Well I’ve finally got around to seeing what could be one of the most controversial episodes of Who in it’s 50+ years of existence. Like the rest of the internet I had a few issues with it….
So first up I’m going to discuss this ongoing trend in pop culture to replace existing lore with new but very similar lore that has a new name. Do you remember when Robert Duncan wasn’t allowed to play the academy wash out of Nicholas Locarno so they instead had him play the academy wash out Tom Paris? Now there are questions over whether this was due to having to pay the writer of ‘First Duty’ for every episode of Voyager without them having to lift a finger; or if this was due to the character of Locarno being too dark or broken for a recurring main character in a Trek show. Either way I had the same thing watching the ‘Timeless Child’.
The titular child was find by Tecteun who using them was able to create regeneration for the race as a whole. Except we already have a creator of Regeneration. Rassilon. Now it’s not even like we can’t use him because new Who fans won’t know that name as he’s already shown up in the show since its return. The lying, manipulation, torture, and experimentation are all close enough to his established character and the thought of him looking after a wayward stray even adds a nice humanising touch to what has until now been a very dark character.
To be clear here I’m not asking why we’ve rewrote the origin of regeneration but why have we bothered knocking Rassilon off his top spot for what seems to be no reason. There is no benefit to replacing him with somebody we’ve never heard of and that could at least add some new weight to re-watches of old Rassilon episodes. Seeing the five doctors climb through their own father’s tomb even if they are not aware of it. They way he now speaks and treats the Doctor saying more about his character than we had learnt before.
Likewise the Doctor worked for a sect of Time Lords who see themselves as above the other races content to mess with time and the lives of lesser people for the benefit of Time Lord society. Well we already have that too. The Celestial Intervention Agency have been around since number three or four as an offical in universe thing and have again been shown to use and abuse people for their own end. Heck even if you’re too embarrassed to use the acronym of C.I.A you can just call them the agency. Especially if you are showing their early days and have them adopt the moniker later down the road.
Why do these issues annoy me. Well they promised to change everything and they have done.
But the problem is that they’ve changed these key forces in Who law for now reason and this kind of leads me onto my second major bug bear with ‘The Timeless Child’.
Before all of this kicked off the Doctor was the last of the ‘Time Lords’ (again) roaming the universe in a police box, able to regenerate, fighting Daleks and Cybermen with a spunky companion or two by their side. We, and the Doctor, have now found out that they are the origin of regeneration, have lived countless more lives than they know and aren’t even Galifreyan. Which means in terms of story telling that; they are the last of the ‘Time Lords’ (again) roaming the universe in a police box, able to regenerate, fighting Daleks and Cybermen with a spunky companion or two by their side. The actual structure of the show, the plot and general stories have moved an inch. Sure some of the names and dates have changed a bit but there is no real change to the show.
Due to handily wiping the Time Lords back off the table at the start of the season there is no great plot of the Doctor going home to demand justice and truth for what was done to her. There is no morally complicated story where she has to defend ‘her people’ from some greater danger now knowing exactly what they are capable of and reeling from the effects.
Even regeneration itself could have changed for the show for when Jodie’s time is up should the Doctor regenerate knowing that power was tortured out of some poor defenceless alien child. Taken form them by force by her own people. Well thankfully she doesn’t have to knowing that the power was hers all along meaning that she can keep doing it as often as she likes.
Yes we’ve rewrote some of the details but like any decent magic trick it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors to deflect away form the fact that they’ve done nothing at all.
And of course the biggest issues with rewritting the Doctor like this is giving in to the age old ‘chosen one’ trope of ignoring the story of an old man who had enough of his holier than thou, stagnant society and left to see the universe with his Granddaughter and help those he could along the way and instead making the Doctor the bedrock of Time Lord civilisation. A supreme being who was always above the rest. Bigger, better, and stronger. In the same way that we couldn’t have the junker from Jakku save the universe, we had to have the cloned daughter of the Emperor of the Imperium do it instead, we can’t just have any old person travelling along doing good for it’s own sake. We have to have a god instead.