The cast of Doctor Who series 11 has been revealed earlier this week, provoking reactions all around the web. This morning one reaction reached my office, when a former trainee rushed in and asked me “what do you think about the new companions?”
I was working on an historical research about Celtic flagons that had been found in my town and sold to the British Museum in the 20s, so the question took me off guard and I said the first thing that came into my mind at that moment.
I told the boy that I was happy to see the TARDIS crowded again, like it was with the First Doctor. My reaction was met with quite some opposition. The boy complained that it would be too crowded, that one companion was more than enough and that he didn’t want to see a lot of characters around the Doctor. After he was gone (and while I was finishing my research), I gave further thoughts to our exchange and found it very interesting on various levels.
First, our reaction is dictated by the way we “embrace” Doctor Who.
I have a soft spot for Classic Who, which means that I’m used to see the TARDIS getting crowded and I enjoy the alchemy between characters. Those of you who read these articles also know that I’m basically dreaming to see the First Doctor back, but for a 16 years old boy, who see Doctor Who in a whole different way, it’s totally different. Three more characters inside the TARDIS, that’s too much, but why? Is it because he doesn’t want the Doctor to get less screen time? Is it because he is used to seeing one companion with the Doctor? In this particular case, the answer was simple: he hasn’t watched Classic Who (yet) so he has never experienced the TARDIS with Susan, Ian and Barbara, for instance! But still, this is one reason when everyone has his (or her) own reasons to react and they might be very different for a similar result.
Second, “knowing” the actors might influence our reaction.
Have you ever experienced that feeling of happiness to see one of your favourite actors join the cast of one of your favourite show? Have you ever experienced disappointment seeing one of your least favourite actors join the cast of one of your favourite show? Yes, our feelings towards actors play a role in our reaction. And sometimes, we feel very innocent, because we have no clue as to who the actors are, so we generalise the situation. Guess what, this is exactly what I did this morning. I don’t know the actors who will play the 13th Doctor’s companions, I’m going to discover them so my reaction was influenced by the fact that I don’t know their talent.
Third, we want to believe.
Yes! By the way, X-Files is coming back for a new season and I’m over the moon because I’m very attached to Mulder and Scully, but this is not the point here (see point 2, attachment to characters also plays a role. Bill and Nardole could have stayed around a bit longer). I want to believe that series 11 will be brilliant. I want to believe that Chibnall will offer us exciting episodes. I want to believe… You probably get my point now. Expectation is the keyword here. We don’t know what to expect so we are shared between fearing the worst and hoping for the best. While we try to achieve some equilibrium by not thinking about the equation, we still want to believe.
Maybe that’s why I prevented myself from reacting to the cast announcement until this morning. Maybe that’s why I didn’t indulge in an in-depth reflexion about the showrunner’s choices.
Call me a romantic, but right now, all I can think about is that the Twelth Doctor is going to meet the First Doctor in less than two months from now!