Unless you are into sports in general and tennis in particular, there is little to no chance that you would find yourself in front of your TV on a Sunday afternoon watching Wimbledon. And yet, here we were, finding a sudden interest in watching Wimbledon. Why? Because we got to know who the next Doctor is. Welcome in 2017, when we can’t wait to see who 13 will be.
Fast rewind in the 60s. William Hartnell is about to leave the set of Doctor Who but the production isn’t quite ready to let the program die because its main actor has to go. Since it’s science fiction, why not keep the character and simply change the actor? And that’s how the Doctor survived, regenerating into a new actor whenever it was their time: when the actor was too tired, when he was fired, when it was time for him to do something else, or just simply when his time was up. Meanwhile, the fans got used to this change of actor, expecting something new and exciting after regeneration after regeneration. Of course, there were tears, because you get attached to a face (or hair) and a way of acting, but you also knew that there would be a new Doctor and that “The show must go on”.
Then it stopped. Doctor Who disappeared from the screens. Fans screamed, cried, wrote letters, petitions, but… they didn’t have the tools we have today.
They didn’t have internet back then.
Yes, we live in a society where everything must go fast. As soon as the actor chosen for the part is known, the fans already try to guess who the next candidate would be. Isn’t it a bit dazzling when you think about it? Take Series 10 for instance, it hadn’t been aired yet and everyone was already making bets as to who would replace Peter Capaldi. And it was those bets, of course, that put Jodie Whittaker as a frontrunner in the last few hours before the announcement, spoiling what could have been a total surprise.
The other morning, I read this on a social media:
I would have preferred if the identity of the new Doctor was kept a secret until the Christmas special. But still, I am very excited!
And here is the core of our problem. We want to be surprised. We are sincere when we say that we would like to discover the new Doctor’s face and end up in awe (or very disappointed depending on one’s tastes) at the end of the Chrismas special. But at the same time, we are dying to know who has been chosen. And let’s face it, leaks are never far away. Like paparazzi, news hunters will make it their mission to discover who the chosen one is.
And… we have internet and social media. Every little piece of information, every picture is conveyed immediately, shared worldwide in a split second. Over the past few years, we witnessed how social media grew and took power over our lives. Mind you, I was on Facebook when it was born and back then, there were only a few of us using it. Oh, the joy of the internet without ads! The freedom to browse a website without popup windows. All that changed, of course. Big companies used internet’s potential to their benefit. Advertisement campaigns were developed for internet and a few years ago, a new profession appeared: community manager. Social media has taken such an important part on internet that people started to be hired to maintain Facebook, Twitter and many others for major (and smaller) companies…
The Doctor: This whole world is swimming in Wi-Fi. We’re living in a Wi-Fi soup! Suppose something got inside it. Suppose there was something living in the Wi-Fi, harvesting human minds, extracting them. Imagine that. Human souls trapped like flies in the World Wide Web, stuck for ever, crying out for help.
Clara Oswald: Isn’t that basically Twitter?
If the Doctor despises Wi-Fi and Twitter, they still play a (big) part in his success. BBC had always been quite the expert in making the buzz (and make profit out of a successful program). A few TARDIS here and there in London, Daleks on the loose… But now, BBC excels in using social media to attract the audience’s attention. Mini games, writing platforms, it’s all about Doctor 12.0 soon to be regenerated into 13.0. There is always something to discover, something that would make the buzz. We are now swimming in Doctor Who, and not just because the BBC feeds us with details, pictures, facts, behind the scenes trivia. We love being overwhelmed with information, details, facts, trivia. And we love to share them. Because it’s pretty impossible for a Whovian to feel lonely. Coming from a country where Doctor Who isn’t that famous, I can connect with worldwide Whovians thanks to internet. I can gather with them on a virtual level, theorise about the latest episode, share opinions about heroes and villains, exchange gossip, etc.
But what I couldn’t do is avoid the next Doctor’s identity, unless I give up surfing on the web, reading the news, watching TV until the Christmas Special. And even so, there will always a good friend who will be only too happy to tell me. I wish the choice was still ours. You might believe that you have a choice, but it’s really just a myth. Look at us. The Twelfth Doctor hasn’t regenerated yet and we already know he’ll be changing into Jodie Whittaker this Christmas. I don’t know about you, but to me, it seems that regeneration isn’t that important enough. It’s just a stage where one Doctor turns into another, but without an element of surprise since we already know who happens next.
Still, we will keep on surfing the internet to know as much as we can about the Thirteenth Doctor and Series 11, and we will still hope to be surprised anyway. We need to be entertain and a regeneration is just that: a Doctor’s final entertainment to the masses.