NuWho's Missed Opportunities

The Moffat era of Doctor Who just ended, and as he was a key writer during the Russell T Davies era, one might say it's the end of sequence that started way back in 2005. So let's open the Book of Truth and look back at the past 12 years to identify what I consider NuWho's missed opportunities. (In chronological order.)
The identity of the Toclafanes. In The Sound of Drums, the Master tells the Doctor that the truth will make him cry, and the Doctor recognizes the name of the Master's nasty allies from the ends of time as a Gallifreyan fairy tale. Turns out, they were the last of humanity (as seen in Utopia, just the week before). That's not all that shocking or tear-worthy given half the villains in Doctor Who are plain old humans. We're jerks. RTD missed a massive opportunity to bring back the Time Lords right then and there (the title The Last of the Time Lords was, in fact, perfect for it). Time Lords that would have escaped the Time War by converting themselves into little balls of metal. The Time Lords the Doctor had been sad about for three series, and when they're back, they're evil monsters. It's epic! It's ironic! In the end, he would have had to destroy them a second time... It's tragic!
What we would have lost: Nothing. If these were escaped Time Lords, Gallifrey could still have appeared in The End of Time, The Day of the Doctor, etc.
Jenny. When the Doctor's daughter came back to life and left her little planet, there seemed to be every expectation that we'd see her again some day. Though Big Finish audio is doing something with the character now, it seems a shame that she didn't cross paths with her dad (now no longer played by her husband) during Moffat's run. Kind of a River Song type without the romantic baggage, you know? Having her MEET River (two daughters of the TARDIS) would have been cool. Also, to have spelled it Gennie, for Genetic.
The Tenth Doctor properly regenerates at the end of The Stolen Earth. For an episode that ends on such a brilliant cliffhanger, it's followed by massive cop-out that led to a pretty terrible alternative - the Doctor sends his regeneration energy into his loose hand and makes what we call "Doctor Blue", who is then dropped off in the parallel universe with Rose who doesn't seem that happy about it. It's stupid, it creates a terrible precedent for regeneration ex machina, and it left everyone with an icky feeling. What should have happened: The Doctor regenerates right there just he catches up to Rose. Becomes another man, one who doesn't share the same feelings. Really, the only way to end the Ten-Rose relationship conclusively after the way it got built up. It's got all the heart-wrenching attributes of a RTD script, and would have been a huge surprise at the time, since no other actor had been announced.
What we would have lost: While I really don't care about the Year of Specials that followed, we really don't want to lose that final scene with Donna in Journey's End, which wouldn't have worked as a new Doctor's first episode. And then there's the casting of the 11th Doctor which would of course have been different.
The Yeti. In 2010, Doctor Who designer Peter McKinstry showed his technical drawing for a Yeti redesign giving us hope that one of Classic Who's recurring monsters would make an appearance in Series 5 or 6. While we've seen the Great Intelligence, it was NOT accompanied by its fluffy minions. Deep sadness.
The Ponds leave in The God Complex. That was a perfect ending for Amy and Rory. They've just been through an intense psychological experience, learned things about themselves and their need to nest, and an insightful Doctor drops them off at their very own house, with a blue door, no less. Lovely. Didn't mind so much when they cameoed in the next episode. The finale too, it worked. Christmas special, they're not there. And then they return for half a series, undoing that moment. It's not as egregious a misstep as some of these others (because they still used their home life in the stories), but I've found that any more than two series and the companion has perhaps overstayed their welcome, any less than two makes you wish you had more.
What we would have lost: The Power of Three is maybe the only one I might miss outright, but it's a stay at home episode that would have worked as a Doctor-lite in that next series.
Ian Chesterton as Coal Hill School's headmaster. When Coal Hill made a comeback as Clara's place of employment, who else thought for sure we'd see Ian either as headmaster, or visiting retired teacher? In fact, why HAVEN'T they used William Russell in any episode of New Who? You'd think there would be an imperative to use the oldest surviving companion before it's too late to do so. Did that line from Sarah Jane Adventures about the Ian and Barbara's apparent vitality screw that up? Cuz it sure doesn't sound like more than a rumor.
Clara leaves in Last Christmas. Another companion who had a fine ending, and then came back anyway. Last Christmas has a sequence where Clara wakes up from Doctor Who's version of Inception to find she's an old woman, dreaming of her youth. That would have made for an unusual companion departure (her actual goodbye in the previous episode anyway), someone who went on to live her life, and that we didn't have to wait 50 years to see again. Jenna-Louise Coleman was even set to go, wasn't she? Anyway, big cop-out, wakes up from THAT dream and she's her youthful self. Oh well.
What we would have lost: It's hard to imagine The Zygon Inversion or Heaven Sent without the strong Twelve-Clara connection, but the way Bill was so readily accepted into the Doctor's heart and ours, I'm sure they could have made do.
Companion goodbyes in Twice Upon a Time. I just mentioned this, but it bears repeating. How hard would it have been, when Clara makes her final appearance as a Testimonial ghost, to have silhouettes of every companion since the beginning behind her, backlit by the sunrise? A lot of people in fact expected Susan to show up in place of, or in addition to, Bill, ever since we saw her picture on the Doctor's desk, in fact. It would have changed the story completely, and with the fresh start, having her regenerate and become an upcoming companion was probably not in the plans. ("Why does she keep calling you grandfather?") But since presumably all companions ever are dead by the year 5 Billion and Change, they could all be stored in the Testimony, and could have said their goodbyes here. I'm disappointed they didn't think of it.

Those are my picks, what are yours?


Doc_Loki said...

Lady Christina de Souza, aristocratic cat burglar with a flying bus. There's a character I would have liked to see more of.

Anonymous said...

"Ian Chesterton as Coal Hill School's headmaster."

Yeah, this one bugs me. Even if they somehow lacked the ability to have a scene with Ian, at least have the Doctor mention that he goes to lunch regularly with him, or something. For heaven's sake he was the caretaker at the school and everything.

"Doctor Blue", "The Stolen Earth", and a lot of RTD's wrap-up seemed entirely fan-servicey, and felt much closer to fanfiction than something written by the guy who brought "Doctor Who" back and modernized exactly the right things.

Agreed that the Ponds shouldn't have returned for most of the episodes they returned for. I word that carefully. I wouldn't have minded seeing the Ponds a little bit more, in the way they appeared in "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship": participants in a "gang" the Doctor put together. But I sure could have done without the episode where they were separated because Amy could no longer have kids, holy hell what a wrong character move. (The Ponds' exit could instead have been a more natural thing: they're having another kid -- conceived on earth -- and that responsibility has to come first. The Doctor still visits sometimes, when he's not lunching with Ian Chesterton.)

And, if the "separation" episode never happened, you know what else wouldn't have happened (maybe)? The Doctor being all obsessed with how his "souffle girl" is everywhere in time and space. Just have Clara as a basically normal companion, don't try to make a riddle of her. That was a missed opportunity for us to like Clara simply because she was plucky and attractive. (I liked her a lot, AFTER they ditched that nonsense.)

So, how DID the Doctor get his sonic screwdriver to Rory in the Pandorica episode? Or however it worked (I forget) -- either the Doctor got it to Rory or Rory got it to the Doctor. I don't think it was ever explained, so I shall timey-wimey up an explanation: the only sustainable timelines were ones that allowed the universe to restart, so that eliminates the overwhelming number of possibilities and elevates "wildly improbable" outcomes to "likely". Therefore I'm going with: when the Pandorica Conspirators were scanning Rory to make a Roman soldier of him, he happened to be holding the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, and they copied that too. Stupid? Yes! But I've seen stupider.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping to see at least one more episode with Sally Sparrow, but I'm guessing Carey Mulligan's film career didn't allow for that.


Brendon Wright said...

So many things that could have been...
But I'm happy to have consumed what's thrown to us to date!

HOWEVER, Mr Moffat has a very cool interview by Toby Hadoke (awful sound quality) in the "WHO's Round" podcast over on Big Finish. Recorded a couple of weeks back.
LOTS of great comments about the Doctor and the world we live in.
I loved every moment!

Jeff R. said...

One of these days I want "The Hundred Companions" for an anniversary special. Would have liked more in Twice, yes. Would have been satisfied with just Adric, even only as a name check, since he's the other full (multistory, not Kameleon) companion to die in service and had the Cyberman connection there too.


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