Doctor Who as a show prides itself on not being tied to one genre; sure it could be classed overall as science fiction, but that doesn’t stop it at all from pushing the boundaries of what it achieves. Today I’m asking the question, is it better when Doctor Who relishes its serious or its silly side?
I know that a lot of what you prefer when it comes to how Doctor Who should be handled is based on your opinion; and if you don’t agree with what I have to say, I fully understand why and I respect your opinion as long as you respect mine. Before I give my opinion and conclusion, let’s look at the arguments for both sides of this debate.
First of all let’s look at why Doctor Who should be more serious than silly. If you take Series 9 as an example of WAGOLL (anyone who’s between 6 and 21 should be whisked back to their school days, anyone that’s over 21 and doesn’t know what WAGOLL is, it stands for What A Good One Looks Like) you’ll most likely agree that the episodes that are the most well received both by the critics and the fans were some of the most dramatic episodes we’ve had since the revival. Episodes like The Zygon Inversion proved that Doctor Who could tackle more pressing matters in a way that was still interesting and fun to the younger side of the demographic; another example of Doctor Who being serious and extremely well done is Heaven Sent, Peter Capaldi’s single-hander. If anybody ever says that Doctor Who is a children’s show should be shown this episode and proven wrong.
On the other hand though, Doctor Who can also revel in being successful and silly at the same time. Whilst I wouldn’t consider any episode as being completely comedic, the more light-hearted episodes, whilst traditionally being more devise amongst the fandom, are still some of the greatest episodes of Doctor Who. Some episodes that instantly spring to mind that are more light-hearted are The Unicorn and The Wasp, The Lodger, The Caretaker and The Husbands of River Song. Whilst they might not be the tear-jerking melodrama that Doctor Who has become increasingly synonymous since the revival, they are still some great episodes of the show.
In conclusion, I think that Doctor Who is at its best when it has a blend of serious and silly. Having both serious and silly elements in a series really elevates both types of episode as they can compliment one another. If there was a series that contained nothing but serious episodes, it could alienate the younger part of Doctor Who’s audience and leave the series feeling quite dark and depressing. Conversely, if we had a series of nothing but light-hearted romps one after another after another, the series would quite quickly be considered juvenile.
Doctor Who thrives on its wide range of genres covering an even wider range of themes and messages; life isn’t just the good times, nor is it just the bad, and luckily for us, Doctor Who tries its best to demonstrate that through its episodes.