As of this Saturday night’s season seven premiere, it will have been exactly eleven months to the day since Doctor Who was last regularly seen on our TV screens. Expectations for a new run of episodes are always high. But for some, this season’s hopes verge on borderline desperate. See, season six didn’t go over particularly well with many hardcore fans. Drunk on the success of his partial reinvention of the show the year prior, head writer and executive producer Steven Moffat went and made the series his own — arguably more so than any other producer before him.
On Moffat’s watch, Doctor Who became a celebration of the clever, rather than the intelligent. One-liners were traded back and forth in place of conversations. Sexual innuendo took the place of declarations of passion and love. All of this was reflected in his quartet of lead characters’ ongoing need to keep their emotions guarded, a departure from the exposed heartbeats often on display under former creative lead Russell T. Davies. When they weren’t engaging in snarky wordplay, Moffat often forced the Doctor and his best friends, the Ponds, to endure uncomfortable silences at odds with the Doctor Who we’ve come to know.
Of course, the key to the success of the show — over 32 seasons, eleven Doctors, and 784 episodes — has always been its ability to morph and change and roll with the times. That being said, here are a few things that we hope to see in season seven.
- An emphasis on drama over comedy.
There’s a place for comedy in Doctor Who, and there has been since as far back as the William Hartnell era; “The Romans” (1965) is generally credited as the show’s first foray into intentional laughs. However, balance is the key, and the series should first and foremost be a drama, where the stakes are high and the characters live in a certain amount of peril. There were moments — hell, maybe even full episodes — in season six that felt like parody rather than Who proper. If all the leads do is crack wise, how can we believe in the dangerous situations they find themselves in from one week to the next?
- A Doctor we can get behind and believe in once again.
Last season, Matt Smith’s Doctor lost a great deal of the gravitas Moffat instilled in him in season five. Smith can be a potent dramatic actor — possibly even better than David Tennant before him — so why smother him with snappy, rapid-fire one-liners, which he’s not always adept at delivering anyway? You know that already famous advertising still of the eleventh Doctor carrying Amy Pond out of a fiery maelstrom of Dalek hell? That is the Doctor we need to see more of, not the frequently prancing tit of season six. Give us less Curly and more Moe.
- Less wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey, and more story-wory.
Season six proved that building a season around a needlessly overcomplicated arc isn’t necessarily in the show’s best interest. Doctor Who is at its strongest when effort is put into getting each individual episode thematically and dramatically right and tight. Making this show too complicated kills its inherently episodic nature.
- A reigning in of the action.
Moffat envisions and writes action well enough, but his show positively shines when it just simply takes the time to breathe. One moment of introspection is more valuable to the health of the series than an army of Daleks. He can be a brilliant writer when he’s not hung up on dazzling viewers with bells and whistles.
- A proper and fitting exit for Amy and Rory.
Of all the requests made here, this is the one most likely to come to fruition. In five weeks, the Ponds will be the Doctor’s ex-companions. As they’ve been staples for the past two years, and this five-episode block is built around their impending adieus, we’re all excited to see how and why this is all going to go down. What we know for certain is that the episode in question (“The Angels Take Manhattan”) takes place in (and was shot in) New York, and it features the Weeping Angels. That already feels like a recipe for success, but it needs emotional resonance in order to meet expectations. With the series rapidly approaching its 50th anniversary, these big moments point toward the future, and they need to count.