With big thanks to Bill Shakespeare for help with the headline, the BBC has trotted out a new Doctor Who compilation video, this time of "Sad TARDIS partings." It's a short video, only fifteen minutes long, and featuring only parting scenes from the new era of the show, not the classic, and only four goodbyes. Well, at least it's a short video.
The theme here seems to be when the Doctor's companions leave, so we have the first of the new era where the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) lost Rose (Billie Piper). It's another of then-showrunner Russell T. Davies' best moments on the show, combining Big Science Fiction concepts with emotion and heartbreak, and the moment that sealed David Tennant as the Internet's Boyfriend of 2007. It also consolidated the new era's identity as a more emotion-driven show than the old version of the 1970s and 1980s. There's the moment the Tenth Doctor (Matt Smith) lost Amy Pond (Karen Gillen) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) – though it's obvious he (and showrunner Steven Moffat) cared more about Amy. There's the Eleventh Doctor's (Peter Capaldi) parting from Clara (Jenna Coleman) at the end of their mutually destructive co-dependent relationship, where Moffat explored how flawed a Doctor-Companion relationship could get that was also an allegory for an older man's affair with a younger woman, which was interesting but odd for a show aimed primarily at children since that was a more adult relationship drama than one for kids.
Then there's Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) just deciding to leave. The Doctor is sad and hugs them goodbye. That's it. That was the best Chris Chibnall could manage? Really? Ryan and Graham look like they're just going to step into Coronation Street without skipping a beat. They never had any storylines that were particularly compelling or really fit into Doctor Who. There was no real dramatic tension or stakes in their leaving at all.
The heart of Doctor Who has always been the romance between the Doctor and their companions. The writers of the old era kept that under the surface. When Davies brought the show back in 2005, he brought that to the fore. Even the fifteen-minute video showed how he and Moffat made it a point to show their companion having an epic, heartbreaking parting. Chibnall never gave the Thirteenth Doctor an epic personal love story. "Thasmin" was just barely a hint in his first seasons, and it was only done after Jodie Whittaker saw all the 'shipping memes and asked Chibnall to pursue it. And even then, he just left it standing at Yaz (Mandip Gil), mooning over the Doctor until it was time for the Doctor to regenerate and leave Yaz. You'd think whoever compiled the video was being cruel on purpose, showing the poignant, heartbreaking, and epic moments of the show before settling on the mediocre showing of Chibnall's era – they didn't even show the Doctor's final moments with Yaz. Once again, purposely or not, the compilation videos show the Thirteenth Doctor's era as one of unfulfilled potential.
Doctor Who will return worldwide next year on Disney+.