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There's a lot I love about Doctor Who Season 11. Jodie Whittaker's performances have been phenomenal, and Graham might be my favorite companion of all time. The visual effects have gotten a massive upgrade, and we've gotten some pretty entertaining new villains as well. Despite this, there's one thing about the new season that's kept me from praising it in the highest regard, and until it includes past characters and brings back some familiarity, I'm not sure I can.
It's an issue that, prior to the start of Doctor Who Season 11, I didn't think I would have. Hell, there was even a part of me twitching with excitement when Chris Chibnall announced at San Diego Comic-Con they had yet to use a familiar enemy to that point during filming. After all, new enemies mean new species, and a chance for the lore to expand even further. What's not to love about that?
To that point, I think Doctor Who has done a rather solid job establishing some fascinating new creatures with promising futures in the show's universe. The Stenza race are outright terrifying, the Vajarian's are grotesquely beautiful, and who doesn't want to unleash a Pting on a Dalek army just to see what happens?
Unfortunately, it's hard to imagine how that would even happen at the moment because the current world doesn't even seem like one the Daleks are involved in. There's been little mention of the Doctor's past greatest foes, what they may be up to and why we haven't seen them. As a fan, I find it highly unlikely a classic Doctor Who villain race has yet to cross paths with Whittaker's Doctor, especially considering how frequent they've emerged in the past.
Chris Chibnall has done a really good job changing things up in Doctor Who, but he's done a real disservice to the series thus far in his complete disregard of past seasons. It feels like I'm watching a new show with the same name, and while I enjoy it, there were bits of the old that he could and should use that would make it that much better.
For example, one of my greatest past joys of the Doctor's regeneration was to see how it affects their personality. Seeing what the new Doctor was like was only half the fun, however, as there was the added joy of seeing that new Doctor interact with classic franchise characters and gauge their reactions to the Doctor's new look. It's something we haven't had happen in Season 11 yet, which is a real shame.
An even greater shame is that we haven't seen Jodie Whittaker's Doctor face the same villains, as that's where the true personality differences between Doctors can be seen. David Tennant's Doctor would not face the Weeping Angels the same way Matt Smith's Doctor would, at least mentally. The same goes for Eccleston's Doctor as well as Capaldi's, and while at their core they're all still a brilliant time traveler, each one had a different method of facing a familiar problem.
For all their differences, none of those Doctors are as different from each other as Jodie Whittaker's Doctor is to them. Whittaker's Doctor is unsure of herself, a celebrity name dropper and someone who relies on her companions perhaps more than any Doctor since the reboot. One can draw lots of similarities between the four Doctors the preceded her, but it's really hard to equate the current Doctor's personality to any post-reboot Doctor.
It's what makes the prospect of Whittaker's Doctor taking on a classic villain so damn intriguing. Imagine her, right now, in a battle against the Weeping Angels. In my mind, it's such a different encounter than any other Doctor's previous adventures and a way of creating a measuring stick of Whittaker's performance versus her colleagues.
This is another huge point against Doctor Who Season 11 because, without familiarity, there can be no true way to compare her performance to those that came before her. While that may have been intentional given the uphill battle Whittaker faced as the first female Doctor, it's a necessary part of the fan experience. If it weren't, every conversation between every Doctor Who fan ever wouldn't begin with "Who's your favorite Doctor?"
Granted, the argument has been made that the reason Season 11 is so different is so that brand new audiences could get involved in the series. It's a noble and valid excuse, but on the same token, somewhat of a copout. If Chris Chibnall really wanted to include a classic Doctor Who villain in the very next episode, he absolutely could, and he's got three characters capable of making the introduction of said villain seamless and organic.
All it would take is Yasmin, Ryan, or Graham saying "Hey what's a X," and the groundwork has been laid for The Doctor to explain to them and the new audience exactly what this "new" foe is all about. New Doctor Who fans don't need to know the extended history of these aliens to enjoy them, just the base level explanation will do. Seriously, how hard would it be to explain a Dalek in three lines?
Let me state once again that I really enjoy Season 11 of Doctor Who. I also really enjoy the past 13 years of Doctor Who and don't think it should be retconned simply for the sake of new viewers. It alienates classic fans who've stuck with the series for years, and again, robs them of an opportunity to see Jodie Whittaker tackle the same situations some of the most iconic Doctors to date have faced.
If Season 11 is devoid of classic foes, I'd really hope Chris Chibnall has a plan in place for slowly incorporating them into future storylines. I don't doubt that he will given his past writing chops for Doctor Who, but I am a bit surprised we haven't seen many connections now over halfway through the season. It's worrisome to me as a longtime fan, and feels somewhat dishonest to act like it doesn't bother me the further we go.