed in the casting as ‘sexists’, ‘bigots’, ‘misogynists’. It was really quite repulsive and hateful. People, both men and women, saying innocuous things about being disappointed with Jodie’s casting were being quoted by people who’ve already changed their icon to Jodie Whittaker in a flower crown, with “Lmao just say you hate women” and “LMAO LOOK AT THIS FUCKING SEXIST”.

Sure, there were the actual sexists reacting with opprobrium to the news, typically found in places like the comments section of the Daily Mail rather than on Twitter—who, I agree with the female Doctor people, can fuck off. But the number of actual sexists among the no-female-Doctor crowd is actually minuscule. I can count the number of people I’ve seen express opposition to a female Doctor out of a bigoted attitude towards women on one hand. The people you see in Daily Mail comments sections don’t even watch Doctor Who, or haven’t watched it since the 1970s. This show isn’t for them. They’re the same people who take to the comments section, frothy-mouthed, over every trivial offence of political correctness and encroaching “Cultural Marxism”. Most opponents of a female Doctor who are actually fans of the show simply think of the Doctor as a man and have trouble accepting, on an emotional level, that a female Doctor is the same character—we’d find it difficult to accept a male Hermione for the same reason. If you consider that sexist, then you need to go read a dictionary.

And let’s not forget that the people who don’t want a female Doctor aren’t all men. I’ve seen almost as many women expressing disappointment in the casting decision as men, if not more (probably because women aren’t scared by baseless, cynical accusations of sexism). All my female friends who watch Doctor Who whom I’ve asked have said they’re opposed to the change. This gets ignored because it doesn’t fit the neat “women versus sexist white males” narrative. The few times I’ve seen the more strident female Doctor proponents actually engage with women who’ve expressed their opposition to a female Doctor (instead of simply ignoring them, as they usually do), the former just tend to brush the latter off with something vague about “internalised misogyny”. Figures.

Maybe it looks pathetic or oversensitive to get upset by the ignorant, braindead tweets of 16-year olds, but it’s just an example of the hate and bile that’s suddenly consumed this fandom. If not outright hate and bile, from my experience, among even casual, non-strident supporters of a female Doctor the lazy, smug assumption that those who don’t want a female Doctor are probably sexist seems to be fairly commonly held. Merriam-Webster’s tweet, that “’Doctor’ has no gender in English” exemplifies this attitude. It’s the attitude that being opposed to a female Doctor is something inherently blameworthy and morally suspect, and not an understandable response to changing the gender of a character one has known as a man for 13 regenerations and 53 years. I feel like using the term “virtue-signalling” is to risk being placed in suspect company in the eyes of reasonable folk, but for present purposes it’s a useful concept to describe what this is: it’s very easy for those who support a female Doctor, in the eagerness to display their tolerance and progressiveness, to fall into the unscrutinised assumption that the other side are all bigots.

That’s not to say that our side has done much to dispel that assumption, when we have cranks writing angry, incoherent things about feminists and “SJWs”, which is almost as odious as the actual feminists and SJWs throwing accusations of sexism around like confetti. It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t that long ago that we were able to have a civil, respectful discussion about a female Doctor in this fandom. The female Doctor debate has always been tense, but before now it’s also managed to remain civil. I remember participating in discussions about a female Doctor, where both sides tended to respect the other side’s views, and the few idiots who threw around accusations of sexism were rightly shut down by other female Doctor supporters (as were the “feminists are ruining everything” brigade by our side).

I think the difference is that, then, they were the minority view, and, as anyone expressing an unpopular point of view does, you watch what you say and how you say it, to avoid the brunt of the ire of the majority. Now they’re the majority and they’ve won. The bile thrown at opponents of a female Doctor now has the flavour of smug triumphalism more so than genuine indignity. They’ve won, we’ve lost, we don’t matter anymore, but they’re taking the opportunity to have their fun provoking us, ridiculing us, parading our naked bodies through the streets for the visceral amusement of the citizens of the victorious nation. The message is clear: we’re not welcome in the fandom anymore; it’s their city now. So we can either deal with it or fuck off.

To be clear, I’m not talking about all female Doctor supporters. If you’re pleased with Jodie’s casting and you don’t think that everyone who isn’t probably hates women, then I’m not talking about you. This post isn’t about you, and I don’t have a single uncharitable thing to say about you. You’re fine in my book. I am talking about the people who somehow manage to assert with a straight face that it’s inherently sexist not to want a female Doctor and that all opponents of a female Doctor are sexists. I know there are many female Doctor supporters who are conscientious and fair-minded people who respect the other side.

If a Twitter poll conducted by the account @WhovianLeap is to be believed, the nice female Doctor people are the majority: it asked “Is it sexist to want a male Doctor?” to which, out of 626 votes, 73% answered NO and 27% answered YES (assuming that the majority of respondents would have been female Doctor supporters). So, while 27% is still an uncomfortably large number of people who think I’m a sexist, it’s reassuringly clear that the great majority of fans don’t consider it sexist to think the Doctor should remain a man.

But don’t be mistaken, there’s still a deep rift in the fandom, one I can’t see being healed any time soon. As long as the Doctor is played by a woman, this underlying division in the fandom is always going to remain close to the surface. We who found ourselves on the losing side of this casting decision, even those of us who warm to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor (as I hope I do), aren’t going to forget the torrent of vitriol we were subjected to. We aren’t going to forget that a significant proportion of this fandom hated us and wanted us out of the fandom. Arguably more than anything that’s happened before, this decision has split the fandom in two in a way that I fear is irreversible.

I expect that the number of the alienated will diminish over time as some of those who were opposed to the casting change their minds and come round to Jodie’s Doctor, and others simply leave. Somehow I think that’s what the people I’m talking about want: for this decision to decimate the “problematic” element of the fandom which doesn’t want a female Doctor, and for a new, progressive fandom and a new, progressive Doctor Who to emerge from the ashes of the problematic old.

Already we’re being erased: Radio Times claimed that the “overwhelming majority of Doctor Who fans” are “looking forward to the first female Doctor” based on a poll the website conducted, where the proportion of respondents who answered that they were looking forward to seeing Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor was 40%, and the plurality of respondents (43%) answered that they would reserve judgment until they saw her. If this isn’t fake news, then nothing is. Piers Wenger, the Controller of BBC Drama, remarked on the “overwhelmingly positive response” to the casting of the first female Doctor in reference to the number of views the teaser trailer has accumulated. At the time of writing this, that teaser trailer has 57,732 to 36,064 likes to dislikes on YouTube, a ratio 62% to 38%. By no definition is that an “overwhelmingly positive” response. It’s a travesty for the BBC. It shows that it’s made a decision which is unpopular with at least a third of viewers. We may not be the majority, but we’re a very formidable minority, and it’s insulting to pretend we don’t exist.

My plea to Chris Chibnall and the BBC is not to take the side of the head-bangers. My plea to the makers of Doctor Who is not to fall into the easy assumption that everyone opposed to this decision is a bigot. We number at least a third of the fanbase, and count among our number some of Doctor Who’s longest, most devoted and most prominent fans, including, it appears, the likes of Peter Davison (who, unlike most Doctor Who people, gave no ringing endorsement of Jodie’s casting, but instead tellingly urged the Twitter mob to cool it with the hate towards disappointed fans).

You don’t want to alienate us, because we’re not going to take it on the chin. We’re not going to appreciate snide asides about sexism and intolerance directed against us punctuated throughout Series 11. We’re not going to abide being made to feel like we’re not welcome in this fandom anymore by the show. We want you to understand us, and show that you understand why we feel the way we do. We don’t ask that the decision be reversed, just that you extend an olive branch and show us that you want us to keep watching. We’re worried about the future of our show, and, as hard as it is to believe, given how angry we sound, we really do want to like this change, and we want you to help us like it, because we love this show, and the alternative—to stop watching Doctor Who—doesn’t bear thinking about.

As for female Doctor supporters, I’m not even going to try to reason with the ones who are beyond reason, but to the rest of you I only want to say: as long as we’re still on opposing sides of a divided fandom, let’s at least try to be friends. Let’s at least try to be civil and courteous and respectful towards one another. Can we still geek out together over the Christmas special, Twelve’s regeneration, the Twelveclara reunion, and everything amazing Series 11 and the Chibnall era is going to bring us, while agreeing to disagree over our feelings about the next Doctor? (At least while we still do disagree) Without calling each other names? Because being in a divided fandom is no fun at all.


See also on Gallifreyan Ramblings:

Thirteen: my feelings about a female Doctor

It’s been nearly 36 hours since I learned the identity of our Thirteenth Doctor, and I think I’m now ready to write this. It’s taken me that long to process what happened yesterday and to work out how I felt about it. I’m still processing it, to be honest. I mean, I could have turned out a post quickly on the day of the announcement and probably attracted a lot more hits, but it would have been raw, emotional and full of uncooked, unformed and probably not entirely coherent thoughts. I’m someone who typically can’t be counted on for immediate reactions (which is why my reviews always take a day or two). Especially with something as big as this, I tend to need time to work out how I feel, and, now I’ve had that time, I think I’m now ready to put my thoughts into something approximating sober and considered form.

I didn’t want a female Doctor. I still don’t. You can read my thoughts on the matter in full here, but the tl;dr version is that I think of the Doctor as a man, and I have trouble accepting that an incarnation of the Doctor played by a female actor is the same character played by Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Tom Baker and William Hartnell et al, a character I love. Jodie Whittaker is a fine actress—she’s a top choice for a female Doctor and I am confident she will acquit herself superlatively in the role. But that’s not the problem for me. The problem for me is that I feel that Doctor Who is a man, so a ‘female Doctor (Who)’ is a contradiction in terms. I felt that way before, and the announcement, even of an actress as fine as Jodie Whittaker, hasn’t changed how I feel.

The standard riposte to this sentiment is something along the lines of “the Doctor is a shapeshifting alien who has been canonically established as being able to change gender and race, so, no, the Doctor is not a man and your feelings are invalid”. Well, I’m sorry if “your feelings are invalid, deal with it” doesn’t convince me. I can’t just change my feelings or turn them off at will. That’s not how feelings work. Especially after I’ve watched thirteen regenerations of the Doctor as a man and have come to identify and connect with the character as a man. Throwing continuity at me isn’t going to going to make me suddenly shed my feelings about the character and accept a female Doctor—because remember this isn’t about the abstract question of the nature of Time Lord regeneration, this is about a character, a person, that I love. This isn’t about whether the Doctor can regenerate into a woman (we know and accept, now, that he can), it’s about whether I and so many other fans can accept that Jodie Whittaker is our favourite fictional character when that casting decision has taken away something fundamental to how we identify that character.

That in the previous sentence I used the pronoun ‘he’ instinctively to identify the Doctor, without even thinking about it, attests to the point I’m trying to make: I’m not going to be able to easily adjust to using ‘she’ or ‘they’ as instinctively and as comfortably as I currently use ‘he’. Please try to understand this.

The other riposte I’ve seen is the “this show is all about change, and that you don’t want a female Doctor shows you don’t understand this” argument. Okay, first, to nitpick, change is a central feature and theme of the show, but the show is not “about” change. When you’re trying to make your friends watch Doctor Who and they ask you what it’s about, your reply isn’t “it’s about change”, you typically explain that it’s about the adventures of a time-travelling alien and his friends. Invariably you identify the character of the Doctor as central when you’re explaining what the show is about.

And that’s important—even diehard female Doctor proponents would not deny that the character of the Doctor, not the abstract thematic idea of “change”, is the most important thing in Doctor Who. You simply could not have Doctor Who without the Doctor. So “change, my dears” is a justified argument when made against the idiotic, shrill Tennant fangirls (those that are still inexplicably around, anyway) who insist that David Tennant and only David Tennant can be the Doctor. But when a very sizeable proportion of the fandom are concerned that something fundamental to the character has been compromised too far for their tastes, “change” just doesn’t cut it as an argument, I’m afraid.

In any case, even if it is true that change is a central theme of the show, that doesn’t entail that any and all change is therefore necessarily good. Do I actually have to restate that fans are allowed to dislike things in the show – decisions made by the writers and producers? That fans are even allowed to dislike a Doctor? There were plenty of fans who turned off when Peter Capaldi was cast because “he’s old” (including the friend who first turned me onto Doctor Who)—something far more trivial than that the new Doctor has switched genders. I think those fans were missing out on what has been one of the greatest ever Doctors, but I respect that that’s entirely their prerogative if they don’t want to watch an old Doctor.

In any case, as fundamental as the theme of change is to the show, Doctor Who is a show as equally steeped in tradition. I’m not really sure how this is being ignored, if not outright denied. The Tardis, the phonebox, the-Daleks-and-the-Cybermen, toilet plungers, young female companions, Britishness, pacifism. I think even most female Doctor proponents would be reluctant to change any of those things. A US-centric (rather than British-centric) Doctor Who with an all-American Doctor Who cast? I think practically all female Doctor proponents would, rightly, reject that. Because Doctor Who is a British show. It doesn’t have to be British-centric, but it is, and we like it that way. And we don’t have to accept that Doctor Who turns all Midwestern accents and streets of Manhattan if we don’t want to.

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I think I’ve made my point. Admittedly that went on for a lot longer than I intended it to. But what I’ve been discussing up to here is my feelings about a female Doctor in the abstract. Ask me in the abstract: do I want a female Doctor? No. But, no matter what I want or feel, it isn’t abstract any more. Whether I like it or not, the Thirteenth Doctor is a woman. It’s reality. Jodie Whittaker will be listed after Peter Capaldi’s name in canonical lists of the Doctors from now until the end of time, and that can’t be changed.

So I think the best I can do is to continue to watch and hope that my mind is changed. I’m not going to stop watching. I love this show too much for that. In everything I’ve written about a female Doctor before now, I’ve repeatedly said that, while I didn’t want it to happen, I would try to keep an open mind and give a female Doctor a chance. I intend to keep that promise. I would like, by the end of Series 11, at least, to be prepared to take back everything I’ve written in this post before this paragraph. Because I don’t know what I’ll do if I’m not.

So what I want to say now to female Doctor proponents, particularly Chris Chibnall, is this. Okay, you’ve got your wish. Congratulations – I genuinely mean that, and I’m genuinely happy that you’re happy. It’s heartwarming to see that this is so meaningful to so many people. But don’t forget that we still exist, we who never wanted a female Doctor at all and still don’t want one, and that there are many of us. No doubt you’ve seen our tweets and our comments. Ignore the sexists and the bigots—I’m not speaking for them, and I don’t want them in our fandom any more than you do.

But as one of the many fans worried about a female Doctor, I want you to know that, for now, I’m game. I’m going to follow your lead on this. You’ve extolled the virtues and the promises of a female Doctor for so long, and now that we have one, I don’t really have a choice except to go along with it. Now that we have a female Doctor, I’m interested in seeing how it works out, and I’m willing to be won over. But I’m trusting you on this. This was your victory, and you led us into this.  So naturally I’m holding you responsible for how it works out. If a female Doctor succeeds and, as I hope, I warm to the change, I will graciously admit that you were right all along. But if it doesn’t, please try to be humble when I say “I told you so.”


Next time on Gallifreyan Ramblings: another female Doctor post. I feel like I need to say something about what has been happening in the fandom since Sunday’s announcement, because it’s not pretty, and, from a fandom perspective, it’s almost as noteworthy as the female Doctor news itself. I didn’t want to discuss that here because it’s probably going to be a lengthy discussion in its own right, and I didn’t want to detract from what I’m trying to say here. It does merit a post of its own, and I’ll try to have that one up in the following days.

By the way, read my original (pre-Jodie) female Doctor post for a fuller, more detached account of my thoughts on a female Doctor, if you’re interested.

The female Doctor question once more

It’s been almost a month since Peter Capaldi announced his intention to leave Doctor Who at the end of 2017. In remarkably quick time the fandom has turned from lamenting Peter Capaldi’s impending departure, to speculating excitedly about the identity of the actor who will be playing the 13th Doctor, to now fighting angrily amongst itself in the latest fandom war to break out in this exceptionally quarrelsome fandom. I’m talking about the controversy over the question of whether the Doctor should be played by a woman. It’s not really a new controversy—it rears its head every time the question of the next Doctor comes up and every time anyone publicly speculates about the future of Doctor Who. Not to mention every time Steven Moffat gives a self-indulgent wink to the fans indicating the possibility of the Doctor one day undergoing a sex-flipping regeneration.

But there’s something different about the discourse about a prospective female Doctor this time. It’s like the calls for a female Doctor have finally reached fever pitch. The people calling for a female Doctor are calling louder and shriller than ever before. There’s no humility in the calls for a female Doctor any more. What used to be speculation and suggestion about the possibility of a female Doctor has turned practically into demand, coupled with an intolerance for the views of those who don’t want such a radical change to the show’s format. I’ve never seen it like this before. It’s practically at the point where those pushing for a female Doctor won’t accept any new actor cast as the 13th Doctor who isn’t a woman.

I’ve elaborated on why I don’t want a female Doctor before, but with the female Doctor idea being pushed so forcefully at the moment, I feel compelled to reiterate my position. I’ve seen various reasons put forward in opposition to a female Doctor, but fundamentally, for me, it’s about being true to the character. For me, it’s simple: the Doctor is a male character. The Doctor is a man. I’ve never thought of the Doctor as anything other than a man. I don’t think generations of fans and producers of this show since the 1960s have ever thought of the Doctor as anything other than a man, as indicated by the fact that in 53 years and 13 regenerations, the Doctor has only ever been played by male actors. For me, at least, casting a female actor to play the Doctor would not be true to the character. I would feel that a 13th Doctor played by a female actor would lack something intrinsic and fundamental to the character, which is the character’s gender. Seeing the Doctor played by a woman, I think and I fear that I would feel, “This character is not the Doctor. She is another character (maybe even a good character) but she is not the Doctor.”

As I said in my earlier post on the subject:

I’ve come to love this character, the Doctor, independent of any of his individual incarnations. When I think of the Doctor, no individual incarnation springs immediately to mind, but I think of a number of essential traits that make this overarching character, this person, who he is: heroic, principled, selfless, eccentric, lonely, mysterious — and a man. I very much get the feeling that, throughout his various incarnations, despite looking and feeling different after each regeneration, the Doctor remains the same person, and it’s very important to me, for my investment in the character, that the Doctor always feels like the same person. To an extent, at least, I’d feel that the Doctor had become a different person if the Doctor were to become a woman. After thirteen or however many incarnations as a man, I think I’d feel that I couldn’t recognise a female Doctor as the character I knew and loved; that a female actor is likely to depart in a fundamental way from how the character has been portrayed in the past would only exacerbate this feeling.

“But Time Lords don’t have a fixed sex, it’s been shown they can regenerate into the opposite sex, so the Doctor is not a man” might come the objection. My first response to that would be that all that’s been shown onscreen is two Time Lords regenerating into the opposite sex, one, the Master, after a long history of having been a man (like the Doctor), and one, the General, whose first words after regenerating were “Back to normal, am I?” It’s not been established canonically when and how Time Lords can regenerate into the opposite sex—it certainly hasn’t been confirmed that every Time Lord can do it, or that a sex change is a 50% chance for every Time Lord. That the Doctor has been a man 13 times out of 13 so far suggests that there’s more involved than pure random chance.

But I recognise that Moffat (or Chibnall, if he is so inclined) could easily retcon that continuity and establish with a single throwaway line in a forgettable script that the Doctor has an equal chance of regenerating into a man or a woman, and that he’s just had exceptionally unusual luck so far. So the more important answer to the objection above is that just because the Doctor can be made to regenerate into a woman, doesn’t mean he should. The whole idea of sex-flipping regeneration is very new in the history of the show (2011 was the first reference I believe), and the Doctor has now been a man for 13 regenerations and 53 years offscreen or over 2,000 years onscreen. He’s long been widely and popularly identified as a male character, and the Doctor was entrenched in the fandom’s consciousness and the broader cultural consciousness as an iconic male character long before Steven Moffat turned up on the scene, late-coming, and told us all that, actually, the Doctor isn’t a male character, he’s actually a bisexual gender-fluid sequential hermaphrodite (as I once saw it amusingly put), and that our long-standing identification and association of the Doctor as a male character is wrong and misplaced.

That’s my view, for what it’s worth. I fully respect the views of those who disagree with me and take a different perspective, as long as they respect mine. Because it’s an increasingly common thing among the more ardent supporters of a female Doctor to dismiss everyone who doesn’t take their position as misogynists. Because apparently there’s no other possible reason a person might be reluctant to radically change a fundamental part of the format of a 53-year old show other than hatred of one half of the human race. Even the substantial number of female fans who oppose a female Doctor. Apparently they hate women, too. Sounds legit. Perhaps there are people who oppose a female Doctor because of misogynistic motivations, but I would assume their number is minuscule, because one wonders why misogynists would spend their time watching a show which so proudly elevates and empowers its female characters.

I know that the majority of supporters of a female Doctor are reasonable, intelligent people who do not believe that opponents of the idea are all misogynists. I’ve been in many debates about a female Doctor before and the majority of those arguing for a female Doctor have been reasonable and respectful of the views of those of us who disagree. But there is a vocal minority who do take that line, and they’re incredibly stubborn and infuriating people to argue with, who are typically projecting their own profound intolerance onto others. In this respect it’s regretful to see that Radio Times has, since Peter Capaldi announced his departure, become a prominent voice pushing the “all-opponents-of-a-female-Doctor-are-misogynists” line with its articles containing thinly-veiled suggestions to that effect, giving unwelcome respectability to that view.

Something else I worry about with the push for a female Doctor is that it would be done for all the wrong reasons. If it’s done for genuinely creative reasons, because the producers are interested in the creative possibilities casting a woman as the Doctor opens up, that’s fine. I respect that, even I don’t agree with it. I can’t respect the decision if it’s done for political reasons, to promote a social agenda, or simply to be progressive or politically correct. Doctor Who isn’t another front for a progressive social agenda, another hive of reactionary social oppression that needs to be prised open by the winds of equality, it’s a TV show for kids. When it comes to casting for a TV show, “it’s time” just isn’t an argument. Why is it time? Is it oppression to be denied the opportunity to be Doctor Who? Is playing the Doctor a human right now? Should we inform the UN, in that case? Forgive my saltiness, but I really don’t have patience for arguments like this. A casting decision should always be a creative one with the purpose of making the best work possible, not a political one, because when politics is elevated above art in making casting decisions, by definition worse casting decisions are made and the show, as art, suffers.

I mean, I wonder what would be gained politically by turning an established and iconic male character into a woman as a purely symbolic act, especially considering the backlash from the substantial proportion of fans who don’t want a female Doctor. I’m not sure that the campaign to turn established male characters into women is the best progressive strategy considering how much it annoys fans (male and female) of the franchises in question. In any case, I’m not even sure a decision to turn an iconic and long-established male character like the Doctor into a woman, when the person making that decision knows that they would face a huge backlash from a substantial number of fans if they did so, can ever not be political. Even if the decision is made predominantly for creative reasons, the decision to cast a woman as the Doctor, after 13 men have played the character and after the character has been entrenched in popular consciousness for so long as a man, couldn’t not be fundamentally political. It would almost certainly be perceived that way, especially if Chibnall uses the words “it’s time”, as he would, in reference to the decision.

All that said, I’m not necessarily saying that if a woman were cast as the 13th Doctor, I wouldn’t give it a chance. As I said in my earlier post on the subject, I would most likely continue watching the show and I would keep an open mind about the change—I would even be interested in how a female Doctor would be played out, like most fans, I’m sure. I would be prepared to admit that I was wrong about how I thought I would feel, and that I end up continuing to identify a female Doctor as the character I love. But I think my reservations are legitimate, and I would rather it not happen at all than see it go ahead on the unlikely chance that I end up warming to the change. And it’s not just me—as I mentioned a number of times, there are a substantial number of fans, if not a majority, who are opposed to a female Doctor. It’s worth considering whether what the idea’s supporters want from a female Doctor is worth alienating a huge proportion of the fandom for.

Whither Sherlock?

Warning: spoilers for The Final Problem.

(My belated review of The Final Problem will be posted soon—I’m doing a Sherlock marathon at the moment and I’m going to write the review when I get to TFP 🙂 )

So the long-awaited fourth series of Sherlock has come and gone in a whirlwind of suspense, emotion, anticipation and controversy and it’s hard to believe, given how long the wait was, that it’s all already over. If nothing else, Series 4 was a feast for the fandom, an indulgent three weeks of event television lapped up by the fans which, for three suspenseful weeks, sent us into a frenzy of speculation and furious discussion.

Certainly Series 4 was divisive, and those in the Sherlock fandom on the Tumblrs or the Twitters would know that The Final Problem sort of triggered an all-out fandom war on those platforms. But even those whose yardstick of a quality series of Sherlock is how much time John and Sherlock spend kissing, and were thus disappointed by Series 4, would have to (reluctantly) admit that Series 4 was probably the most ambitious and momentous series yet. Mary got killed off, after her lurid backstory was revealed; the secret third Holmes sibling was introduced; and the hidden secrets of Sherlock’s past, Sherlock’s “origin story”, so to speak, were revealed.

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There’s a reason, maybe, that Series 4 was so big and ambitious. It’s been seven years, four series, and who knows how long in-story. The characters have developed in leaps and bounds and the narrative itself has come such a long way. Dragons have been fought and slain, and the characters have faced enough challenges and had enough adventures for a couple of lifetimes. Series 4 ended with a sense of completeness that wasn’t present at the end of any of the previous series, as though Sherlock and John’s stories have been told; there’s nothing left to say—the montage at the end of TFP communicated it all: they continue solving crimes, fighting bad guys, enjoying their dangerous, unconventional lives, being best friends and raising John and Mary’s child together. Moriarty is gone, Magnussen is gone, Irene Adler is safe, Eurus is tamed. Sherlock, through the friendships and relationships he’s formed since we first met him in A Study in Pink, most of all through John, is a better, stronger person, a “good man”, as Lestrade affectionately admitted at the end of TFP. There’s no more to say.

Indeed, that montage seemed to convey the writers’ sentiments that this may well be the last word on Sherlock and John—the end of Sherlock’s story, or at least the end of Sherlock’s story worth making into the cinematic event television that Sherlock is. The writers and the actors have speculated that this might be the end of Sherlock, and with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s professional lives increasingly busy, there might not even be the opportunity to keep making more seasons of Sherlock from now on. It’s Cumberbatch and Freeman’s willingness and availability to do Sherlock, after all, that determines if and when the show gets made, although Moffat and Gatiss have said that they would not be opposed to making more Sherlock if there’s a good enough idea and everyone wants to do it. The problem is finding an idea for more Sherlock good enough to justify making it, a difficult prospect when Series 4 felt so final.

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I’ll agree that if Sherlock were to end now, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad place to end it. And I’ll agree that it would be a hard ask to find an idea worth making into Series 5. But there’s clearly a hunger in, I’d say, the majority of the fandom for more Sherlock. There’s a feeling that this show could still do more and that there’s still more to tell in the story of Sherlock and John. That’s the way I feel, I think. No, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Series 4 were to be the end of Sherlock, but I feel that it doesn’t have to be, and that the show could still do more. I only say Sherlock shouldn’t need to end because I love it so much, and because I think if something is good, if something is working, and if you love it as much as the fans and everyone involved in Sherlock loves Sherlock, then there’s no need for it to end until it really has to. I don’t think Sherlock needs to end. At least not yet.

Moffat and Gatiss have said they would love to see Sherlock and John grow old together. I think I remember reading that either Benedict or Martin said they wanted to grow old with the characters. Why not? Here’s a concept: Series 1-4 are Chapter 1 of the story of Sherlock and John. Chapters 2, 3, 4 etc. are still to be told. That might mean we don’t see Sherlock and John again until the time is right. Let the show rest, give the characters and the narrative time and space to grow and develop offscreen, and come back to them in, say, eight years, and the show will be new again. The characters will be different people in a new and different stage in their lives. Sherlock will be closer to the more familiar, wiser, older, more venerable Sherlock Holmes of Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. The events of Series 1-4 will be an increasingly distant memory, and the show would not be a continuation of the storylines of Series 1-4 as much as an entirely new chapter in the narrative, even a soft reboot of sorts.

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It doesn’t have to involve making progressive series of the show, as the show has done for the first seven years of its life. I would be happy with a special every couple of years which revisits the characters at appropriate intervals and show Sherlock and John growing and aging—straight crime-solving stories in the nature of The Hounds of Baskerville or A Study in Pink rather than the arc-heavy material that has dominated the show in Series 3 and 4: vintage Sherlock. That said, I really like the idea of doing a full series of Sherlock in the future by way of a big, multi-episode story similar to what Torchwood did in Children of Earth if the writers can find a good enough idea (and I’ve no doubt they can).

If there is to be no more Sherlock, though, if Series 4 is to be the end of Sherlock forever, then of course I’m happy with what the show has been and what everyone involved in the show has given us over the last seven years, and I feel privileged to have been part of this fandom when Sherlock was being made. Sherlock really is an extraordinary show, and I’ve no hesitation at all in calling it some of the best-made television ever. It’s given us some of the finest moments in television history, some of the most thrilling screenplays ever, and we, as fans, really can’t ask for more. It’s undoubtedly become a cultural icon, and is arguably the most iconic screen adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories ever (it’s certainly my favourite, and I’ve seen all the Jeremy Brett episodes). I’ll be sad to see it go, but happy to have had it at all. Everyone involved in Sherlock should be immensely proud of what they’ve made, including us, the fans, who’ve made the Sherlock fandom one of the most fun, energetic and invigorating to be part of.

So thank you, Sherlock. Thanks for the memories, and an emphatic and heartfelt goodbye—but hopefully not yet.

Steven Moffat’s Top 10 (Part 2)

A few days ago I began counting down my top 10 Doctor Who stories written by Steven Moffat (Part 1 here). Because I wanted to build up suspense and anticipation, and because I’m too lazy to do the whole list at once, I cleverly and conveniently split the list into two separate parts.

So, here it is: my definitive ranking of Steven Moffat’s five best Doctor Who stories.

5. The Eleventh Hour

You really can’t beat The Eleventh Hour as a new Doctor (and companion) introductory episode. There is really no understatement in saying that the first episode of Matt Smith’s run, and of the Moffat era as a whole, is the prototype against which all other introductory episodes will be measured. It does everything it’s supposed to do—introducing the new Doctor and companion, ushering in the new era, and serving as a concise and engaging introduction to the show in general—exemplarily. Sure, the plot itself, about the Atraxi, is a bit insubstantial and generic, but the focus of this episode is, emphatically, not on the plot but on the elements I’ve just mentioned, in particular the introduction of the new leads, which it does sublimely. Its most important moments, therefore, are not the scenes dealing with the Atraxi threat, but the scenes in which we get to learn who our new leads, the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond, are, such as that magical, timeless scene between the newly-regenerated Eleventh Doctor and little Amelia Pond.

4. Heaven Sent

It’s been over two months since Heaven Sent aired as the penultimate episode of Series 9, and I’m still reeling from how utterly amazing it is, as an entire package—a piece of writing, production, acting, directing, even music—but especially as an outstanding work of screenwriting. As a one-hander featuring (for all intents and purposes) only one speaking character, the Doctor himself, it is possibly the most experimental and avant garde episode of televised Doctor Who, and certainly on Moffat’s resume. You’d have to go back to the most surreal years of Hartnell and McCoy to find something as remotely experimental as Heaven Sent. The gamble undoubtedly paid off, though, as Heaven Sent is a masterpiece of writing and, indeed, in every department. It’s simply a mesmerising 55 minutes of television, a constellation of screenwriting genius with the equally impressive talents of Peter Capaldi, Rachel Talalay, Murray Gold and others. It proves that, even nearing the end of his Doctor Who writing career, Steven Moffat is capable of creating breathtaking and artistic stories.

3. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances

There was a time when Moffat was known as the master of terror, a sadist among the Doctor Who writers who delighted in terrifying children. The reputation probably stemmed from this skin-crawling pair of episodes in Series 1, which live up to Moffat’s caricature. These episodes traumatised a generation of pre-adolescents, including myself: I saw these episodes when they first aired when I was 10, and they frightened me so much that I was put off Doctor Who for years, and also caused me contract an irrational fear of gas masks (I’m still a bit uneasy around them). They contain some of the creepiest and most unsettling scenes in the show’s history, and it’s clear, watching them, that Moffat is a master of fright and freaky at work. Apart from the fear factor, though, this story is just exceptionally well-written: never mind great Doctor Who, it’s great television, full stop. It’s a totally absorbing and atmospheric story, and features fantastic instances of characterisation, unarguably deserving of a place among the best Doctor Who stories ever made.

2. Blink

If anyone you know is in doubt of Moffat’s abilities as a television writer, just show them Blink. Justly acclaimed as one of, if not the, best Doctor Who story ever made, it’s a timeless classic whose veneration among fans has not diminished with time by one iota. Nearly a decade later and it’s still as chilling and exhilarating as ever. It’s another perfect exemplar of great Doctor Who as great television in general, a fantastic screenplay and a fantastic piece of sci-fi writing. Blink, of course, introduced Moffat’s ingenious creation, the very creepy Weeping Angels, the most successful and popular Doctor Who monsters since the Daleks, and which, at one point, looked like they might even pip the Daleks for the status of Doctor Who’s signature monsters. Somewhat ironically for one of Doctor Who’s most popular episodes, Blink is Doctor-lite, but instead we get the brilliant character Sally Sparrow, one of the show’s great could-have-been companions. In fact, the conspicuous absence of the Doctor’s presence lends the story exactly the atmosphere of claustrophobia and intolerable suspense that makes Blink such a successful episode. It’s an outstanding credit to Moffat’s creative genius.

1. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead

Why Silence in the Library over Blink (or any of the other episodes)? Good question. I agonised over this choice, trying to weigh the episodes’ respective attributes and consider the varied factors that would play into a choice of what makes “the best” Moffat episode. But I always came back to the fact that whatever my choice, it would always be completely arbitrary and subjective, and there is no objective way of choosing a definitive “best” episode. So, in the end, I just went with my favourite.

Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead is a testament Moffat’s ability to take an idea for a fairly standard base-under-siege story (shadow monsters in a giant library) and develop it into as bold, moody, surreal and emotional a masterpiece as this. Silence in the Library is a perfect showcase of the many tropes of Moffat’s Doctor Who writing that have by now become quite familiar to us. There’s a freaky new monster, the Vashta Nerada, whose fear factor lies in a clever psychological gimmick; intricate and intelligent plotting that ends up blindsiding the audience with a well-executed twist; bold, creative narrative experimentation, including some truly surreal sequences while Donna is stuck inside CAL’s virtual hard drive; and involving and emotional character drama, including the first (and best, at least until THORS) appearance of Moffat’s signature character, River Song, and the beginning of the legendary onscreen relationship between the Doctor and River Song. It all comes together in a thrilling narrative symphony, making for, I believe, the very best of Steven Moffat.

So, in summary…

My ten picks were:

  1. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
  2. Blink
  3. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
  4. Heaven Sent
  5. The Eleventh Hour
  6. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
  7. The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
  8. A Christmas Carol
  9. The Day of the Doctor
  10. The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

How does your list compare to mine? Wanna fight about it? If so, leave a comment below.