Something I noticed yesterday, something that's been nagging at me for awhile, dancing around my peripheral, ducking out of the way just as I turn my head, hiding in the corners of my consciousness:
I don't think people give a shit about Doctor Who so much anymore.
Before I continue: I know that what I'm about to offer up as "proof" of this phenomenon is entirely anecdotal. I didn't commission Nate Silver to collate data and pore through the stats before I yarked this up onto the internet. But I do wanna get this out there, to see if it is, in fact, just me. Or rather, me, and my friends, and their friends, and the legions of Who fans (I'm not calling them Whovians. They shouldn't either) online who seem to be responding to the back half of Series 7 with a tweedy shrug and some sideways snark at best.
Doctor Who returned from an extended absence in 2005, and while it was almost immediately championed in the UK, it took its time here in America before becoming something like a phenomenon. The tipping point was the premiere of Series 5, introducing the Ponds and their goofy-looking, goofy-acting, young-old, sad-fun Doctor, portrayed by Matt Smith. There were magazine covers, national tours, screaming throngs, the works. Suddenly it seemed as if America, who had been perfectly happy with a decidedly different brand of phone-box time-traveler, was in love with all things Doctor. They bought toy Sonic Screwdrivers, they yelled "exterminate!" at pub quiz, they even made the effort (wherein "effort" is defined as "using Netflix") to delve into the shows 50-year history, revisiting old episodes they first saw on PBS, starring the super-tall mopheaded dude with the funky scarf.
All was well and good, until the break between the front half of Series 7 and this back half. Now it feels as if Doctor Who is a chore that people get through on the weekends so as to keep their nerd card in good standing; hoping for a hit of what made them fanatics in the first place, ending up with an hour gone and a weak buzz, like a sad stoner with a sack of sticks and stems spilled all over the table.
I posed this question in a rough form on twitter yesterday, and most people responded that this always happens when a new companion jumps on board; there's a bit of a re-adjustment as viewers acclimate to the new blood. I get that, and I know it's happened before, most notably the season-long adjustment to Martha Jones in Series 3 that only ended when she finally fucked off of the show. But I don't think this malaise is in response to Jenna-Louise Coleman. It feels to me like people were tired of the show before she was even announced as the Ponds' replacement.
So why are they tired? Is it simply the standalone nature of the episodes feel more disposable, so people aren't investing like they used to? Or is it the flip: Has Steven Moffat's tenure as showrunner become so convoluted, complex, and clever above all other things, that people simply stopped having fun with Doctor Who? Specifically, right around the time Moffat was putting the finishing touches on completely ruining everything about Amy Pond that made her adorable? Is that a factor? Are female viewers (who make up a very strong contingent of Who fandom here in America) getting sick and tired of Moffat's weird little quirks and hangups about women filtering into almost every female character he writes?
Or am I seeing shit that just isn't there? The ratings (and the illegal downloads) seem to show that people are still watching by the millions. There hasn't really been a dip. But I certainly don't feel like people are lighting up twitter & facebook & tumblr after every episode like they used to. Erik & I aren't doing our blogs like we did for the first half of Series 7, and it's not because we don't have time. It's because it just never occurred to us. And we're giant dorks for this, obviously.
So am I wrong? Probably. Am I a little bit right? Maybe. Let me know what you think: If Doctor Who isn't grabbing you anymore, enlighten me as to why. If it's still working for you, explain how.
Otherwise, I'll see you guys on the other side of what feels like an escher-esque marathon, when the 50th Anniversary special finally airs and I can be completely disappointed because Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston aren't in it.