As announced on Outpost Gallifrey today, the BBC has confirmed that on April 15th, the legendary British Sci-Fi series will return with “New Earth,” the first episode of Series 2 and the first one-hour adventure since “The Christmas Invasion” last December. After the long wait between episodes, the question still needs to be asked: Can David Tennant’s Doctor take center stage?
In the very first season in 1963, The Doctor (then played by William Hartnell) was more of a background character whose companions were at the forefront of the action while the Doctor figured a way out of the situation given in an episode. Later on, the producers of the series found a way to manage the characters so that both would be allowed ample screen time. Series 1 felt more like a return to those early years, which is fine, but not for every episode.
When Tennant took over the role from Christopher Eccelston (who played the Doctor for Series 1) in “The Parting Of The Ways,” it finally seemed like an actor had stepped in with enthusiasm and interest in the character. As luck would have it, we got our chance a few months before Christmas with the mini-segment “Children-In-Need” special. Now with this excitement and joy with a new Doctor at hand, we had to deal with whether the result was worth it. For the CID special, I didn’t feel it.
Fans who love the series will remember that in 1984, Peter Davidson handed the role over to Colin Baker in a controversial change of tone for the character of the Doctor. Instead of being a character who was interested in people and science, he seemed to turn into a person who saw more perfection in science, and was more irritated with people. This was more a matter of behind-the-scenes meddling than a concern with Colin himself. Unfortunately, by 1986, after the “Trial of a Timelord” season, he was sacked — it seemed the writers decided to run that for Tennant’s first few minutes.
The decision to go this route works in one sense: Rose has witnessed her best friend, The Doctor, turn into a completely different person. Shock and awe are to be expected. Past about two minutes into the short time given the special, I would have thought they’d move on, but the thread continues throughout the episode. We were promised a chance at David Tennant’s full potential in “The Christmas Invasion,” which would involve an alien invasion. When the episode finally aired, what I saw once again conveyed the direction they wanted to go in.
When Jon Pertwee stepped into the role of the Doctor, his opening was a rather uninteresting affair. “Spearhead in Space” places the Doctor after the end of the 1969 episode “The War Games” stranded on earth with a disabled TARDIS and a new identity. But as a sign of tension and brilliance on their part, they decided to put the Doctor in the background until the next couple of episodes. The idea isn’t bad, but the Doctor character is the main focus and the reason to watch. The other characters are seen reacting to whatever he does — anything else makes it entirely a different show altogether. That, unfortunately, was the way they went with TCI.
With that out of the way, and April 15th approaching, I can only hope that the show returns to its full glory and allows its main hero to take center stage.