As an American, my relationship with “Doctor Who” comes directly from BBC America, and now streaming, and as such, I was introduced to the show during its modern era, though I’ve seen Paul McGann’s ill-fated 1996 movie and highlights from the classic era. The first Doctor I saw was David Tennant, but I was first introduced to the show during Matt Smith’s era, and ever since, I’ve been a big fan of it, with Peter Capaldi being my favorite iteration of the Time Lord if only for his great performances on the episodes “Heaven Sent,” “Hell Bent”, “The Zygon Inversion”, and “The Doctor Falls.”
So, naturally, I was really excited to see where then-new showrunner Chris Chibnall was going to take the show, seeing as Steven Moffat had exhausted all his plot threads except for Trenzalore, which I think is still a thing as the canonical resting place for the Doctor. And to be quite frank, Chibnall’s first series was not good, with its big bad falling flat on its face, new Doctor Jodie Whittaker being given a handful of good episodes, but no interesting long-term plot threads to work with, and the show suffered from having too many companions that it didn’t know what to do with. But Smith and Capaldi also had underwhelming first series, so I was optimistic for Chibnall and Whittaker’s second series, which for the most part was fine — Series 12 was pretty much more of Series 11, but with less memorable standalone episodes — but for some reason, the internet lost its mind about its finale.
Titled “The Timeless Children,” if you try to look up a review of it on YouTube, you will be bombarded by videos claiming how Chris Chibnall ruined or destroyed Doctor Who. So, I had been putting off seeing it out of dread, as this episode was getting more hate than “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
So, were they right? Absolutely not.
The central issue people have with “The Timeless Children” is that it re-writes Doctor Who’s canon, with its big reveal (assuming the Doctor’s rival, the Master, is telling the truth) being that the Doctor was from another universe, and is the source of the Time Lord’s ability to regenerate, and has had her memories erased time and time again, and only remembers being the 14 iterations of the character viewers are familiar with. It doesn’t really harm the stories from Classic and Modern Who, but it does cheapen the Doctor’s character a bit, as it makes her special because of who she is, rather than what she does in the episode, something that has totally never happened before in the show …
Oh, right. That was sort of the whole thing with Matt Smith’s iteration of the Doctor, though I did buy into it, as even though he wielded his reputation like a knife, relying off of things he did in the past we don’t see in the episode, if you encountered someone like the Doctor and you got on their bad side, how would you react?
I actually really like the idea of having the Time Lords not be who they seem — it fleshes them out in a believable way, giving them depth. It also explains why there has always been a rift between the Doctor and the other Time Lords, particularly former Lord President Rassilon, and why the Time Lords basically let the Doctor do whatever they want.
For those mad about it rewriting the show’s canon, I have to ask: Did they even watch Moffat’s run? Just about every season, he rebooted the show’s canon in some way, from the Pandorica, to that time time almost died because the Doctor didn’t want to die during a fixed point in time and got around it anyways, to multiple aliens who have been guiding/stalking the Doctor and mankind from the beginning of time only to be disposed of and never talked about again, to literally deciding he didn’t want the Doctor’s homeworld of Gallifrey to be destroyed anymore for the 50-year anniversary special — a huge, central point of New Who.
If anything, I thought that “The Timeless Children” was a bit boring, and it was obvious that they were going to eventually put everything back together at some point — I don’t think anyone really thinks they’re going to keep all the Time Lords dead forever or combined with Cybermen (a really stupid twist!), and its worth mentioning that this show has had dumber season finales before. If anything, my money is on Rassilon coming back to fix everything — the one Time Lord not on Gallifrey when the Master decided to kill everyone … somehow.
“The Timeless Children” is not the worst episode of “Doctor Who” and it certainly does not break the show. Those that think it did are looking at the eras of Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat with rose-colored glasses, because the structural cracks in New Who were there from the start, albeit greatly widened by Moffat. “Doctor Who” suffers from exactly what you would expect from a 50+ year show with the same continuity; too much of it, and it’s really hard for new showrunners to really raise the stakes and add more to the show’s lore without tripping on 50 years of previous stories.
“Doctor Who” is at a point where it would have made sense to reboot its universe in a way in which everything from Season 1 to Series 12 still happened, but new writers can establish new canon. Hopefully Series 13 is able to bring us interesting stories and cohesion Series 12 and 11 lacked — a Doctor’s last series is sometimes their best.
I definitely recommend seeing a piece of media for yourself before jumping on the internet hate train. Having watched “The Timeless Children” myself, it’s clear that the hate for it was blown completely out of proportion. In general, I’m not a fan of the volatility the community has towards Whittaker and Chibnall — they helmed two fine, if not a little boring series of a show that’s been running since the 60s. “Doctor Who” will survive, though I do wish that Series 11 and 12 had stronger overall arcs that tied them together.