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Doctor Who Pretending Ncuti Gatwa’s First Season Is “Season 1” Shows Where RTD’s Return Is Going Wrong


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Summary

  • Doctor Who’s attempt to market Ncuti Gatwa’s first season as “Season One” suggests a major reset is coming and reveals a problem with the series.
  • The language used implies that Gatwa’s Doctor will bring a radical change, but he is still rooted in the tradition established in the revival era.
  • Trying too hard to create a new era disregards the show’s established rules and conventions, undermining the impact of earlier stories. Adding a third “Season One” would be unnecessary and complicated for the franchise.


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Doctor Who‘s misguided attempt to market Ncuti Gatwa’s first season as the Doctor as the show’s season 1 actually highlights a bigger problem with the series and showrunner Russell T Davies’ return. Despite being season 14 of the revival, official Doctor Who marketing material refers to Gatwa’s debut as “Season One“. Not only does this language indicate that a major reset is on the way, but it inadvertently demonstrates where the show has been falling short.

After leading the show’s revival in 2005, Russell T Davies left Doctor Who in 2010 to pursue other projects. Steven Moffat replaced Davies from 2010-2017, with Chris Chibnall following from 2017-2022. RTD’s return as head writer marks the latest distinctive era in the revival’s nearly two-decade lifespan on the BBC. Considering RTD, Moffat, and Chibnall’s distinctive writing styles and approach to the wider Doctor Who mythology, most audiences understand that the show can change in tone and style from season to season. However, an explicit “Season One” reset, as suggested by promotional material, is a step too far, even with such allowances.

Related

Doctor Who Season 14: Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor, New Cast & Everything We Know

Doctor Who season 14 is arriving after the 60th anniversary special, and with it Ncuti Gatwa’s new Doctor. Here’s everything we know so far.


Calling Doctor Who Season 14 “Season 1” Makes No Sense

Rather than suggesting a continuation of the character arcs, themes, and overall story of what’s come before, Doctor Who describing season 14 as “Season One” suggests a complete reset. In much the same way as Christopher Ecclestone’s Doctor allowed the show to honor what came before while establishing a completely distinct and expanded mythology, this language suggests that Gatwa’s take on the character will deliver a similarly radical change. However, there are several reasons why claiming such an approach just doesn’t make sense.

For one thing, while Ecclestone’s season 1 was genuinely separate from the later seasons of Doctor Who, Gatwa’s take on the character comes only a year after David Tennant’s latest appearance. This firmly roots him within the tradition established in the revival era, rather than something genuinely new. Despite many changes in personnel, Gatwa’s Doctor is still the same character audiences have become familiar with over the past 19 years. Whatever direction the story takes, that history will still play a huge role – however badly RTD may want to ignore it.

A second consideration is purely practical. Because of the inescapable connection between all 19 years of the revival era and season 14, simply declaring Gatwa’s debut as “Season One” on a whim is unfeasible. While RTD may wish to ignore and rewrite some of the more controversial aspects of the Chibnall era, they are and remain an inexorable part of the show’s lore. Pushing the reset button, having made little indication that this was ever part of the overarching plan, will disappoint fans of Chibnall’s stories and feel disingenuous to others who want a genuine change of direction. If Doctor Who can be restarted with no warning, there’s little point in investing in its narrative.

Doctor Who Is Trying Too Hard To Create A New Era

This collage shows Ruby Sunday and the Doctor from Doctor Who in front of the stars.

Across the entertainment industry, announcing a new era is a tried and tested method of reigniting audience interest. In fact, Doctor Who‘s distinctive regeneration gimmick is one of the reasons the show remains so enduringly popular, as it allows the show to shake things up when things get stale. However, despite the success of this approach, Doctor Who has been drawn into ever more elaborate attempts to demarcate distinctive eras and create a blank slate.

A prime example of this is the show’s introduction of bi-generation. Introduced in the 60th-anniversary special episode “The Giggle”, this new plot device allowed both Tenant’s Fourteenth Doctor and Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor to coexist simultaneously, even having two distinct TARDISes. As a method of introducing viewers to a new Doctor, it was certainly novel. However, in attempting to herald a new Who era, it also rewrote much of what viewers understood about the Doctor’s different incarnations, undermining the impact of earlier stories in the process. Wanting to signal a new direction is understandable, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the rules and conventions that help make the show so enjoyable.

Doctor Who Already Has Two Season 1s – It Can’t Have A Third!

Chris Chibnall and Russell T Davies with Ncuti Gatwa as Fifteenth Doctor in Doctor Who

While there are many compelling narrative reasons why converting season 14 into season 1 simply won’t work, there is also a strong logistical argument. After the Ecclestone-era revival, Doctor Who already has two season 1s – from 1963 and 2005. Adding a third season 1 in 2024 would not only seem ludicrous from an outside perspective, but would make developing and establishing the franchise’s canon and timeline inherently more complicated.

Unlike in 2005, Doctor Who has not been brought back from cancelation. Today, the show is an internationally recognized and acclaimed brand, beloved by millions the world over. The only justification for a “Season One”-style reset would be if the series planned to totally ignore everything that happened in the preceding 19 years and start again from scratch. Since this is not the approach RTD is going for – confirmed by the return of characters like Bonnie Langford’s Mel Bush – a new Doctor Who season 1 in 2024 simply isn’t justifiable.

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Doctor Who

Release Date
November 23, 1963

Seasons
26

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